It Was A Good Day To Die… But I’m Glad I Didn’t

One of my very first posts with this new blog was back in February of this year; Saturday Morning Family Trip to the E.R.  I was re-reading it just now as a lot has happened since then.  Upon reading that entry again, my father was actually correct, though I simply assumed that he was overreacting.  Huh!

So, the day that I wrote that post,  I was pleased by the hospital.  But, days later, upon thinking on the events again,  I found that they didn’t really do an adequate job.  Perhaps this is just the sort of thing that happens; ones first time in hospital, complaining about an ailment.  But, they only took some blood, said ‘here ya go’, didn’t explain anything and then slapped me with three separate bills that were exceedingly ludicrous to the actual work they did.

The $94 dollar bill for a local lab company who ran the blood tests was the only one that seemed accurate and fair.  The doctor wanted $1,000 for giving me some trumped-up pepto-bismal and looking at a lab report with only two items on it.  The hospital wanted $5,000 for letting me lay on their E.R. bed for thirty minutes.

Also, the 14 day round of Prilosec appeared to work, but then I didn’t continue using it because they said to only use it that 14 days, & the problem persisted.  I started taking it again, daily.  I ended up battling this condition most of the year.  When it got really bad again, I made an appointment at the rural health initiative at the end of September.  The doctor I saw was really helpful and, I felt, went above and beyond in trying to help me.  It’s just that with my symptoms and the previous diagnosis from a hospital Emergency, we were working our way down the wrong road.

The rural health initiative will give discount vouchers so one can see a specialist, but without insurance it would have been too much money.  I am not eligible for any type of insurance or help because I am white, single, childless, in my thirties, and because the governor of my state did not expand Medicaid.  I have tried five times, this year alone, to see about getting insurance or help, to no avail.

So, this doctor at the rural health initiative upped my dosage of Prilosec to two pills a day and we did a ten-day round of antibiotics, to get rid of H. Pylori which besides doing a scope at a GI, which I could not afford, this was the only other option.  I felt great during the antibiotics and even a few days after.  But then, everything was all out of sync and worse.  It semi-regulated itself again, but for the prognosis of Gastritis, I had simply run out of options.

I kept trying to maintain my health as best as I could from the end of antibiotics through most of November.  It seemed like an uphill battle that I was losing and I was rather frustrated, to say the least.

Pre-surgery ID bracelet

Then skip ahead to 16. November, Monday.  I was feeling poorly most of the afternoon and went to bed early.  I woke up at 11.30 that night in such horrible pain.  Worse than the pain I’d had during my first foray to the E.R.

I tried all my usual tricks.  I went to the bathroom to relieve my bladder.  Came back to bed and fluffed and propped all the pillows up real high and tried to lay down.  Worse!  I tried, sitting, standing, kneeling.  Worse!  I tried taking the liquid antacid.  Waiting.  Took more.  Waited.  Took more.  Kept looking online not knowing what to do.

I did not want to go back to hospital.  I had vowed not to by Mid-February.  Besides, we knew what it was and this was it.  All they’d do is give me that fancy pepto-bismal and send me on my way & my parents would have to be paying a huge bill, again, for nothing.

I was in excruciating pain for five hours, and vomited twice before my parents and I were in the car on the way to hospital.  I’d tried to be stoic on the first trip and control my pain, but this time I was not silencing the moans of pains; I didn’t have the energy.  Also, this time I had bad tremors.  My body shaking from exhaustion and pain, and probably dehydration.

Dad refused to take me to the first hospital, which is the closest to our house, and drove me to the one a little further away in the middle of town.  I agreed, though my mother did not.

Discharge documents

I told the E.R. nurse and doctor about the February trip to the E.R. and what they had said, all my symptoms and flair ups all year, the rural health initiative doctor and what had happened since then and then of course, the events of that night.  The look on their faces were that this story wasn’t adding up correctly.  Not that I was lying, but that I had been misdiagnosed.  The doctor asked a few more questions, pressed my upper right side, “That hurts doesn’t it?  That’s what I thought.”  So, he was worried about my gallbladder and was sending me to get an ultrasound.

They gave me a GI Cocktail, the same as the previous hospital, to help with the pain.  But this time it had no effect.  The ultrasound lady ended up taking pictures of all of my pertinent organs; spleen, pancreas, liver, and stomach, as well as the gallbladder, just to be sure.  Then wheeled me back to the E.R. and told the nurse I needed something stronger for the pain.

They did give me something stronger, shot in through the IV, which dropped my pain down to a 5 or 6 and that was actually a bit of heaven right there.  Then they brought a surgeon in.  Basically, it was bad.  Really bad.  Their initial concerns had been that it was my gallbladder all along, and not Gastritis.  After seeing the ultrasound pictures, they were certain.  My gallbladder was swollen and inflamed, and they thought had stones as well, and it needed to come out immediately.  I consented, of course, and they scheduled the surgery for as soon as possible.

Post-surgery view from my room

I was moved to a room and needed more pain medicine.  Same shot into the IV and the pain was a 3, I slept for two glorious hours.  Then I was wheeled to the pre-surgery area.  Given a half dose of pain medicine and one for nausea, and then a tiny portion of the anesthesia.  They wheeled me into the theatre, which was tiny and crowded and people were fluttering around everywhere doing… things.  Obviously preparations, but I couldn’t tell you what they were.  There were two women at my right arm doing things and then the anesthesiologist was there at my left.  He had a large syringe with red on it.  He stuck the end of it into the IV, pushed the plunger maybe a centimeter and the next thing that happened is that I woke up and a lady to my left was cooing that I was out of surgery and in the recovery room.

Wait… what?

There are a lot of things that have been going through my head since they said I would need emergency surgery.  But with the combination of pain, exhaustion, and narcotics I was too foggy to even want to deal with any of it.  So, those thoughts floated around and I pushed them away.  But, I am no longer foggy and I have registered the severity of the situation.

I almost died.  I knew it was important since I was going to have surgery the same day, but I wasn’t registering how important it was to have the surgery that day.  My gallbladder hadn’t produced any stones.  But, somehow the end of it had twisted itself up tight and had been that way awhile.  It was so swollen and inflamed that it was pretty much ready to burst.  If I had not gone to hospital I would not be here right now typing this.  In my pre-drive to hospital debate, there was the one factor that really got me motivated.  Just being there in the moment; in my room not knowing what to do, I disassociated from the pain for a moment and all I could think was, “Something’s not right.  Something’s not right at all.”.  That gut-feeling amidst turmoil is the only reason I am alive right now.

Gallbladder plushie by The Awkward Yeti

It is also rather strange to think that while battling the early symptoms I received a Gallbladder plushie for my birthday.  The birthday a few months before that first trip to the E.R.  That thought was not lost on me when they were telling me that the problem was my gallbladder and it needed to be removed.  It was also not lost on The Sister or The Friend who were both present for that birthday when I received said gallbladder.  When The Sister arrived at the hospital, post surgery, the first thing she removed from a bag was that plushie.  She just posed with it making a face of ‘what… the… hell…?’

There was also being rather awake post-surgery and needing to use the toilet; remembering I’d just undergone surgery.  I lifted my gown & see that a huge swath of my body is orange from the anti-germ stuff they paint on you and there were four band aids covering wounds.  I also remembered that in my pre-surgery state some nurses mentioned a catheter.

So I’m standing there in front of the bathroom mirror realizing that someone had to insert and then take out a catheter from my body.  Someone had to lift my entire gown to paint that orange anti-germ stuff on.  Someone cut into my body four different places.  And I was passed out for all of it.  I’m not ashamed that people saw my naked body or had to mess around between my legs.  It’s just an odd realization to wake up to.  Almost like an alien abduction.  Things were done to my body, but I have no memory of it, though there are tell-tale signs.

3/4 of the sutured incision marks

I was told not to bathe until the following day to make sure the dermabond on the wounds was properly sealed.  I was thinking, “Oh, like super glue.  Cool.  I can handle that.”  But I was surprised when I removed the bandages to find sutures.  But, it makes since they would have those, but I was not expecting them.  They kind of creep me out a little.  Always hated when our girl cats got fixed and they had that puckered line of skin with stitches crossing over it all.  Hard strings just stuck in there like a trussed up & diseased chicken.

It’s also weird in and of itself that there are four stitched up wounds on my abdomen.  I’ve never had any type of surgery before in my life.  My poor parents have so many lines crossing their bodies from previous surgeries that they don’t really take time to notice their scars, though I don’t think they go completely unnoticed.  But, I keep looking at them periodically.  More than just checking to see that they look OK, and then to gently clean them and to help keep them in tip-top shape.

I’m not even one who cares about scars.  I’ve never wished for them, but I have found them to be rather cool.  I’m not fearful about scars on my abdomen from all of this.  They say the scarring will be minimal, I’m not concerned at all.  My fathers own gallbladder scar from 1985 is a huge 4-inch long gash on his lower right abdomen with a row of dots on either side.  It’s very Frankensteins monster, as they used heavy-duty staples to keep his giant wound shut.  If that is what my scar was going to look like, I’d totally be OK with that.  Honest!

Bao-Bao; the estranged aunt; the paternal grandparents

I also am finding now that I am mourning for things that I never allowed myself to mourn for before.  The death of my beloved cat two years ago.  The death of a former employer and her husband that happened in March and then October of this year.  They were like grandparents to me.  The recent death of an estranged aunt, who I was rather fond of in my childhood.  It’s not that I wasn’t sad when these events initially occurred, I just kept pushing my emotions aside to deal with them later.  Apparently later was now.

And perplexing to me, the death of my real paternal grandparents.  I did mourn for my grandfather when he died twenty-two years ago, and I mourned for my grandmother when she died almost three years ago this Christmas.  But the same day that I had my surgery, I found I was thinking about both of them more than once while I was in hospital.  I was released that same day, in the evening.  I wandered into my parents room looking for cats, saw their photo near my dads bed-side table, held it to me and wept… and I’m not sure why, exactly.

My dad said I should sue the first hospital.  I find that a ridiculous notion.  My mother didn’t want me taken to the second hospital because “they kill people”, which I also found ridiculous.  I am not bitter about the events of these past nine months.  I am not bitter or angry at the first hospital, though I did find their lack of actual care rather dismal.  I am also beyond grateful at the care and genuine compassion I received from the doctor at the rural health initiative, as well as from all who attended to me at the second hospital.

There is simply a lot to process through.  While I was too out of it to realize the severity of the situation I did, in the moment, realize that it was something that needed to happen right then.  My mother realized the severity a bit more.  My father didn’t understand that it was that severe at all initially.  But since Tuesday, the three of us have all silently realized the very real prospect that I could be missing from the family right now.

It’s looming in the atmosphere of this house.  It’s hanging there just over our heads.  But my family is not big on feelings, it can’t really be discussed; more really just skipped over.  I had to find a round-about way to tell my father that I knew he cared and I don’t blame him for anything, without too much feelings, mind.  But it needed to be done, because my father felt great, overwhelming guilt at wanting them to band-aid my pain and send me home, in hopes of looking for other option or getting me insurance.  He thought it was a “surgery may be needed” situation.  He didn’t need to feel guilty for that anymore.

My mother keeps babying me, without molly coddling, and trying not to burst into tears.  My sister keeps popping into rooms that I’m in, making sure that I’m still alive, that it wasn’t all a dream that I survived this.  She is the only one who realized the actual intense and severe nature of the situation when my parents came home to tell her I would need surgery.

Flowers from The Sister & The Parents

I too am thinking on my own mortality.  I admit that when it finally hit me the day after surgery, I cried.  I am not afraid to die, but it was a rather sobering realization none-the-less.  Honestly, I was more afraid to ‘live’ the life I have had this past year, than to die.  I’m not worried about scars, but it is a strange thing to realize that my body will never be the same.  I am missing an organ and have gained some permanent marks.  It’s weird to think that things happened to me while I was unaware and unconscious.  Or that I had been holding onto things that I hadn’t realized I had even been holding onto and am now purging a lot of unprocessed emotions.

But with all of these feelings and thoughts coming out and needing to be processed, I am finding that all the anger I had before the surgery; anger I didn’t know what to do with or where it was coming from, is suddenly all gone.  It’s more than just the pain medicines or the removal of an organ.  Something huge, emotionally, has been lifted from me, and through all of it I’m really just quite happy and peaceful.

My happy dog moment – I got to take a mini ride in the car today!




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