Monday, May 17, 2010

Stomach Pains

I think I may have finally got to the bottom of repeated stomach pain I've been having. But first a little history.

I started LighterLife at the beginning of July 2008 at 23.5st. By December 2008 I had lost 8st and was 5 weeks into Route To Management (slowly introducing normal foods). I was very happy.

Christmas Eve 2008, mid afternoon I got very strong constant pain in my stomach, just  at the base of my rib cage, right in the middle. Painkillers didn't help and after 2 hrs I called NHS direct. They diagnosed an indigestion attack. Something I'd never had in my life before. The pain went after about 3 hrs and didn't come back. I enjoyed Christmas and forgot all about it.

In June 2009 I started getting the indigestion pains again on random days but always during the night.  Pain killers would never work and I'd get through gallons of Gaviscon and other indigestion remedies. Always, the only solution was to wait it out for a few hours and the pain would subside. During a motorbike trip in Germany, I was awoken during the night, after a particularly good night out at about 4am. Very severe pain that didn't go after 2 hours. In fact I was 5 hours before that subsided.

This routine continued for a few months with the doctors still treating me for severe indigestion. By August I was on Omeprazole, a proton pump inhibitor. These reduce the amount of stomach acid produced. I also had one trip to A&E for pain relief early one morning after a particularly bad bout which had lasted over 5 hours. Morphine stopped it in its tracks. I had an endoscopy to look inside and see if there was any reason for the attacks, nothing was found and all was normal.

In Sept 2009 the symptoms stopped, no attacks at all for the rest of the year. I made it through Christmas, all the way through to April this year when for no explicable reason the pains came back.

The first severe attack took me by surprise as I hadn't had them for so long. Out came the Gaviscon and Omeprazole that I'd stopped taking months ago. Back to the docs but this time they questioned me more about the location of the pain and if I could think of any types of food causing the problems. I couldn't.

Over the next two weeks I lost a lot of weight as I was in pain nearly every evening and it seemed to be after every type of food. I had 2 visits to A&E and the second visit suggested going back to the doctors as it sounded more like gallstones.

The doctor agreed and booked me in for an urgent ultrasound scan. Fair play to the NHS, I was seen 48 hours later. Sure enough I had a cluster of gallstones about 5mm in size.

I read up lots about gallstones and the gall bladder. It seems one of the causes of gallstones is being overweight and then losing weight quickly. A gallstone attack described my symptoms exactly, even to make a point that over the counter pain remedies have no effect.

I had recently taken out some private medical cover so thought it was time to put it to use. The doctor referred me to a local consultant and I was due to see him last Thursday. However, events took a turn for the worse.

Last Thursday at 01:30 I woke up again with pains in my stomach. This time however I was aware they were very different. The pain was on the left and much sharper. Almost pulsing but getting stronger fairly quickly. Katie took me to A&E for the 3rd time in as many weeks at 04:00.

Usual procedure, install cannular, take some blood, give some morphine. I was expecting the usual wait a few hours for the morphine to kick in and then go home but the pain was getting worse, not better.

After about 2 hours a very concerned doctor came to see me and said “We took a bit longer than usual to get your blood tests back because we ran them twice as we didn’t  believe the results, they were off the charts. You have pancreatitis”. Oh, that sounds serious.

He then explained they were admitting me, and the only treatment was to manage the pain and let the pancreas sort itself out. What happens if it’s caused by gallstones is that a stone comes out of the gall bladder and instead of moving straight out of the system it gets caught in a duct in the pancreas. The pancreas then thinks it’s under attack and, to quote another doctor “unleashes hell” on the infection. Because there is no infection the strong enzymes are release into the  digestive system.

I was fitted with a catheter (another unpleasant experience that I cannot recommend enough) and was on a surgical assessment ward by 9am. However as I was in a new location I needed a new doctor to take on my case and prescribe any medication.

By this time I was in the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. I think I can be one of the few men who has experience as much pain as any woman who has given birth, if not more. It was like someone was inside me waving around a knife cutting me from the inside out. I also think Katie appreciates my comments more that I made at the birth of our two girls.

When a man is present at the birth of his children, he’s a spare part and is there mopping his wife's brow and saying squeeze my hand because he thinks it helps. It doesn’t. You're completely useless and while you want to do anything and everything possible to stop your wife hurting there is nothing you can do.

Katie went through this while I was writhing around the bed in pain waiting for a doctor to prescribe more pain relief. For what seemed like hours I was in so much pain that, thinking back, I don’t know how I managed to cope. I was eventually prescribed paracetamol, tramadol and morphine by IV. I had another cannular fitted and was then given another IV line with morphine and a button that I could press to release it. However it wouldn’t let me overdose so I was constantly waiting for it to light up so I could press it again.

Most of Thursday was a blur of pain, answering lots of questions, being given fluids by IV, observations every 4 hours and dozing. Friday morning I had an MRI scan as they wanted to see if the stone was still blocking the pancreas. It wasn’t, so that saved me from having  another procedure. Late Friday afternoon it was obvious I was going to be in hospital all weekend so I decided to put the recently acquired private medical insurance to use and asked to be transferred to the private wing.

After a lot of last minute negotiations between Katie, the doctors, the nurses and the healthcare company (they shut at 6pm and didn’t open until 8am on Monday), I was finally approved for private treatment until Monday and moved into the private wing at 11pm.

Throughout Saturday I was using the morphine button less and less and no longer had constant pain. It was still there and was like a sharp stabbing if I coughed, sneezed or hiccupped. On Sunday the morphine drip was removed, along with the catheter, the IV fluids and I was taking paracetamol tablets and occasionally the tramadol tablets. I was detached from all the pipes and tubes and was free to move around without getting someone to disconnect me first.

Today, Monday, I was told I would be staying in until tomorrow as I still have some pain. I’ve had more blood tests done and have had to get authorisation from the private medical company for another night. The doctor wants to try and fit me in this week to get my gall bladder removed but has admitted his schedule is very tight. Hopefully if he can’t do it I will be discharged tomorrow, Tuesday to come back at a later date for the operation.

In the interim, now I know it’s gallstones, I also know they can be managed by following a very low fat diet. It’s the fat in the diet that works the gall bladder and gets the gallstones messing things up and infecting the gall bladder.

I also know that the quick weight loss was the likely cause of the gallstones. However I don’t blame LighterLife as it could happen with any method of quick weight loss. Also, if I had to do it again, I would. The short term pain and problems now are nothing compared to the health risks of being morbidly obese.

Hopefully, I put the worst of this behind me know. I  would also like to say a massive thanks to Katie, Rhian and Kira who have been to hell and back with me recently. The doctors and nurses at Frimley Park and the Parkside Suite for exceptional care. To Simply Heath for not adding to an already stressful situation. Finally thankyou to everyone that has send me get well messages recently. they really helped me to stay positive and keep smiling

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