The Thursday Blog: Stabbity Pain Edition

Last Saturday I noticed a pain in my side. It hurt, but it wasn’t exactly killing me, so I put it out of my head and kept on doing whatever it was I had been doing. Sunday morning, it hurt pretty bad, but I was still working around it. By Sunday night, I had lain down in bed and was completely unable to get back up.

Monday the pain had leveled to merely intolerable. Lena felt certain that the cause was all the dairy I had eaten the previous 2 days… which made a certain amount of sense to me. After all I barely eat dairy at all any more, and that weekend had represented a considerable break from this. I decided to give it one more day.

Tuesday, more of the same. Ouch. So I went to the doctor, a guy I really like named Balbona who has a sweet little office in the building next to my house for a diagnosis. After poking me in the ouchy places for a few minutes, his official opinion was gallstones. Not great news.

There are a few treatments for gallstones, but none are as easy or as successful as simple removal. Takes less than an hour, (for the actual surgery) is generally an out-patient procedure, and costs as from $9,000 to $13,000. Now, before you ask, I do have insurance. However, I only have the insurance I was able to afford. That means it’s crap. Crap to the tune of a $10,000 deductible and pay for your own fucking hospital gown, thank you very much your next premium is due Monday. (It’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield. They suck.) So you can understand my worry.

(Some of you are thinking right now, “Well he bought that insurance, what did he expect?” To you I would direct your attention back to the line: “However, I only have the insurance I was able to afford.” Some others are thinking, “Well that’s catastrophic insurance. It’s only meant to be supplemental. To you I would point out: “However, I only have the insurance I was able to afford.”)

Back to the story…

So Doc Balbona thinks gallstones, but he needs a couple of tests to be certain. (Certain is important.) Most importantly we need to discover if the problem is simple gallstones, which require surgery, or if my gallbladder is infected and inflamed, which requires OMIGODHE’SGONNADIEGETHIMONTHETABLERIGHTNOWBEFOREHEEXPLODES surgery. He sends me to Quest Diagnostics for blood labs, and St. Vincent’s hospital for an ultrasound of my gallbladder. I arrive at Quest at 4:02. The glass door is locked, and the sign says they close at 4:00. I see people waiting for attention inside, so I figured I’d wait outside until one of them left, slip in and explain my plight. Before I could the UPS truck showed up, and a woman in scrubs ran out to get her package. (I had been standing in the exact same spot for 5 minutes by then.) I stopped her “We’re closed.” and tried to ask if “We’re closed.” there was any way “We’re closed.” I could talk to someone “We’re closed.” OKAY, FINE. IS THERE ANOTHER LOCATION I CAN GO TO? At which point she told me that all the locations closed at four and they had locked their doors at 3:30.

By the time she went back inside Lena had found another Quest Diagnostics on her iPhone a few miles away that closed at 7:00.

As we drove there I talked to the hospital about the ultrasound appointment. The next open slot they had was a week and two days away. After explaining my predicament, they were able to find me a spot the next morning when the imaging lab first opened. (I showed up 35 minutes early, and they took me right in. No waiting, and they validated parking!)

That was today. (Well, Wednesday. Yesterday to you.) I actually felt a bit better this morning, which I attributed to the antibiotics Doc Balbona had prescribed, and took overall as a Bad Sign that I was likely infected. (Future comics done in new, Zombie-Kevin style!) I waited as long as I could before pestering Balbona’s office to ask if my results had come back. They had not, but they swore they would call me as soon as they had. An hour later they called me back to say all my tests looked great.

They had no idea what was wrong with me.

So that’s where things sit right now. Balbona had his pixy-nurses send all my info to his gastroenterologist guy, and I’m supposed to call him tomorrow for an appointment. I want to be happy… but frankly I’m just confused and a bit fearful. It’s been a roller-coaster, (Lena has been bat-shit this whole time) and right now the cars are poised at the top of an unseen hill. Will there be another dramatic drop, or just a slight bump and turn as we go back to home base?

Fuck if I know.

49 Responses to The Thursday Blog: Stabbity Pain Edition

  1. If they determine is actually gallstones, ask about a drug called ursodiol (Actigall or Urso) This is effective for small cholesterol gallstones but not for other types. How has the weight loss been going? This drug is considered good for cases where the cause is unlikely to recur, such as rapid weight loss. Wonder if the dairy binge gave too much cholesterol for the gallbladder to handle all at once. Could also try sound waves to break them up and let flush to the intestines, a treatment that can also be used for kidney stones. If either can be used, they both sound much better than a knife and removal of the gallbladder. Hope things turn out okay for ya.

    • The downside (as I understand it) to the drug treatment, is that it takes several months to remove the stones and they will return. The sound wave treatment is dicey, since even the pieces may end up being too large to pass out of the gallbladder, and in any case, once your gallbladder has started producing stones it isn’t going to stop. However, the ultrasound showed no stones at all.

      The weight loss was doing fine (45 pounds) until I hurt my back a while ago. Since then I’ve been kinda stymied. As soon as I get myself relatively close to ambulatory again, we’ll be with the program again.

  2. Didn’t George Carlin say that “Doctors don’t know anything, it’s all guesswork and a white coat”?

    • “It’s $10,000”. “It’s nothing.” Huh? So… did he run any tests before giving his professional opinion?

      I think the “don’t know anything” applies to all professions, the more professions I see anyway. Because taking a good look would take too much time and cost too much. Heck, that $10,000 is probably just for opening you up. I wouldn’t be surprised if the stone removal at that point took a few minutes.

      For the time being you might want to try eggs (the yolks are what count), fish or fish oil, vitamin D (sunshine or liver) and a source of calcium. Cod liver oil is a fish oil with vitamin D in it. Probably too late to do much though.

    • It’s trained guess-work. I do computer stuff (programming for real work, but I’m tech support for my family). It isn’t that I know what’s wrong with your computer, but I know how all of the pieces fit together and know how to interpret symptoms. Same with a car mechanic. Same with a doctor. They’ve been trained to listen to the symptoms and make educated guesses based on those symptoms and their knowledge. So, guess-work, sure, but educated guess-work.

      • Like a search engine, you input some keywords for them to search, and the more specific you are the faster the search goes and more focused the possible answers.
        Anyone seriously thinking this is “guess-work” and unprofessional should go treat themselves then, if they think they aren’t getting much.

      • Poor old tech support and mechanics need to actually know what they’re doing, because there are clear and identifiable result if they fail. Many other professions can fudge it. Not that you can’t have a dishonest mechanic get you in other ways. I’m glad to read the doctors did actually test their suppositions.

        Though if a mechanic or such overcharged me and said “Ha, let’s see YOU figure it out or fix it”, I’d get a new mechanic. But in the case of doctors I never get sick or have health problems anyway.

  3. Oh gee. 🙁 I wish you all the best, Kevin.
    Well, at least if the tests came back negative, that’s good, at least it’s not the gallbladder, right? And a bloodtest for inflammation factors would catch infection too.

    • Maybe? I want to be positive here, but at least when it was the gallbladder I at least knew what was wrong. Not having any idea at all is kind of nerve wracking.

      Still, I’m seeing a specialist this afternoon, so hopefully we’ll know more soon. Fingers crossed!

  4. Damn. I hope it turns out well for you, Kevin. I don’t have any medical background, so I can’t give any useful comment other than, “try to stay calm”. If you let this fuck up your mind, it won’t do your body any good.

    • Amusingly, Lena has been the one to fall to pieces over this. It’s probably a good thing for me, since the more freaked out she gets the calmer I generally become.

  5. That happened to me a while back. Pretty much the same thing. They thought it was my appendix getting ready to go, but not gone far enough that I needed immediate attention. They told me I could go home or stay the night since I lived close by, and come back in the morning. By the time morning came the pain had gone down a fair bit. After I got more tests done they told me they had no clue what was actually wrong with me. The pain eventually went away on its own over the course of the day.

    Also, I’ve had kidney stones twice. Not fun.

  6. A few years ago, and at irregular intervals prior to that, I used to have attacks that felt as if a giant was taking both sides of my stomach muscles and tried to rip it apart. At first, doctors suspected gall stones, but after numerous tests they found nothing except one ultrasound showing a widened gall passage and a biopsy (ouch) that implied I was either overweight or an alcoholic (not really the case). The matter of identification is still unresolved. However…

    During my studies to become a massage therapist, the teacher described different symtoms if muscles were tense and/or weak. There is a muscle in your stomach called ilio-psoas and is active during high steps (as if walking in deep snow) and is made tense from sitting down a lot and no core training. What he described sounded a lot like what I had been experiencing, so I volunteered to be a show object to the class and wow, when he pushed his hand “in” my stomach and touched the muscle on the right hand side (where the liver and gall bladder is) I felt pain, but when he did it on the other side, nothing. That got me started on excercising and especially to strengthen my core muscles. I avoid dairy products to a greater extent and learnt to be wary of fatty foods, so I cannot really be sure what – if any – is the real reason, but I haven’t had any of those attacks for six years now.

    I hope you get better soon.

  7. It is at times like these that you might feel a strong worry when you remember that doctors call what they do “practice”. 😯
    Hope it gets better soon without actually bankrupting you in the process.

  8. Why is everyone dancing around the most important question here?

    “Are you still running D&D tonight?”

    There. I said it (talk about an elephant in the room!).

    😉

    • Unless the G.I. I talk to this afternoon puts me on an operating table right that second, we will be playing D&D tonight.
      😀

      • I missed my D&D Thursday. It’s kinda hard to play when the game is held at your house and you are 400+ miles away on vacation.

        Although I did get calls Thursday morning asking if we were playing. I swear I told them I was going.

  9. I went through a bout of gallstones a few years back. The show up clear as day on an ultrasound- so if they did that test, there should be no way to mis-interpret it unless they’re retarded or have the wrong test results. Should be a clear yes or no. Gallstone pain is usually about 4″ right of center, just below the ribs (right under the liver). Also the pain tends to flare up and recede. It can feel like really bad indigestion and can cause nausea and vomiting. If the pain is in your “side”, it may be more kidney related or something else entirely- but gallstones have VERY specific symptoms. Any doctor should be able to recognize the signs and properly diagnose it. It doesn’t take an expensive specialist or a bunch of goofy tests. Double-check that ultrasound and don’t let em jerk ya around, because they will.

    • Two doctors looked ant the ultrasound, (and the tech) and no one saw stones. One of those doctors was my physician (an internal medicine specialist) who is also the one who thought it was gallstones to begin with. He told me my pain was directly above where my gallbladder was. He agreed that there were no stones, and that my gallbladder did not appear inflamed. (Plus the lab came back negative for infection.) What he actually said to me was if the pain was going away then at this point it was probably going to be a mystery they couldn’t solve. If I was still in pain they would recommend a specialist. I was, and they did.

      I don’t really feel jerked around (except by Quest) although I am trying extremely hard to be as diligent as possible. I was my grandfather’s “watchman” while he was in the hospital, and I know that shenanigans can take place.

      My doctor is also my neighbor, and he has been supportive and interested in my developments. When I go to see him I see him, not an intern or a partner. I have also known him to be a contentious neighbor, and have by accident spoken to techs and other non-doctor folks at the local hospital who both liked and respected him. (Apparently he is NOT one of those guys who will prescribe antibiotics unless they are actually needed.)

      All that said I continue to keep my eyes open. Trust is fine, but it’s better when backed up by careful observation. I don’t really know what’s wrong with me or what any of the tests truly mean, so the best I can do is be as attentive as possible.

      • Ah, I see, problems like that are hard to diagnose. At least they took a better look at some point.

        Ya, taking unneeded antibiotics is nuts, because it increases your chance of future infection. Try some yogurt to replace all the helpful bacteria they just obliterated. IIRC if it’s real yogurt there won’t be any lactose left, but it wouldn’t hurt to ease into it.

          • Onions and some other veggies too, which is why I mentioned it a while back. But they only feed the bacteria. You need the yogurt to get a restart. It actually contains the living bacteria, at least if it says “live and active cultures”.

            • OTOH you only got 1 dose of antibiotics so a little may be left alive. I dunno how that works.

      • I’m glad you got a good doc that you know personally. That helps a lot, and does cut down on the “tests just to be testing”. I hope it’s just a bad case of gas.

      • As an FYI, I had an appendectomy. My appendix wasn’t located where it was expected to be. My pain was high and for a while was considered gall bladder related. I had to do the “milk-shake” test and it showed up as being really high on my side. Don’t rule that out, either.

  10. Lots of dairy for someone that does not eat dairy regulary = gas build up. This gas can build up in intestines, bladders, and the stomache. If the doc found nothing wrong with you for stones, assume your going to be ok. The worse thing you can do is stress.

    Doc Chris recommendation is to not eat for 2 days, 1 day if you can’t make 2, and drink several large glasses of water periodically. Let your system reboot and see how you feel.

    Because you said you experienced this pain after doing something you do not normally do, this is probably the cause.
    Any physical exertions could also have injured a muscle and that can also be quite painful but easy to heal.

    • Would it cause a specific point of pain that doesn’t move? It doesn’t hurt unless I’m in the wrong position (most of them) or flex the muscles on that side. I did feel extremely gassy for the first three or four days but that feeling has subsided.

      I haven’t eaten much but I haven’t completely fasted either. I think I could make it two days though with just water.

      • So you have a sharp pain that upsets when in a certain position and when you flex that side of your body. Muscle pain can be a sharp stabbing pain but is normally accompanied by a burning feeling. Joint pain is such as a torn ligament is very painful but more so of the burning pain and limits motion. Pain can also be attributed to your bone structure pressing on a Nerve and this can be very painful as well.
        I recently just got over a lower back issue where my lower vertebrae was pressing against the main nerve that runs down your back and into your legs, whenever I sneezed it felt like someone was breaking me in half, no fun at all.

        Have you tried a long session of stretching? Cramped muscles have a nasty habit of letting you know about them when you neglect them.

  11. I had appendicitis about 6 years ago, on my last night of guarding in some army base.
    Didn’t really want to be evacuated since I dislike going to doctors(most things just work themselves out anyway), and at first it was only a stomach ache, so I thought nothing of it(hurts, sure, but I don’t go to the doctor when I have gas or get the flu).
    But after a while I was doubled over and vomiting, so even if I objected the other guys would’ve called an officer over.
    So they took me to an army hospital where some nurse checked me(probably to see I wasn’t faking it…Vomiting all over sure convinces some people 😛 ) and then to a civilian one nearby, and in the morning I had an ultrasound and learned what was the problem.

    *Somewhat yucky tale bellow*

    I’ve also had three bouts of horrible burning and stinging while urinating, accompanied with blood, about half a year apart. They all just about passed by themselves, though I got antibiotics two of the times, I think, but when it was probably just about to end.
    Tests didn’t show infection, I haven’t had any sex to catch a disease, and they ruled out kidney stones too, so I still have no idea what it was(although I may have passed a tiny stone one day, it was hard to see, you know, with all the blood…I think it was just a little clot though).
    Last one was about a year ago, so I think it’s behind me.

    I do have a theory about it- When checking with my sister about possible causes on the internet there was mention of spiced foods, hot peppers and the likes. I know I was eating pickled hot peppers at least one or two of the times(I really love those, so when I get some I eat lots), so I’ve sadly stopped eating those limiting other extremely spicy foods, and since it hasn’t returned yet after a year it might be the real reason.

    *Sniffle* I like hot peppers, dammit!

      • I mean really spicy stuff, like those pickled hot(chilly?) peppers, stuff that burns your mouth and brings tears(of joy?) to your eyes. I still use lots of paprika and black pepper etc in my cooking.

        It was kinda embarrassing being asked about sexual activity by a religious female doctor as part of the tests though, like going to a nun(well, except nuns don’t exactly procreate, or at least they keep it a secret) to be examined*. Thankfully(?) I had nothing to report.

        *OK, that kinda sounded hotter than I meant it.

  12. Oh, Kevin, I almost forgot, you could try praying and asking forgiveness for your many sins. By all accounts this is a classic case of God Almighty punishing you for not worshiping him enough. That, or being a sadistic dick as usual.
    Praise be to the Lord! 😀

  13. Hey, just thought I would one up you hehe. I had my gallbladder removed because I had a gall stone stuck in the duct. Wow, that hurt! I have to this date passed 8 kidney stones ( only 3 at the hospital) and was just today diagnosed with a “flow void” in a vein in my brain. (they say that is why I have had a headache since 2008). I get to go from more mri’s to see if there is anything they can do about it or I just have to live with it. But over all I actually enjoy my life now.

      • What changed is that I lost my job due to being rude on one of my worse migraine days (yeah I get those tossed in with the regular headaches) and now no one will hire me. Bad economy and me being crippled (did I mention the messed up knee, 2nd broken ankle since December, and wide spread muscle and joint pain?) no one will hire me. So I don’t have as much job related stress.

  14. Man that sucks, sending positive thoughts your way! Get better Kev!!!
    I seem to remember you cut most of the dairy out of your diet awhile ago, I’d say cut the rest if you haven’t already (my sister and daughter say it hurts a LOT). Appendicitis hurts like hell in one spot and gave me serious nausea, but I assume if it was that you’d know by now (they did rule that out right?). Anywayz, let’s hear it for “the best health care system in the world” and also for the “sweeping changes” Obama’s “socialization” has made. BTW in Cuba like one in eight working people are doctors, and it’s free. I know; it sounds terrible. Good news tho, Kevin. Our hospitals will wait basically forever for you to pay (least, mine hasn’t bugged me much for the kid they delivered via c-section 4 years ago). Eventually, they sell the debt to the government, not a collection agency. The government pays for it exclusively in tax dollars from republicans:)

    • Yeah… okay…

      Appendicitis is out of the picture, but the G.I. doc is back with the gallbladder again, despite the tests. They’re scheduling me to have a CT scan. Right now the best I can hope for is that everything mysteriously vanishes and we all smile and retreat to our corners.