As the stomach turns… Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

So – I went on my merry way. I lived my what-tends-to-be busy life, and felt quite a bit better than I had.

Strangely enough, however, by the end of the week I started feeling not so great again. Not so great enough to break down and take my temperature… 99.9°.

Darn it all.

Then the side pain started again.

…and the shoulder pain.

…and I started feeling all around crappy.

I hated that.

So, I called Dr. Zelko, emailed Dr. Baltasar – and they both said: Oral antibiotics! An RX was called in for me; I picked it up and started it. Voila! I felt a little bit better within about 24 hours, and better and better with each passing day. Started that on June 23rd.

Life went on.

I worked around the house, in the garden, running kids here and there, chasing chickens, etc. I pushed through. I wasn’t 100%, but I pushed through. Cause that’s just what you gotta do now and then.

On July 10th I knew I was getting sick again.

But it was a little different this time.

I was going to physical therapy during all of this – they were treating me for my left ankle and my left shoulder. There’d been a supposition along the line that during my ankle surgery – about 4 hours on the OR table – my shoulder may have been dinged somehow. It really hadn’t been bothering me until I became mobile – but I chalked that up to my weeks of toes above the nose. But the therapy didn’t seem to be making things better. My physical therapist was beginning to believe that it wasn’t actual shoulder pain at all – but referred pain – from my gut.

And, interestingly enough, something that hadn’t improved since the last round of antibiotics was my left shoulder pain. It kept getting worse. Creeping up from non-existent on the 1 to 10 pain scale, to 1, to 2, to 3, to 4 – sustained.

And my gut – it was – well – more tender. Less centralized. Instead of all of the pain being in the upper left quadrant – honestly, most of it was there – there were occasional significant pains coming from other areas in the gut, as well.

And my fevers… Before they’d start low – and then build their way up. Then I’d go to bed at night, the fever would break, and I’d be covered in sweat, but fever free in the morning. This time they started higher, and weren’t breaking.


But I decided it couldn’t be that big a deal, and I should just be tough. After all, I had a nephew and niece – who live out of state – visiting before they returned to their home. And I had berries to pick and jam and syrup to make. And a BBQ at the house. And patients to meet with. And kids to take to orthodontist appointments. And physical therapy to go to. And dishes and laundry to do. And emails to answer. And baby chicks to sit in the yard and marvel at…

By the 21st I was on the phone to Dr. Zelko’s office again. His MA told me that he’d be in surgery all that day and the next, but she’d get the message to him, and he would call back. I knew that. He always does. He’s just that kind of guy.

Tuesday evening I lay down on the couch. Cause I felt like crap. And I hurt. And I couldn’t get any further.

There I pretty much stayed.

Wednesday I started thinking thoughts like, “Maybe I do need to be in the hospital.” And “I wouldn’t even mind an IV about now.” And “Maybe I should just call Dr. Zelko up and ask him to put me in the hospital.”

Not normal Dina thoughts.

When his office called that afternoon, Dr. Zelko’s MA directed me to go in and get a lab draw done to check CBC and ESR. The lab said they’d have the results to Dr. Zelko by the end of business that day.

Thursday afternoon the MA called back. Dr. Zelko was dashing out the door of the operating room and had a flight to catch. She said my labs were indicating recurrence, and he wanted me to do another round of oral antibiotics and go for a follow-up CT scan the next morning. Then she paused and said, “Dina, how are you? You sound… not okay.”

And so I confessed.

I just really and truly was NOT okay.

I gave her the run down. Including that my sustained pain was hovering right around the 8 or 9 level – without any relief.

This MA is young. I’m thinking 20’s – I’m technically old enough to be her mother. She’s cute. She’s perky. Did I say young? This is the point in time, though, when my impression of her changes tremendously.

In no uncertain terms she said to me, “Go to the ER now. Tell them who is sending you that you need a CT evaluation, and they should report back to me!” She got the stern Mom voice down very well. It will serve her well in future life, I’m quite sure.

So, I packed a few things – I kinda assumed I’d end up in the hospital – possibly overnight, maybe a couple of nights – and did some things around the house while I waited for John to get home. I really just wasn’t up to driving by that point in time.

So we went to the Good Sam Emergency Room – the hospital where Dr. Zelko’s group works out of primarily – and walked in. I maybe spent 5 minutes total between sign in and getting back to an exam room. I was talking to the ER doc within 10 minutes at most. He agreed that I needed labs and CT, and they’d get right on it. And they did.

It was probably just a couple of hours since I’d arrived when the results came back. The abscess was back, it was bigger, there were gas bubbles again, and they were admitting me.

They started an IV antibiotic, fluids, and offered morphine. I took them up on it.

Okay – little aside here… I have this one little thing. I’m trying to decide if I should say something to Dr. Zelko about it or not. I’m just not sure. The attending in the ER came and talked to me several times over the course of the time I was there. He was nice, kind, thorough, efficient. I liked him. Right before they were getting ready to send me up to the floor he came back in and said, “So you talked to Dr. _____.”

I looked at him with a question mark on my face.

“He said he came in and talked to you.” He clarified.

Now – yes, I had accepted morphine. They offered 4 mg, I accepted 1 mg. I’m a total light weight and I didn’t want to be too stoned to not know what was going on! I was lying on a bed in a hopping ER with the curtains about 3/4ths of the way closed and I had chosen to lay back, close my eyes, and concentrate on relaxing. I did not fall asleep.

I had sent John home because he had to be up at 4am the next morning for work.

So yes, it was just me. But I’ve not been sleeping well (IDA again, darn it all!) and sleeping as light as can be – awakening at just about everything. So even if I had dozed off – which I didn’t – I would have known if someone had talked to me.

I looked back at the attending and said, “No. I did not talk to Dr. _____.”

He looked confused. Shook his head a little, but then said, “Huh, okay. Well, we’re just about to send you up to the floor. We’re relaying all of the blow by blows to Dr. Zelko and his group.”

I’m a little hacked off. Did someone say they came and talked to me and didn’t? It was a resident I later learned. Was he trying to cover his butt? Hmmm…. What if the information he was supposed to convey to me was truly pivotal – and potentially life threatening to me, the girl with the full typed sheet of allergies to medications and substances, foods, and environmental agents?

Hmmm… Just not sure if I should mention it or not.

Before too long I was settled in my room on the Sixth Floor and meeting my fabulous nurse Andi. I was, of course, NPO once again. Pain medication available as needed. And the order to REST and HEAL.

The next morning I had kinda a scary nurse. Not just cause he was a guy. He wasn’t used to working on the floor I was on – he’d been floated from his regular floor to mine, and well – he was less than confident. Why does that make me so nervous? I stopped him more than a few times before doing something that should not be done. Needless to say – not much rest that 12 hour shift!

A young doctor who had been assigned to be a liaison between me and Dr. Zelko – who actually WORKED with Dr. Zelko – had been in surgery with Dr. Zelko when he was given the message that things were acting up again for me – came in and introduced himself. I know I shouldn’t make snap judgments about people – I really try not to. But this guy – it was impossible not to. He just made me smile. Kind, gentle, soft spoken, respectful, a listening ear and heart, with incredible attention to detail. He asked if I’d mind if he pulled up a chair to sit while we talked and reviewed stuff. No, I didn’t mind at all. Dr. David Hampton. Keep an eye out for him Portland – he’s going somewhere. Dr. Zelko is picky about who he works with. That’s yet just another reason that I like him so well.

Young Dr. Hampton was just so calm, it was impossible for me to not be affected by that – so when he said that I’d be sent later on in the day to Interventional Radiology where they’d – with the aid of CT images – stick a needle through my side somewhere (assumedly NOT through my titanium mesh!), attempt to locate a pocket of fluid large enough to tap and withdraw, so that cultures could be grown – I really and truly did not panic.

Now – I knew that this would be a possibility. It had been talked about as a possible diagnostic tool. When I’d known other patients who’d had it done – honestly – it FLIPPED ME OUT! A NEEDLE THROUGH MY SIDE? HELLO? AM I THE ONLY WUSS IN THE WORLD WHO THINKS THIS IS INSANE?

So, maybe because I knew it was a possibility I didn’t flip out then and there. Nah, honestly – I think it was more about the fact that God was with me, people were praying for me, and Dr. David Hampton has the kindest gentlest spirit and inspired confidence. It didn’t hurt that he emphasized that the sedation would be just the same as when I’d had the endoscopy/colonoscopy – which to me translated to: WON’T REMEMBER A BLESSED THING!


I can do this.

And I did.

…to be continued…

Part 1
Part 2


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