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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I left an organ in Ogden (not San Francisco)

The last week of August my parents were planning a trip to Utah to attend baptisms of two of their grandchildren and at the last minute I decided I'd pack up myself and my three kiddos and go with them. Even though we were just there for our family reunion, I thought the boys would love another trip and I could spend some time with family and we could let Marc have a little quiet time to focus on getting work projects done. All in all it seemed like the perfect scenario for everyone.

Because of my parents' volunteering commitment on Wednesday mornings at the temple, Marc drove us down to meet them there and then drove their little car back home, while we continued on our trip in our van. We started the long drive across the desert at about 1pm.

Everything was going fairly well until a stop for gas in Elko, Nevada at around 10pm. As I was climbing back into the back seat of our van, I felt some pain in the middle of my back. It had been a long day of traveling and I figured I must have just twisted it funny when I got back in the car. But, then the pain seemed to spread around my rib cage to the front of my chest and tightened to the point where I was having a hard time breathing.

Not wanting to freak my parents out, I called Marc and asked him to look up symptoms of a heart attack. From what he read, it sounded like my symptoms were the same. Marc made me promise that if it got worse I'd make my parents stop and that even if the pain went away that I'd get checked out by someone within the next 24 hours.

As the pain got worse, I finally did tell my parents about the pain I was feeling and reassured them that when we stopped for the night I'd just take a warm bath and most likely feel much better. The warm bath did help, but when I was still awake and tossing and turning an hour later at 3am, I took another warm bath. I finally fell asleep sometime around 4am, only to wake up at 6am to feed Lucy again. Then back asleep for another hour before the boys were waking us up.

I felt tired, but the pain I'd been feeling was gone. The rest of the day I just felt a little off and slightly nauseous, but assumed it was from the traveling and lack of sleep. By evening I felt, more or less, back to normal and was enjoying time with my brother and his family in Ogden.

Then, in the middle of the night I found myself running to the bathroom with my body rejecting waste from both ends. Is there a nicer (less gross) way of saying that?? I was in a bedroom with my three little ones and in between my sprints to the bathroom I was up comforting and/or feeding each of my three kiddos at different points during the night. It was a pretty long night and I was feeling pretty miserable by the end of it.

After throwing up around 5am, I felt sharp pains in my chest and abdomen and knew that something wasn't right. Lucy was just waking up, so I fed her quick and then went into the bedroom where my parents were sleeping and told them I needed to go to the ER. Before leaving my brother's house, I was able to receive a blessing from my dad and brother, which seemed to ease the pain just enough to calm my fears just enough.

After a number of tests and an ultrasound, and few hours later, the ER doctor came in to let me know that I was having a gallbladder attack. In addition, there was a gall stone stuck in the duct that connects to the pancreas, and was causing inflammation in the pancreas as well. My condition was serious enough that I would need to go in for surgery right away.

Well, right away wasn't actually right away. But, shortly after noon I was knocked out while my gallbladder was being removed. As it turns out, the surgeon also found that I had an umbilical hernia and fixed that up while she was at it. I woke up to four small incisions in my abdomen, soreness all over my belly, pain in my right shoulder (from the air they filled my abdomen with), sores on the right corner of my mouth from the breathing tube, and lungs that burned as if I'd just run a marathon in Siberia. Plus, I was in a mental fog, struggling to come out of the anesthesia.

It was all very overwhelming and being separated from my babies, particularly my newborn babe, made me extra emotional. I had to "pump and dump" for about 24 hours after the surgery, but luckily Lucy adjusted fairly well to a bottle during that time and then adjusted back even easier to breastfeeding. Those 24 hours were awful. Even though I knew all three were in good hands - the best! - I slept terribly that night, feeling so alone without the breathing sounds and noises of my little ones to softly lull me to sleep. Instead, as fate would have it, there was a lightning storm all night that felt and sounded like it was attacking the hospital.

I survived my only night in the hospital and was released the next afternoon. I spent the next couple of days fighting feelings of discouragement. I had just fully recovered from Lucy's birth and felt like I'd just been knocked down again. I was pretty depressed to be back in recovery mode, which meant keeping the boys at an arm's length away, not being able to play with them, unable to do much rocking of my baby, since the doctor's one admonition was to not lift, pull or push anything over ten pounds for SIX weeks. I clearly haven't been good at following that, but I've tried to be careful.

Now that it has almost been two weeks since the surgery and we're back home, I'm feeling better. My wounds are still healing, both the physical and the emotional. I'm so grateful for the help I had from so many of my family members while we were in Utah, especially for my parents' help there and here.

I'm curious, though, if anyone else has had gallbladder problems. The ER doctor told me there is some connection to gallbladder attacks and pregnancy, but that they don't know why it happens exactly. I was also told that the attack could have been triggered by my sudden change in diet - by cutting out all dairy for Lucy's sake.

I guess whatever the cause, I won't have to worry about it happening again. So far I haven't noticed any change in the way my body functions without a gallbladder... and I'm down six pounds. Still, I definitely don't recommend it for a weight loss plan - there are much easier ways to lose six pounds!


Inkling said...

Oh my goodness. I'm so glad you are okay now, and so glad you weren't alone in that experience. It's obvious the One who loves us most was holding you through this. Wow.

I just read about gallstones yesterday, but don't know about a pregnancy connection. That's interesting. I'll be curious to hear more if someone has had that happen and knows why the connection is that way.

JessicaP said...

A girl in my ward had to have her gallbladder removed after she had her last baby. She said the doctors said it had something to do with the pregnancy too. She actually got an infection from the surgery and had to go back into the hospital in pretty serious condition. All this happened while her husband was deployed of course and she had three kids to be taking care of.
I'm glad you're feeling better. And I'm so glad you got through everything safely. Life is certainly an unpredictable adventure.

Marc and Megan said...

Wow, Jess... your friend's situation sounds so terrible! I can't imagine. Do you know how she got her infection? One of my wounds isn't healing the same as the others and it has me a little concerned... I hope I don't end up back in the hospital because of it. Life is definitely unpredictable!

Jackie said...

This sounds so familiar to me. When Seth was about 2-3 months old I started to have symptoms that felt like what I thought a heart attack would feel like. I went to the emergency room to be told that I was having really bad heartburn. I couldn't believe it because I never have heartburn unless I am pregnant. Anyhow, they sent me home with mylanta and it did get better. A couple weeks later it happened again. Thankfully this time when I went to the hospital the doctor recognized my symptoms and did an ultrasound and found the gallstones. I didn't have to have emergency surgery but had it out about a month later just hoping I wouldn't have another attack before the surgery. It definitely is associated with pregnancy. I'm not sure why but after having it that is one of the most common things I found while researching it on the Internet. I hope your recovery is okay. Mine was not too bad, but again I didn't have emergency surgery. The hardest part for me was not being able to nurse because Seth wouldn't take a bottle for about 16 hours. He just screamed and screamed his little head off. That was the worst, knowing I couldn't help him at all. Again, I pray your recovery is speedy!

Kelly said...

Hmmm...your description of your symptoms somewhat intrigued me. Two years ago I started having what I could only determine to be bouts of heartburn. My symptoms mimicked yours in the beginning (but mine have never progressed further, and usually go away after two hours). Now i'm starting to wonder. Well, I'm glad that you are home safe and sound. I'm sure that was hard for Marc to have you going through something so challenging while he was not able to be with you. Take care of yourself! 6 weeks recovery sounds a lot like a c-section. ROUGH on you. And yes, there are easier ways to lose 6 lbs.

Trent and Amber said...

Quite honestly, I have 4 friends who have had gallbladder problems while pregnant and then had it removed afterward. I actually had mine out when I was 19 b/c it was no longer functioning and producing bile as it should, but mucous instead. Hundreds of gallstones too, weird. Since then my dad and brother Josh have had theirs removed as well. So sometimes it's dietary, sometimes linked to pregnance, and sometimes hereditary. IDK! All I know is I feel for you b/c gall bladder pain is AWFUL! On the bright side, I haven't thrown up in over 11 years since having it removed and I swear there is some connection there! Good luck with the rest of your recovery!! :)