It all began last month when I “pulled a muscle” in my back (from just getting out of bed that morning, no less). At first I thought I had just pulled a muscle, but the pain got worse through the day, then I started getting “tingling” and numbness down my legs…that’s not from a pulled muscle. I called my primary care Physician who saw me the next day. She determined it was probably a slipped disc and ordered an MRI, which I took that same day. By the next day I had the results: mostly minor arthritis and related things, but there was “degenerative disc disease” at L4/L5 (low back). However, while it was an issue, it was something that could be managed (though not reversed) with physical therapy. The physician referred me to an orthopedic back surgeon and (PAY ATTENTION HERE) prescribed Ibuprofen, 2400 mg/day for two weeks, to reduce the inflammation for physical therapy. That’s a lot of Ibuprofen. I’d been on the receiving end of a duodenal ulcer (caused by the H. Pylori bacterium) that almost did me in a few years ago so I raised an eyebrow and asked “What about my PUD (Peptic Ulcer Disease)?” The doc said “eh, don’t worry about it.” I saw the ortho surgeon a couple days later who concurred with the diagnosis and prescribed six weeks of physical therapy, three times per week. My wife and I also mentioned the high Ibuprofen intake but I don’t think it really “sank in” with him. By the way, I never took the Ibuprofen on an empty stomach.
So off to PT I go. The first session was an evaluation and the therapist thought I probably had a “faset” problem at L3/L4 too: she manipulated my back much the same way a chiropractor might and *CRACK!* Much of the pain moderated significantly. I thereafter dutifully reported for therapy, got some very mild exercises to start doing, and began to feel a little better every day (at least I could quit using the cane I had for most of the day).
Fast-forward to Monday, May 11 (remember that date). Early PT (8am…ugh) scheduled so I got up early, showered, shaved, and had breakfast. While munching on breakfast…*crack*…broke a crown, dammit. So while I went off to PT my wife made an appointment with my dentist…10am that same day, cool. I saw the dentist then came home for lunch, thinking I’d go back to work in the afternoon. Just before eating I used the potty and it looked…weird. Very much like the stools I had before my ulcer a few years ago. Uh-oh, I’ll have to watch that. Finished lunch and I was getting ready to go to the office when I suddenly had to use the potty again.
Blood. Lots of it. And the hear-my-heart-in-my-ears pounding that I remembered all too well.
OK, I’m officially scared (one of the things I found out many months after my first ulcer experience was that if I hadn’t gone to the hospital when I did, I wouldn’t have survived the day) so I call my wife, tell her what’s going on, and ask her to come home from her work. I call my primary doctor’s office, explaining that I needed to be seen right away. “I’m sorry, we’re completely booked today.” Uh…ok. Thinking frantically I remembered the GI (gastric) doctor who took care of me a few years ago. I called his office, explained the situation, and they said sure, come on in.
A few minutes later my wife arrived and we head off to the GI’s office. I’m scared and I’m feeling worse by the minute. I’m a “work in” so we’re sitting in an exam room, waiting. And just as the doctor walks through the doorway…
…I start vomiting blood.
Now the GI doctor is one of the most mild-mannered, easy-going fellows I’ve ever met. But when he saw that he suddenly turned into a drill sergeant, barking orders to his staff, questioning my wife, and telling everyone within ear-shot what was going on and what to do. Luckily the doctor’s office is literally across the street from a hospital so he says he’ll call my primary physician and get me pre-admitted into the hospital’s Emergency Department. They put me in a wheel chair and take me to our car, since it would be faster for my wife to drive me to the Emergency entrance than it would be to call for an ambulance and wait. (Later I found out that the GI doctor ended up doing the actual admission, since my primary doctor told him the same thing they told me: “We’re too busy here right now.” Uh, ok….)
The Emergency Department receptionist had already been alerted I was coming and I was taken directly to a treatment room when I arrived (probably much to the chagrin of the other people in the waiting room. Sorry, folks). I’m only semi-conscious by this point so I’m not exactly sure what all they did, though I remember they started oxygen, IV fluids, drugs to shut down my stomach, plus a bunch of tests. Once I started to stabilize they began talking about doing an EGD (that’s a “esophagogastroduodenoscopy”). I had a similar procedure with my duodenal ulcer: they sedate you and run a tube down your throat and into your stomach. The tube has a camera and a little gizmo that squirts epinephrine onto the ulcer, cauterizing it.
The ER nurse was just about to run a nasal-gastric (N/G) tube down me to flush out any remaining blood in my stomach when the GI doctor called up (he must’ve gotten the test results): “Forget the N/G tube, I want to go in right now. We’ll do the EGD under general anesthesia.” I’m taken from Emergency to Pre-Op where I answer a bunch of questions, sign some release forms, and get some sedation prep. I remember being wheeled into the endoscopic room and the head of my bed being lowered…
…then waking up in PACU (Post-Op). I feel groggy and my throat hurts (I assume from the intubation) but seem to be OK otherwise. I must have fallen back asleep at some point because I woke up again in a regular hospital room with my wife, a friend of hers, and a few nurses. My wife tells me that the GI doctor told her I had two stomach ulcers, one of which perforated an artery. Well, that explains the blood everywhere.
Oh, and did I mention May 11 is our wedding anniversary? Helluva way to spend it….
From there it was recovery. I slowly lost all the tubes and machines I was hooked up to and was eventually allowed to start eating things besides ice chips. The low point was definitely the wee hours of Wednesday morning when all the anethstetics must’ve worn off because I felt like I was hit by a train. But the nurses were great and the GI doctor popped in once in a while to check on me. My primary physician never showed her face.
I’m back home now, tired from the blood loss and medicines but feeling better. I’ll probably be allowed to go back to work in a week or so. I’ll eventually pick up PT again but that’s going to have to wait until I’m more fully recovered. Shaving videos? Honestly, they’re the last thing on my mind right now. At the moment my first priority is getting healthy again…and finding a new primary care physician.