Who would have thought that my not feeling so good for a couple of weeks would end up with me admitted to the hospital for the first time in 50 years, my first ever experience with CT, and MRIs, the ERCP medical procedure and rising to a high crescendo with a laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery.
While at the hospital, I was tethered to an IV for 7 days and was tired of being poked and prodded as the “vampires” came into the room about 6am for daily blood draws. I nicknamed my favorite vampire, Vampira. She got a kick out of my nickname for here and she liked it too. Here is how things proceeded until the mandatory visit to the TGH ER Friday evening!
Wednesday, August 24
I woke up not feeling well after a night of not being able to sleep comfortably, I called in and stayed home from work. I noticed that evening that my coloring was very off. In fact, my skin had an abnormal yellow glow. I told my mother about it and agreed if I was still “glowing” in the morning or if my eyes looked yellow, I would be calling the doctor.
Thursday, August 25
I woke up and noticed the whites of my eyes had a definite yellow cast. I went to work and called the doctor’s office and was able to be worked in about 10:30 am that morning. I was not able to see my normal PA as I was worked into the schedule and had to explain all the concern over the coloring. She ordered blood work and a CT scan for September 2nd as she expected it was possibly my gall bladder. I did the blood work before I left the building. When I told some friends about the CT scan being next week, they expressed a concern as they had a friend that put it off and it did not turn out well. They encouraged me to press the doctor to get that done sooner rather than later.
The reason that seeing myself jaundice was scary for me was that I had an aunt and grandmother who died of liver cancer. The last time I saw my aunt which was about a year before she was diagnosed she was very yellow and I knew that meant I had the possibility of having liver cancer myself and that scared me. Hearing that the PA thought it could be my gallbladder was a huge relief.
Friday, August 26
I went to work and proceeded about my day when the phone rang about 10:30 am and it was the PA I had seen the day before. She said results of my blood work came back and my liver function was abnormally high and wanted me to get to the CT that day. High norma was 130 and I was showing 397. She called and scheduled me for the CT scan 1pm that afternoon. I called my mother and let her know what was going on and she wanted to go to the CT Scan with me. I explained to my boss what was going on and she thought it would be good for me to ahead and leave for the day.
The thoughts of liver cancer came back to my head. When I went to the CT Scan at 1pm, the tech and I started talking prior to the exam and I expressed to him that having lost so much weight, I would not be surprised if it was truly gall bladder trouble. He said didn’t your doctor tell you that it is common for people who have lost great amounts of weight to develop gall bladder issues. I told him I had read that and had been expecting it to happen. After the scan was over, he said I am not a radiologist but I can tell you have gallstones. Again another sigh of relief and the liver cancer thoughts were pushed out of my head.
The PA called me at 4:50pm with the results of the CT Scan. I had a gall stone blockage and needed to get to the ER ASAP. After debating with the PA about which hospital I was going to, I finally relinquished to her suggestion and proceeded to find a ride. I quickly packed a bag with some clothes, and essentials (including my phone charger). It took a few calls but Alesha took my mom and I to the TGH ER on Friday August 26th. My mom didn’t stay that night as she needed to help take care of my dog.
While in the ER, I had a nurse say when she saw my name she had to meet me, same as mine and she was from Northern Indiana too! While in the ER, I was checked in, blood drawn, ultrasound performed all before I got admitted and a room found. Dr. Erhen was assigned to me and she took the vitals and got me settled in my first room. I was moved a couple of times before the nurse found me some food. I started eating graham crackers and peanut butter and applesauce. Never knew they could taste so good. I also found that when you are in an ER, your dignity goes out the door. Feeling like my bladder was about to explode, I had to pull curtains that didn’t fully close and go. The second room I had to go again and luckily this time the curtains fully closed but the room was very hot and they had propped open the door.
Saturday, August 27
It was about 2am on Saturday before I was taken to my room on 7C 733 bed 2 in the surgical oncology ward. I had a window view but I didn’t particularly care about that. I was put on the NPO list which means no eating or drinking, at midnight as I was awaiting an MRI. Not eating or drinking is something I got kind of used to while in the hospital due to tests, surgery and procedures.
I was told they put me in the surgical oncology ward because of my history of breast cancer and that the room they put me in the woman was very quiet. About 4am I found out she wasn’t very quiet at all. They came to take her vitals and she started unknown to me trying to hit and kick the nurses. She was a small little white lady who as time unfolded was suffering dementia or and Alzheimer’s it was sad and funny at the same time. All I could do was hear, I could not see.
Early Saturday morning, I got a new roommate. A young black woman the mother of 4 who was having issues with her iron being too low in her blood. They kept monitoring her blood but didn’t do anything to help the iron levels raise. Talking with her I found after she had her 4th child, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She kept telling the nurses that she needed to get out so she could get her children off to school on Monday. Dad wasn’t good at those kinds of things so she wanted to be home.
I was not able to eat or drink anything almost all day on Saturday. Finally the nurses and doctors found out that 6pm was as early as they could do the MRI so I was allowed to eat lunch about 2pm. The food was yummy. Perco Asado, (Cuban Seasoned Pork), roasted vegetables and rice. I was thrilled to be able to eat and drink, but after that I was placed on the NPO list again. 6pm came and went and no MRI, 8pm came and went, no MRI, 10pm came and went, no MRI, midnight came and went and no MRI
Sunday, August 28
Finally, at 2am, they came to get me to do the MRI. That was a much better experience than I expected. By 3am I was back in my room and back in bed. Yay! The nurse brought me some crackers and peanut butter and water, it tasted great! But by 5am they were back doing vital signs and drawing blood about 6:30 a.m. So much for solid sound sleeping. And this day they added getting my body weight and wheeled a scale beside my bed. 145.6 I was shocked I didn’t weigh more with all the fluid they were pumping through me via the IVs.
The young woman in the bed next to me talked to her doctor and they agreed to send her home about 9am Sunday morning. She was so happy to be going home and able to be with her children.
Around 2pm, my mom got to the hospital and was planning on staying the duration of the of my stay. A little before she got there, I received another roommate. I spoke to her on my way to the bathroom. Her doctor and a nurse came in and started the intake interview and with just a curtain between us, you could hear everything. My mom and I looked at each other as we heard the various answers to the doctor’s questions. My mom was where she could see that the nurse shot out of the room. I told my mom that I wanted to get up and walk around. So we went out walking. I stopped by the nurses’ desk and spoke with the charge nurse and asked a few questions about the patient next to me and should I be concerned. The nurse got a strange look on her face and went to check on things and she said no worries she is going to be moved ASAP. By the time I got back to the room, after walking about 5 laps on my ward, my new roommate was gone and the cleaning crew was working diligently to re-clean the room and bathroom. The concern was the new roommate had HIV and had been infected since the mid-2000’s. HIV patients are not supposed to be in the general hospital population and she had slid through the cracks.
By 6:30 pm, I had another new roommate. She was coughing a lot and it didn’t sound good. The doctors were giving her breathing treatments every few hours and that would make the coughing much worse all throughout the night.
At midnight I went once again on the NPO list because I was supposed to be having the ERCP on Monday to remove any stones that were left after the blockage had passed.
Monday, August 29, 2016
My procedure was scheduled for that morning but did not get taken down until around 3pm. My transport person called himself the GI King. He flirted all the way to the procedure room. Dr. Gomez did the procedure and removed 30 “rolling stones” from my bile duct. Normally there are one or two but rarely 30! This was my first experience with general anesthesia and when I woke up the nurse said “How are you feeling?” My reply, “I’m hungry, thirsty and I have to pee, I assume all of that is good.” She laughed and said “Yes it is!”
I was taken back to my room and placed on a liquid diet because of the sore throat post-procedure. Chicken broth was so good and so was water but the nurse found some Luigi’s Italian Ice in Cherry and that was some of the best tasting food I had that day! I ended up eating two of them and it felt so good on my throat.
Jorge Delgado (my little brother) came by and bought me a vase of pink carnations. He is my “adopted” little brother and one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He and his wife, Olga, have the most adorable little girl too.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
The typical morning routine vitals, blood draw continued along with getting my weight again. 145.8, two tenths of a pound higher than Sunday.
I was on a low fat diet and got breakfast by default since I wasn’t able order when she came around the day before since I was NPO. I was able to eat all day on Tuesday since the Gallbladder removal was scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Breakfast was at 9:30 am.– oatmeal, ½ blueberry muffin, 3 turkey sausage links, whole wheat toast, hash brown potatoes and apple juice
Lunch came around 2:00 pm, Grilled Chicken breast, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, sliced orange and chocolate chip cookie
Mom and I went walking the ward again and ended up running into the GI King. He had to give me a big hug.
That day I was seen by:
- 3 surgeons (Redhead Sam, Dr. Herron and another surgeon-Senior head of surgery) in prep for the next day, another blood draw and to check my clothing.
- A GI associate of Dr. Gomez to see how I was doing post procedure and to tell me about the 30 stones they removed. Which was definitely not the norm! I joked I had my own little rock quarry, Bedrock going!
- My primary Dr. Oler came by and later her team led b Dr. Erhen and others.
Dinner came around 7:00 pm, Roast beef with Dijon Sandwich, Sliced peaches, Chicken noodle soup, and I ate it all gladly. Later, Hugo and Grace Badillo came by to visit me that evening. Hugo and Grace are some of the nicest people too and are certified salsa instructors.
I had been watching the news, there was an impending storm headed our way and found out that TGH is a storm shelter. The doctors told me they would not toss me out if the storm was going on or threatening to hit us. A breath of relief! Yes!
I again went on the NPO list at midnight with surgery scheduled for Wednesday morning. This NPO list stuff is old old old and so is the IV. But relief was coming!
Wednesday August 31, 2016
6:30 am – the surgical team came in and they were still hopeful that the surgery would be that morning.
8:00 am – Nick Castor a new member of the team came to check in on me. His first day had been Monday and his jacket wasn’t buttoned correctly; it was funny but afraid it would have embarrassed him to say anything. So I did not say a word just smiled.
8:30 am – Dr. Erhen came in to check on me
10:00 am – Dr. Oller came in with the team.
After morning came and went, I was told the surgery was scheduled between 1-2pm. A cardiology tech came in to do an EKG. I was a little confused about that but mom said it was normal prior to surgery. He said it was a “perfect” EKG which is supposed to mean a very good heart. Good to know.
The 1-2 time frame came and went and around 2:30 they came and got me to take me to surgery bed and all.
I did not get back to my room until around 5:30 or 6:00 pm. I was on a regular diet again and could eat anything at that point. Relief! As soon as I got back to my room I headed for the ladies room. A nurse came in shortly afterward and asked if I needed to go to the bathroom. I looked at her kind of puzzled and said, not really I went when I came back from surgery. Her eyebrows raised and she asked if I had got up and went by myself? I looked at her and said “Yes?” She said something about I had to be feeling fine and that wasn’t the typical to no need any assistance to get up.
Thursday, September 1 2016
I was discharged from the hospital about 9am and was home before 10am. The storm had taken a different path and things were all quiet. My next door neighbor, Carla came and picked me and my mom up. Freedom at last!
After getting home the next stop was the grocery store. Neither mom or I had any food in the house as we had been gone for a week. I ran into some friends at the store and they could not believe I was out grocery shopping the day after surgery and just a few house post discharge from the hospital. Hey, you do what you have to do.
BIG HUGE TAKEAWAY:
Tampa General Hospital’s doctors, nurses and staff are well deserving of the number one ranking and accolades.
Post Script: I wrote this several months ago and I forgot to publish it. Sorry for the lag!
My first meal in my room.
Got to admit it not only looked good but tasted good too!