I had the weekend planned out for myself. As I finished work on Thursday, I was looking forward to the following day, which was to be the day before my birthday. I had purposely scheduled several treatments that day so I would be feeling my best and completely relaxed for the weekend, and to celebrate my 35th birthday on Saturday. Friday was supposed to start with a morning workout, followed by a massage, then a pedicure and finally a cut and color to round out the day. I had been looking forward to it for weeks. But it was not to be.
I got home from work that Thursday evening and walked the dogs, enjoying the beautiful evening. My husband was traveling for work in San Antonio and wasn’t due back until the following afternoon, so I didn’t have to worry about cooking dinner. I thought I’d get in a strength training session at the gym that evening, but just before I was planning to go around 8pm, I began to feel some cramping in my pelvic area. I wasn’t all that surprised, given that I was due for my “monthly visit” any day. I heated up the heating pad and sat with that on my stomach for a while, popping a couple of advil to help with the pain.
By the time I was due to give the dogs their bedtime walk around 9:30pm, the cramping was so bad that I was doubled over as I walked them, clutching my stomach in pain. I was surprised that the cramping was so bad, and it only briefly flickered through my mind that the pain could possibly be due to an obstruction. The thought passed as quickly as it came, as the pain was so low in my pelvic area, and I hadn’t eaten anything out of the ordinary all day. I had felt fine all day – surely it was menstrual cramps.
I got ready for bed and tried to sleep, but by 11pm, I knew I was dealing with an obstruction. The pain got more intense, coming in waves, and the nausea started. My husband was blissfully unaware an hour and a half away until the next day, and I was no longer going to the local hospital by us given our prior experiences there, so driving myself to the ER wasn’t an option. Plus, I have to be honest. There was no fucking way I was going to the ER only to be admitted and have to cancel my massage, pedicure and hair appointment. Sad, but true. I decided I’d ride things out until my husband got home and hoped the obstruction would pass on its own overnight. I kept the heat on it, got up at regular intervals to walk around the house and even tried drinking one of my emergency “Roto-Rooter” drinks that I keep on hand for just such an occasion, all to no avail. It was a hideous night.
By 6am the following morning, I couldn’t hold out any longer. I had been vomiting for the last 2 hours and the pain was excruciating. I texted my husband, nonchalantly asking him what time he was planning on being home. He said sometime around noon and asked why. It was now or never. I could tell him there was no reason for my query and that I’d see him later, or I could admit that we needed to go to the ER and that I had no chance in hell of keeping my day of beauty. I hesitated, responding that I thought I needed to go to the hospital. He responded a second later, telling me he was jumping into the shower and would be home in a little over an hour.
I crawled to the shower and got myself cleaned up, threw up again and managed to take the dogs for a short walk so they would be okay for a few hours, and phoned my neighbor to see if she could stop by mid-day to walk them. This would be our first time going to the ER downtown (at the recommendation of my GI doc after the last few ill-fated stays at the smaller local hospital), and it was about a 35 minute drive. I grabbed my overnight bag, cursing the entire time that I would be spending another birthday in the hospital. Grudgingly, I phoned and cancelled all three of my beauty treatments and resigned myself to the fact that I would be turning 35 with a celebratory drink of barium instead of wine. Have I mentioned how bad my roots looked? I was over it.
My husband flew in the door an hour later and quickly loaded me into the car as we began the trip downtown. I had a fresh copy of my “owners manual” printed up for the new docs, and hoped the visit would go smoothly. The last thing I was in the mood for was some know-it-all doc who refused to listen to me, yet that’s what I was prepared for. I focused on my breathing as we drove and tried to control the pain that was growing stronger with every hour. Planning ahead, I phoned both my GI and surgeon’s offices and left messages letting them know we were on our way to the ER.
We arrived by 8am and barely had to wait, though the ER was fairly busy. A nurse came in right away and looked over my notes, nodding understandably when I informed her I had a port that I preferred to use for IV access. Within minutes, she was back with the access kit, followed by the ER doc, who listened to my husband list my symptoms since I was hunched over in pain. He immediately agreed that the normal trio of Zofran, Dilaudid and IV fluids should be administered as soon as they had me accessed, and ordered it quickly. As the nurse left to retrieve the medications, I explained to him about the small bowel series that my surgeon wanted me to have done while I was in the throes of an obstruction so that he could get a clear idea of where things were going wrong. Without hesitation, the ER doc agreed, phoning Radiology and letting them know to come up and get me for the test. We discussed putting in an NG tube to administer the barium since I was obstructed, but he thought that if I could keep it down long enough, we could get through the test without having to traumatize me further with that. I agreed and 15 minutes later Radiology arrived to bring me downstairs. I waved goodbye to my husband and told him I’d see him in a couple of hours.
Once downstairs, I chugged the barium with my nose pinched shut to hide the horrid taste and then they began the series of pictures. My pain and nausea were fairly well controlled at that point, and since I hadn’t slept at all the night before, I napped between x-rays every 20 minutes or so. Finally, about an hour and a half later, the progress of the barium seemed to stop just below my j-pouch, right where the pain was emanating from in my abdomen. Convinced they had found the problem, I was wheeled back up to my room in the ER and closed my eyes to rest again. I was woken up a short time later by a familiar sensation in my nether regions. I felt like I had to go. Could this be possible??? Might I actually get to leave the hospital without being admitted? I grabbed my IV pole and headed to the restroom, emerging a few minutes later making the victory sign to my husband.
The ER doc returned shortly thereafter, and I told him the good news. He called Radiology to come up and do one more image for me to make sure the obstruction had passed, which they affirmed. I would not have to spend my birthday in the hospital. I was ecstatic. After a little more waiting for them to disconnect my port and discharge me, we walked out of the ER around 5pm that afternoon. As we sat in the car driving toward home, both of us recapped the experience and were very pleased with the staff and the care at the new hospital. Though it was an older building and may not have been as pretty and shiny as the one nearest to us, who the hell cared? The staff were all great, listened to me and looked at my previous history to guide them, and they responded quickly when it came to getting the small bowel series done while I was obstructed. This information would be crucial to my surgeon, who now has more information about where I am having issues with scar tissue.
As we neared home, my husband asked me if I was hungry, as neither one of us had eaten all day (I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch the day before). I was starving. Knowing too well that there was no chance in hell I would be appeased with a clear liquid dinner as is typically recommended after an obstruction, he took me to my favorite burger place where I scarfed down a nice rare burger and a milkshake. (Relax, I left off the lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado I normally would have topped it with. I was starving, not crazy). Once home I laid down for a nap, and after I was treated to a better-late-than-never pedicure, we relaxed on the patio later in the evening.
The following morning, I woke up in my own bed surrounded by my husband and dogs instead of a hospital bed surrounded by machines and nursing staff. Granted, my stomach felt like a truck had hit it, but that’s normal for a few days after an obstruction. I opened birthday cards and we spent the day driving around the countryside looking at the bluebonnets and stopping for lunch at an Italian place with its own vineyard that’s not too far from us.
It wasn’t the way I expected to spend that weekend, but it could have been much, much worse. While I’m less than thrilled at racking up yet more hospital bills to add to my already bulging stack, we feel much more comfortable with the hospital care that I am getting at the hospital downtown, and are confident that when the time comes for more surgery, I will be in the right place for it. That’s a big relief in and of itself, though I’m now readying myself for the next one.
It’s incredibly frustrating, this constant rotating-door in and out of the hospital. We know what’s wrong, yet no one wants to do anything about it (and again, I understand their reasoning) until it’s an emergency and we have no other choice. I feel like a bomb with a lit fuse, one that everyone is watching slowly burn closer and closer to the end, unwilling to put it out until just before it explodes. Meanwhile, do I even need to get into how expensive this is all getting? That’s material for the next post though. That one will probably be titled “101 Reasons I Hate Cigna”. By the way, they STILL haven’t assigned me a case manager, so it looks like I’m on my own to dispute thousands of dollars in medical expenses to see what I can get taken off of the bill. They are douchebags of the highest order. I hope I get the opportunity to tell them so.
However, that will have to wait. New Orleans awaits, and I have a few days packed full of amazing meals to consume. Wish me luck that we can complete the trip hospital-visit free!!!!