Christmas Eve, in Oregon, 6 a.m. – ish. If there’s a creature stirring up here, I’m hoping they have water wings. Last winter, our first one in the Pacific Northwest, we marveled at the amount of sunshine. Just couldn’t figure why people were so uptight about the rain. Ah. Now we know. Oregon was just making sure we fell in love with the state… the flowers… the green spaces… and that we didn’t click to the fact that the only reason it’s THAT green in the heat of summer is because it rains. A lot. It started raining in late October this year and hasn’t stopped yet–and apparently it won’t until April. Huh. Still love it here. 🙂
It’s Christmas time–so here’s my gift to you. Skip the next four paragraphs if you like–you may find them unsettling. I dodged a pretty big bullet last week, and though I am feeling very blessed, it is accompanied by a little bruised, and fairly battered.
Last Wednesday, I started feeling odd after eating dinner–like an ant on a hotplate, just weird, unsettled. The moment I lay down in bed, the pain set in–right under my rib cage, from one side to the other. Almost immediately, the nausea began, and then the sweating. It was 9:30 at night, but when I asked Corey to please go to 7-11 to get some Pepto, he threw on his clothes without question. As I heard him back out of the driveway, I started throwing up. Sounds a little odd in retrospect, but I was glad, because I thought it would back the pain off a bit. I was wrong.
When Corey walked back in, unwrapping the child-proof plastic on the bottle of the pink stuff, I just said “I’m sorry, but I need to go to the emergency room. Now.” He helped me get clothes on, but I didn’t even try to find shoes–just headed for the garage barefoot. It’s pretty amazing how quickly you can get help in an ER if you walk in bent over, barefoot and screaming. They got me into an exam room quickly–but I think the nurse that walked in had seen too many junkies of late–instead of “where’s your pain,” her first words were “You need to control your breathing, and screaming doesn’t help the pain.”
A doctor walked in, poked on me where he could get me unbent enough to do so, and walked back out again. At some point, someone asked me if I wanted my husband, and I said yes. At least I think I did. I know he was there, and that was all that mattered. After starting the IV, the nurse gave me a shot of Nubain–according to her, it was amazing for stomach pain. It gave me a few moments of relief, and then that wall of pain came crashing down again.
When my screams began again after a second shot of Dilaudid, the nurse’s empathy levels seemed to go up significantly. At some point in there, she disappeared–it was either just for a few moments or for an eternity. Time was stretching and bending around me, and all there was left of me was pain.
When she came back in, she said a surgeon had been called in, and he’d ordered a CT scan. With the fleeting help of a shot of morphine, I held onto my composure for the few moments needed to get the scan done. It was no use, though–according to the surgeon on his arrival, it showed nothing. However, as soon as he heard that I’d had a gastric bypass, he told us he wanted to do an exploratory surgery and why. Another surgeon at the hospital, faced with a gastric bypass patient presenting with similar symptoms, decided to observe her overnight. When they finally did the exploratory in the morning, part of her intestine had herniated through a small tear in the muscle, and without blood supply, had become necrotic, and had to be removed.
We said yes–my options were narrowing fast–and at least I knew they would knock me out to do the surgery. I was so exhausted that I sounded like a whimpering child. From there, I have no memory until I woke up in a room with a nurse asking me questions about how I felt. When the surgeon came in about 8:30 a.m., Corey was there with me, and I was glad of it.
He was holding my hand when the doc told us that, once he got my stomach cavity open, my entire intestine was purple, and obviously lost circulation. It had herniated through a small hole in the muscle wall that is apparently quite commonly left behind during a gastric bypass–and the complete intestine had migrated through that opening and then twisted. Had he not chosen to explore…
I cannot even begin to imagine how my life would have changed. He told us that he had to very carefully pull all 35 feet back through the hole and replace it where it was supposed to be, and it pinked up immediately. The last thing he did was sew that hole shut. 🙂 So Christmas blessings abound, indeed… The right surgeon at the right time, who chose not to believe the scan and go with his gut and who in turn, saved mine. And possibly my life, in the bargain.
For more on what actually happened, you can find a similar story about a gentleman who ended up with a Petersen’s hernia after gastric bypass.
I was really scared we wouldn’t be able to… but we’re continuing with our plans and heading out tomorrow for Vegas, then Tucson. We did ask the doc whether there was any problem with flying, and he said no, but I can’t, of course, lift anything at all, anytime, anywhere. So Corey is going to be Mr. Pack Mule for the duration. And, because I apparently always need something to worry about, I will be finding out whether surgical staples set off TSA scanners… I think we’ll go just a little early. 🙂
Hope your Christmas is warm and wonderful, filled with love, laughter, and most of all, life!
I am incredibly grateful that I still have mine.