Tuesday, May 25, 2010
A Minor Medical Mystery
Okay, so this probably is not worth of an episode of House or one of those New York Times Magazine columns, but I thought I'd share it with you anyway.
So, I underwent a colonoscopy on Monday morning, not one of my favorite medical procedures, but an important one, as you no doubt know. Actually, the procedure itself was not bad at all, as they gave me Valium intravenously, so I was knocked out before it began, and didn't wake up until after it was all over. In fact, I woke up feeling rather refreshed, albeit a bit light-headed. But no, the worst part of the procedure was being limited to clear liquids, broth, and jello the day before, taking powerful laxatives to clean out the system, and fasting from midnight on.
This wasn't my first colonoscopy, but it was the first in some years, so I was a bit nervous about it, both the process and the outcome, but fortunately I came out with a clean bill of health, no polyps or anything, just some minor irritations in a couple of places, nothing out of the ordinary. They did take some routine biopsies which I'll check on next week.
After it was over, my wife picked me up, as the Valium they gave me made me officially a DWI for the day. We grabbed some breakfast at a diner, then headed home, and feeling pretty exhausted at the time, I went to take a nap.
I woke up a couple of hours later on the right side of my lower abdomen, a bit hard to pinpoint the spot as it felt like it was way inside, not on the surface, and the pain got progressively worse, until it was so agonizing that I told my wife to take me to the emergency room. Which she did, also calling the gastroenterologist, actually a group practice, to let them know there was a problem. I had been told that some pain and discomfort could occur after the colonoscopy, but this was pretty bad, much worse than anything I could imagine in the aftermath of the procedure. So we got to the ER, and of course once you're there you wait and wait and wait. And while waiting, the pain went away, so I said let's just go home, and we did.
That, you may have guessed, was a bad move. As we were driving back, the pain started to return, little by little, and after we got home it got worse and worse until I said we have to go back to the ER. So we did. At this point, I was in agony, but you know how it is with these medical bureaucracies, they still had me wait my turn on their waiting list. At least, they did until I started to throw up. That got me in.
Once I was situated in the ER, one of the doctors from the gastroenterology practice was there to check on me, and he determined that I did not have internal bleeding (I was afraid that was what was going on), and said it was probably the somewhat routine discomfort that could occur following the procedure, and that it would probably go away in a few hours. But just to be on the safe side, he ordered a blood test, to check for infection, and a CAT scan of my abdomen, to make sure that my colon was not leaking air internally (which would be a very serious problem).
To put things in a temporal context, the first trip to the ER was at about 5 PM, the second at about 7 PM. So, during and after this examination, I am still experiencing intense pain. I'm on one of those mobile hospital beds in the corridor because there are no little rooms available, I get the blood drawn, and I'm hooked up to an IV drip (this being my second IV piercing of the day).
The pain eventually subsides again, and I'm waiting and waiting, and then I get two bottles of chalky liquid to drink for the CAT scan. I'm told it takes an hour to take effect, but it took a lot longer to get me in for the CAT scan, which they took at about 11:30 PM. While I'm waiting outside of the X-ray suite, the pain returns, gets worse and worse while the CAT scan is going on, and as they wheel me back to the ER to wait for the results. As I'm in agony, they finally take pity on me and put me in one of the little ER rooms, and give me some pain killers via the IV.
So that helps, and the pain subsides again anyway, and I'm back to waiting. Actually, I was asked several times by one of the nurses if I had the CAT scan yet. I mean over and over, she was asking, did they actually wheel you to the room?, did you get the injection? (something to light up the chalk in the liquid they gave me, whatever it was creates an uncomfortable sensation of warmth/heat throughout the chest and abdomen), etc. Seems they couldn't find CAT scans. That really did wonders for my anxiety, as you might imagine.
Well then, finally, at 2 AM, the ER doctor comes to see me, and tells me that they did find the results of my CAT scan, and figured out the problem. And that it had nothing to do with the colonoscopy! He referred to it as a "bizarre coincidence" that the source of my pain was a kidney stone, a small one about three millimeters. This was a discovery that the various medical personnel were marveling at! Again, not as dramatic as the medical mysteries you hear about through the mass media, but certainly blog-worthy wouldn't you say?
Had I not been so tired at that point, I should have said, Doctor, you must be kidneying me! Sorry, I know that's bad.
Anyway, I can't help but wonder it there was some connection somehow, like maybe all the fluids I drank on Sunday somehow loosened it up, but who knows? In any event, I have heard that the pain caused by a kidney stone is among the most intense pains you can experience, and I have to say that this does seem to be the case.
So, I went home with some prescriptions for painkillers (Oxycodone and Ibuprofen 800 mg) and for Tamsulosin to increase the flow (as in Flomax), and now it's just a matter of letting the kidney stone pass. I had one really bad pain episode today, and one other that was not so bad. I'll be seeing my urologist on Thursday morning, and have a previously scheduled appointment with my family physician for tomorrow.
So, how long will this go on? No one knows. Talk about your pass-fail tests! I'll just be taking it one day at a time for now. I hope you understand. In the meantime, here's the song that comes to mind from all this:
I would not feel so all alone...