Tag Archive | medicine

Goodbye You Useless Sack of Stones

I don’t remember much about the hours I spent in the hospital the day I had my gallbladder removed – probably because they were handing out narcotics like Halloween candy.  But I vaguely recall being asked to strip naked and put on a hideous hospital gown that did little to protect my ass or my dignity.  It seemed no matter how much I fussed with the ties, some R-rated body part was always exposed.

But after the operation I felt like my guts were on fire, and I no longer cared if my ass was hanging out the back of my gown.  I only cared whether or not the onlookers had any painkillers.  I felt I was entitled to a little pharmaceutical relief since people had been stabbing me with sharp, metal objects for the last hour.  So, when a nurse offered me pain medication, I made it clear to her that I was more than willing to swallow, inject, snort, or smoke any drug she was willing to throw at me.  In fact, I would have opted for a week-long drug coma rather than going home that day to face what would surely be an unpleasant recovery process.

As I would soon find out, unpleasant wouldn’t come close to describing the week that followed.  I was led to believe by several people who had gone through the surgery, that it was no big deal.  They assured me I would be back up and running after a couple of days.

Lies.  ALL LIES.

As I laid there in agony, I felt like I had been duped – sort of like when I wanted to start a family, and all the parents I knew told me how great it was to have a baby.  Then I had one of my own, and realized they just wanted me to be as miserable as they were.  But I’m going to give it to you straight, readers.  This way, if you have to have your gallbladder removed, you’ll know exactly what to expect during your first week of recovery.

Spoiler alert – it ain’t all rainbows and kittens people….

Day One – Please kill me now:  I have about as much chance of making it upstairs to my bedroom as I do of climbing Mt. Everest, so I set up camp on the couch.  I quickly discover that my bladder is public enemy number one because it’s the only thing that forces me to move off my makeshift bed.  During the painful, excruciatingly slow shuffle to the bathroom, I debate the pros and cons of adult diapers.  I decide against them because I don’t think I can convince my husband to change a diaper filled with pee that (for some mysterious reason) smells like a revolting mixture of asparagus and nursing homes.

I spend most of my time alternating between writhing in pain, sleeping fitfully, and eating saltine crackers.  I try eating chicken soup (I hear it’s good for the surgical patient’s soul), but after the first bite, my stomach is quick to remind me that I just had one of my organs yanked out through my belly button today – looks like nothing more than saltines and flat ginger ale will be tolerated.  In the meantime, my living room clock and I are in a stubborn battle of wills – it bets me that I can’t last the whole four hours between my doses of percocet.  Bastard wins every time.

Day Two – I think the cats want to eat meMy husband returns to work, and my kids go off to school.  I’m left home alone with my two cats.  They appear concerned for my well being, standing like two furry sentries on the couch.  But in my weakened condition, I sense that their primal feline instincts are starting to kick in – they know an easy kill when they see one.  If my husband doesn’t get home soon, I fear they will take me down like the wounded impala of the herd.  I wonder if my life insurance policy covers being eaten by house cats.

Day Three – So NOT back up and running:  Screw running, I can’t even put on my own socks without my husband’s help.  The pain is slightly more bearable, but I’m still taking pain medication at fairly regular intervals because they’re the only thing that prevents me from screaming and cursing whenever I want to venture off the couch.  I keep waiting for the “percocet vacation” everyone told me I’d enjoy, because right now all the percocets are doing are making me constipated.  How long can a person go without pooping before they go into septic shock?  I take Milk of Magnesia because I’d rather not find out – pretty shitty “vacation”, if you ask me.

Day Four – This isn’t what I meant by running:  The good news is that the Milk of Magnesia worked.  The bad news is that it worked a little too well.  After the fourth or fifth trip to the bathroom in less than an hour, I start to feel nostalgic about being constipated.  I realize that my doctor (who recommended the M.O.M.) is a sadistic asshole for giving me diarrhea when I can barely walk.  I take some Imodium A-D in the hopes that it will counteract the Milk of Magnesia.  But if my experiment doesn’t succeed in tipping the intestinal scales in the other direction, I’ve decided to let my cats eat me.

Day Five – Weapons of mass affection:  You know that instinct you have to comfort your kids when they get sick?  As it turns out, kids have the same instinct – we just don’t get to see it that often because they’re usually too busy annoying the hell out of us.  But as I lay helpless on the couch for four straight days, I watched my kids’ nurturing side emerge.

As sweet as it is for them to want to comfort me, having them within a 10-foot radius terrifies me – especially my 8-year old son, Aidan.  He’s usually about as gentle as a bulldozer, and I know that even an uncharacteristically cautious hug will produce more pain than my percocets can handle.  So, he discovered a comforting compromise – the head hug.  It has all the heartfelt affection of a regular hug, coupled with the asphyxiating effects of a sleeper hold.  I’m pretty sure this is where the phrase, “I love you to death” originated.

Day Six – Jesus hates me, this I know for Bruce Springsteen told me soWe bought tickets to see Bruce Springsteen in concert before my surgery was scheduled, but we decided to keep the tickets afterwards because I thought I’d be back up and running in a couple of days – remember the lies?  I think I can cope with the pain because all I have to do is get to my concert seat, sit down, and enjoy the music.  Wrong.  There’s a rain delay (outdoor stadium), and because there’s a threat of lightning, they won’t let us wait in our seats.  So, I decide to find a patch of concrete somewhere in the sheltered recesses of Metlife Stadium, and sit down to sulk.

I’m fairly claustrophobic, so I’m less than thrilled about being crammed into a concrete box with thousands of other people.  After surveying my options, I’m happy to find a spot slightly separated from the soggy masses – at least until a total stranger decides to join me.  If it isn’t bad enough that this guy is playing a disturbing game of personal space invaders, I’m also pretty sure he has leprosy.  At first glance, I thought he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but upon closer inspection (which I couldn’t help since the guy is sitting right next to me) I see the stuff covering his arms aren’t sleeves.

I know I should feel bad for the guy, but it’s difficult to be compassionate when I’m wet, in pain, and now getting flaked on every time he scratches his scaly arm.  I don’t buy into religion much, but it’s hard not to feel like God is testing me a bit:  TWO HOURS of pouring rain with no rescue ark in sight, and now there are lepers.  What’s next, a plague of locusts?  It’s official, Jesus hates me.

Jesus: Linda, you’re supposed to love all God’s children.
Me: Yeah, but you make it hard when you flake on me like that.
Jesus: Duh, that’s why it’s called a TEST.
Me: Couldn’t you have come back as Ryan Gosling instead?

Day Seven – Sign, sealed, delivered, I’m curedJesus may hate me but there are plenty of people around who still love me, despite my inability to tolerate people with gross diseases.  During the course of my recovery, there was an outpouring of support and concern from my friends and family:  emails, texts, cards, and phone calls came in daily to check on my progress.  It’s impossible to thank everyone individually – mostly because I was too drugged up this week to remember what happened.  So, I’ll throw out a blanket, “I LOVE YOU!!” to all of you who cared enough to check in on me and make sure I wasn’t dead.  I’ll also make a few honorable mentions….

1.  Moe, one of my best friends since the 10th grade sent me flowers with a card that read:

Here is the text I sent in reply:

“Bitch, don’t you know it’s mean to make someone laugh after they’ve had a holes cut into their guts?  Thanks for the flowers though.  Love ya!”

2.  My mother and father in-law sent me cupcakes in the mail.  CUPCAKES!!!   Despite my mother in-law’s mistrust and confusion surrounding the internet, she managed to successfully secure and ship me a dozen of these tasty treats.  Had I known there was the possibility of cupcakes being involved, I would have had my gallbladder out years ago!!  Maybe I’ll go for my appendix next year.

Their card read simply, “Gallbladder out…. cupcakes in.  Love, Mom & Dad.”

3.  Last, but certainly not least, is my wonderful husband, Kevin.  This week, he was Florence Nightingale and Mr. Mom all rolled into one.  Had he not been there to help me sit-up, take showers, and put on clean clothes, I would probably still be lying on the couch in a pile of my own stink.

I Hope There’s Not a Doctor in the House

Every family has at least one hypochondriac – the person you can NEVER ask, “How are you doing?” and expect to get a short and sweet answer like, “Fine, and you?”  In my family, that person was Nana, my grandmother.  I learned at a very early age to skip the small talk with Nana unless I had an hour or so to kill.

On the rare occasion I did inquire about her health, I either got a full run down on her medical history, or if she was having a particularly uneventful week with her doctor, I would hear about the ailments of her family/friends/neighbors/etc..  During one conversation, she must have been at a loss for any real medical drama because she resorted to telling me about her bird’s tumor.  If there was ever a man who deserved to be sainted, it was Grandpa because for him, there was no escape from her tales of woe – his only source of companionship was Nana and her cancerous bird.

Apart from Nana, the rest of my family is made up of people who avoid doctors like they’re doling out diseases rather than cures.  As long as all our limbs remain intact and our vital organs keep doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we stay the hell away from anyone donning a white lab coat.

Pops (my other grandfather) was an expert at doctor dodging.  Even when he had very valid reasons to visit the doctor, he opted to just wrap an ace bandage around whatever body part was bothering him, and keep going.  He once “treated” a hernia by tightly wrapping an ace bandage around his stomach – without the bandage, he looked like a turkey whose timer had popped.  He walked around for years that way.  I’m sure the pain must have been horrible, but obviously he thought going to the doctor was worse.  By the time he reached his eighties, he had practically mummified himself.

Ace bandages – the miracle cure.

Genetically, I think I tend to take more after Pops than Nana.  I cancel just as many doctor appointments as I make.  A few days before my appointment, I usually try to find an excuse to wiggle out of it…. the excuse doesn’t even have to be a good one.  I once cancelled an appointment for a physical because I gained five pounds and didn’t want to face the scale during the routine weigh-in.

A few months ago, I went to the doctor’s office to get a prescription filled and he was amazed that I hadn’t been to see him in the last year.  Then he went on to lecture me that I hadn’t had an annual physical in almost two years.  I felt like he was accusing me of criminal negligence of my own body.  Do most people see their doctor several times a year?  Or is my doctor’s view skewed because he’s used to having a waiting room full of Nanas?  I assured him I felt fine and that I had no reason to see him; but if he would waive the $20 co-pay I’d drop by to say hi sometimes, if it would make him feel better.

If I didn’t need an annual prescription for my crappy thyroid, I would treat my doctor appointments the way I do school reunions – my doctor and I would visit each other every ten years to play catch-up, take pictures, and silently berate each other over how much older and fatter we got.

I think some people run to the doctor too quickly – Mother Nature can take care of a lot of ailments all on her own.  Have you ever noticed that when you make a doctor’s appointment to have something checked out, you feel better either the day of the appointment or shortly thereafter?  That happens to me more times than not, which is why I play the wait-and-see game with most illnesses.  I’m not talking about the life threatening stuff; merely the symptoms that can be treated by taking a shot of Nyquil:  sniffling, sneezing, coughing, stuffy head, fever, etc.  After a shot of that stuff, I don’t care if my nose falls off, much less if it’s running.

I’ll admit that fear, not of the doctor but of his diagnosis, is what prevents me from paying him a visit sometimes.  In the last two weeks, I’ve developed a twitch in my legs and feet.  At first, I tried to ignore it; since there was only annoyance and not pain to contend with, I was successful for the first week.

But by week two, my head started to mess with me a bit.  With every twitch, images of Michael J. Fox would appear in my head, and I was convinced that I had Parkinson’s disease.  I remembered watching an interview on TV where Michael talked about how the disease first presented itself to him (when he was my age!!).  I saw that interview over ten years ago, but my brain was kind enough to keep it stored away for me, should the need to torture myself ever arise.  Locked up in the same mental file was the movie Love and Other Drugs with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal.  In the movie, Anne Hathaway’s character struggles with early onset Parkinson’s disease and the emotional havoc it wreaks on her life.

My brain can be a real asshole sometimes….

After telling my brain to shut the hell up, I decided that I might have better luck on WebMD.  I typed in leg/foot twitching and out popped a list of possible causes – all of which made what my brain had come up with look like a vacation in Hawaii.

  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
  • Rheumatic Fever
  • Tourette’s Syndrome

WTF?!  Thanks for that, WebMD.  I won’t be back to that website anytime soon…. at least not while sober.  Then I did what any sane person would do – NO not call the doctor – I went to YouTube to see if anyone else was experiencing the same symptoms as me.  Not only were there others, they were also more than happy to video tape their twitching for all to see.  God I love the internet….

I also love the fact that the guy who posted this video asked his viewers what they thought the cause might be.  I was really tempted to say that it might be Parkinson’s disease so that he could join me in my paranoid ruminations, but I refrained from commenting.  I did however note that one of the comments suggested that it might be gallstones (something about that digit being tied to the gallbladder).  I’m normally not one to buy into all that reflexology nonsense, but the fact that I’ve got gallstones made me think that it was plausible.  And since that cause isn’t incurable or fatal, I decided it was the best diagnosis.  See that?  Diagnosis done, and I saved myself the $20 copay and a trip to the doctor.

Put the phone down Mom and Dad, there’s no need to call and point out the fact that I’m acting like an irrational idiot.  I will (eventually) stop trying to self-diagnose the problem and get it checked out by a doctor – assuming time doesn’t heal all wounds (or twitches) first.