Sunday, July 20, 2008

By Way of Explanation

Lest you all think I'm completely crackers for borrowing trouble, maybe I should give you a little background as to why the tummy trouble has me a little freaked out. I so appreciate your kind comments and suggestions, and yes, I did call my doctor. He sent me to the ER (because of my history) and I was checked out via blood work and CT scan. No kidney stones. No masses. They gave me some medication and want me to try to see my doctor this week for a closer follow-up.

On February 25, 2007, a chilly winter day which called for snow, I went through my usual Sunday morning routine and then headed out to Starbucks for a coffee with my dear husband. As we sat reading the paper, drinking coffee and watching the snow clouds moving in, I felt some pain, some crampiness in my abdomen.

"We'd better head home," I said. "I'm not feeling very well."

"Coffee not sitting well with you?"

"Not sure, but we should go home."

The snow was already falling gently as we went to the car. Once home, we each headed to different bathrooms. The little bit of crampiness I had turned into big cramps. The toilet was full of blood (which is as graphic as I'll get about that part). I was frightened, and I went upstairs and told my husband. He has had many chronic problems and said, "It's okay. It happens to me all the time."

Back downstairs, I found myself in the bathroom three more times. I was continuing to bleed and was feeling shaky and weak. I sat down on the stairs and called my doctor's answering service. It was Sunday. The doctor on call was quick about calling me back. He told me to call 911 or go directly to the hospital as soon as possible. He said not to wait until Monday.

Hubby got the keys and said he could drive me. As usual, I felt bad about disturbing his routine. The snow was coming down much harder. Two inches were on the ground already, beautiful but treacherous for driving in this area. The roads had not been plowed or salted. Hubby, who is from Detroit, handled the car well, but we had a few narrow misses from other people going all over the road.

"Please hurry," I said. My entire abdomen felt like it was going to explode. The pressure and pain were immense.

By the time we pulled up to the ER, I was feeling extremely weak. "Tell them to bring a gurney," I said.

He ran inside and came back out with a nurse and a wheelchair. She was telling him, "We don't bring in patients on gurneys. We'll get her into the chair."

I don't think she believed how sick I was. She could see it, though, and she rushed me through triage and started taking me back to a "red bed." In my stupor, I thought I needed a red bed because of the bleeding. The "red beds" are for trauma and serious conditions.

I fainted while they were pulling my sweater over my head. I experienced the nicest feeling of warmth, happiness, and love. No bright lights. No angels or people to greet me. I never got that far. Just a warm, welcoming sensation of love. I never wanted that feeling to stop.

And then I opened my eyes. I was under bright lights, surrounded by doctors and nurses barking orders. I had IV lines in both arms, and the nurses were pushing the fluids in rapidly by hand, squeezing the bags. In my disorientation, I kept calling out for my husband. I needed someone to ground me. He was there, standing out of the way and - I'm sure - trembling.

The doctors began asking me questions that I could barely answer. Suddenly I felt a gush of blood that covered my back. Humiliated, I apologized over and over. They reassured me that it was okay, that these things happen. They began pulling me out of my clothes, as I swam in and out of consciousness. My husband tells me that when they rolled me to get my shirt, there was a puddle of blood that ran from the middle of my back all the way down to the end of the bed.
I remember a nurse saying, "It just won't stop. It's pouring from her."

An X-ray tech came in to get chest X-rays and asked if I could sit up. The nurse barked a stern, "No! Take the pictures with her lying down!" My blood pressure was dangerously low. 60/40, something like that. It's hard to remember now. Thus, the rapid infusion of fluids to bring me back up to a normal fluid level. I have since found out that that kind of blood loss can result in cardiac arrest. I was very lucky.

They stabilized me and put me in ICU. They fed me a gallon of the "GoLightly" solution to prep me for a colonoscopy. At that point, they weren't sure if I still had an active bleed or not. The plan was to do an endoscopy, too. A surgeon was standing by just in case they needed to go in and stop the bleeding, though she assured me that 90% of intestinal bleeds stop on their own. Mine did.

They found nothing with either of the scopes, so they scheduled me for an outpatient procedure with the camera pill, in which you swallow the pill and it takes about 10,000 pictures on the way through your body. I was in the hospital for several more days, though, getting my strength back and assuring them that I wasn't going to start bleeding again.

Turns out, after all of this and the camera pill, I have a condition called angiodysplasia, in which I have malformed blood vessels that appear lesion-like just under the mucosal layer of my small intestine, right in that 12 feet of the canal that can't be reached by either scope. It's an area of concern, and though there is nothing they can really do to prevent a bleed, I'm not allowed to take any NSAIDs ever again because they could cause another catastrophic bleed.

So that was the day the poetry almost died.

After growing up with all of my aunts and uncles, then my dad, dying of cancer -- lung, prostate, ovarian, stomach, and skin -- it was hard not to think of the C word. In fact that's what the doctors were thinking that day, and I have to be ever watchful and listen to my body.

Admittedly, I was jumping to conclusions yesterday, but I was sent to the ER by my doctor to be sure that I wasn't losing blood or in some kind of crisis. The ER doctor actually thought, from the location of the pain, that it might be a kidney stone. A CT scan ruled that out. My blood work was okay, too, so the next step is to see the gastroenterologist, if I'm not better in a day or two with the medicine they gave me at the ER, to go through scopes again, I suppose.

My first instinct this morning was to erase yesterday's post, but I am nothing if not completely honest in my blog journey. When I'm scared, I say so. When I'm happy, I say so. I might even clap my hands.

For now, I am going to get some more rest. The whole ordeal yesterday took a lot out of me and set off some other problems. If you've read this far, thank you! I hope it sheds some light on why I am nervous about all things abdomen!

Peace - D


Jay said...

Yikes - yes, you have cause to panic. I understand, because I panic too, but in my case over allergic reactions. I've nearly died a couple of times due to that. Doesn't stop me being hideously embarrassed when I get to hospital and nothing happens, but I'd rather that than wait too long and leave it too late.

I'm glad that the scan ruled out anything major this time. Good luck with the follow up appointment, and getting to the bottom of this.

Daryl said...

Keeping good thoughts for you Doris!


Baroness von Bloggenschtern said...

I'm so glad that you went to the ER-it seems the people who are hesitant to go are usually the ones who really need it the most!

I hope that your GI guy can shed some light on what the source of all this might be. Rest assured that, once again, you've taken the right curve on your path, and are where you need to be.

Peace back to you, B von B

RiverPoet said...

Jay - Ooh, yeah. Allergies can be quite scary! Our daughter has asthma, and we had many terrible experiences when she was growing up. We just never knew what would set it off and end up with a rushed trip to the ER to get her breathing.

Daryl - Thanks, sweetie. And yes, I'm trying to keep the stress under control.

B von B - Thanks, darlin'! And thanks so much for the sweet email. I very much appreciate it!

Peace - D

Maggie May said...

Blimey ....... that sounded horrific! I would worry too if I had experienced that, but glad there are no masses or anything like that to worry about this time! Phew!

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

THat is quite worrisome. A very scary history/background. Okay, useful to know, so that I now know a little more, especially as to just why you were (are) so scared....but I am still going to hope for the best, in spite of this background. I'm so glad you got timely medical care that day...snow or not, you did the best thing by getting to a hospital......otherwise, you may have had a far worse outcome. Very scary to think about.

RiverPoet said...

Maggie - I still plan to see my gastroenterologist, but yes, I seem to be okay right now. Back to work tomorrow.

Lavinia - Yes, I thought if I told this story it might put it in perspective. I'm not ready to be in that position again - EVER. I have to follow up with my gastroenterologist, but I'm hoping for a clean bill of health. The pain hasn't completely gone away though. It's very strange.

Peace - D

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

OK, yeah, glad the doctor sent you to the ER. I remember three years ago after my mom moved to GA. She was so out of character. She finally went to the doctor and said she was anemic and the first thing they expect is colon cancer. Turns out she's just anemic. It's crazy.

High hopes, hon. High hopes. All will be well. Deeeeep breaths. :)