11 June 2015

Not a great way to spend a long weekend

It was the Queen's Birthday weekend here this past weekend. Now that I'm working pretty much full-time hours every week, I'd been looking forward to one extra day of sleeping in. Well, I did get to spend more time in bed, but not in the way I'd planned.

Donna and I have recently got in to the habit of having lunch out on a Sunday, usually down at Cleveland. It'll take us forever to try all the different eateries down there and the markets are also on every Sunday. We decided on fish and chips. I won't tell you where we had it, because what happened later had nothing to do with the quality of the food, which was excellent, but it may look that way.

About two or three hours after lunch, I started feeling what, I took to be, a bit of indigestion. Probably the Greek salad, or the bread-crumbs on the fish, I thought. About ten minutes later it was getting worse, so I grabbed an antacid and chewed on that. By about thirty minutes, I was writhing around on the bed, trying to find a position that was comfortable and would relieve the pain in my guts. I was sweating and hyperventilating.

A few years ago, Donna had a very similar pain which resulted in an ambulance being called. It turned out to be pancreatitis. After a couple days in hospital, waiting for her lipase levels to go down, she was released. I've since read up on pancreatitis and how dangerous it can be if not treated quickly. I was starting to think I had the same thing. When she asked if I wanted her to take me to a doctor or the hospital, I told her to call an ambulance. It was the first time I've ever been a patient in an ambulance.

After having all manner of things stuck to me and in me to monitor my vitals and help reduce the pain (there was a lot of that, let me tell you), the doctor reassured me that it definitely wasn't my heart or lungs. It was a relief that I wasn't having a heart attack, not that I had thought that, but still. He used a portable ultrasound unit to examine me in the area that was most painful and said it appeared my gallbladder was enlarged.

That night I was moved into EPU, the Emergency Planning Unit, where I was told I would have a proper ultrasound the next morning and possibly a CT scan after that. There were a few others in the unit with me, including a nineteen year old girl opposite, who evidently had gallbladder pain as well.

The next morning I had my official ultrasound where it was confirmed that, I did indeed have an enlarged gallbladder, but there didn't seem to be any stones that would have caused it. It was going to have to come out.

Later that day I was moved to another ward, but not before hearing that the girl opposite was going home with a course of antibiotics. Did I envy her? Damned right I did. I'd never been a hospital patient in all my fifty years, wasn't even born in one, and here I was on the eve of having surgery all of a sudden.

In the new ward I met two other patients, one of whom was also having gallbladder trouble. It turns out it's a lot more common than we realise, perhaps because of our lifestyle of fatty foods.

So, I lay in another bed in another part of the hospital. They seemed to be getting progressively more comfortable at least. I had various drips in my arms, mostly saline to keep me hydrated, and anti-biotics to fight infection. Pain-killers were given to me regularly as well. I don't know how I would have felt without them.

Dinner came around that evening and it was a lamb patty. Lamb is about the fattiest meat you can get and I was supposed to be on a low-fat diet. At least the mashed potato, veges and stewed apple were rather nice, albeit far from satisfying. That night had be the most uncomfortable night's sleep I've ever had. I always sleep better on my side, but could only do that on my left side. I had a fever, so staying in one position left me feeling sweaty and disgusting on one side. Trying to lay on my right side was just an exploration of my pain threshold. It's not very high.

I was 'nil by mouth' the next morning, so it wasn't very nice when a tray full of cereal, bread and butter, yoghurt, orange juice and tea was put on the table next to my bed. The patient next to me was temporarily in the same boat until he'd had an ultrasound. The guy opposite sat and ate breakfast, his enjoyment tempered only by the guilt he felt about eating in front of us.

I always had this idea that they got you to count backwards from ten when they administered the anaesthetic before surgery. All I remember is laying on the operating table, an oxygen mask over my face, while the surgical team got me ready, then waking up in the recovery room seemingly only moments later. It turned out the operation was a success and they'd got my necrotic and gangrenous gallbladder out without any complications. The only problem they'd had was getting the breathing tube down my throat.

Surprisingly lucid, considering I'd been under a general anaesthetic, I was wheeled back to the ward a few hours after I'd left. There was a new patient opposite me and one of the old ones had been moved to another ward.

I slept so much better that night and was even able to get out of bed unassisted to go to the toilet several times in the night.

I'm now home recovering. I found our bed is very difficult to roll over in when you've had abdominal surgery, so I either crawl out of bed backwards and get back in the other way, or Donna rolls me over. It'll get easier, I know it will.

Who'd have thought, this time last week I'd be sitting here recovering from surgery for a problem I didn't even know I had.

Thanks to everyone at the Redlands Hospital for looking after me so well and the paramedics from the Queensland Ambulance Service that got me there.