Thursday, June 9, 2011

Back in a Gown Again

As you may recall, back in April, I had an unexpected trip to the ER while residing in Kalamazoo. You can read about it in this post: A Drama Free Existence. Since that day, I have been undergoing "further investigation" since that time. "Further investigation" has consisted of appointments with my primary care physician, my internal medicine doc at U of M, and the gastro-intestinal specialist she referred me to. I met with this specialist, Dr. E.two-weeks ago and like every specialist I have encountered at U of M, found hr to be exceptionally qualified, compassionate, and knowledgeable.

Dr. E hypothesized that the semi-constant pain I feel is caused by "chronic pancreatitis." Basically, when someone has had a case of pancreatitis as severe as I had it can lead to permanent damage to the pancreas resulting in pain, often after eating. In order to confirm her hypothesis, an Upper GI Endoscopic Ultrasound would need to be performed. During an EUS a small, lighted tube, approximately the diameter of a finger, with a camera attached to the end, is inserted into to your esophagus in order to get detailed pictures of t digestive track and surrounding organs. In my case, Dr. E. was most interested in my pancreas. Twilight sedation is required for this procedure and the benefits of accurate diagnostic information highly outweigh the minimal risks associated with an EUS.

My EUS was yesterday. Tuesday night, I was a wreck. Every time I am faced with a diagnostic test or an appointment with a new doctor occurs all logic and reasoning goes out the window and is replaced with crazy, spiraling, worst-case scenario possibilities. Basically it comes down to this: I am TERRIFIED of getting sick again. The idea of hospitalization, intense pain, and the months and months of recovery I underwent sends me into a full on panic attack. Voluntarily going to the University Hospital, putting on a hospital gurney, having an IV put in, waking up in recovery to a worried looking husband; it is awfully difficult to get psyched up to endure these events once again. But I've been in pain. I am in pain. Sometimes so much so, that I have trouble sleeping and eating. Things that is kind of necessary for survival.  Or at least sanity. As little as I was looking forward to the EUS, I knew it was a necessity to gain information required to move forward.

Everything went very smoothly. Dr. E. is a pro and I felt safe by the precision her team ran the procedure room. She came and talked to me and Josh in the recovery room to present her initial findings. Apparently, there are nine criteria for "chronic pancreatitis" and I only meet 3 of the 9. Additionally, Dr. E. was pleasantly surprised at the overall appearance of my pancreas. The severity of my complications did relative minor damage overall. These are both good things. However, that means the causes of my abdominal pain and tenderness is still undiagnosed. Dr. E. wants to treat me with digestive enzymes. Hopefully, by taking enzymes prior to eating or drinking, I will suffer less. We'll meet again at the end of the summer to analyze the effectiveness.

All in all, I was reassured by this experience. It's nice to know that I am not in dire straits again. I've spent so much time in hospital gowns this year that reaching a steady level of health still seems a ways off. It's good to know that I might be closer than I think.

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