Friday, June 11, 2010

Dude! You Stabbed Me!

In general, I tend to think I'm a very health person. If I sleep and eat adequately, I have a good energy level, feel healthy, don't get any weird symptoms, etc.

Doctors seem to think differently. I've been getting some weird results on liver function tests for a couple of years now, basically since when I got health insurance while I was living in New York and decided that I should make them pay out some of my money to a doctor. One of the more stressful weeks in my life was in between when my doctor told me, "You have hepatitis!" and when the tests for the A, B and C viruses came back (negative.) Ever since then, when I walk into a doctor's office, the doctor sees a pin cushion.

My liver doesn't look quite right on an ultrasound either, and since I'm not fat, barely drink, and have stopped using anti-inflammatories, it's kind of a mystery. So my doctor decided she wanted a chunk of it. Actually, two chunks.

Yesterday's festivity was giving up those two chunks of liver. I went to the hospital at 9:45am, having not eaten since 1:30am. I wasn't really bothered by that... yet. There, I got to change into a hospital gown and a pair of those awesome grippy socks that hospitals have. Then someone who claimed to work as a bagger at the Safeway across the street took a blood sample, the nurse started an IV, and Adella and I waited for whatever the next thing was. Adella is totally awesome for coming with me. While we waited, I modeled the hospital gown, which is totally sexy. Pictures are linked to from my Facebook.

I knew I was going to be doing a lot of waiting, so I brought my physics and chemistry notebooks, my laptop and my giant calculator. I considered finishing my physics assignment while we waited, but decided that that would just ensure that I got taken wherever I was going for the biopsy and would have to waste a lot of timing figuring out what, exactly, I'd just proven when I got back.

After a while, a guy showed up to wheel me down to radiology, where the biopsy would actually take place. It was to be an ultrasound-guided biopsy, and I guess out of me, the biopsy kit and the ultrasound machine, the ultrasound machine was the least portable. He offered to take the stairs, but then went via the elevator. I practiced my royal wave, to the amusement of hospital staff who are good sports for pretending not to have seen it before.

A nurse asked me to confirm my name. Then a radiologist, or at least a radiology technician, smeared a bunch of teal colored stuff on my abdomen and got out the ultrasound machine. They wanted to make sure not to hit any big veins. A physician assistant showed up to do the biopsy. I've always said I'd rather have a physician assistant or nurse practitioner who thinks it's kind of cool to get to do them than a doctor who's totally over it if it's not life-threatening. The PA stuck me with a needle with lidocaine and injected some at a couple of different depths. That was quite painful, especially at one depth that he said was the perineum, and often quite painful. Thanks...

Next, they got out the actual biopsy kit. I didn't get a great look at it, but I think it's about the size of a meat thermometer, although I think the part they actually stab me with is smaller. Anyway, I couldn't feel that because of the local anesthetic. My doctor wanted two samples, so they stuck me twice. I think in court, that's considered aggravated or something... I think I felt it when the PA actually pressed the button, although the sound was more shocking than the actual sensation. Biopsy thingies are really loud.

After that, it was pretty much over. The nurse showed me the two little chunks of liver - they looked like red, flexible leads for a mechanical pencil. It's slightly disturbing to see things that are formerly parts of my body separated from my body, and in a jar of some sort of solution. The guy who was supposed to wheel me back to my room wasn't there, so the nurse took me back up instead. I asked him if he could make the bed bunny hop. I'm very clever.

On the way out of the room in Radiology where they actually did the procedure, my side and my shoulder started to hurt. The PA had told me about the shoulder pain beforehand, which is good, because it doesn't make intuitive sense and it's pretty intense. Apparently, the swelling from my liver puts pressure on my diaphragm and diaphragm pain gets referred to my shoulder, behind the collar bone. I asked if that was why intense aerobic efforts hurt there, and he said it was. It was cool to learn something new about the way my body works (or protests working.)

By the time we got to Extended Observation, where I was sort-of checked in, my side and especially shoulder were quite painful. I thought that the nurse had been told to give me something, but that may not have been communicated. I also thought I was supposed to be flat on my back for an hour, then get lunch, but the nurse showed up with lunch almost right away. I was pretty hungry, so I decided not to worry too much about that one. It was still a really bad ham sandwich, although the tomato soup was excellent. I also managed to get the pain pill.

I'm not sure what it was; I assume Oxycodone because that's the prescription they wrote me. I think it made me a bit loopy, but I wanted to make sure to let my parents know that nothing bad had happened, or at least no worse than anticipated. Getting stabbed in the liver is kind of bad, I think. So I made a couple of incoherent phone calls, Adella made fun of me, and I took a nap. Apparently I told the nurse several times that yes, it hurt, and someone had stabbed me in the liver. I still think that's funny.

A couple hours later, I got discharged. I put my clothes on and Adella and I went back to her place, where I spent the rest of the day watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and lying on the couch. Eventually, I did get to that physics assignment, and derived a formula that was consistent with the one in the book for the case covered by the book's formula and internally consistent with itself for the case not covered by the book. Integral Calculus is hard...

At the moment, I'm not supposed to lift more than five pounds or exercise. I also haven't had any shoulder pain today - that pretty much went away after yesterday. My side still hurts, though, and I've got a bit of a dent where they did the biopsy.

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