In my last post, I believe I mentioned that I sometimes worried that my panic attacks were actually something worse. Well, turns out that they were.
I didn't feel well Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. My 'panic attack' didn't go away completely and I was still in pain. It got much worse again on Monday. I couldn't make the pain stop; no matter what I did it kept getting worse. I mean, I was doubled over in pain and crying. My grandmother decided to take me to the emergency room. I figured that I'd probably just get some medication, and maybe have to start paying for a prescription for the attacks. Boy, was I wrong.
After sitting in the waiting room for nearly five hours, they took me in the back. I'd had an EKG, and the doctor came back and said that looked fine, so he didn't think it was anything with my heart. They kept me on a heart monitor, took a chest x-ray, and then a bunch of blood samples for tests. By this time, the pain was pretty much gone, and I was wondering why they didn't hurry and write me a prescription or whatever, so I could go home. And eat, as I hadn't had eaten that day and by this time it was nearly 11pm.
Finally, the doctor comes in, and tells me he has the results of the bloodwork. "Your liver results are abnormal, your gallbladder results are abnormal, and your pancreas is extremely abnormal. We're going to admit you." And then he walks out. What the hell? Nice bedside manner there, Doc. I started freaking out, understandably, but a few minutes later another doctor came in and explained things more fully.
I had pancreatitis, or an inflamed pancreas. One of the enzymes produced by the pancreas should be, under normal circumstances, around a level of 40 units (or slightly more). My pancreas was so inflamed, however, that my levels were at 3100. That in turn was causing some slight issues with my liver, causing those abnormal readings. No wonder I was in so much pain. Anyway, the doctor listed a number of potential causes, but said the most likely scenario was that I had gallstones. If a gallstone got stuck in the ducts connecting the gallbladder and pancreas, that would explain all of my symptoms. After I explained that I'd had these for years, the doctor decided that was probably what was wrong, and if so I'd need to get my gallbladder removed. At any rate, I was being admitted until my blood was back to normal, at the very least.
So they get me upstairs and into my room. By the time I'm done with all of this, it's after 2am. They won't feed me, because that's the best way to get the inflammation down. No food for a day or so, and then nothing but clear liquids. I was quite pissed off, but at least I'd already had a day without food. I barely slept; they of course woke me up every hour or so to either get my blood pressure or a sample. Around 8, I had to go get an ultrasound done of my gallbladder and the surrounding area, so they could figure out whether gallstones were the cause. They finally fed me when I got back to the room, though I got nothing all day but disgusting watery broth and Jell-O.
Got a roommate later that day as well, named Linda. She was awesome. Seriously, she made my stay so much more interesting and tolerable. For the most part I just laid around. Stephen (my doctor, and family friend) came to see me in the afternoon, and told me the ultrasound results showed gallstones, and that they were going to have to operate. He thought they could put it off a few months if I wanted, since I won't have insurance until I graduate and start working again in May. He sent the surgeon to see me though, and no go on that. Hell, the surgeon was ready to sent me into the OR right then. Luckily though, it was booked. I'd just eaten, even if it was broth, and probably would have gotten sick from the anesthesia. Plus, I hadn't seen my family yet and was in no way ready to just go get cut open. Made arrangements to go in the next morning.
Surgery went alright, though of course I was freaking out. I hate being put under for anything. I was out before they even got to the anesthesia part though; I was so exhausted that the drug they give you to relax you put me right out. I had a laproscopic cholecystectomy, which is where they make a number of small incisions, inflate the abdomen with carbon dioxide, and use a camera to see what they're doing. They pull the gallbladder out that way. While it hurts like a bitch, it's not as bad as having open surgery. The recovery time is also much faster, with less chance of complications, and I won't end up with a massive scar.
They had me up and walking shortly after the surgery, as that's apparently vital to getting all of that carbon dioxide out of my system. My surgeon prescribed me no pain medication at all, but the nurses took pity on me and gave me morphine for the rest of that day and overnight. I'm glad, as it still hurt quite a lot even with the morphine. The rest of that day went pretty quickly; I had a lot of visitors and phone calls, and watched a couple of movies with Linda. Fell asleep early too.
I was discharged this morning, and slept the majority of the day. I've felt awful for the most part. Over the counter Tylenol doesn't do much. I've been making sure I walk around and do the stupid breathing exercises, and I talked to everyone and hopped on the forums to answer the big thread of everyone posting their get well wishes. Other than that I've either been sleeping, reading, or watching movies. I have a feeling that's all I'm going to do through the weekend at least.
To be honest though, I need to get working on school stuff. My mom emailed all of my professors, and they're being understanding and saying they'll work with me to help me catch up. I'm not going to contact them until Sunday or Monday though. I'm doing what work I can over the next couple of days, but concentrating on recovering. Then I'll get in touch with them when I'm ready to really get back to work. It's going to be a real pain to catch up. What's ironic is that two of the classes I have are ones I dropped last January whenever I broke my finger and needed surgery on it. That's not an option for me this time though. I'm graduating no matter what.
Another thing. I can't believe that I thought I was dealing with panic attacks for seven years now, and all this time they were actually something else. I guess I understand how it happened. I didn't have any of the big symptoms of gallstones or pancreatitis. I wasn't jaundiced, the attacks didn't happen whenever I ate or mostly at nighttime, etc. And a lot of times I could calm myself down and they'd seem to stop, which was probably coincidence but reinforced the panic attack diagnosis. But still. If they would have figured this out years ago I wouldn't have suffered for so long, and I would have had it taken care of when I still had medical insurance. Oh well, I am grateful it's been taken care of now. At least it's over before it got even worse.
I think that's it for now. It took me all day to write this much, since I'm only on the computer for very short periods at a time. If I missed anything I'll add it in later, though I probably won't be on for a few days. I need to rest. And just a side note...wow is my currently reading list absurdly long. I didn't take any books into the ER, so I started a bunch more, since my mom and Danielle were nice enough to bring me some to keep me occupied. I'll need to try and finish a few while I'm recovering.