08 August 2009

At 50, all warranties expire: a bio-rhythmic low of cosmic proportion

I feel guilty for neglecting the blog for so long, but I had good cause. You see, this has been the summer of hell. I think I may have reached a bio-rhythmic low of cosmic proportion.

A couple of months of terrible stomach aches and nausea came to a crisis right after Memorial Day weekend. While getting an ultrasound that showed my gallbladder full of stones and more blocking my bile duct, the nurse sprang another piece of news on me: she could also see a cyst on my ovary (which happens to be my only remaining female part).

After waiting (in constant writhing pain) for a few weeks to get an appointment with a surgeon, I ended up going in the very next morning for procedure #1: having the stones removed from the bile duct and having opening of the bile duct entering the stomach snipped larger. This is supposed to be an out-patient procedure.

Things went to hell.

My bile duct is mis-shapen. It's narrow and curly-queued. It took the doctor 3 hours longer than it was supposed to take to be able to finish the procedure.

At which time I woke up in full-blown pancreatitis. For those who are curious, this sensation can only be described as -- being impaled with a huge stake -- straight through the stomach and out the middle of the back. It is more excruciating than either of my childbirth experiences. I. Do. Not. Kid. You.

I was admitted to the hospital. They started giving me dilaudid. I cannot deal with that drug. I started wretching. This made the pancreatitis worse. Which got me more dilaudid. Which made me wretch uncontrollably. Which... You can see the spiral of hell here, right? This is what the next 4 days of my life consisted of. For a couple of those days they shoved a suction tube up my nose, down to my stomach, to try to keep the wretching down. Stupid nurses never could make the suction part actually work, though, no matter how many times we asked why it didn't seem to be working.

By the way, I have my daddy's veins. They are too narrow for the needles. They submerge. They roll. They explode. They collapse. So on top of the "spiral of hell" brought on by the dilaudid and pancreatitis, I also had to deal with the bloody bruised reality of being a human voodoo doll. I can deal with a few sticks in a row, but when it's 5 or 6 or 7 sticks, all with a needle DIGGING around, trying to get into the vein, I just lose it. Finally, they left orders that only the nursing supervisor or some hotshot in the ER was allowed to even try. Even then, it took an average of 4 sticks per success. Unfortunately, because my vein would collapse - sometimes a couple of times in a day - I'd have to go through it all over again.

So, 4 days later the pancreatitis finally eased. This is when the surgeon removed my gall bladder. By this time I was practically begging, "Just take it away! Take it out now!"

In the meantime, my back became covered in what looked like chicken pox. My feet and hands swelled up. Must have been an allergic reaction to something. Not pleasant.

When I awoke from this surgery, my voice was very hoarse and my throat was sore. That was almost 7 weeks ago. It has not gotten better. I still sound really hoarse and my throat hurts all the time. Went to an ENT specialist. Got scoped (ugh!) with a video camera and he let me watch the footage. My left vocal cord is paralyzed. He says it's not common, but it does happen occasionally. The breathing tube damaged my vocal cord nerve. We still don't know if it's permanent. I have to get needles stuck into the nerve in a couple of weeks to determine that.

Some of you may be aware that I have a weekly radio segment on our local NPR station that is also available as a podcast. This is part of my job at Baylor. (It's not a huge part of my job, but I've been doing it for several years and truly enjoy it.) I am not sure how this voice thing is going to impact my job. I'm sick about it... well, yes, literally I guess.

Thank goodness, the cyst isn't urgent and will probably wait a few months.

And here's the cymbal-crash-ending to this story. The week I was in the hospital Mike stayed with me. He called his boss every day and was told "No problem. You should be there with your wife." But a day or two after he returned to work, he was let go. The result? Mike unemployed. The consequences? We are living together for the first time in 6 years. I know, weird, right? We've been married 15 years and the last 6 we've lived in separate cities because of his job. As you can imagine, there is some serious adjustment going on in this household.

Turning 50 sucks, people.

1 comment:

  1. No words can convey either my sympathy for the hell you've been through (and are still enduring) or my gratitude for your sharing it here with such determination. I saw my mother suffer through pancreatitis and I remember well how sudden and painful it was. I hope that the very act of writing all this down for others to see has in some way helped to ease the nightmare.

    And I hope to meet you at a Waco Social Media Club gathering ... or somewhere around the campus, soon.

    I sure wish we'd had an extended warranty offer on all these pieces and parts we deal with in these bodies of ours. Hang in!