29 Apr

The Emergency Room

Imagine you are taking a public bus downtown.  The graffiti, the smells, the lost souls are all in place.  Now imagine that you are in the worst pain of your life.  Now shift to the DMV.  People with nowhere else to go for help are in line in front of you.  They don’t have forms and they don’t speak the language.  Now imagine that you are still in the worst pain of your life.

That’s the waiting room for the emergency room.

My time after being admitted was a blur.  We tried dilaudid and it worked for fifteen minutes.  We tried fentanyl and it worked for fifteen minutes.  We tried morphine and it worked for fifteen minutes.  I cried through the CT scan when I had to lay flat on my back.  Finally they tried what I think was tapentadol and the pain slid away leaving me shaking and exhausted.

They admitted me to the hospital and ironically put me back in the room I had left the day before.

29 Apr

The Surgery

Sigmoid colon resection laparoscopically.  Scary even to say it.  For your sake, please don’t Google for it.

If you picture your colon as a hose, this process is basically cutting out the section that has the failing diverticula, then gluing and suturing the two healthy pieces back together using chopsticks – by feel – inside a patients body.  There are people who do this sort of thing over a hundred times a month.  I had the best person for the job in Rochester and he had an impressive record of success.  The procedure was scheduled for Friday April 8th at 7:30AM.

Side effects were highly unlikely and your diet would need no changes (if you had a high fiber diet like me).  No problem with seeds, nuts or anything. You just need to get cleaned out, get cut, glued and stitched and then get healthy.  Back to work in less than a week.

Google for it and every possible thing that could go wrong is mentioned and highlighted.  Images of being at a football game, or in a meeting at the office wearing a colostomy bag ran through my mind every night.

If you don’t do it – things get even worse.

You may never have another attack.  More likely (80+%) you will have another attack within the next ten years and you won’t hurt as much.  That is until your colon perforates and you are rushed to the emergency room for an emergency colectomy. They also clean out your abdomen and you enjoy several months of hospital time while they keep you fed, watered and pumped full of IV antibiotics.  There is a high mortality rate.

I became excited about getting the surgery done and over with.

It went perfectly.

We arrived at 5:45AM, I put on the backless gown and went to sleep at 7:45AM and I woke up with no pain and my Wife by my side around 11:00AM.  No complications and everything according to plan.  I had one tiny incision where a drain was at work, a tiny one in my belly button and a larger one held closed with a scary length of metal staples. The JP drain was gross, but I understood the need. Nothing by mouth for at least twelve hours.

The next day I had a liquid breakfast and enjoyed IV pain medicine.  It wasn’t uncomfortable and I began to feel pretty good about the decision.  That night I had vegetable soup and some cranberry juice followed by a delicious Italian ice.  Night passed quickly and the next morning was oatmeal and black coffee – and the news that I was headed home.  Best Sunday morning ever.

My incredible Wife drove me home slowly to avoid the bumps and after a pit stop at the pharmacy for some high power meds (Norco) I was home and napping peacefully in my own bed.  I woke up a few hours later with a sore back and enjoyed some soup.  Six hours later and it was two pain pills and lights out.

I woke up around 6:00PM with a horrible burning sensation in my back on the left hand side.  I actually looked for ashes or at least a wasp or something.  Nothing on the bed. I called the nurse and asked about pain meds ‘between’ my pain meds and was proscribed some Advil.  The pain became worse – same burning location.  I tried ice packs, I tried a heating pad and stretched as best I could.  Another panic call to the doctor and I was taking Norco every four hours.  It only became worse.  At 6:45AM we were in the emergency room – something was very wrong.

29 Apr

That’s not a hernia…

July 2010 was sunny and warm.  The spring had been wet and the grass grew so fast you could watch it lengthen overnight.  I was mowing the lawn so much that I assumed I had pulled a muscle in my lower abdomen.  It hurt two inches left of my belly button and two inches down.  Google said it was probably gas or a pulled muscle.  It hurt to bounce across the lawn while mowing, but a few days later it went away and I completely forgot about it.

December 2013 was the exact opposite, and this was no pulled muscle.  My bowel movements had changed, I was in a lot of pain and I had a very slight fever.  A quick drive to the doctor and she didn’t even have me leave the compound.  Straight downstairs to the imaging team and I suffered through my first CT scan.

It was diverticulitis.

One in four people will encounter this problem, but only one in thirty two will have the pain return. I was the jackpot winner.  I was given a huge pile of antibiotics, ordered a clear liquid only diet and confined to my bed for four days.  Day two on the antibiotics I could have gone jogging, but I stayed with the protocol just to be safe.  Day four it was like it never even happened.

February 2016 and it came back with a bullet.  It didn’t seem to hurt as much, but the pain went from nothing to something over the course of a day.  It took two ten day courses of antibiotics to feel normal again.  I lost February to this pain.

It was time to make a plan.

Everyone has little pockets in their colon where the body squirrels away handy bacteria against lower GI problems like diarrhea and constipation.  The opening to these pockets is usually too small to let anything in or out.  In February one of my diverticula became so swollen with bad bacteria that the membrane perforated, allowing bad bacteria into my abdomen.  This is actually better than having the colon wall perforate, pushing your digested food into you abdomen.  What I had was bad enough.

I asked my doctor for a surgical recommendation, did some checking on my own and set up an appointment with a surgeon.