Anyone who gets squeamish about bodily functions should not read any further.
Around Christmas, I had a stomach ache. It came out of nowhere. I was very uncomfortable with myself for about twelve hours. But then it was over and I just tried to get back into eating food. I had a vague queasy feeling but nothing very specific. Just age, I thought. In late January, I had a bad bought of what the minor care clinic called 'severe constipation'. They took an x-ray and gave me some drugs to help clean me out. All of this was after the fact. I had spent the night with a distended abdomen but everything was going down. Except that it was really unpleasant and I didn't want to go through it again, I might have skipped the clinic entirely. Friday evening, six hours after lunch, I started to feel bloated and gassy. I took some gas-x. Then an hour later, I took some constipation medicine. Unfortunately, I kept right on bloating. I started trying to twist my abdomen around to try to relieve whatever was happening. My abdomen kept getting tighter and more painful. Worse still, was that my chest started feeling tight. By the time Thea got home at 8:00, I was starting to have shortness of breath and no position was able to relieve the pain/pressure that I was feeling. I made the call to have her take me to the ER.
On the way to the ER, the car vibration was doing a number on me. More pain, more pressure, no relief. On a scale of one to ten, I was on a seven headed for eight. The ER doc asked the usual questions; when had I eaten? When had I poo'ed? Had I done anything unusual? Did this hurt more than that? My answers couldn't have helped much. So she pretty quickly sent me down for a CT scan. They're wheeling me around, treating me gingerly but everything they do is only increasing my pain. Right after the CT, they put me on an IV and give me morphine and that pushes the pain back to a four while we wait for the results. While all this is all fading, I have completely lost track of time. It could have been 9:30 or 11:30 by the time results come back. The ER doc is looking relieved but stern. "It's actually your gall bladder" she said "and we need to take it out tomorrow morning" I was a little in and out at that point. Something about a blockage and infection or inflammation and getting surgery scheduled and a room ready. I had Thea make some calls to let people know what was happening.
I was wheeled up to a room and kept on a drip and given more drugs. They pumped me full of antibiotics and asked if I was in pain. I was still hanging out at about a four so they gave me more morphine. Thea was holding up better than I was. She went and brought back clothes and toiletries and made sure I was being taken care of. She had to crash though and I would rather that she do that at home where she could be comfortable. I was being well attended to by nurses and aides. They took blood every few hours as well as blood pressure and temperature readings. I ran a slight fever all night and my BP was in the 145 over 95 that first night. When morning came, I was out of it. At one point I called the nurse in because I could tell what the IV pump was saying. It sounded like something 'complete'. It had me worried that I couldn't tell what it was saying. Then I had a moment of clarity and realized that it was just the sound of the pump. There was no voice or words at all.
The surgeon came in in the morning ready to get me prepped. He asked me the standard questions but I couldn't give him answers he wanted. The words that I did use caused bells and whistles to go off. I had a tightness in the left side of my chest that just wasn't going away. My pain was down to a two and my breathing and muscles seemed fine. That put a hold on surgery while they switched me into cardiac care. The first thing they did was to put me on oxygen. After a couple of hours on 02, the tightness was gone. But cardiac care requires twenty-four hour monitoring. They moved my room down to the cardiac unit and hooked me up with a monitor device. Unhappily, the blood draws for my original condition and for my cardiac testing weren't synchronized. So about every three hours for the next twenty I was cuffed, stuck and prodded. I was also a bit out of it from lack of sleep.
Saturday afternoon, we're still trying to get things straight. Will the monitoring continue overnight? Will I be stress tested? Am I on a cardiac diet or a pre-op liquid diet? Monitoring has to be done for twenty-four hours once it's called. Dr Nawaz is in charge of my cardiac condition. There won't be any stress testing. I can have whichever diet I like as both are on my chart. I opt for the liquid diet to get me to surgery with Dr Keith faster. Dr Keith wanted to come in on Saturday to pull out my gall bladder but would have to wait for Dr Nawaz to clear me first. Dr Nawaz is worried about my blood pressure remaining in the 140's over 90's.
By the time Sunday rolled around, I was really in and out with lack of sleep. More than one nurse told me what a good sleeper I was. I told Nurse Carrie that considering I was on a liquid diet so eating was out and in a hospital so sex was probably out, sleeping was the only thing left. She said after giggling that she could put a request for sex on the chart but didn't think that it would be filled. Even though I had my computer with me, my attention span was so low that I couldn't even make it through a Netflix re-run of Columbo. I could barely focus on reading the news or my kindle. Thea comes and goes a couple of times but she can tell that I'm half out of it. The good news from Sunday afternoon was that Dr Nawaz would evaluate me on Monday morning and that Dr Keith in anticipation of my release had already booked me as his fourth of six surgeries on that morning.
Monday comes early with the nurses making sure that I haven't eaten or drinken anything since midnight. My final round of blood-letting was at 4:30am. Thea came early and had breakfast with me. Actually, in front of me but we can't hold that against her. Dr Nawaz releases me for surgery but wants me to make an appointment to begin seeing a family practitioner about my BP. Up until now, I'd been lounging round in sweats and a gown but the nurses tell me that I need to shuck the underwear and sweats and just stick with the gown. Things are moving in spurts of hurry up and wait. The nurses in the OR are asking questions. One seems to be in training. The older one asks if the younger one has asked me my name. She looks at my wristband and asks if I go by Mike or Michael. I give her my best deadpan and reply "Robert" She slaps me on the arm lightly.
Now I'm on the surgery table and the anesthetist wants me to hold my arm straight out and I'm back in my hospital room with Thea. No twilight or awareness of passage of time. Just four new holes in my abdomen. The nurse asks how I am. I have to admit that I don't feel much if any pain. It takes me a few seconds to realize that there wasn't any queasiness anymore either. I had thought that the queasiness was just age and I'd have it forever. Guess not.
Within a couple more hours, I'm dressed and on the way home. The ride is not real pleasant as each jostle gets the morphine a little closer to being worn off. But it's tolerable. All I want to do for the first thirty or forty-five minutes is stand up and walk around. I've been tethered for three days to an IV and wanted to explore this new found freedom. That and eat some pasta. I had been craving alfredo but post-gallbladder surgery is 'low-fat/low grease' dietary restrictions. So I had red sauce with my solid food. Thea was out and returned with my scripts, so I took my Hydrocodone. I finished calling people to let them know I was okay. It's about 8:30 but I can't keep my eyes open any longer. Whatever happens with me tomorrow, this page is being turned and the book is going on the nightstand.