Thursday, April 21, 2011

Diverticulitis - So much for my iron gut.

I had my first ever non-baby hospital stay this week. Also my first trip to the emergency room (for myself) that didn't involve an injury - I haven't been to the emergency room for myself since I was like 15.
It's been a great few days.
Sunday night I started having pain in my right side. It was uncomfortable, but not horrible. It was still there Monday, but I continued on. I didn't feel bad, except for the persistent pain just below my ribs. I chalked it up to the weekend's combination of grilled meat and ham (have caused a bit of digestive issues before) and some different food that we had at our church's Seder supper.
I realized in the afternoon though, that I was unconciously hunching over because of the pain. If I stood straight, it hurt worse. We went for a drive that evening, and every bump we hit in the road was like a knife. I decided I probably should go see the doctor in the morning.
As the evening went on, I hurt worse and worse. I just figured it was because I was tired. But then I started having diarrhea. And then I puked. I hate puking.
Oh, and to add insult to injury, my period started about that same time.
I went to bed about 11 Monday night. After 3 hours of not being able to sleep because of constant pain and trips to the bathroom, I got out of bed. I suspected my appendix, so I looked up symptoms. Everything listed sounded like what I was experiencing - except where the pain was.... Appendix pain is in the lower right side. But the information said very rarely (1 in 500), the pain could be near the ribs, rather than near the hip. I figured I would be the 1 in 500, with my luck.
I was miserable, and near tears from the pain. I have a very high pain tolerance - I willingly went through two natural childbirths, because I didn't think the pain was that bad, if that tells you anything. I needed to throw up again, but couldn't. Finally, about 3 AM, I went and woke up Paul and told him I thought we should go to the emergency room. (I was trying to let Paul get some sleep - he'd only had about 5 hours since Sunday afternoon, due to working Sunday night, and then getting up to help me with the boys so I could lay down.) If it was my appendix, I was at 30 hours since the pain had started, so I thought I could be pushing my luck. If my appendix burst, I'd have an even bigger problem. Paul called his parents; they came to stay at the house with the boys, and we headed in.
I threw up again right before we left, and that did help ease the pain, but not enough to make me want to wait until morning to see a doctor. The emergency room was blessedly empty, but that didn't help with speed of service. I mean, I don't expect everyone to drop everything and come running to serve me, but it seemed like things should have moved a little quicker.... It seemed like every step took an hour.
Check in, draw blood for lab.
Wait an hour.
Tell me a CT scan is ordered. Drink nasty stuff.
Wait an hour. (I realize they can't rush that process as the drink has to light up my insides or whatever it does.)
Get scan.
Wait an hour and twenty minutes.
Get results of scan. (Something going on in the area of my gall bladder, but it could be my colon.)
Wait an hour.
Admitted to hospital and moved to a real room.
The overnight nurse was very kind and attentive, but I never was examined by a doctor (she kind of felt my belly while I was sitting in a chair), and after the shift change (7AM), I really didn't see a nurse. The "bed" was horribly uncomfortable, and by the time we got upstairs to the real room, my back hurt worse than the pain in my side. I was so tired from not sleeping all night that I was totally emotional.
Once I was admitted to the room upstairs, the "resident" doctor's (he's the surgeon, but alwo was assigned to me, for some reason) nurse practicioner came in and told me that based on my age, the symptoms, where the pain was, and how quickly my symptoms came on, they were suspecting my gall bladder was the culprit. She said it usually took surgery to resolve. I was fine with that. I just wanted the pain to go away! (Think childbirth pain, with no breaks, and no happy end result.) My white blood cell count was elevated, so they gave me antibiotics, and said that I would have a sonogram of my gall bladder to see what was going on there. So I was just supposed to rest and wait.
I was put in a room with a woman who had just had her hip replaced. She was kind and considerate, but snored horribly (due to drugs I'm sure), and between doctors, nurses, and therapists coming to work with her, and doctors, nurses, and technicians coming to see me, the phone ringing (the room phone; I had turned my cell phone off), and all the sounds of a hospital, I didn't sleep. Twice I asked for pain drugs, just to relax me so I could sleep, and both times just as I was drifting off, someone came in. Sigh.
At the end of the day, the doctor came in again to visit with me. My gall bladder was fine. I had a condition called diverticulitis. Basically tiny pockets can form on your colon, and the obviously nasty stuff that resides in a colon can get in there and get infected. The reason everyone was confused was because it normally doesn't happen to people younger than 50, and it usually happens in the section of your colon that's on the lower left side (mine was in the upper right). The good news was I wouldn't have to have surgery, the bad news is there's a good chance it could happen again. I almost would rather have the surgery, I think. They told me as long as I could handle foods (because I'd have to take an oral antibiotic), I could go home the next day.
I asked for something to help me sleep that night. I knew I needed sleep to get well, and given the afternoon's attempts, I didn't have much hope for the night. They gave me a Tylenol PM, and a Benadryl. (It's worth noting that I don't take medicine hardly ever - I take one regular Tylenol when I want to relax to go to sleep.)
I slept good.
There were nurses in a few times during the night. I woke up, closed my eyes, and konked right back out. The nurse was pretty alarmed when she came to check my vitals at like 4 AM, and my blood pressure was like 89/47. She didn't seem to understand the notion of my body ceasing all but the most vital functions because I was so tired - 48 hours without sleep while in constant pain and fighting infection.... Yes, that does bring on what one would call "the sleep of the dead."
I felt much better in the morning and was excited about the prospect of real food for breakfast - it had been a day and a half since I'd eaten anything. And they served me.... Broth. Jello. Juice. Yum. While my roommate got a plate full of sausage links! Mid-morning, they did bring me a muffin and crispy rice cereal. That was better. Then I got a hamburger, fries, and a milkshake (such as it was... ) for lunch - and it was delicious! (Not really, but even a cafeteria hamburger tastes good given the right circumstances!) Mid afternoon I got my oral antibiotic, and after 2 hours and no problem with vomiting any of it back up, the doctor released me to go home. It took two hours to process the paper work, and another hour waiting at Walgreens to fill my prescription (because it was 20 minutes after the downtown much faster pharmacy closed). By 8, I finally got HOME.
I couldn't get to sleep when we went to bed last night. Jacob couldn't stay asleep and ended up in our bed for 3 hours. Paul went ahead and went to work today. But I really feel pretty good. A slight pain still in my side, but I don't feel weak, and surprisingly not tired (even though I'm going to take a nap here in a bit). I still don't feel hungry - yes, I want to eat, because I enjoy the flavors and textures of food, but my stomach isn't hungry. And honestly, nothing really sounds that great anyways.
In reading more about diverticulitis, I'm even more baffled as to why I have it, because it apparently happens people older than 50 (I'm 28), to men 3x more often than women, who don't eat enough fiber (I eat tons!), and don't drink enough water (I generally drink a gallon a day). The "culprit foods" are popcorn, seedy foods (berries and tomatoes), and nuts. I had had maybe 5 strawberries (all my sons would allow me) over a few days last week, so it's possible that was the cause, even though I've never had any problems before.
Also, even though high fiber is the way to avoid this happening again, high fiber is not the way to recover from it.... You're supposed to eat a low fiber, low residue diet. GAH!
I think I'll just go crawl in a hole and eat Ramen noodles until I feel normal again.

Anyhow. Thanks everyone for their prayers. Pastor Carrier and Alene came to see me Tuesday afternoon, and Pastor encouraged me with this verse:
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
It was just exactly what I needed to hear, and I have no doubt God used him to encourage me. It went over and over in my mind while I was in the hospital, and it still is. I'll write more later about why it was perfect - not just for this situation, but for what else is going on in our lives right now.
Sorry so long. Aren't my adventures always long?
You can read more about diverticulitis here, if you're interested.


~ April said...

Wow, Woman! What an ordeal! I am so glad you are feeling better! So sorry you had to go through that! Hugs!!!

Anonymous said...

This is really great info. I suffered from diverticulitis for many years and this is the type of advice that really helped me to overcome my problem. So, to all you sufferers, YES! There is hope! Just don't lose faith and know that your body can heal itself. I was lucky to find some great plans that helped me heal my intestines, reverse my diverticulitis, and get better. Here is one of the resources that helped me a lot:

Mark Andrew said...

Very solid information posted here by all the people but I was wondering lately that why we only have this diseases in only 8 countries with maximum 90 % of patients.
And I was doing a research for my medical papers when I found that 200 other countries do not have this diseases and then after having searched over the intertnet about this I was very much convinved what Mike Hohlweg is telling about this: that it is our food that we eat each day, he has done extensive research and advised a very comprehensive diet for this painful diseases. He has a website it is