Well, it took me a while to write this one because to be honest, the number of times I’ve had to go back to the hospital has been embarrassing. This past Tuesday night I spent 8 hours throwing up bile and had to get admitted once again on Wednesday the next morning. I decided I wanted to go to Kate’s hospital this time because I just needed more personal care than I would get at Stanford. We wanted to go back to a place where we know everyone at the hospital, and Kate would not have to drive forever to come and be with me. I was so sick this time that I do not think I would have made it to Stanford in the middle of rush hour anyways. When we got to the hospital, our nurse Pamela (whose wedding I officiated a couple months ago) could not have given me phenergan fast enough. I had thrown up at least 20 times at this point, and with the bile really irritating my throat had not slept at all that night so the phenergan knocked me out like I was medicated by Michael Jackson’s doctors (sorry, too soon?). The sleep was very welcome relief from the pain in my throat.
The doctors ran some tests and this time showed that I still have an ileus and that section of my bowels is still asleep and being lazy! They can’t figure out why exactly, but the doctors think my body is just taking extra time to go back to normal and will pass eventually. Some ileus’ can last up to three weeks apparently! The tests also showed my liver levels were higher than normal, they thought it was from throwing up, but wanted to do an ultrasound just in case. So the next morning I went in for an ultrasound (yes, the same one they use for pregnant women) and after a period of silence by the technician, I asked, “so how’s it look?”
He paused and said, “you have gallstones, the doctors will come and talk to you… But the way you get rid of them is through surgery… I’ll call transport to come get you.” And then he left me in that room for 15 minutes by myself. Gallstones… I really do need to buy a lottery ticket. I’m not sure what other stones my body can grow at this point, but I would not be surprised if I could grow pearls. It’s hard to imagine what else could go wrong in my abdomen at this point, but it’s life and what I have to walk through, so here we go.
I don’t know why, but a verse from a worship song came to me in that moment and I just started to sing through some tears, “I may be weak, your Spirit’s strong in me, my flesh may fail, but my God you never will. Give me faith, to trust what you say, that you’re good, and your love is great. I’m broken inside, I give you my life.” And since that morning, the truth in those words have been what Kate and I have clung to with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
The next step was to head into a long 2 hour test called a HIDA scan. For the scan you lay under a machine with very little cushion for your butt (especially for my flat asian butt) and pump your IV with radiation which makes your gallbladder glow and constantly take pictures to see what’s going on in there. With all the radiation I’ve had this month, I’ve accepted the fact that I may grow a third eye in the middle of my chest. The good news is that while I have gallstones, my gallbladder is not infected which means I did not have to go back into surgery right away. This is good news because they really did not want to have to go back in so soon after my other surgery and I could go back to Stanford where they know the new layout of my bowels like the back of their hand.
They sent me home later that night and I actually got to spend a Friday at home for the first time since this all started on September 11th! I decided I wanted to get out and enjoy that thing they call “sunshine” with my family. These past few weeks have made me realize how easy it is to take little things for granted like sitting around a table and eating breakfast together. Since it has been so long since we’ve done anything with Gmoney, we took her to the zoo for a bit and went on some rides where she rode solo for the first time!
Later Friday afternoon we had a follow up with Stanford where we filled them in on my last hospital visit and the new hitchhikers I have in my system, the gallstones. The gallstones most likely developed because of my rapid weight loss in the past few months after my gastrectomy. Since my gallbladder is not infected, the doctors prescribed me some medication that will hopefully shrink the gallstones so I won’t have to go to surgery right away, if at all. Right now, however, what the doctors are the most concerned about is my weight since I’ve lost about 14 pounds in the past three weeks. Since coming home from the hospital for the fourth time, I have been VERY gun-shy around food and have stuck to mostly liquids, but unfortunately is not the most nutritious. The worst case scenario at this point would be to put in an IV that goes into my chest called a TPN line which can give me proteins and other nutrients until I am back on track. Along with our surgical team here is the game plan we came up with for right now:
1. Get me to go a week without having to go to back to the hospital.
2. Try and shrink the gallstones with some medication and return for another ultrasound in three months. I was also prescribed some medication to help thin out the bile so when I get those gnarly episodes again I can at least protect my esophagus from getting destroyed. They told me protonix would be useless at this point since I do not have a stomach, but I’m not taking any chances, those episodes are awful.
3. See if I can, at minimum, level out my weight or put on a little bit by our next follow up appointment next Friday.
Each time we go back to the hospital Kate and I feel like we want to withdraw from our community even though we know that is the opposite of what we should be doing. It’s hard not to feel like a burden in these moments, but our community (you) have been incredible as always.
So we wanted to give a special thanks to everyone who visited us in the hospital, brought us meals, took care of our house/dogs, took care of Evangeline, started prayer chains, dropped us encouraging messages, and the other various ways you have reached out to us. I’ve been particularly surprised this go around by the people that God has brought into our lives from unexpected places and whether they have known it or not, have been super encouraging! Thank you for not giving up on us. It means the world. Thank you for being our strength when we feel like we have nothing left. Thank you for not withdrawing from us even when we’ve wanted to withdraw from you.