It was the Sunday before Derby… I was supposed to meet a girlfriend the next night at Nouvelle for pre-Derby Bubbly and nosh, anxious to get the season started. I remember getting a weird feeling in my belly as I was pulling out of a clients house to head home. It was a pain, yes, but more than that, it a weird, weighted feeling, as if my insides were trying to spill out of my belly button, my ribs being wrenched apart by this pounding weight, a strange bubble of a feeling under my sternum. Nothing helped it. I got home, paced, I bent over, hands on the mattress, tried to use the toilet. Being me, I sat there, googling, and decided I had pancreatitis. I took a ridiculous amount of ibuprofen, propped myself up in bed, and hoped it would go away on it’s own.
The next day, I woke up feeling good as new, and decided that- whatever this was- had passed. I met my girlfriend, took it easy on the alcohol, and made it through Derby week without a hitch.
A few weeks later, I felt what I can only describe as a fog in my belly. Slightly uncomfortable, but not painful… Just foggy. It was as if a ghost of that bigger pain decided to show, but not make a full-blown appearance. While I was in Denver in June, it happened again, night after night, almost the entire time I was there. Each time, I took an over-the-counter pain pill, and slept it off.
Then, July 17th hit.
I pulled in the parking lot at Havana Rumba around 7pm, and as I made the move to get out of the car, that larger pain hit. Under my sternum, a feeling of a big, squishy weight inside me, pressing my ribs apart. I called the man and told him to eat without me, that something wasn’t right and I needed to head home. I tried to lay down, I paced, I couldn’t get my breath to normalize. I took ibuprofen, propped myself up in bed, tried to roll to my side, and it was there that I felt this weird weight was trying to pull all of my insides out. As if everything inside was going to just spill out of me and onto the bed. Finally, hours later, after B had come home, sat with me and finished all of his tasty, Cuban leftovers, I managed to get myself into a position- thumb wedged in my sternum, pulling down on myself- that I was able to finally drift off to a little sleep. It was 4am.
Running on only a few hours of sleep, I woke up the next morning and began frantically searching gastroenterologists. Lucky for me, a highly rated, young, female GI was at Baptist East, just a few blocks from my house. Her receptionist was kind, and got me in right away.
Dr. Briley seemed surprised at my symptoms, saying that pancreatitis was unlikely at my age and health level, but that heartburn or indigestion could be the case. Before prescribing me anything, though, she ordered lab work, and called me- surprised- the next day. I did have pancreatitis, and I had elevated liver enzymes, caused- she believed- by a blockage in my main bile duct. A symptom of gallstones.
Gallstones?! I wasn’t even sure what a gallbladder was for, but a little research proved that the tiny organ was what worked to break down unhealthy fats in our diets. Since my main form of food was cheeseburgers, it’s possible that not only had mine been in overdrive, but that I was going to have to make a huge change in the way I fed myself. As for Dr. Briley, though, she wanted to monitor my bloodwork for a few weeks, and order an ultrasound.
Slowly, as the stone passed, my liver and pancreas enzyme levels went back to normal. Unfortunately, the ultrasound turned up a gallbladder that was “riddled” with stones. It had to come out.
At the urging of Dr. Briley, I met with a young, chipper, and kind surgeon named Dr. Danielle Humphrey. She took the time to walk me through the entire removal process, including downtime, where incisions would be, and how- if I still had a blockage in my main bile duct- a more invasive surgery might be necessary. I was terrified, but Dr. Humphrey’s manner set me at ease. We scheduled the surgery for September 19th.
I can’t say enough good about the staff at Baptist East. The efficiency of the surgical staff, the kindness of all of the nurses (not just to me, but to one another), and the mannerisms of everyone in the OR were above and beyond what I was expecting. I came home Wednesday afternoon very bruised, and very sore, but the weird, achy, bloated feeling I’d had in my stomach for months was gone.
I’m moving slowly, and my bed (along with an ice pack and Netflix) has been my norm for the last couple of days, as they will be through the weekend. I may be missing a teeny part of myself (goodbye, Gallbladder), but I finally feel full again. No bloat, no ache, no fog.
A huge thank you to Drs. Briley and Humphrey and the staff at Baptist East. I hope I never have to see you again, but trust that if I do, I’m in great hands.
Now, friends, I’m off to bed, American Horror Story, and my fluffy blankets. See you soon.
** photo by Don Lehman Photography **