Have you ever had one specific day that you know changed your life?
Well, I have had one of those days. Actually, I think I have had several of those days but let’s start with the first one. My bout with pancreatitis seemed to be coming to an end which was great. I was working, going to school, and volunteering. I was basically just enjoying life. Then one day while I was at work something weird happened. I ended up going to my doctor and she referred me back to the GI clinic that I had seen back in March. Keep in mind that this is September.
We are in October now. I got an appointment to see my GI doctor on a Thursday which was great. My mom came with me to this appointment. I always bring someone with me because I can never remember everything that the doctors say to me. We talked about some of the symptoms that I was having. I had been having some pain only on my right side. Sometimes the pain was in the front where my gallbladder is and sometimes it was in my back. And we all came to the conclusion that this all might be stemming from gallbladder problems. Gallbladder problems run in my family.
So, my doctor scheduled me to have a HIDA scan to check the function of my gallbladder and another Endoscopy to check on my pancreas. These were scheduled for the next couple of weeks. My doctor was very optimistic that we had possibly found the cause of my health problems. This was great news!
Hospital Visit #1
I woke up on Saturday morning around 8 AM. I knew something was wrong. I have never felt like this before. I get up thinking maybe I just slept on my side wrong. Walking around and getting my day going will definitely fix it. Or so I thought. I came out of my room, and I just sort of collapsed at the top of our stairs. My whole right side was cramped up, and I couldn’t move. I started crying, and let’s just say here that I have never been a crier. I couldn’t even tell you the last time that I cried. But when I couldn’t really move because the pain was so bad to even breathe, I got really scared.
My parents or my brother found me. I don’t remember which, and they started to get really worried. I remember they figured a way to get me to the car, and we went to the hospital. Thankfully, we only live about 5 minutes from WakeMed Hospital. We went into the ER and registered.
After a while, they finally took me back and listened to what was going on. Since my bouts with pancreatitis, they decided to check my glucose and some other levels to make sure my pancreas wasn’t crashing. Thankfully, all of those numbers were alright, and everything checked out. They put in my IV and started giving me fluids and some pain meds to help me relax. I remember they scheduled an ultrasound of my gallbladder to check for gallstones. We had an ultrasound on my gallbladder. The test showed nothing.
Next, they decided to do a CT scan of my abdomen to check if there was anything abnormal. They made me drink some nasty contrast for my CT scan. After the test, the doctor finally came in and said that they had found something in the bottom of my lung and that we needed to do a CT scan of my chest next.
My parents caught the alarming tone in the doctor’s voice that I did not. Fortunately, they just said okay, and I went to have my third test of the day done. I ended up with a fever and so that began to worry the doctors a little bit more.
After what seemed like a very long time, the doctors came back. They looked nervous and unsure all at the same time. They proceeded to explain that they had found something in my chest scan. They found five or six small nodules in my right lung. They explained that I was going to be admitted because of everything that was going on. Thus began the week-long stay in the hospital.
Day #2 & 3 – Sunday and Monday
Sunday was mostly just resting which was nice. Monday we started the tests. Because of the masses found in my lung, the first test performed was a biopsy of my right lung. This provided a word that we soon became all too familiar with: non-diagnostic.
Day # 4 – Tuesday
On Tuesday, I had my second Endoscopy. Test results: non-diagnostic. They couldn’t see any problems with my gallbladder or stomach. My pancreas had gone from very inflamed to almost looking shriveled up. This was a little unnerving but because it was functioning properly the doctors said it would be fine.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. Some friends came to sit with me so my parents could be at my brother’s soccer game. This was awesome because his team was in the playoff for the state competition. Because of some extreme migraines that I was having and the medicine not working, one of my doctors decided that an MRI of my head would be a good idea to make sure they weren’t missing something.
Thankfully, this came back clear! Praise the Lord!
Day # 5 – Wednesday
Wednesday’s test was the HIDA scan. This was to test the functionality of my gallbladder. This test was nice. I was able to take a nap during the test. They gave me those nice warm blankets and a pillow. And since you don’t do much resting in the hospital, this was a nice couple of hours. The test results came back, and it showed that my gallbladder is not emptying quick enough. This was some nice news.
More doctors came in and left. They were completely puzzled. All of my blood work was coming back fine. This didn’t make sense. So, that evening one of the doctors came in to talk to us. Because of the symptoms I was having and the lack of answers from the different tests, my doctor recommended that a colonoscopy would be the best option for finding an answer to my GI related problems.
Colonoscopy. . .
Now, this was the last thing that I wanted to hear. I had never heard any positive comments about having a colonoscopy. Weren’t those supposed to be for people over 50? I am definitely not that. So, why was this happening to me?
My family and I decided that this was the only option I had to find out what was going on. So, the prep began. Let me just tell you one thing: It is DISGUSTING! Because I had hardly been eating, the prep was really hard on my stomach. Therefore, I started throwing it up which didn’t help the whole process. That was a really rough night.
Day # 6 – Thursday
Because the prep was really hard on my stomach and whatever else was going on in my intestines, I was having extreme pain. I was dry heaving and everything was hurting. The nurses were so nice. They were trying to help figure out what was wrong. All the while, I am being wheeled down the halls back to the GI department. By this time, everyone in this section of the hospital knew me. I was in so much pain that they gave me some medicine. Except it didn’t help. I think they gave me three large doses of Fentanyl. That is some nice stuff when it actually started working.
After about 45 minutes of some really intense pain, all the meds finally started to work. Then my mom’s boss and my administrator from high school came to see me for a little while. I was quite a site because by the time he got there all of my medicine had finally kicked in. I was nice and relaxed. He came to pray with my mom and I. It was nice to see someone from the “outside” world other than family.
Test results: a mass near my appendix along with some ulcers in the surrounding tissue.
Day # 7 – Friday
Because of the masses in my lung and the lack of information they received on the first biopsy, the doctors decided that a CT guided biopsy would be helpful. This was kind of scary. While I knew that this would be helpful, the possible things that could go wrong were unnerving. They told me that after the procedure there was a possibility that my lung would deflate.
Right before the procedure I was in kind of in “freak out” mode. I was really struggling with the fact that there were possibilities of some major things that could go wrong after this procedure. Being a Christian, I know that I was not alone in the room. However, the feeling of being alone and being afraid was still there. My mom was so encouraging to me during these final moments because she reminded me that God never leaves me. We prayed and it was time for the biopsy. Thankfully, none of these things happened.
After some waiting, the doctors came in to give us the results. Unfortunately, non-diagnostic was used again. Thankfully, they said that I could go home. The doctors and different specialists decided that I might be dealing with an autoimmune process. While they had no idea which one, they decided that putting me on Prednisone might help.
I had an x-ray to make sure my lung didn’t have a hole in it after the biopsy. This came back clear! So, they began working on discharging me. Now, my brother was on the high school soccer team at his school. His team was in the state playoffs in a couple of hours at his school. So, instead of going home, I went to watch his team.
What do you do after something like this? It is one thing to go on vacation and come back to reality. However, it is totally different to spend a week in the hospital and try to come back to normal life. I think that this was the hardest thing to do. I was extremely weak and on some crazy strong pain meds along with a heavy dose of Prednisone.
The doctors sent me home with a follow-up referral to pulmonologists at UNC. Hoping for answers I was still at the beginning of my journey… I will talk about this appointment and the days after that next time.