My Past Week at Lutheran Hospital

Pam and I had been walking at least 30 minutes a night for 25 straight days. We entered the 4-mile-walk of the Fort4Fitness event in late September. You’re supposed to be able to walk the four miles in at least 80 minutes.

On Thursday night, July 15, we did walk four miles–our longest jaunt yet–and did it in 76 minutes.

Back at the house, I drank a Gatorade on the back screen-in porch and was watching Jordi in the yard. Around 10:00, I felt a tightening sensation start around my belly and begin working itself up. It reminded me exactly of what I experienced last September, when I woke in the middle of the night with a tightness around my chest, and assumed I was having a heart attack. The pain dissipated in about 15 minutes, but I was still taken to the ER and checked out. Everything about my heart was fine. It was probably just acid.

So this time, I figured the acid was returning. I writhed on the bed for a bit, then on the floor, but it wouldn’t go away. Nothing would stop the intense pain. Finally, Pam insisted she drive me to the Lutheran ER, and I was in no state to protest.

They put me in a room, did an EKG, took a blood sample, took my vitals…and left me there, writing in pain. Somebody would be along, they said.

The intense pain, the cramping, finally stopped after an hour. Things felt better for a bit. And then began what I can only describe as the worst-ever case of indigestion. I writhed in agony until about 3 a.m. “Someone will be along,” I kept hearing, then that person would disappear and nobody would come for an hour.

Finally, I just insisted, “I MUST get out of here. I’m dead serious!”

So finally, a doctor from the hospital showed up, said she was finally able to shake free (after only five hours, how nice). Suddenly, things started happening. Other people were around me, an IV was inserted, pain drugs were given, and I was wheeled to a room on the third floor. Relief had come at last.

My experience in the ER was terrible, just terrible. But in that third-floor ward, I have zero complaints. The nurses and staff were fabulous. They know how to take care of patients at Lutheran. I’ve heard that from many people who have been patients there.

I was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. The best treatment: let the pancreas rest. No food, no liquids. So from Friday morning until Monday night, I was fed only an IV drip. There was also strong suspicion that my gall bladder might need to be removed. A scan and an ultrasound showed “sludge” (as opposed to gallstones) in the gall bladder. This could be pouring across the pancreas, causing inflammation.

On Monday morning, they were going to run one more test, but a surgeon showed up and said, basically, “This test won’t show us anything we don’t already know. We need to just remove the gall bladder, and I can do it this afternoon.” That sounded great to me.

Ever four hours, they would pump new painkillers into me. By Monday night, the painkillers (Zophan) wore off after three hours, and that last hour could be tough. Before the surgery, I went an extra 45 minutes beyond the four hours without any painkillers; that time in pre-op was reminiscent of the ER–writhing in agony. But finally they wheeled me into the OR, and I woke up without a gall bladder…and with a definite feeling that a center of pain was gone. I also had four holes in my abdomen. (The gall bladder was removed from a hole just below my belly button.) 

Tuesday morning they started me on a “clear liquid” diet, which meant I had three containers of Jello and a grape popsicle. I had a lot of gas. Wednesday they bumped me up to “full liquid,” which provided a few more options, including a vanilla milkshake which really hit the spot (twice). Today, Thursday, I was on the “transitional” diet, which allowed me to order scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and a slab of turkey for lunch. Plus another milkshake.

After lunch, I was released. Pam was already on her way to the hospital. I gathered up my stuff, and around 3 pm was home.

Right now, Pam is making some Spaghettios. That’s about all I can eat right now. Ironic, that this will be my anniversary meal for 2010. Pam and I were married 21 years ago. I couldn’t be happier to have her at my side.

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1 Comment to "My Past Week at Lutheran Hospital"

  1. Jill

    Hi Steve, this is Linda Howard’s daughter.

    I have been experiencing the above off and on for about 3 weeks. First I was told it was Acid Reflux (which I had had when I was pregnant and did not think that that was it this time) I took the meds and did not have any problems for about a week. I have had 5 attacks in 3 weeks and each time it is worse than the last. I went Thur back to the VA ER and they did all the tests, EKG, blood, CT and said that I have acute pancreatitis and gave me 2 pain shots before I was so loopy, I did not care that I was in pain. They also scheduled me for an ultrasound this Wed. So, here I sit waiting and praying that I do not have another attack before Wed.

    Mom told me about your blog and after reading this, I am about 95% sure that I will be having gall bladder surgery very soon.
    Thank you for blogging, it gives me hope that I’m not losing my mind and that something is really wrong.


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