You have won a fun-filled trip!

To the emergency room of your local hospital! Yes, this trip is designed to maximize your enjoyment of life away from the emergency room, where you and a loved one will spend ten hours waiting to be seen by a physician. While you’re waiting, you’ll enjoy looking around the cubicle where you’re placed and writhing on the bed in agony because no painkillers were given. You’ll also enjoy the emotional thrills of subjecting a (tired) loved one – who happens to be your mother – to share your experience. The guilt will be great for building character!

So, Friday afternoon, we went to see the gastro guy, who gave us the results of the scan, which we all expected: gallstones. A whole bag of stones, actually, is how he put it. By the time he arrived at 4:35 for our 4 PM appointment, talked to us for a few minutes, and gave us our options, the surgeon’s office had closed (4:52). So he scrawled the number to their office on a piece of paper and told us to call Monday. That was exactly what we planned to do. He also mentioned that if the pain got too bad, to head to the ER.

And then came Friday evening. I had some formula. They ate real food. A little later, I started feeling the same old sickness. It progressed to the puking phase, but the pain had kicked in long before that. I told my mom that we were going to have to go to the ER, because I couldn’t stand this any more. I told her to let me finish throwing up and then take me over. Which she did.

They got me out of the waiting area and into a holding room pretty quickly, but it all went downhill from there. I slipped in and out of a doze, hurting the while time, someone stuck their head in about three times, and we finally saw a doctor at around 10 AM. He wasn’t too happy that we’d been there since midnight, and neither were we, but I was in no condition to get angry. Even though we had no guarantees that they could squeeze me into the surgical schedule for the weekend, I didn’t care and told them to go ahead and admit me. They gave me a gown, rolled me up to a room, gave me a drip with dextrose and some painkillers, and I told my mom to go home. This was Saturday.

Sunday: no surgery room for me. A day of hanging around the room, occasionally getting drugs for pain, and being bored out of my skull. I did get some sleep, although most of the time that sleep was interrupted by the staff’s never-ending need to check my temperature and blood pressure, and by the periodic taking off and landing of the hospital’s helicopter, the landing pad for which happened to be on the next building’s roof, right across from my room.

Monday: the surgeon that we were actually going to call showed up. He said that he probably would not be able to make any room on his schedule for that day, but could try to get someone to schedule me for Tuesday. If I wanted to wait for his schedule, surgery wouldn’t be until Wednesday. Tuesday it was, then. Knowing that I was to have surgery, each shift change the nurses asked me if I’d had anything to eat or drink by mouth. No, nothing since Friday night, which I threw up.

Tuesday: by this time, I’ve had my mom bring my laptop up so at the very least I could do some work via dialup. I did get some things done, but hospital living is a little hard on the time recognition- harder even than normal for me: I would look up and it would be 2 AM suddenly. I’d drift off and it would be 8 AM, time for my neighbor to be having breakfast while I continued with drips. Nevertheless, we were assured that today would be the day, but we couldn’t get an exact time since I was an addon to the schedule. They finally came for me around 4, rolled me down to the OR holding pen, and at 4:30 – after taking away my glasses – rolled me into the ER. After scooting over to the quite cold ER table from the gurney, I made small talk with the nurses while they prepped me for the IV and the knockout juice and then zzzz……..

Tuesday, later: I wake up in recovery. Not the same kind of crushing pain as when I woke up from my original cancer surgery, but then again, it wasn’t the same kind of surgery, either. Still, my gut was full of air, my side was tender, and I didn’t feel all that great. Well enough to chat with the nurse who was watching over me and trying to remember to take deep breaths so as not to set off the respiratory monitor. After about 15 minutes, we rolled back up to the room and I managed to get back into bed. I’m not quite sure how this was done, actually, and can’t remember if I walked into the room or they rolled me in and I just walked to the bed. Regardless, they loaded me with my drip and my drugs and then the fam showed up. By this time, it was 6:45. I drifted in and out, everyone went home, and settled back into the hospital routine.

Wednesday: The doctor showed up, said everything went very well, and that if I started passing some gas and walked around a bit, they’d let me out. I told him I’d been burping – painful – and he said that was the wrong end. They gave me a PCA to click as needed for pain (every eight minutes) and lowered my drip to 20 drops an hour, bringing me a liquid platter for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The slip actually said “Bland diet plate (Pink)”, and boy, was that true: pudding or custard, iced tea or coffee, grits or crappy soup, milk, one creamer, one sugar, no pepper. I barely ate any of it. I did manage to walk up and down the hall a bit, but no gas action. I’m convinced that what I was burping and what was probably escaping out through the feeding tube placement was enough, and decided Wednesday evening it was time to go. But that would have to wait until…

Thursday morning: breakout time! Another crappy breakfast, followed by a visit from the rounds doctor, who checked me over and pronounced me fit to go home. The surgeon didn’t come up, but a nurse did come in with my disharge paperwork. I signed away, called my mom, and crawled back into my clothes.

Since then, I’ve been home, alternately sleeping and working, trying to get formula down, and trying to stop coughing and sneezing because those activities are not fun at all, and thinking that I desperately need a shower. I’m moving around pretty well, but it’s going to be awhile before I can lift anything, so I’ll have to drag a volunteer to the NOC when I’m able to go to set up the servers that I had planned to set up last Friday night before the attack came on.

On the plus side, maybe I’ll be able to get back into the whole eating thing before I waste away to absolutely nothing, as there’s no doubt I lost a pound or two while cooped up in the hospital. It’d be nice to be able to have even a few bites of a meal, if that’s all i can manage, without being doubled over in pain afterwards.

So there, you have it. All the news that’s fit to print.

Tossing stones

The results are in.

Monday, the day before my scheduled ultrasound and HIDA scan, I made a mistake: I ate two small chicken nuggets from a fast food place. About fifteen minutes later, I was in agony, and on my knees barfing. The chills set in afterward, and I bundled up in a blanket even though it was about 85 degrees. It passed, eventually, but not without leaving me feeling miserable.

Tuesday dawned, and I headed off for the scans. We did get the preliminary results today: the ultrasound showed nothing, because they had a terrible time seeing my gallbladder, and the HIDA scan showed stones.

Now, I know how painful it is when an attack comes. My family knows how terrible it is. Surely the medical people know how bad it can be. Can we move up our scheduled followup appointment from the 27th? No, says the staff at the doctor’s office. There’s nothing open. And what about all the pain between now and then, asks my mom? Well, says the nurse at the office, if it gets really bad, I guess you’ll have to go to the hospital.

Wow, that’s very caring.

So, here we sit, with me feeling seasick all the time, wary of eating anything in case it sets off an attack. I also now have pain in my back as well as the front – something noted in the symptoms – and I feel like crap. This is no way to go through a day. Friday, we will be calling around to other gastro offices to see who can work us in. It does me no good to pour formula down the tube or eat anything if it just comes out, one way or the other.

We also saw the ENT for this spot the PET scan picked up on my tongue. Reassuring news: he sees no bumps, feels nothing, and says my tongue is still raw and red (which makes sense, since I have been trying to eat real food, even with this gallbladder nonsense). So we’ll keep an eye on that. Not so reassuring: this spot on the mandible is probably dental, because I can feel some pain in my gum and jaw on the lower left side, and I’m hoping that the radiation didn’t hurt things so badly that I have to have major dental work done. I hate dental-related things, and since I can’t open my mouth very widely, it’s even more painful these days. Now we need to find a dentist who is familiar with treating patients who have had radiation treatments.

On the plus side, we’re in negotiations to buy out another relatively small company, and waiting on their decision. We also went back to the developer and signed a contract (as well as laid down a check). There is a five day period where the contract can be voided, so we’re using that time to look at a few more places, just to make sure we’ve found what we really want.

And it’s football season officially! Sunday is game day, and the Cowboys are coming to town. I’m hoping we have a good season, but the team can be so schizophrenic – just look at the Foxboro meltdown from last season – that it’s hard to predict how they’ll do. Still, the games are fun, and Sunday will be one day shy of exactly a year that I last went to a game. At least this year I’m not going through radiation and chemo that make me into a zombie. I’m looking forward to reaching my goal of going to every game this season, except for one when I’ll be out of town. We’ll see just how well that works, given all these other issues swirling around.

The hits just keep on comin’

I haven’t fallen off the face of this earth just yet.

The past couple of weeks have been interesting.

First, there’s this whole gallbladder thing. From the 18th to about the 27th, I was either wishing for death to get rid of the agony, or cursing the pain and nausea that this issue is causing. I switched back to an ultra-lowfat diet consisting mainly of formula, and the pain has backed off a bit. The low level nausea persists, but it isn’t incapacitating. This also allowed me to attend, with a small gathering of good folks, the 40th birthday of a dear friend.

Between those two things, I had yet another PET scan. The night of the dinner, the doctor called with the results: two spots lit up. One in the left mandible, which may be dental – which means the usual three month exams I get have to be pushed up a little in this case – and one at the base of the tongue – which means a trip back to the ENT for a look and most likely another biopsy. Oh, and I cracked a piece of filling out of one of my teeth on the right side, even though it isn’t as if I’m eating jawbreakers here.

I’ve been taking Prevacid to help with the reflux and heartburn I’ve been having. I have insurance now (that doesn’t cover anything related to the cancer, since it’s preexisting), and they refused to pay for the Prevacid when it was first prescribed for me, saying that Prilosec was available over the counter. The gastro doctor told me to take the Prevacid twice a day instead of once, and wrote me a huge prescription for it to last until we get things sorted. The insurance company balked. The doctor’s office sent the insurance company a fax, telling them it was indeed medically necessary – after all, I have to take it twice a day, every day, without stopping after 14 days, and since Prevacid is little pellets that don’t have to be crushed, it will go down the feeding tube, unlike Prilosec, which would have to be crushed up, going against the way you’re supposed to take it. The insurance company once again balked. I had to shell out $300 on Saturday for 60 capsules, because I was down to one in the last batch that I’d gotten (and paid for out of my pocket). I’m paying my premiums. I’d take something else if it worked and would go down the tube. The least they can do is help me take care of my HEALTH since it is HEALTH insurance that I’m buying from them.

Then my email crapped itself at the domain here, which is why your mail bounced, Cal. That, of everything, is naturally the simplest to repair.

The other day, we acquired a tiny company (relative to us), and we’re working on integrating those people into the main billing system, sending notices out, and doing all the other things that have to be done to merge them. That’s always an adventure.

And finally: today we found a lot and a builder in a development not far from here. I’m crossing my fingers that everything goes the way it should and I will, for the first time, become a homeowner. This qualifies as being just as scary as some of these other things, albeit in a different way.

There you have it: I’m as well as can be expected and still around. It certainly could be worse. I could have died in a horrible freak incident like Steve Irwin did.