Sunday, July 01, 2007

Wake Up Call

Wednesday afternoon I found myself in some serious pain. I’d say “doubled-over pain,” except the pain wouldn’t allow me to double over or bend or sit or stand or god forbid laydown. Walking was unbearable and I think it’s fair to say that an 80-year-old in need of a double hip replacement could have shuffled circles around me. So I hobbled and I moaned. Really: I was moaning.

I was having a gall bladder attack. Three words that constitute the most unsexy phrase ever uttered.

It hit me at work around 2:30 - 2:45 (three hours since I had eaten my lunch of tri-tip sandwich and peanut butter/chocolate chip cowboy cookie). For three minutes I thought it was indigestion. By minute four I knew it was way beyond that. I will admit that I panicked a little, confused about what to do. Wait it out? Stay at work? Go home? Go to the doctor? Pretend that nothing was happening? Find a place to lie down?

This had happened to me once before about six months ago. It was terrible and painful, lasted about 30 - 45 minutes, and scared the shit out of my boyfriend. That was after I ate a couple of slices of Woodstocks Creamy Garlic Chicken pizza (which I will never eat again). As soon as it was over I entered my symptoms into google (something like “severe stomach, shoulder pain”) and each result came back with the same subject: gall bladder attack.

So Wednesday, when this hit, I knew I was in for some pretty excruciating pain, but thought it would be over in 30 or 45 minutes.

Thank god I had the smarts to say I had to go home because it wasn’t a 30 or 45-minute deal. I was wracked with intense pain for hours and then pronounced great discomfort for hours and hours after that. In total it lasted 24 hours.

I called Steve to see if he could pick me up from work (I had walked that day and there was no physical way I could walk home), and I leaned against a lamp post shaded by an elm tree and I moaned. I sweated. I considered death. I considered throwing up (wouldn’t happen), passing out, or getting on all fours and dry heaving, right there on campus. I smashed my face against the cool lamp post and just tried to get through the next few minutes.

The gall bladder is a pear-shaped (kinda cute) organ that lives under the liver. It makes bile (not so cute) that helps with digestion. Fatty foods need more bile and sometimes can cause the gall bladder to spasm and swell. Still doesn’t sound like it should be so godforsaking painful as it is, but there you go. The pain typically starts under the right side of the rib cage and is so intense that it radiates to other parts of the body. For me the pain spread across the under part of my ribs (more intense on the right side) , enveloped my right shoulder and shoulder blade, and poured down my right arm to my elbow. There is no relief. No position you can take, nothing you can ingest, and it’s not gas or constipation or diarrhea, so there is nothing to be done there. Really, your only choices are moaning or, if you are lucky, percocet or morphine. Many people go to the hospital scared out of their minds.

I know that Steve wishes I’d gone to the hospital. And the next morning he demanded that I go to the doctor. Which I did (by then the pain was bearable) and there it was agreed that I was having a gall stone bladder attack. I was put on the BRAT diet (and I seriously thought the doctor was nuts. There was no WAY I was ever eating again, much less drinking water) and scheduled an appointment for an ultrasound. The next step, I guess is to determine if I have a gall stone (or five), or if there is a problem with my liver or heart or something (because women often don’t experience heart pain the same way as men).

Since then I have felt better. Normal even. Hungry and pissed that all I am supposed to eat is bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Yesterday I started eating other foods — all pretty bland, extremely low in fat, and easy to digest. I have had one cup of coffee each morning since Friday simply because there is no way I can handle this AND caffeine withdrawal headaches at the same time.

And I’ve realized that I have to change my lifestyle. I say lifestyle instead of “diet” because, hello, food IS my lifestyle. And it has to change. And this is serious. And I never never never ever ever never ever want to experience a gall stone attack again. Ever. Never.

And so a new chapter starts.


Anonymous said...

That sounds really horrible.

Good luck with your changes though :)

emdot said...

thanks dave. actually, i believe this is just the kick in the pants (and/or rib cage) i needed to get my health act together. :)

Caryn said...

Oh no Em -- I'm sorry to hear you had to go through that! Hope you're feeling better!

emdot said...

Hi Caryn. I am feeling better -- thanks! :)