So, yesterday was my birthday.
Saturday, the day before my birthday, I had planned for Stinkerbelle and myself to bake Xmas cookies. BDH is out of the country at a trade show, and since I had four days soloing with That Girl, there was not going to be any fuss and bother for my birthday. I was planning activities that would keep her busy and engaged for long periods of time. And a batch of gingerbread cookies fit the bill. Maybe a cupcake each if she insisted THERE MUST BE BIRTHDAY CAKE. As sometimes happens with her.
On Saturday morning, I got up with That Girl and she wanted bacon and eggs for breakfast. I was happy to oblige. I made just enough for the two of us, since I have been trying (although often failing) to watch what I eat and how much. So bacon, eggs, toast and coffee in moderation sounded good.
At lunch I had a little bit of left over beef stew. It wasn’t much, but it was tasty. Around 2 pm, I was feeling a bit of gut rot. Nothing unusual for me, especially with the big cup of coffee I was nursing. I took a Pepto Bismol. And decided there would be no cupcake making; maybe tomorrow. So we made 5 or so dozen gingerbread cookies, and it was okay.
Around 5 pm, the gut rot was intesifying a bit. The Pepto had done nothing for me. I tried some Tums, and then had supper around 5:30. A small-ish pizza (to give you an idea of size, Stinkerbelle eats half.)
By the time supper was done, around 6, I was feeling properly ill. I felt like I was full to bursting. My stomach, right under my solar plexus, was starting to hurt from feeling so bloated. And by 6:30, the pain was intense, and had spread to my back. I could not even touch my stomach it hurt so badly.
I choked down another Pepto Bismol. I tried to make myself vomit. I could barely move from the discomfort. I tried emailing BDH (he of the chronic and terrible heartburn) in Chicago for advice. And finally, I got on the phone with TeleHealth.
They said I needed to see a doctor within the next four hours.
As I was alone, that meant I had to truck Stinkerbelle downtown to the hospital with me. I don’t have many friends, if any. I’m not the sort of person who has friends, generally speaking, and those I have are not in town. My neighbour, who is the emergency contact for Stinkerbelle at school, was working. And I haven’t any family I can call on in an emergency.
But, what the hell. That Girl was game for an adventure. Off we went to the hospital.
I got into triage around 7:30 and told her my problem. Right off the bat she said that she had to admit me as a cardiac case because my age and the description of what was happening was presenting as a potential heart attack. She also said that in doing that, the tests would take eight hours to complete, so could I get someone to come take That Girl?
I didn’t have anyone I thought I could call. So, we agreed that Stinkerbelle could stay with me and… we’d see.
They did an ECG, which looked fine. They took me to a cubicle and I waited for chest x-rays, while Stinkerbelle merrily chattered and coloured and tried to tell the time on the clock outside our curtain. She watched the nurse take blood, fascinated, and set me up for an IV. She came along with the nurse and “helped” her take my chest images, and from the other side of the glass I could hear the nurse showing her my heart, my bones, and Stinkerbelle all fascinated about how I looked on the inside.
And then, back to the cubicle, where we waited. I called BDH. My cellphone was, as I rarely use it, almost out of charge. I gave him the update, and tried to tell him not to panic and not to rush home.
He said he’d call me back, and then he called our good friends in a neighbouring city.
And one hour later, around the curtain walked our friend Sandra, who despite the late hour and being in an entirely different city, didn’t hesitate to come to help.
She’s a great friend, is Sandra. My husband had called her and although she was already in her pajamas, she jumped in the car and without a second thought came to my aid. She didn’t get to spend the weekend with her own husband and son because she came to help me out and she did not even mention it. She is a good friend, and we see each other only a couple of times a year, but she would do anything for us. I am unaccustomed to having friends, and it really touched me that she would come and help me out. I’m not used to having people who would help me in my time of need.
She really is a fantastic person. I don’t tell her nearly enough.
She packed up That Girl’s stuff, left me with her iPhone so I could call BDH if I needed to, or keep her in the loop, or just surf the web if I got bored, and she took Stinkerbelle out to her car and brought her back here to bed.
So, problem #1 solved, I was left with the doctors and nurses to work out problem #2. As the blood tests and images and ECG came back negative, everything seemed fine with my heart. So then we set about finding out what WAS wrong. The doctor on call, an odd sort at first glance who in the end quite warmed to me, put me on an IV drip of a drug to stop the pain and inflammation, sort of a muscle relaxant for the abdomen. I sat for awhile and watched it drip, and waited on another tech to bring me in for abdominal images.
At midnight, I was wheeled back into xray, where we celebrated another year of my time on this planet by looking once again at the inside of my person. The tech was making gentle jokes at my expense, and as the IV was taking the edge off the pain, it was actually nice to relax and joke about it.
Back to the cubicle, where I sat for awhile longer. The pain faded to a dull bruise feeling, like I had been punched in the stomach, and I was still feeling bloated, but I was MUCH better. And around 1 pm the doctor came back and said he suspected gallstones.
Gallstones I could live with. (Oh, and a bonus bladder infection revealed by the urine sample that I didn’t even know about. Nice catch, doc.) He sent me home with both a prescription for the meds I had in IV but in pill form, and an antibiotic for the bladder infection, for a bit of sleep, but I was on a callback to do more images, ultrasound this time, as soon as a spot became available.
Which was bright and early the next morning. The call woke up Sandra, who volunteered to stay yet again with Stinkerbelle. And off I went on 5 hours sleep back to emergency.
I got a whackload of images done. They looked at my aorta. They looked at my gallbladder, They looked at my pancreas and my liver and my other insides. It was easy enough but I was feeling tender, and not looking forward to sitting in ER once again. But I did.
In due time, I was called in to see a doctor, NOT the lovely odd doctor of the night before, but an Earnest Young Doctor. I was pronounced fine, with the exception of my liver. I was told I have liver steatosis, or “fatty liver disease”. I laughed. It’s a silly name, and an odd ailment — as the doctor put it, “Some people put on fat on their hips. Some people put on fat on their stomachs. You? You put it on on your liver.” To which I replied, “It’s kind of hard to take my liver out for a jog”.
Earnest Young Doctor panicked in the light of a joke, like a rabbit caught in the headlights. He flailed around a bit, recovered, and explained there is no treatment for this problem but to change my diet and to exercise and to lose at least 20 pounds.
No medical intervention? No surgery? No heart problems? And you are telling me I just have to eat better and exercise more and lose weight? DUDE I AM SO ON THAT TEAM.
Well, it has to be slowly and gradually, but yes, he said, that’s the gist of it. (Subsequent reading seems to indicate that besides people like me who could stand to eat better and lose weight, people with liver steatosis tend to be people who have gastric bypass, starvation and protein malnutrition, or extreme weight loss, or are alcoholics. So. Hence the “slow and steady”.) If I make these changes I will notice a recovery very, very quickly. But if I don’t make the changes, and I leave it go, I am in for a world of hurt, not to mention some No Good Very Bad Liver Things, in 10-20 years’ time.
I opted for the Liver Fitness Plan, thanked Earnest Young Doctor, and headed out into the rain.
I came home to find that Stinkerbelle had roped Sandra into playing dressup all morning, and I was greeted by two princesses, flowers, balloons, and a wee birthday cake. It was a lovely end to a not so lovely 18 hours.
And now I am still tender, still bloated, very tired, but home and, all things considered, healthy enough. As soon as I am rested up, I am back on the fitness wagon. BDH and I must change our lifestyle. FOR REALZ, YO.
And next year? BDH will be out of the country again with that same damn trade show. I will be alone with Stinkerbelle. I’m just going to pretend that I have no birthday, and have toast and water. For a week.