Surviving pancreatitis

by Buddy Gomez

Posted at Aug 14 2014 02:56 AM | Updated as of Aug 16 2014 10:15 AM

ERCP……what in heaven’s name is that !!!

Please welcome me back into your Cyber Parlors. It was an involuntary disengagement that involved an absence from a nascent undertaking, engaging in information exchange, entertainment and discourse via this blog. And at the suggestion of my editor, I share the experience. I am complying.

Nothing really close to be being fatal but the extreme discomfort and excruciating pain that knocked me off to whooosyland commands me to share counsel with y’all the virtues of moderation in life. Ultimately, human ailments are all caused by lifestyle. It is a choice! Yours. And mine.

For the macholoverboynik, foodie Filipinos, this could some what be of a challenging and daring nature.

It all began with a foully painful stomach soon after dinner that kept me awake all night, followed by an emergency appointment in the morning with a primary doctor who prescribed medications, with instructions that I submit myself to laboratory and blood tests, which had to wait for Monday, what with the intervening July 4th weekend. Instructions were promptly complied with.

Due to unabating pain, I drove myself to an emergency clinic just before midnight, July 5, where in the process of elimination, I was administered ECG (electrocardiogram), to ascertain it was nothing cardiac, first of all, and followed by my ultrasound. They suspected acid reflux. Really, a very miserable heartburn, a burning sensation in the esophagus, radiating pain in the chest and the pit of the stomach just below the sternum, so severe that it is almost like a heart attack. Esophagus is that tube, the food pipe that brings food, liquids, saliva to the stomach.

Then, sedatives to ease the pain and to aid sleep. Monday, first hour, I submitted myself to the lab, with instructions that my primary physician be informed of the results en seguida.

Just when I thought matters were calming down, the laboratory tests results were in Tuesday before 2:00 p.m., July 8. This was the last solid meal I had, half a sandwich of bread and potted meat. (btw, processed meats are to be taken very sparingly and with caution……salt content!)

There was a telephone recorded message that I bring my myself to emergency hospital admission as soon as possible because my liver evinced unusually high elevations of enzymes. These are the cleansers that remove toxins from our bodies. July 8. I never left until August 2. From the Methodist General Hospital, part of a huge complex known as the South Texas Medical Center of San Antonio, Texas.

Let me cut in, in medeas res, at the point when I was introduced to ERCP, that is, “Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography,” 2 mornings after admission. It is a procedure. Dr. Bassem Mazloum, a gastro-enterologist diplomate, says “nothing to it.” “I’ve done it a thousand times!” The last I remember, I was asked to lie on my side. It must be uncomfortable because anesthesia/sedation was required. While out, an endoscope, a flexible lighted tube, say, with a mini-tv camera at the end, was inserted through the mouth, down the throat into the esophagus, the stomach and the duodenum. That is where they found a stone lodged in the duct. (I have a color photo sheet with four panels showing the duct and the stone at the entrance of the pancreas.) An inflamed pancreas. Cause: alcohol and gallstone!!! Telltale marks of a lifestyle long embedded.

All these years, there had been a build-up compounded by neglect and most probably a macho atittude.

For the next three weeks of disciplined liquid diet, fed intravenously, my corpus was also subjected to daily blood draws, twice daily diabetes pinpricks, periodic CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, ultrasounds, I was hooked up to an oxygen thingamagig, a “PICC line”--initials for ‘peripherally inserted central catheter’--inserted in the inner mid-left arm that runs centrally close enough to the heart, through which non-nutrient/pure medication is introduced and/or for emergencies, just in case. This is aside from my right forearm where nutrients are passed on to me, minute-in, minute-out of the day. And, darn of it all, a foley catheter! You know, that thin slender flexible tube that is inserted through one’s manhood, all the way down into the bladder to drain urine and that pesky plastic bag strapped to your thigh! And the first attempt is never done with anaesthesia! The tube was a tad too big. Nothing complimentary there and the third try was certainly no charm either!

I thought I was dying of the pain. I was not. Maybe I was flattering myself, rather cowardly. (Remember Hierba mala? We do not expire, we just suffer some more!!!) But during earlier episodes of nauseous cold sweat and excruciating pain, periodic alleviation only came by way of morphine-induced sleep substituted with dilaudid, when the former proved ineffective. In fact, pain killers came every 6 hours.

On August 2, Saturday morning, I was reluctantly discharged but was summoned by the attending nephrologist to his clinic for a Monday appointment. I was met with a stern admonition and advice that if he were my son, (my son Jose was always my escort and by my side) Dr. Fadi Abouzahr (a French-Lebanese/American) would order my reconfinement. He did. It was Monday, at 1:00 p.m.. My tummy remained distended and bloated and I continued to retain more fluids that I was expelling. This was bad. I obeyed. And so, from his clinic to just a few blocks away, I was readmitted as a walk-in patient. This time, at another hospital within the same complex. The Methodist Specialty/Transplant Hospital. Truly excellent.

On Tuesday, August 5, I had kidney biopsy. There was no talk of of “chemo.t,” neither of C.

On Saturday morning, August 9, I was sent home with a tapering dosage of steroids (Prednisone) targeted at my kidneys for further anti-inflamnation healing, aided by a cocktail of meds. I am resting. I am bored.

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