Updated: My Month In And Out Of The Hospital
*Update at bottom of post*
When I started my weight loss journey in May of 2015, I never envisioned losing 100 pounds. I thought I would fall into the same exhausting pattern of losing, depriving, and gaining any weight I lost back. But for some reason, this time was different. I focused on being healthy, I took baby steps, and I constantly reminded myself that this has to be a lifestyle change. It wasn't easy to adapt healthier habits, especially considering I've been living with a toxic eating relationship since childhood. I worked my ass off to be where I am, and I encounter struggles every single day. But the most recent roadblock was caused by my weight loss, and nothing hurts more than feeling betrayed by your own body and not having any control over it.
It all started about a year ago when I had my first attack. I was on the subway going home from work, and suddenly felt extreme abdominal pain. I was sweating, people were staring and keeping their distance — I decided to get off the next stop and head to the ER. The pain got worse, and it felt like my stomach was going to explode. I was beyond bloated, no sitting or laying position was comfortable, and it felt like a fire was ignited in the middle of my chest. I left the hospital hours later to be told that they had no idea what it was and sometimes bodies are weird. This episode happened again about six months later, and they still had no idea what was going on.
On Wednesday, May 24th, I was in a meeting at work, sitting on the floor (there were no chairs left and I didn't mind), when I felt the familiar sensation of unbearable abdominal pain. I zoned out and someone said, "You don't seem very excited about this initiative haha." I looked up and said, "Something is happening. I need to go to the hospital." Everyone was taken aback, and before I could even register their reactions, I ran out of the room to get water. My former boss called 9-1-1 and skipped his meetings to take me to the ER. (Tommy, if you ever read this, I am eternally grateful and so honored to have you as a friend.)
While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, I was in the lobby of BuzzFeed screaming, "I can't take this anymore! I need morphine! It hurts!" I'm sure everyone who walked by was alarmed by my actions, but it was instinct to say these things. When I got to the hospital, they decided I was suffering from acid reflux. I wanted to throw shit. This pain was NOT from acid reflux — it was too intense. They put me on Pepcid, which didn't work, and after complaining about pain for five hours, they finally gave me morphine — which worked within minutes.
I finally went home that night, but the pain kept persisting for the next few days. I went to my primary doctor to ask for other meds, and after evaluating me, he informed me that I was likely suffering from gallstones. I went to the ER again on Saturday (different location), and after taking an ultrasound, it was confirmed that I did indeed have tons of gallstones. The biggest issue though was that a gallstone got out of the gallbladder and was stuck in my bile duct, which connects to the liver and breaks down fat. So any time I ate food, I would develop more pain (which has been compared to childbirth and a heart attack at the same time). I was admitted and went 30 hours with no food or water until they could switch me to a clear liquid diet.
So the next step was to do an endoscopy to get the stone out. They needed the bile duct to be clear in order to surgically remove the gallbladder itself. They put me under anesthesia, and when I woke up, I found out that what should have been a 30-minute procedure was actually two hours, and they couldn't get the stone out. Apparently my anatomy is weird, and because they spent two hours in there, it irritated my system and gave me pancreatitis. This time I went nearly 60 hours with no food or water.
After one full week in the hospital, I was finally discharged and ordered to come back the following week for a second attempt to remove the stone. To avoid pancreatitis again, they inserted a stent in my pancreas. They got the stone out this time, but the procedure was even longer than the first. I stayed another night in the hospital and wept thinking about the medical bills I'm going to rack up.
On Monday of this week, I went back to the hospital and got ANOTHER endoscopy to remove the stent in my pancreas. Luckily this procedure was actually short with no complications. A couple hours later, I went into surgery to have my gallbladder removed. This type of surgery typically takes two hours; mine took nearly six. Because nothing is fair and my body hates me, there was a huge stone in the gallbladder that made it hard to laparoscopically remove. At hour three, my surgeon almost cut me open, but she decided to just take the extra time. I am so grateful she did that, because if she had cut me open, recovery would have been 1-2 months as opposed to 1-2 weeks.
Right now I am recovering, and it feels like I am extremely sore in my abdomen area. I can't really stand up straight and I can't sleep on my side. I'm on day three now and it's certainly getting better, which is positive. I haven't had any digestion issues yet, but I've been advised to be on a low-fat diet for a week or two and slowly introduce foods over the next month.
And that's why I've been in and out of the hospital for a month! I'm going through a really rough time right now, and it's not a good feeling. I haven't been able to work out in weeks, my eating schedule has been so haywire, the pain meds are affecting my sleeping cycle. It's infuriating that in order to take care of my health, I have to stop my healthy routine. I know I've gained some weight throughout this process, and while that is upsetting, I know that it is temporary. I can't wait to get back to normalcy and feel like myself again.
Update 6/24/17: So all was well in the days following surgery. The pain wasn't that bad, it just felt as if my stomach was extremely sore and it was hard to sit up straight, sleep on my side, and move around too much. Just as I thought I was on the mend, the familiar sensation of a burning chest and an abdomen with an internal ticking time bomb was back. I went to the ER, and after an hour of waiting, they finally gave me morphine. I slept it off, they gave me some regular food, and I was back home Friday at 2pm. Come 6pm the same day, the pain returned, and I greeted the same ER staff with cursing and screaming. They took a CT, a MRI, took my blood, and everything was clear. The surgeon said it must have been a leftover stone that passed. I was admitted for a night and eventually discharged the next day.
At this point, I am losing sleep, I'm afraid to eat, and I have extreme anxiety about the pain returning. And to top it all off, Sunday was Father's Day, and the one person I needed to comfort me couldn't be there. My dad passed away in 2012 from prostate cancer, and while the heartbreak has made progress with healing, it's times like these that crack any emotions I've been holding together. I wanted to throw things, binge-eat, and cry until my tear ducts were dry. I returned to work on Monday — defeated, but hopeful. I went to bed that night and woke up at 3am. Guess what? Back to the ER I went.
They did another endoscopy and everything was clear. My labs were perfect, my blood was perfect, all imaging was clear. My surgeon is confident that it was a loose stone and the pain will not return, but I don't believe that. I was admitted again, forced to be on a liquid diet of broth and jello, and stressing about missing work and racking up even more med bills. I've had many ups and downs this entire weight loss journey, but this is some next-level shit. I've been trying to calm myself down and focus on the positives, but the truth is, I am a basket case.
I'm now on a super low-fat diet, I'm cutting out dairy temporarily, and I'm trying to eat small, frequent meals. The last month has been one of the worst of my life, and I am pleading for it all to be over with. If any of you have experienced complications like this, I would love your thoughts and stories.