Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I know, I know

Hey. I know I haven’t really been around lately, and for that, I apologize. My boss is editing a text book, and one of the physicians working with him is doing a chapter on anatomy. I’m working with that physician to do the drawings for the anatomy chapter. My drawings are gonna be published in a textbook. Word.

Now, to completely change the subject, I’ve been watching a lot of those Mystery Diagnosis shows on Discovery Health while working on these drawings. I feel for these people who no one believes. Let me tell you about my own medical mystery.

In November of 2005, BF bought a video game: True Crime: Streets of New York. Every time I would play this game, I’d become overwhelmingly nauseous, and have to stop. After a few days, the nausea progressed to violent vomiting, so I stopped playing the game all together.

A few days pass, and I’m fine, but then all of a sudden, my nausea returns. All the time. I can’t watch TV, I can’t write, I can’t read, all I can basically do is either sit or lay there with my eyes closed. I start missing work, and my manager begins to get royally pissed off at me. I call my PCP, who can’t see me for two months. When I say that I can’t wait two months, they refer me to the emergency room, which is what doctors in NYC do. Not wanting to go that route, I contact my ENT, who’s taken very good care of me in the past, and he refers me to a gastroenterologist. I call, make an appointment, and am excited that maybe we can get to the bottom of this.

I’m an avid self-diagnoser. I could not, for the life of me, figure out what was wrong. It felt like my body just didn’t want me to eat anymore, like it had finally had enough.

The GI doctor was nice enough. He gave me a thorough examination, including palpating my abdomen. When he got to a certain point, he noticed that I winced. “Your gall bladder’s a bit large,” he said, prodding me uncomfortably.

He sends me for an ultrasound, saying that if I had gall stones, I’d need to get my gall bladder removed ASAP. Painless nausea is one of the symptoms of colocystitis, he tells me. To cover all his bases, he also orders a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy, as well as a DECIDA scan, they pump me full of weird medicine that made my groin burn and watched my gall bladder twitch on a screen.

All tests come back negative.

The nausea not abating, he prescribes me anti-nausea medication, beginning with compazine. One night, after taking a dose, my t6tongue swells up to mammoth proportions, and I have to go to the emergency room. Then he gives me zofran, which is incredibly expensive, and made me incredibly constipated, on top of the fact that my nausea didn’t go away. You know what helped me control it? Taking a double dose of my anti-anxiety medication. And no, that doesn’t mean I an attribute my nausea to anxiety, since the medication is actually an anti-seizure medication, often used to control symptoms of nausea.

My GI doctor, in the face of all these negative tests, decides that the problem must not be with my gall bladder, it must be with my stomach. Perhaps I have gastroparesis, where the stomach becomes paralyzed for whatever reason. They send me for another test, where I eat radioactive eggs and then lay in a scanner for six hours while they watch me digest.

Another negative test.

Frustrated, I hauled my chunky, nauseous ass to a general surgeon – one of the best in NYC – who examines me, prods me, then tells me he can’t help me. Later on, I get ahold of his consultation letter to my GI doctor: “She’s bipolar, so her symptoms are most likely affected,” he wrote. Seriously? Dude thought I was looking for attention. Meanwhile, I was throwing up almost daily.

I was ready to give up and just follow my GI doctor’s recommendation of just controlling the nausea symptoms with medication FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. My mother, however, would have none of it. She made me go get a second opinion from another surgeon. I picked Dr. Pomp. He’s weird looking, kind of like a puffer fish, but he was really nice. He didn’t think my problems were gall bladder-related, but was willing to review my records. In the meantime, my mother, who lives 8 hours by car away, asked around until she got the names of doctors from my hometown who saw patients with the same problem I was having. I called the most highly recommended doctor on the list, who couldn’t see me for a month. I called the next doctor down, who was willing to work around my schedule, as I was going to have to fly in specifically for this office visit.

The day of the office visit came. I flew in to Rochester, NY, met my mom at the airport, and drove to the doctor’s. He sat with us for about twenty minutes, taking my history and reading the records I’d brought with me. He examined me, looked thoughtful, and then asked if I was having any pain in my back or arms. I was surprised.

In high school, I’d fallen off my bicycle, thereby tearing the lip off of my right shoulder socket. It now dislocates all the time. Every now and then, my shoulder will bother me. It had been bothering me quite a bit, actually. I said yes. It had never occurred to me that my shoulder had anything to do with my nausea. He nodded, and then told me I had what was called acalculus colocystitis. Gall bladder disease WITHOUT STONES. He said that while it’s extremely rare in people my age, he’d been seeing it more and more often. My mom and I cried.

He wrote Dr. Pomp a recommendation that I have my gall bladder removed. I flew back to NYC the same day. I met with Dr. Pomp later that week, and he finally agreed to remove the troublesome organ. The surgery was scheduled for June 6, 2006. At first, when the secretary told me the date, I thought she was joking. 6/6/06? That can’t be good.

The day came, and BF went to the hospital with me. I was brought into the OR, and Dr. Pomp came in. The last thing he said to me before putting me under was “Vanessa, I just want you to know that I don’t think this will solve your problem.” I told him I didn’t care, take the fucker out.

There were no complications. I woke up from anesthesia about four hours later, and knew I was cured. I had no nausea, and my shoulder no longer hurt. The pathology report came back a week later: chronic acalculus colocystitis.

I haven’t been nauseous since.

The side effects from surgery? I have a bit of reflux, which is controllable. But to this day, I am hesitant to go to doctors, because I don't want to deal with doctors not believing me. I am sick of the egos on these people, who think they're never wrong.

Dude, if you think you're sick, you probably are. Don't EVER let them tell you it's in your head.


MamaH said...

I watch the same shows and I often think of your situation and how nobody believed you and thought it was in your head. Same as when I became lactose intolerant and the doctors could not diagnos me and thought that it was an emotional problem until my insurance company changed my doctor who diagnosed me in ten minutes. Just teached you that you really have to be your own advocate(of course, with the help of your mother).