Since my first episode in 1974, I have been plagued by gallstones. For those of you who don’t know about gallstones, they are the mischievous progeny of the gall bladder. The gall bladder, a small organ tucked under the liver, holds the bile (a fluid) produced by the liver until the gut needs some for proper digestion. The gall badder contracts, delivering it’s content to the gut and proper digestion begins.
Unfortunately gall bladders often times produce gallstones. The are made from stuff that finds its way into the liver and thence to the gall bladder and precipitates, forming stones, much in the way hailstones are formed. They grow with time, never stopping until they are removed. If that’s all they did, there’d be no problem, but they’re mobile and will on occasion, get stuck in the bile duct. The bile duct connects the gall bladder to the duodenum and when clogged by gallstone, the bile cannot pass and the backup pain is excruciating. It’s unlike any gut ache you’ve ever had. It feels like you’ve been rammed in the solo plexus by the blunt end of a telephone pole.
Such an attack is concluded — if it’s concluded — by a violet spasm of reteching whose force is sufficiend to peopell the gallstone down the bile duct and into the duodenum. You can feel the cool, happy gush of the bile and the blessed relief of the pressure. The gall bladder attack is over.
The next attack may never come. You may improve your diet. Exercise more. Drink and smoke less, or better. not al all. But remember the stones that are left behind still grow and one day, the duodenum asks for a sudden jot of bile just as an inadvertent movement — mayhap when extending your reach for the coffee creamer — maneuvered a gallstone precisely in front of he bile duct and, wham, in goes the gallstone and another season of pain is upon you.
You can always tell someone whose stricken by gallstone for they walk in an exaggerated posture; chest out thrust, head laid back as far it’ll go, and the face will be frozen in a rictus of pain, making little mueling sounds and the poor soul will walk like like he’s got a broomstick up his ass.
Lately, mine have become more frequent and worse. Last Thursday one was starting. I tried all my hard-earned tricks to stop it but nothing worked. Oh, yes, it reduced the attack’s intensity to a nuisance that spoiled the evening.
But it stayed with me throughout the night, waking me with heartburn at about 2:30 AM. A glass of milk and a cookie granted some relief and it was back to bed. I awoke at six. It was no better.
Friday is my day off and I had much planned but the gallstone said otherwise. I spent that warm, sunny day in my recliner, nursing by tummy. Friday night too. And Saturday. By Saturday afternoon I was miserable and began to feel the chill of a fever; sure enough, 99.7. Well I’d had enough. It was off to the ER. Jo drove.
The young doctor was dismissive. He thought me a hypochondriac or maybe some old disolute looking for drugs. He went through the motions, including a perfunctory ultrasound and a quick CT scan then came in to see me. “Everything looks OK but I’m going to give you something for the pain, then you can get out of here”, he said, then left. A nurse came in and gave me something for the heartburn (Maalox with lidocaine) followed by a massive hit of IV morphine. The nurse unhooked all the leads, pulled out the IV and put me out on the street. I did get a good night’s sleep. Fever? 100.2.
Sunday was truly a lost day. Blasted out of my head by the morphine, I shuttled between bedroom, bathroom and recliner. Oh, of course the pain of the gallstone was with me constantly. Sunday night fever? 100.4
Monday morning found me pale and hunched, sitting the the table picking at a fried egg. I really hand’t much to eat since the previous Thursday morning so you’d think an nice egg . . . Jo took a studied look at me and announced we were going to the urgent care clinic. We got there just after it opened at 7:30 AM and were shown to an exam room. A cheery young woman proceeded to take my blood pressure. She looked at the read-out and did a double take, then took it again. “I’ll be right back”, she said. In less than a minute she was back with a doctor. The both checked my blood pressure again. It was 73//35! I had sepsis! The doctor grabbed the phone, made a call and I was whisked off to the hospital by ambulance. The same hospital that blew me off Saturday night.
Well this was a different ER crew and in no time I hd IV’s in both arms, was being given two kinds if IV antibiotics, fluids, and meds for the unceasing pain of gallstone. Presently the surgeon came in. She told me I was being admitted and she’d already scheduled me for surgery the following morning, a Tuesday.
These, along with the ruined gall bladder, are the gallstones she removed.
Looks like I had a problem, huh?
This is Friday morning. It’s been a week. I’m on the mend.
PS: I think I’ll go see that young quack from Saturday’s ER visit.