Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Wrench in the Works

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been pretty happy with the progress that I’ve made so far with working out, watching my diet, getting in shape and losing weight (weight loss to date is approximately 37 lbs). I have some momentum now, my attitude is much more positive and focused on activity and health & fitness and I’ve been sincerely pretty happy. The wrench in the works to this recent lifestyle change, however, is a health issue that has developed with me starting in, oh about, the end of April or so.

It all started one day at work while I was on a phone meeting. I started feeling some mild discomfort that grew until I was actually in a lot of pain with pressure (in the center of my lower chest, upper stomach area), could hardly breathe, and felt like I was both going to both pass out and throw up at the same time. I thought that I was having a heart attack. And all I could think was, ‘just great. I finally decide to take control of my life and get healthy and it’s too late and I’m going to die anyway.’ (I think that I had lost about 20 or so lbs at that stage). So, I went down to the security office at work, put my head down on the counter and said, “I think I’m having a heart attack.” They hustled me into the office and whipped out an oxygen mask, started taking vital statistics and called EMS. Of course, right around the time that EMS came, I started feeling better and of course then started feeling really embarrassed for causing such a fuss. EMS convinced me that I should run down to see my doctor, however, to rule out that anything particularly dire was wrong. Unfortunately, my primary doctor was unavailable on such short notice, so I got passed to a new colleague with whom I just did not hit it off. She had the nurses give me an EKG that they had to do five or more times, never really figuring out how to do it properly. Then this doctor put me in a tail spin by telling me that she didn’t like my EKG and that I needed to go to the ER (she was ready to call an ambulance!). She then made a comment about the fact that I was visibly upset. I lost it at that point, practically yelling at her, “Upset? Of COURSE I’m upset! You just told me that there may be something wrong with my heart, I think I’m entitled to be a little upset, I really don’t think you should make me feel bad about that.” (She then had the audacity to tell the ER doctor I ended up seeing that there was a possibility that I was having a panic attack. I mean, WTF???) Anyway, I drove myself to the ER where they were able to take me right away, they did the whole host of tests (EKG, heartrate monitoring, blood tests, chest x-rays) and determined that the attack that I had had was NOT heart-related (TG). The ER doctor said that the issue was most likely a gall bladder or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, basically, a fancy name for severe heart burn) issue.

Well, I had a second attack the following week and so went to see my doctor. She wanted to lean towards GERD and prescribed Prilosec and sent me for an abdominal ultrasound. That did confirm that I had gall stones, but my doctor still was skeptical that they were causing me these severe attacks, I think because even though I have stones, the gall bladder itself was not distended or compromised or irritated, etc. (if you let this go too long, it can get pretty bad, I guess, it can get infected, the walls become thick and it can even burst). Anyway, after experiencing two more attacks over Memorial Day Weekend, I called my doctor’s office again for a referral to a GI specialist. Of course the specialist wasn’t available until July, so I was pretty much in a holding pattern. That is, until Wednesday night/Thursday morning, June 25th / 26th. The start of a bad attack woke me at about midnight and kept me awake in screaming pain all night long. Finally things subsided enough so that I was able to drive myself to the ER at about 5:30 AM. Once there I went through the usual labs and the ER doctor became alarmed because my liver levels were elevated to 4x what they were a few weeks before. He worried that I might have a blockage of the common bile duct, which can be pretty bad, apparently. So I was whisked off for another ultrasound where they were able to determine that the common duct was most likely okay, but the gall bladder had “a bazillion little stones”. The ER guy said that this is something that they see a lot and that my attacks even sound “classic”. He had no doubt that these attacks were completely gall bladder-related. To be frank, I’m a little relieved, everything I had read about GERD didn’t hold out much hope that the condition is ever really satisfactorily treated and most people end up living with a chronic, and sometimes debilitating, condition. Anyway, so the ER doctor called my doctor and convinced her finally about the gall bladder theory and I was set up with a surgeon with whom to follow-up. That happened last week and he’s now scheduled me for surgery on Tuesday morning! That’s Tuesday, as in, the day after tomorrow! ACK!

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t freaking out a bit about the thought of surgery. I’m actually being a bit of a weenie about it. I don’t know why I’m so scared, I’ve had surgery before. But the biggest thing for me now is the wrench that this might throw into my working out and weight-loss efforts. The sessions with the personal trainer are going to have to stop for at least four weeks and the surgeon seemed to think that I was not going to be comfortable running for a couple of weeks either. He seemed to think that I was a little strange for asking how soon that I could run, that this seemed to be my biggest concern. He also said that I seem to be in pretty good shape, so that I should bounce back and recover quickly. It made me wonder, if I am the picture of health & fitness to him, what shape are his usual patients in? Scary thought. The other odd thing was that he suggested that I take two weeks off of work. That seemed pretty extensive to me, but he said that he likes to be conservative in case the patient doesn’t recover quickly, he wants people to have made the right prior arrangements with their jobs. But since I can work from home, I figure that I can play it by ear.

So, that’s the whole, long, sad story. I’ve wanted to blog about it before now, but I had also hoped that it was all going to go away. Since I now have a definitive diagnosis and it looks like it’s going to be a factor in my life for about a month, it seems like a noteworthy thing to write about. Maybe I can head off any roadblocks in the weight-loss area by writing about my frustrations with the recovery and my cravings for comfort food.

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