Gallstone Attack

It started Superbowl Sunday with an upset stomach.  “Something I ate,” I thought, but the next day the upset was still there, accompanied by pain in my back.  Unfortunately I recognized it from many years previous when I had a gallstone attack.  I rested on Monday, but by the evening the pain was intensifying.  If ever you had a gallstone attack you know the pain I’m talking about.  I’ve heard women who have given birth and also had a gallstone attack say the gallstone attack was more painful.  While I can’t make that comparison, I will say, imagine your abdomen expanding to the point just before it is about to explode.  Yes, that is the pain.

I had some vicodin that was prescribed for something else many years ago so I took some of that.  It took a while to kick into gear, but when it did the pain went away and I relaxed.  I could still tell something was going on, so I just rested.

The next morning the pain was replaced with a mild discomfort.  It was still a little much to distract me from work.  Advil seemed to do the trick and I returned to work.  So it went all week.  I popped a lot of Advil.

Friday evening I was getting ready to go to my weekly dance when the pain started to intensify.  I went straight to the vicodin.  Before it kicked in, the pain was intense enough I decided I’d better go to the hospital.  I called urgent care.  The nurse scolded me for taking the vicodin, “We normally do not prescribe that for this!” but invited me to come in the next day … since, by that time the pain was clearly masked with the drugs and I was feeling OK.  “Go to emergency if it happens again before you come in tomorrow,” she said.

The next day I was totally pain free.  Even the discomfort was gone.  I remembered the previous incident from years past where I was pain free by the time I got to the hospital, but went in anyway.  It wound up costing me $3,000 for them to run tests and tell me everything was fine.  But I had a different coverage now.  I knew it would not cost me very much and it would not hurt to see a doctor.

The urgent care doctor was kind.  She agreed with my self diagnosis that it was likely gallstones.  She ordered a blood test and sent me home.  A few hours later she gave me a call.  She was concerned.  My liver enzyme count was high indicating one of the gallstones could be stuck.  She asked me to come in for an ultrasound.

Ultrasounds are kind of fun.  They put a jelly on my abdomen and massage it with a smooth metal probe as they scan the organs with a burst of sound from the probe.  It took a while.  She scanned most of my organs.  She made a comment at one point, “does this hurt?” as she scanned my gallbladder.  “No,” I replied.  “Did they give you pain medicine?”  “No,” I replied.  She seemed convinced whatever she was doing should have hurt, I guess based on what she was seeing.

After the scan she confirmed there were a lot of gallstones and that I should wait for the doctor.  They could not tell if one was lodged.  The doctor said I had two choices, she could admit me so they could run an MRI to make sure one was not lodged or I could go home and if the pain comes back go straight to emergency.  She did say with great conviction, “You will have surgery to remove the gallbladder.”  As I was thinking about my choices she changed her mind and removed the second choice.  No, she was going to admit me for the MRI.  I would be there tonight and all day tomorrow.  Ugh!  A nurse came down to take me to the admittance office and then to my room where I would sit for the next 24 hours waiting for one test.

In the admittance office I was given the contract to sign.  “How much will this cost with my insurance.” I asked.  “$500 a day,” she replied.  I do not have $500.  It was clear to me that I was being admitted just to be on the safe side in case a stone was lodged it could lead to infection.  I did not have I sign that paper.  I sat there staring at the contract for a while until the words came up out of my mouth, “I’m not going to do this.”  Shock and disbelief was what I saw and they called the doctor, “He doesn’t want to do it.”  The doctor was kind to me and said, “You know what to do if the pain returns, go straight to emergency.”  I agreed. I told her that I wanted to wait until Monday to talk to me regular doctor.  It was a slight risk I knew, but I felt good about it.  They had me sign a release that I was refusing treatment and I went home.

I sent my doctor an email that I wanted to see him Monday.  Much to my surprise he called me ten minutes later.  He happened to be in the office, just about to go home when my email came.  He agreed to wait until Monday and repeated the instruction to go to emergency if the pain returns.

I posted a status update on my Facebook page that I had gallstones and to send me an email if any of my friends had experience.  I receive a reply with a natural remedy that involved fasting for two day son apple juice and then drinking a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice.  I love natural remedies, especially if I would be able to keep the parts of my body that I was born with.  As it turned out I was already undergoing a fast, but with lemon juice.  I switched to the apple juice and went to the store to acquire the rest of the ingredients.

I went dancing that night and stayed a bit later than I normally do.  I did have some slight discomfort, but the dance made it go away.  I lasted all day Sunday oscillating between no pain and the mild discomfort.  The discomfort was never at the levels it was the week before distracting me from work so I didn’t have to take any Advil.  I worked a little off and on.  I know it was Sunday, but I wanted to get thing done for my clients in case I ended up in the hospital for a day or two come Monday.

Monday, by the time I saw the doctor, I was completely pain free.  He massaged my belly a little and said that everything seems OK.  He ordered another blood test to check the liver enzyme level.  He expected them to still be high, but lower than what they were.  Then he wanted to schedule an appointment with a surgeon that I can talk about having the gallbladder removed.  I like my doctor, he is very easy going.  He said, “If we do it this way it is not an emergency.  If we wait until it happens again it will be an emergency.  It really is up to you.”  I didn’t tell him about the apple juice fast and the olive oil.

Bottom line, I know that I did this to myself with the food that I eat.  I love rich and fatty food.  This was a wakeup call to me.  If I end up losing my gallbladder it will be because of my own doing.  I felt a conviction like I never had before to get serious about a healthy diet.  I wanted to keep the gallbladder because it would always remind me.  Out of love for that little organ perhaps I could be more conscious about what I put in my body.  If it were gone, I would not have it to remind me and to guide me.

So for the 3rd time in 3 days I had blood removed from my body and analyzed.  I went home to wait for the results.  With this system the hospital has, I get the results via email as soon as they are ready.  Many time I can see them before the doctor does.  Along with the results there are links to information about each test and what the numbers mean.   Very impressive!

Anyway, by the time I went to sleep the result were still not posted.  It was the end of the second day of my apple juice fast and time for the olive oil, lemon juice.  I squeezed the lemons and mixed in the olive oil and drank it.  For pleasure I recommend something else to drink, but I downed it anyway.  The lemon juice was very tangy as it passed over my taste buds and the consistency of the olive oil is not something I’m used to drinking, but down it went, and to bed I went laying on my right side, as per instructions.

I was pretty skeptical this would work, but it certainly was not going to hurt.  The next morning I awoke with the need to use the toilet.  After I looked to see what I had created and much to my surprise there were these little tiny green pellets.  “Could that be?”   I fished one out.  It was very green and soft.  Gallstones, I would expect to be hard.

After a few more trips to the toilet more kept coming out and larger ones, the size of a small pea … and lots of them.  Perhaps that’s why the lab technician was indicating when she pressed on my gallbladder surprised it was not hurting.  I emailed my doctor to let him know and I wanted to have this little pellet looked at so I could be sure it was indeed a gallbladder saving gallstone.

While I was online I notice that my test results were back.  My liver enzyme count, as my doctor predicted, was still high, but much lower.  Eventually my doctor emailed me back.  He is skeptical about the gallstones and thinks I’ll still need surgery to remove the gallbladder and scheduled an appointment with the surgeon for me to talk.  He is open, however to repeating the ultrasound to see if the gallstones are still there … to be continued

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