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Last Night in the ER with GB

James Marcus’ article, “Faint Music,” in June 2008 Harvard Review, inspired me to write about my trip to the ER in Murrieta, California, the night of April 7th.

Going back two years, I had a gall bladder attack one morning while I was driving to my new doctor’s appointment, conveniently scheduled it seemed. Her office, however, had failed to call me to tell me my doctor was unavailable. So I went to the local hospital ER, spent the day in pain, but not so severe I couldn’t breath into it to make it better. I managed to drive home to check on my daughter and pets and then drive back, during the time I was supposed to sit there and wait. Eleven hours after the pain began I was home with strict instructions from the doctor how not to eat for the rest of my life, with his recommendation I meet with surgeon and discuss GB removal.

I obeyed his rules for a long time(except for meeting with the surgeon), until I became comfortably secure that I would not ever suffer that pain again. Slowly, I started letting myself have an occasional pizza, then an occasional ice cream and even an occassional mousse. I thought since I have been more and more active, doing native plant tending at a local property, consistently doing yoga, taking hikes and starting to work out, not to mention giving about ten hours a week of deep muscle massage therapy, I would be covered.

But my liberal eating habits, my precarious financial situation, the lawsuit with my lender to keep my home, and months of intensive care for my ailing dog and her recent death all culminated in the form of a gall bladder spasm, due, in part, to gallstones getting stuck in the bile duct.

My holistic friends have been telling me for a long time to do a cleanse to release gallstones and other unwanted material. They swear by cleanses—and it may be the answer. Just wish I could bring myself to drink epsom salts then wait for god knows what to exit the body.

My doctors say its time to get the gall bladder removed, before another GB attack results in a life threatening situation.

My daughter drove me to the only local 24 hour urgent care where I was told my health plan/MediCAL, would not cover me. As I was almost passing out from the pain, we had to negotiate that. Then the doctor came in and said we will give you a shot for the pain. If it does not feel better in five minutes, you should be worried as you could have pancreatitis, which could be fatal. There is nothing else we can do, you need to go to the ER. After I paid them for the shot, a urine test and not much help, $140 later we were watching TV in the nearby hospital ER waiting room, as Sean Penn got separated from his daughter, (blanking on her name), because she was smarter than him.

An hour later I was escorted to my little private place. I have no complaints about the quality of the hospital ER personnel. But I do wonder why one doctor had to be in charge of all of us coming in with emergencies. My male nurse was great and he listened to my daughter tell him how horrified she was with the last place and he confirmed he has heard it before and people never go back there. He gave me something for my pain that took it away in a few seconds. In my haze I was flashing back to my dogs’ last two days, my father’s last few weeks. How vulnerable we all are, how we all need love and care when we feel that way. I remembered my father’s needs his last few weeks, and how I wanted his care to be better. His hospital, like every other, was severely understaffed. I was lying there thinking how health care has to improve, and why it is so lacking, and where does all this wealthy nation’s money go, and even, the sooner we stop wars in the Middle East, the less dire our nation’s health care system will be.

But mostly I was grateful to be there, and thankful as the nurse administered the pain meds, thankful that it appeared not be life threatening, and amazed that my daughter was taking care of me. (More grist for the mill for my process of preparing for empy nest syndrome…..)

Eventually the unltrasound man came to get me and wheeled me on the stretcher through a hall of people lined up in wheelchairs and stretchers (caught in the netherland between ER and hospital surgery?) and we discovered what little things were causing this trouble. Seven or eight gallstones of different sizes were causing the upheaval. The ER doctor came in and said “It is your friends again.” Two gall bladder attacks in two years, so you may want to consider removal of the GB.

He is right, I may want to consider removal, especially since laser surgery is relatively comfortable. But then, I may not. Was this a wake up call to eat better and take care of myself? I have been procrastinating on dental work, and other tests for a while, saying, “when I get time.” I told my daughter the day after our dog Rosie was euthanized that it was time for me to catch up on my own health. Well I guess my gall bladder decided to make sure I didn’t forget. So —- time to decide. I will meet with a surgeon and see what s/he says, cut out most the fat in my diet and maybe even do what I have been attempting to do for years, just eat fruits and veggies.

Today I am fasting on apple juice, because that, I am told, shrinks the stones. Tomorrow I will start eating pears, also good for shrinking the stones, and maybe bananas and apples. I will without much effort lose some pounds which may help.

In oriental medicine the gall bladder/liver represents anger and frustration, perhaps helplessness.

We shall see…..

Next blog: 42 Reasons to stop eating meat (I personally stopped in 1968, with a year or two back on)


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