The pain, it hurts

For the past week, every time I sleep I wake up with pain in my neck and shoulders, mostly my left shoulder.

I’m guessing it is related to my pillow and/or mattress. Might be time to go shopping for a new mattress, this pain is painful.

Surgery gone wrong…ish

So I’m in a hospital bed recovering from the surgery… but things didn’t go as planned.

They started out laparoscopically, but visibily was poor orf something, so instead of laparoscopically, they switched to full-blown, cut-me-open surgery.

The result? Well, the surgery is done, apparently a success, but because of the big hole they cut open, it’s MUCH more painful then it would have been, and recovery time is DAYS at the hospital, instead of hours.

I’m gonna hit my morphine button now. More later.

ultrasound, microinfo

I had an ultrasound today and had more blood drawn for labs.
No info though. Guess I’ll have to wait till next week to hear anything from my doctor.
I asked for copies of the ultrasound images so I could see what my insides looked like, but the radiologist said no. Boo. Apparently I can request that my doctor request a copy of the images, if he agrees to it. Doen’t sound very HIPAA-compliant to me. >=(

Meanwhile, I’m in a sort of limbo… not really stricken, but not really well.
I have a more or less constant low-grade fever and headaches, abdominal soreness, and at night I wake up with abdominal pain, which isn’t super-severe, but enough that I can’t fall asleep without taking an oxycodone.

I’m worried that the doctors might not schedule any sort of treatment until after I get back from my trip to Washington, so I will be feverish the whole time and not able to fully enjoy it.

Especially since I don’t have enough oxycodone to last that long, which could mean a lot of sleepless nights up tossing and turning in pain (apparently that’s when Gall Bladders do their thing, most gall bladder pain happens to people at night).

I’ve been looking forward to the trip for a while now, it would suck to have it spoiled by my stupid insides.

No answers yet

Had some blood drawn for lab work and an ultrasound scheduled for Friday.
I’ll get to find out the sex of the baby!
Just kidding.
I’ll get to find out if I need to have some of my insides lopped out.

Right now my guts don’t hurt too bad, but I have a bitch of a headache.

The day my insides went horribly wrong

Sunday started as a slightly off day. I could feel something, a not-quite-rightness about things.
I broke a container of chervil when making breakfast, shattering the small jar and covering the floor with the spice. I cleaned it up, and didn’t mention it to Sarah (she was taking a shower at the time).

After breakfast, we were going to Old Sturbridge Village, Sarah’s parents were in the area and would meet us there.

I had trouble getting ready – trips always slightly discombobulate me, but I felt extra helpless as I got ready go.

As we pulled up to Old Stubridge Village, I felt sort of grumpy and out of sorts. “I feel like every decision I make today will be the wrong one,” I said to Sarah.

We met up with Sarah’s parents, and wandered around OSV for a while. Sarah’s dad had bought a big bag of lemon cookies at the bakery there, Sarah and I split a cookie (a bad decision, a precursor to the upcoming really bad decision).

We saw pretty much everything there, some interesting stuff, some just reminded me of growing up in rural Maine. I saved Sarah from stepping in an enormous pile of horse manure, she had been tromping along reading a brochure, oblivious to the potential messy fate.

“Colonial times were really stinky,” she commented.

After we’d made the rounds, we decided to get something to eat. When we go to the tavern, though, it was closed. So we left OSV and went to a place Sarah’s parents had been 10 or so years before, the Publick House.

It’s an old-style upscale hotel/dining/event place, a massive structure with a rambling, maze-like interior.

We finally found the dining area (with some assistance from one of the staff) and perused the menu.

I settled on getting the Chicken Pot Pie, and a salad and a dessert. “Remember from the book ‘Eat this, not that’,” Sarah commented, “those are loaded with fat.”
“Yeah, but tasty,” I reply.

Little did I know then that my decision of dish would nearly destroy me.

The chicken pot pie was yummy, though I burned my tongue a little when eating it, blowing on each spoonful instead of waiting for the dish to cool.

For dessert I got Indian Pudding, which I don’t think I’ve had before. It was good, not too sweet, with a scoop of ice cream. I had some of Sarah’s Apple Pie, which compared to the Indian Pudding, was almost too sweet.

After dinner, we headed back to my car to drive home, and Sarah’s parents headed back to their hotel.

On the ride back, I could feel something wasn’t right.

“Oof,” I commented, “I feel stuffed.”

“Me too,” said Sarah.

[Warning: The remainder of this story falls into what most people consider the “too much information” category.]

But I felt more than stuffed, I felt over-stuffed, bursting at the seams.
I had been constipated for the past couple days, which worked out great for the bike ride, but now I was afraid I really *was* filled to bursting.

On the drive home, the pain got worse and worse.

A couple years ago, I felt a similar pain, and ended up going to the ER for it. The said it was constipation, and proscribed me some laxative.

I still had some of it left, so took some. I couldn’t remember how long it took to work, though.

The pain continued to escalate.

Sarah went out to get some different treatments to try.

In agony, I prayed for her return.
I tried meditation, which worked, but only for small periods of time. Then the pain would come bursting back into my awareness. I heard Sarah come in, and eagerly greeted her.

“Sorry,” she said, “every place was closed. But there is a 24-hour Walgreens on Park, I’m looking it up in google maps.”

She tried to print out directions, but couldn’t get the printer to work. I was in too much pain to help. She wrote down directions and headed out again.

I had noticed that lying on the cool tiled floor in the kitchen seemed to help a little, so I tried an ice pack. I’m not sure it helped at all, but it didn’t make the pain worse.

Sarah came back again, this time with supplies. She was concerned about me trying too many things on my body, but I was in so much pain, I was willing to try anything. Things that seemed disgusting and unthinkable at any other time were welcome. I tried an enema and a suppository, both of which had little to no effect. I forced myself to throw up, anything to try to decrease the pressure, but it did little but leave me with the taste of vomit in my mouth and throat.

Then I took a warm bath, which did help, but I have the smallest bath in the universe – I had to put my legs straight up on the wall to lie down in the tub, and even then the water didn’t cover my abdomen, where the pain was. So I gently splashed water over my stomach, which helped. Not only were my intestines crying out in pain, but my abdominal muscles were as tight as possible, as were my back muscles. The warm bath helped relax them a little.

At this point, Sarah was pretty exhausted, she had been tired earlier, and now it was past midnight. She fell asleep, and I went to the couch, so my pained thrashings wouldn’t wake her, and tried to get some sleep.

I realized after a while there was no way I was going to be able to sleep, there was simply too much pain.

I remembered my trip to the ER last time. It had been ridiculously expensive, but they had given me morphine, which made the pain go away. At that point, I was desperate to make the pain stop. There was a pair of scissors on the kitchen counter that I had to put away, because every time I walked by them, I would eye them and think about stabbing myself in the gut, anything to stop the horrible, horrible pressure and pain.

Finally I resigned myself. I knew it was an amazingly expensive rip-off, but the ER seemed like the only choice. My insurance would cover some of it, at least. The thing that gets me about ER visits is that what is expensive is not the doctors, or the medicine. The expensive thing is the time you spend in a bed. That’s right, the medicine and doctors only cost tens or hundreds of dollars, but time in the bed costs THOUSANDS. So they have an incentive to keep you in the bed as long as possible, since it’s like a taxi with the meter running. The most expensive taxi on earth.

I wake Sarah up. “I can’t take the pain anymore,” I say, “I’m a wuss. I need the ER and some sweet, sweet morphine.”

“Ok,” she says.

We get dressed and head over.

I check in and a nurse takes my vitals and gets some info about my condition.
Then we wait in the waiting area. I give Sarah my iPhone to play with, she plays Quordy (which a friend from college wrote) while I squirm around on a couch, trying to find some mythical comfortable position, but it’s a hopeless quest.

Finally I go up to the reception desk, I ask her if there’s a water fountain.
“You have abdominal pain, so we can’t give you any liquids,” she says.
“What about a bathroom?”
“You’re just going to go drink some water, aren’t you?”
“No, I… I’m feeling a little queasy (I was) and want to know, just in case.”
“I can give you a bucket if you need one,” she gestures to a pile of plastic bins.
“I just… I just want to know where the bathroom is.”

She is about to tell me, when a woman walks up, saying “I’m ready for him”.

I call to Sarah, and we head into the ER “pod”. I’m handed off to a nurse. “This way,” he says, and sets me up in a bed. He tells me to remove my shirt and put on a hospital gown. Oddly, he leaves the room. I’m removing my shirt, not my pants. I guess they treat men and women removing their shirts the same? I’m not sure if that’s progressive, or prudish… seems weird in a hospital, but I guess they want to make extra-sure no one sues them for sexual harassment…

A number of nurses and doctors examine me, all asking the same questions. I’m never able to get through the full recounting of my tale before they cut me off with another question. Seems inefficient, that they would get more out of letting me finish, or asking new questions, instead of each asking the same ones. Seems like that information isn’t getting passed from one person to the next – the very first nurse took notes, but doesn’t seem like these doctors and nurses were. I was pretty distracted by the pain, though, so perhaps they have some system I didn’t see.

They bring in an ultrasound, and scan my belly. I can’t see from where I am, but they say I have three gall stones. They also say I have an unusually large gall bladder, but don’t say what that means.

They take some blood to run some tests.

At some point, they finally offer me some pain relief. I’m not sure if they didn’t want it to mess up my lab data, or they just liked watching me squirm, but it seemed like a while before they finally got me some morphine.

Morphine is great. It didn’t completely eliminate the pain, though, just knocked it down a few notches. I felt almost like I could drift off to sleep.

After a while, though, the morphine begins to wear off. I’m not sure how long I’ve been in the bed. Hours?

A doctor comes in to talk to me, I forget exactly what he said, a lot of horrible stuff about possibly removing my gall bladder, how fever might be deadly or something, but I was distracted from what he was saying, because the pain was back.

He chastises me for trying chemicals to cure my constipation, said that I was dumb not to just use lots of prune juice. Well, excuse me for using the medicine that the same ER prescribed last time…

Finally, he says he’ll get me some more pain reliever, this time morphine and another one, which Sarah says is extra-strength ibuprofen.

A couple times, I ask for a copy of my medical records from the visit. One nurse blows me off, he tells me some bullshit about that not being allowed under HIPAA. In fact, HIPAA says the opposite, that unless there are special reasons, a patient is allowed copies of their records on request.

One of the doctors was better about my request, though she only gives me the lab results, not the other records (for example, the ultrasound scan had been recorded).
In my experience, doctors and hospitals are notoriously secretive about medical records. Even though they are obligated to release them if you ask, they will usually dodge and weave to give you as little as possible. I say “all”, they make their own interpretations, thinking to themselves “well, obviously he doesn’t want *all* the info, I’ll just give him this one report.”

When I say “all”, it’s what I mean. I swear, you’d have to be a lawyer or bring one with you to get them to ever comply fully with HIPAA.

So anyway, they release me, and give me a prescription for oxycodone and that extra-strength ibuprofen. It’s been about 4 or 5 hours total, which is pretty fast for an ER, though I imagine the bill will be several thousand bucks… we’ll see.

We get home around 5:30, and drop off to sleep, exhausted. Sarah doesn’t have to work Monday, or doesn’t have to work till later in the day, we don’t wake up till around, I dunno, 11am or 1pm or something.

Sarah has to head home to feed her cat and get ready for work the next morning, which is at early o’clock.

I head to Stop & Shop, and feel like an old man shambling through the store, buying my prune juice and milk of magnesia, getting my prescriptions filled. It occurs to me, I have white hair, age spots on my face, failing organs – I don’t just *feel* like an old man, I am one.

Which plunges me into despair. I mean, I’ve tried to live a fairly healthy life the last few years. Sure, I could exercise more, and I do eat the occasional slice of pizza or pasta dish, but by-and-large, I go for the healthy choices.

And what does it get me? Gall stones. Which, as a friend pointed out, are usually found in, as Wikipedia puts it: “the four F’s: Fat, Female, (nearing) Forty, Fertile.”

I’ve always fully expected to live to 100 or above, which seemed perfectly reasonable – I take care of myself, eat well, have a generally positive outlook.

But now I am told that if symptoms continue, I may need my gall bladder removed. At that moment, standing in the supermarket, I felt a complete failure. Anything I had done to try and stay healthy had been either too little, too late, or doomed to failure from the start.

The prune juice and milk of magnesia did the trick, got my insides cleaned out and working again.

However, I’ve been feverish today. Which I remember the doctor saying something about, something very bad, but I don’t remember it all. The long and short of it is probably just that I’m fucked.

I have an appointment to meet with my regular doctor tomorrow morning, where doubtless he will give me his own rendition of the “you’re fucked” tune.

I remember the good old days, back on Saturday, when I used to be healthy.

Sigh. Days long gone, I guess.

A Ride and a Crash

Went for a bike ride on Saturday with Sarah. We stopped at a bike shop on the way to the rail trail and got her tire adjusted and inflated, then found a parking spot at the head of the trail.

It was a perfect day, in the low 80’s but with cool breezes. The rail trail was busy, but not crowded – we would have to pass someone every few minutes, but mostly it was open trail.

On either side of the trail are farms and trees, with occasional views into the surrounding town, flashes of gas stations and restaurants through a break in the trees. There is an ice cream and polish food shop on the side of the trail at one point. We didn’t stop there but we did last time we were on the rail trail. It’s a nice little mom and pop shop with good food and ice cream.

We rode on, through a few intersections, through a couple tunnels, all the way to the other end of the trail, about 9 miles. We rested a bit and then headed back. After only a few feet, we quickly turned around – Sarah had left her camera on one of the picnic tables there. When we got back a nice couple was holding it for us, we retrieved it and headed out again.

We stopped at a beaver dam to look at it and the numerous dragonflies, Sarah managed to get a couple decent shots of a dragonfly, even though they would fly away if you got too close. We wondered about the beavers themselves, I posited they might be nocturnal and all asleep (we looked it up later, I was right).

Then we headed out again and that’s where things got bloody.

We were cruising along, when all of a sudden, Sarah’s bike wobbled, swerved, and she went down. Hard.

My blood ran cold, for two different reasons.

Firstly, it looked like she went down hard enough to have possibly broken something, and could be badly hurt. We were close to a town, but far enough that getting to help might be difficult, especially if she had a broken leg. Luckily, we had brought our cellphones, she had quipped as we headed out “you know, in case we need to dial 911.”

At the same time, I was worried that she would never want to go bike riding again. I flashed to my friend Mike who got into a car accident and basically decided never to drive again.

The rail trail is paved, which makes for a smooth ride, but a very hard and painful landing.

She had pitched off the bike partway sideways, partway over the handlebars. I pulled up and hopped off my bike. There were ragged bloody patches on her knees and arms, and her leg was stuck between the handlebars and the frame. I lifted the handlebars up so she could get her leg out, then I helped her get sitting up.

She had held out her hand as she fell, so her wrist took a hard impact, and hurt the most. Her fingers had bent backward when she hit, and her pinky was very tender to the touch and swollen. She tried to move her pinky and wrist, they still had circulation and movement, but she almost passed out when she first tried to move them. I sat with her, trying to think what to do next. She didn’t seem badly injured enough to warrant an ambulance, but she was too injured to ride 8 more miles back to the car. As we were, we were in the woods, but near a road. It seemed like if I got the car we would have a lot more options, we could drive to a hospital to get an x-ray, or if nothing seemed broken, we could go to Sarah’s and get her patched up.

A woman walked up and asked if Sarah was okay, if we wanted her to call an ambulance or anything. Sarah said no thanks, that she was hurt but didn’t think she needed an ambulance.

After a bit, Sarah seemed a little less dazed, and I got on my bike to ride back to the car. I felt bad leaving her alone on the trail. I marked our location on my iPhone’s GPS, and took off down the trail as fast as I could.

I’m no Ben Peck, but I made pretty good time back to the car. I put my bike in the back of the car and gave Sarah a call to let her know I was on my way. I had a little difficulty matching the iPhone location with the map on my Prius, I wish both would just show me the lat and long coords and let me punch them in manually.

After a little trial and error I found Sarah. I strapped her bike to the car, and we went into town to a pharmacy for Sarah-patching supplies. We sat in the park and I acted as nurse’s assistant in washing the wounds with saline and bandaging them up, since Sarah’s right wrist and pinky hurt too badly for her to use them. Then we went to a brewery/pub to get some lunch and get Sarah some much-needed beer.

A breakfast of Pain

I managed to make a fairly decent-looking omelette this morning. Normally I mangle them and they turn out as Scombelettes™, a sort of patchwork scrambled omelette.

But this morning I used a smaller pan, lower heat, and realized that omelettes are folded, not flipped. It didn’t come out perfect, but it was a lot closer to an omelette shape than I’ve come before.

Then I sat down and began to eat my creation, reading a magazine article about the sound design in Wall-E.

Chew, chew, chew, CRUNCH!

CRUNCH?

I had just bit into my tongue. Hard.
I’ve bit my tongue before, but this was by far the biggest gash I’d made in the ol’ word-waggler.

(It doesn’t look that bad in the photo, but that cut is pretty deep)

After stanching the flow of blood with several paper towels, I found my tongue now alternates between feeling fine and feeling a aching, stabbing pain, like a toothache in my tongue, causing me to wince.

Two hours later, it’s still like that. Fine, fine, fine, fine, PAIN.

Any kind of food or drink brings on the pain. So until it gets better, I guess I’m fasting, maybe gently sipping some water to stay hydrated.

=(

Medical days

Note to self: be less vigorous playing Boom Blox on the Wii. This weekend I was all flailing around, pitching baseballs at block structures, and two days later, I’m walking to a meeting at work, and *ping*, I get a pinched nerve in my right shoulder. Probably not a coincidence. Still painful, hopefully it sorts itself out in a couple days, I’m going to a bowling birthday party this weekend (real bowling, not Wii).

Right now is “Open Enrollment” at Staples, which means it’s the two-week period where you can make any changes to your benefits, which you can’t change until this time next year.

It’s confusing, there are 4 different medical plans… last year I chose a not-so-good one, which ended up with me paying a lot out of pocket. So I switched to the next plan up, which is a little more expensive, but means less out of pocket if I use it.

They added a “non-smoker discount” this year, which is pretty cool for lil non-smoking me. Actually, it makes it about $30 a month cheaper… and then I switched to the more expensive plan, which was about $30 more a month… so the net result is I’m paying the same as before, but getting better coverage.

There was also an incentive to take a “Personal Health Assessment”, so I took that. I scored 98 out of a possible 100, the only suggestion was that I get more exercise, which I’m planning on. I’m going biking with Ben again on Thursday.

If you want an idea of what the personal assessment was like, there’s one called “Real Age” online… just make sure you opt out of all the email offers… they periodically interject the quiz with questions like “Do you want to improve your health? (this will send you emails)”…

On RealAge, I scored as 27 years old, 6.5 years younger than my actual age. Not too bad for a graying programmer…

Not to Scale

I went to the doctor today. He said I had damaged a ligament, not a disc. Which is good news, but will still take a while to heal. Hopefully it doesn’t snow for a while.

Part of getting my vitals taken was being weighed. I discovered my scale is not only inconsistent, it is also inaccurate.

My scale gives a range of readings, depending on where I stand on the scale.
Front of scale: 143.0. Middle of scale: 145.6. Back of scale: 146.4.

The doctor’s scale, which I’m guessing is more accurate, came out thusly: 137.

Definitely time for a new scale, methinks.

The ONE thing a scale is supposed to be good at is determining your weight…