Wednesday, September 21, 2011

surprise surgery

Sunday night, a bit before bed, I started developing a weird sort of ache in my upper right abdomen, just under the ribs. I've had occasional pain there over the past year or so, but this was much stronger and bigger, and quickly escalated to include all the muscles around it on both sides. I thought it was some form of gas, since every few years I'll get some sort of intestinal-gas experience that puts me on the floor, but it wasn't responding to my usual gas treatments, and while my anatomy is dodgy, I didn't think there was any intestine up that high, and it didn't feel connected to my digestion. It's a lot like what I imagine being stabbed feels like.

At midnight I decided it was not improving at all, and with my panting and sweating, Anna woke up and dropped me off the E.R. and went home to sleep and be with J. My heart rate when I got there was 39, which is low even for me, so I got a bit of atropine to bump that up, and some oxygen, and then they did an X-ray and a low-contrast CAT scan and blood and urine tests. The doctor, who was awesome, thought it was a gallbladder problem, but the ultrasound tech wouldn't show up until 8. They gave me some Dilaudid, which took the edge enough that I could sleep 20-40 minutes at a time. My heart rate returned to its apparent normal of 45-55.

During the ultrasound the doctor came in and talked to the tech.
"Mind if I look over your shoulder?"
"Not at all."
"Oh, wow. Good for me, not so good for him. I mean, wow, if I can see it, it's pretty obvious."
It turned out to be a giant pile of gallstones (he was relieved to actually have a diagnosis so he could stop worrying). I don't know why it never turned into an acute problem before, but there it was.

The recommended surgeon is on vacation, so I called a guy JD and Hope recommended, and when I used the magic words "I'm in constant pain", they fit me in yesterday, and there happened to be a surgery slot open this morning, so we were off to the races.

Anna brought me in this morning, and my friend Ann came to take over when Anna went to get J. My only memory of the operating room is of being shocked at how cluttered it is. It looks like someone's attic, if they were the sort of people to keep their attic sterile and full of millions of dollars of equipment.

I didn't get to see the surgeon (I was asleep), but Anna reported that everything went well, though the gall bladder was so inflamed and cranky it was a challenge to get it out through the small laparoscopic hole. It's done, though, and even though one of my four incisions hurts quite a bit, my body is clearly more comfortable now.

So, hey, ouch. I'm really glad to have it done so quickly, though.

I'm, uh. Gonna go fall asleep again now.


  1. Wow! That's an incredible thing to have on your schedule on the spur of the moment! I hope that you heal quickly and feel much better!

  2. Dang, scary! Glad to hear everything went well.