The Gall of it All...7/27/2009 - 4 AM After 9 hours of nearly consistent intense pain, I determined my body had won the battle of wills and I needed professional help. During this time I did research on the web and felt reasonably sure that the pain was due to a gall bladder problem. My symptoms were classic a sharp intense pain on the right side under the rib cage. I have no love for doctors or hospitals so it shows my admission of defeat that my web searches included urgent care facilities or an emergency room. Urgent care had hours of operation so the ER won by default. I wasn't sure I could manage another 5 hours of waiting for help. The pain only occurred with movement (something life requires occasionally) so I felt sure I could drive myself to the ER. I would hurt getting in the car and getting out but driving was possible. I wouldn't have risked hurting anyone else if I felt otherwise and would have called a cab.
Maybe I've watched too many medical shows on TV but I expected a place that was clinical and (by necessity) impersonal and looking at each of us entering the door as a case to add to a list and prioritize. I have to admit my surprise when I went into the ER and it looked more like the lobby of a small hotel in the wee hours of the morning. The woman at the desk was gentle-spoken and sympathetic to my discomfort and needs. She immediately got me into an exam room and a doctor to assist me. Never once did I feel like a number or a case but someone treated with dignity and respect. I kept thinking of those ads for Princess Cruise Lines where everyone is talking about their individual pampered care. Not the thoughts that I thought I would have in an ER which I might add I have never had to visit before. I think that was the other thing that pushed me to the ER. I rarely get sick and usually a minor sinus attack so it was surreal and abnormal to feel so sick and require help.
I was missing some classic symptoms for gall bladder issues. I wasn't nauseous and could manage eating though I had little appetite and hadn't eaten since 7 PM. I had no pain in my back or shoulders, which apparently is common. The exam and blood work seemed to confirm my suspicions. They requested an ultrasound. The young doctor who did the exam and the technician who did the ultrasound called me by name and talked to me like we'd known each other for years. If they hurt me in any way, they apologized and did what they could to avoid causing me any more pain until they could complete the exam and tests and give me something for the pain. The courtesy and sympathy and respect were amazing to me. Most of what went on around me was vague and distant but I felt immediately comfortable and trusted these people to take care of me. From ER stories I have heard-that was unexpected and remarkable. The ultrasound technician told me to expect surgery. Not a diagnosis but apparently the condition of my gall bladder was so obvious from the ultrasound; he knew how it would play out. Everyone I've talked to since the surgery argued the ER immediately determined surgery would be required but until the ultrasound showed my gall bladder was packed with gall stones, the diagnosis was treatment and possible surgery.
The ultrasound determined surgery and it was expected that day. I was given pain meds and sent to the surgical floor. I don't remember when they determined my surgery would be delayed and they would do a day of antibiotics and pain management but my surgery moved to Tuesday, July 28th, at 2:30 PM.
Again, I expected to become a number on a nurse's board and lost in the sea of people needing and asking for help. Instead the nurses came in, called me by name, wrote their names on a white board and asked me what I needed. I called for water and ice chips once surgery was cancelled and was immediately supplied with both. I remember one of the nurses getting me a sandwich in the afternoon. They seemed to be constantly checking on me and attentive to my needs. I mentioned I was warm and they went and found a fan to keep me cooler. It was constantly in their way and yet they never complained and always made sure it was back in place and I was comfortable. I never waited more than one minute any time I pushed the nurse call button. If I mentioned pain I was asked the level and anything beyond a 3 out of 10 required an increase in pain meds to keep me more comfortable. It's hard to imagine the word pampered in a hospital but I felt pampered. I was trying to call friends and family so they made sure I had access and use of my cell phone and would come bring me the room phone if needed. All of my hospital fears and expectations were shattered. I give the hospital, Meridian Park Hospital, a ***** 5-star rating.
Never once in my entire stay did I feel like a number instead of a person nor did I suffer the indignities of clinical care. My nursing care was a group of people who made me think of Dannie and Leslie on Humzoo. Until my last day when my skin was so puffy the technician couldn't find a vein, I never felt one needle prick to start an IV or take a blood sample. The nightmare I'd heard of nurses waking you up at all hours for vitals or tests was never realized. They came and did their tests but rarely was I disturbed and they did all they could to make any need on their part minimize the disturbance or pain on my part. My care and treatment was impressive and human. If I ever have to need a hospital, I can't imagine having a better one close at hand. I can't say enough about how great was my care there.
Today is the one month anniversary since my life and body changed. It's been a slow recovery (to me). Everyone tells me I improved faster than expected but I think it is harder at the end when you basically feel you can do more than your body can manage. It quickly becomes boring to be so limited when you feel well enough to do more. I'm lucky that I can work from home and have been back at work since the 10th. My boss has been great and assures me I should make sure I'm ready to return to the office before I attempt it. Having the luxury of being able to work from home and an understanding employer make it easier to recover without pressure and pushing to get back to work.
I felt a turning of the road last night when I was able to lie on my right side for the first time in a month. It may seem like a small thing but that's my preferred sleeping position. I've been unable to sleep on that side since July. Still working on the stamina and my ability to wear street clothes that don't irritate the incision (I know living in sweats for a month sounds great but it wears thin when you can't get out easily and do errands and shopping like you would like). Maybe September will bring the final phase and I'll be back in the office by Labor Day (or sooner!).
I did get my hair cut (finally!) and Marie, my hairstylist, was sweet enough to bring me a cake for a change. Only hers was one made with flowers--not flours. I was quite touched that she would do that for me. It's beautiful and sits on my table to brighten the place. Thanks everyone for all the good wishes, good thoughts, good friendship during my month of semi-exile from the world. And a special thanks to Carol who was my go-between and managed to keep people informed when I was unable to do so. Thank you for your friendship and love.