31 October 2012

To My Hallowed Health


OR:
I GOT A ROCK.

Since about the 2nd of October, I've been having some abdominal pain, generally on my right side. This came packaged with a prolonged sense of pins and needles in my right foot that would occasionally run up and down my leg. Both were persistent, never painful to the point of debilitating, but worrying nonetheless. I chalked it up to a combination of stress and simply sleeping wrong. Short version of the stress and sleep situation: Roommate and I shared a bed for some time, mattress is shot, roommate drives me nuts (see Powers of Observation, and I decide its time to get some personal space. So, like I said, I think it's stress. Then, after the numbness went away, the pain stayed, and I decided to do a little research to see if it was a sign of something more severe.

To give this worry context, I had surgery on my right leg two years ago. Without getting into the gory details (especially following the surgery), I had flu-like symptoms that never amounted to much beyond an occasional cough and the mildest of aches and pains. Next thing I know, I have a lump which I think is a bit of knotted muscle that I chalk up to physical exertion at work. Lump doesn't go away despite applying heat, ice, and massage therapy. I tell my Dad about it (he's a physical therapist), and the moment I mention the location, he virtually says, "Get your ass to the emergency room right now!" as he thinks it's some kind of hernia. I go, and after some back and forth and having about two or three different doctors look at it, followed by exploratory surgery by a specialist, it's concluded that a cluster of lymph nodes in my leg fought off an infection (influenza) and won a costly victory, effectively creating a lot of "collateral damage" with nowhere for it to go, hence building up in that lovely lump. In the end, I have a scar on my leg that's bigger than the one from when I had my appendix out in 1992. Speaking of my appendix...

Turns out "Right Side Abdominal Pain" can refer to a veritable cornucopia of "Oh, Shit!" conditions, including hernia, ulcers, and various organ failures or infections including the kidneys, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. When I called my doctor (this is after two weeks of telling myself, "it's just stress." as it was never all that severe), the receptionist asked, "Are you sure you want to wait for an appointment?"
Luckily, nothing in my condition changed between then and the day of the examination. Between my doctor and her shadow, they were stumped, especially considering I had my appendix out. It was funny how they kept referring back to it, almost like they were angry, "IF ONLY YOU HAD AN APPENDIX, WE COULD JUST SAY THAT'S WHAT'S WRONG!" I know, how dare I got to an all-you-can-eat restaurant at DisneyWorld 20 years ago and ruin your chances of an easy diagnosis. I'm a total bastard.

Anyway, after bloodwork and whatnot came back negative on all fronts, I was referred to Radiology for an ultrasound just last Friday. 12 hours of fasting and a hundred dollar copay later, I was told it would take until Monday for them to have a report. Monday arrived and I patiently waited for the call. When none arrived, I called to ask what the holdup was. It turns out, "ready by Monday" means it's mailed out to my doctor on Monday, and then she'll call me and dictate the results. I know, how dare I take initiative and find out what's wrong with my own bloody body. Total, total bastard.

This brings us to today, a day when the HR lady at my work came up to me and told me that I'd stored up too much vacation time and should take some between now and the next four pay periods to avoid losing any of what I've got. Well, I got the call from my doctor later that afternoon, and learned the results of the ultrasound.

Gallstone.

A 12mm lump of solidified bile and cholesterol was discovered in a most precarious position in my gallbladder, which itself looked strangely fine. The stone, meanwhile, could only cause me intermittent pain in its current resting spot just above the bile duct. If it moves, however, it can be extremely painful. Needless to say, I was given a number to the scheduling department at the hospital to get in touch with a surgeon for a consultation. In the meantime, I'm to avoid fatty foods (which I was actually being really good about avoiding anyway) and obviously go to the ER if the aforementioned ductwork gets stoned. At that point, the question will be whether or not the surgeon thinks we can get away with just removing the stone or if the whole situation is problematic enough to yank the whole gallbladder out as well. Hopefully, the whole thing can be done laprascopically (small incisions, narrow tubes, everything except nanoships piloted by Dennis Quaid) and I'll be off work for a few days.

So there's my Halloween. I didn't go as anything, I bought my own candy, and I trumped Charlie Brown by not only getting a rock, but the sort of rock that can't just be taken out of a treat bag and tossed at the tricky treater's window. Beat that, blockhead!

Good grief....
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