Friday, December 02, 2005

Life Deals a Kick To The Nuts

Life is funny really, one minute your on top of the world - I got married, school was going well, work was going well, I got to see Greece and London, and then bam, out of nowhere life gives you a swift kick to the nuts!

I've been out of commission for a while and am writing this post for 3 reasons: first, I wanted an electronic copy of my ordeal so I can go back and read it in a year and hopefully see some progress made, secondly I find blogging a somewhat comforting way to vent, and lastly, I tend to get a few anonymous readers stopping by so if they can take something away from my experience then that's just a bonus. Here we go...

After coming home from my honeymoon in Greece, I got the runs. Now this isn't anything new, I figured to myself, I've been traveling, eating oily and different foods, my body is just clearing itself out, but after two weeks, I started to get worried. After Imodium did nothing I decided to go to the doctor. On my third visit they decided to give me an antibiotic in case I picked up a bacterial infection (cipro). This did nothing as well. Four weeks after being back from Greece my symptoms starting getting worse (intense stomach pains, gastro bleeding, etc.) I had finally reached my breaking point, so much so that I was reduced to tears. Everyone has their breaking point and I just met face to face with mine. My wife had seen enough and dragged me to the emergency.

While waiting in triage, I found myself debating public/private health care systems. For the record I still believe public is the only way to go, although if ever there was a two-tier system that could work as effectively as public, I could be persuaded a little easier after this whole experience.

I finally get to see the emergency doctor and he ordered some x-rays and a CT scan of my gut. There was moderate inflammation in my intestine and the diagnosis was probable ulcerative colitis (a disease that causes inflammation and sores, called ulcers, in the lining of the large intestine which falls under the umbrella - inflammatory bowel disease).

Now emergency doctors have a very tough job, they need to be knowledgeable in so many areas that they are bound to make the odd mistake, unfortunately for me one of those mistakes came in prescribing me a drug that is no longer used because of all the associated side effects (sulfasalazine). After returning home for 2 days I couldn’t believe it, but I was actually getting worse and decided to once again go back to the hospital, this time I would be admitted for a week and finally see a specialist.

When people say hospitals are depressing, they aren’t kidding, I have never felt more down in the dumps than I did that whole week. I would lie in bed 24 hours a day except to use the washroom (which was occurring every two hours like clockwork for 2 days straight – imagine shitting out broken glass or barbed wire and that is what I felt like). I would have to say that I reached the absolute bottom. I’m usually an upbeat person, but damn it was hard to stay positive. Then you see 10 year old kids walking around with leukemia and you quickly realize you don’t have it half as bad as them. Suck it up, life goes on and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? So onward and upward.

Upon release it was determined that I picked up an infection in the hospital (C Diff.) which is a result of taking widespread antibiotics. The body’s stomach produces bacteria naturally (lets call it good bacteria) that protects against infections, but because the antibiotics are widespread (not targeted to a certain area) they kill everything including the good bacteria. In my case a “bad bacteria” was picked up and started spreading throughout my stomach/intestines before the good bacteria started to produce. The drug prescribed to kill this is flagyl, nasty stuff, but it seems to be working. I’ll have to take this one for 3 months.

Finally, due to the infection and mass amounts of “the runs”, I developed an abscess (infected cavity filled with pus). This too caused a tremendous amount of pain so it was off to the emergency for a third time. I was given some morphine for the pain – oh baby did it provide some relief. An abscess requires surgery - draining the pus from the infected cavity, making an opening in the skin to relieve the pressure. I met with the surgeon at about 9:00 a.m. and he said the surgery would happen that night around midnight. I looked at him and asked if it would still be him performing the surgery and he replied yes. Now I got a little worried, he’s been at the hospital since 7:30a.m. and is going to operate on me 16.5 hours later – hope he has good hands.

Turns out I went into surgery around 6:00p.m. as an operating room freed up. I must admit I was a little scared about the surgery, although only minor, there are always risks involved with surgery and after no sleep for a couple of days and lots of drugs running through my body, my mind couldn’t help but concentrate on the “what if” scenarios. Once in the operating room they give you a shot of something to calm you down and five minutes later they knock you out. Twenty minutes later I was awake in the recovery room and apart from breathing a bit weird I felt good. It was back to my room for the night in case any complications arose.

The next morning I was feeling pretty good, not too much discomfort. I met with the surgeon and because of what he saw inside, changed my diagnosis to Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is very similar to ulcerative colitis but the inflammation can occur in any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus and usually penetrates deeper into the lining of the affected organ causing more sever symptoms.

Well with everything out of the way it was time to go home and recover from surgery, the C. Diff infection, and my inflamed bowel. After 2 weeks of watching movies and resting I finally feel normal again. There is a little bit of an upset stomach and a feeling of nocuous from all the drugs (21 pills a day in total), but compared to how I was feeling it’s night and day. I can eat pretty much what I want now, but am keeping away from the hot sauce for a little bit. I’ve now started on the main Crohn’s maintenance drug (imuran) which should take full affect after three months.

That’s my life for the past 6 weeks.

A quick note to express my thanks for all the support I’ve received from my friends, family, work and an extra special thanks to my wife because I don’t want to think what it would have been like going through this alone. I guess if I had to take some positives away from this experience it has brought my marriage to a new level after such a short time period and I suppose I will view my health in a new light.

Finally, one last shout out to Lance as per his request – your still gay and I’m going to kill you in fantasy football this weekend, hope that’s what your were looking for lol.
Okay, that was depressing, something more cheerful in the next post I think.

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