It was in fact my gallbladder.
Here’s what happened:
- I woke up at 4am on Tuesday morning with severe pain in my mid-back – around my rib cage. For about an hour, I was convinced it a weird muscle/back pain from hunching over my computer all day Monday. But the pain continued to get worse and worse. I woke Erik up and took the first leftover painkiller I could get my hands on. He rubbed my back, cracked it, massaged my muscles, and generally did anything I could come up with that made me feel better. I rather suddenly passed gas and burped and within a few minutes the pain went away. I assumed the two were related and abashadly sent Erik off to work and went back to sleep. At 10am I woke up writhing in even more pain than I had been in the first time and determined that it was only the painkiller that had delivered me from the pain. I was literally collapsed on the floor with the doggies licking me nervously. I managed to get in touch with Erik to get him home and called my doctor to get an appointment for that afternoon.
- I went into see my doctor who guessed that it was my gallbladder and sent me off the the emergency room at St. Joseph’s hospital. Note: The hospitals all over Tucson have apparently been overrun in the last month or so with flu patients. Every bed in every emergency room is full of patient’s that can’t be cured, but need IV fluids, etc.
- At 2pm I was ushered into the “waiting room”, which at St. Joseph’s is literally a hallway where patients are assigned vertical beds. In my case a wheelchair next to the other chairds. In some cases, patients are discharged having never left this hallway. Doctor’s visit patients, IVs are put in, medications are administered, all from this hallway.
- Sometime around 6 or 7pm I was officially admitted to the hospital with tentative plans to remove my gallbladder the next day. By 10pm I wanted to send Erik home, but I was still sitting in a wheelchair in the waiting room, hooked up to an IV. Erik practically begged the staff for a bed, and they found me a stretcher in the hallway, which was much preferable to the wheelchair.
- I slept in the hallway until 1:30am when they moved me to a bed in the ER with another patient. In this room, I had a nurse that was assigned to me. I also had a roommate whose blood oxygen levels made the machines beep incessantly every time he went to sleep. I slept for twenty minutes at a time every time the nurse gave me morphine.
- At 5:30am, the staff finally moved me to a room on the surgical floor. This was waaaaaay better. A very comfortable bed, a nurse and a tech, a private room. Finally, sleep!
- I met the surgeon some time that morning and she confirmed I was having my gallbladder removed at 11am. The surgery took less than an hour and I’m honestly not sure if the pain was worse before or after the surgery. Everyone says it should have been way better after the surgery, but because of all the morphine before the surgery I was in very little pain. After the surgery, the morphine wasn’t enough to eliminate all of the pain.
- My liver function was funky after the surgery so the doctor’s decided to keep me another night to make sure everything went back to normal Thursday morning. It did and they discharged me Thursday afternoon.
- I am still experiencing pain and a few other unfortunate digestive symptoms as a result of the anesthesia, pain meds, and having my gallbladder removed. But I am told this will all go away in a few days to weeks.
- Despite the endless wait and horrific experience of having to sit in a wheelchair for eight hours, my visit to St. Joseph’s hospital was one of the best hospital experiences I have ever had.
Almost every single staff member that we interacted with was incredibly nice. Even the nurse’s, techs, and paramedics that I only saw once remembered me when they saw me again and asked how I was doing. They were compassionate and kind. When they put me in the hallway on a stretcher, the hallway lights were ultraviolet bright. One of the paramedics wandering around the ER took it upon himself to use a privacy screen and an IV stand set up on either side of me with a sheet thrown over them to block the light out of my eyes. Everyone was very apologetic about the wait and did what they could to make me more comfortable.
I am incredibly grateful for all of the St. Joseph’s staff and for the competent care that I received at their hands. I couldn’t have wished for a better care staff.
Back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow – like how I hate anesthesia and it almost always induces anxiety and depression. Here’s looking out for it…
image courtesy of carondelet.org