The weeks since my medical emergency during our Mexican vacation have been interesting indeed. Regular readers may remember I passed out at a restaurant and was treated by the resort doctor, ambulance crew, and two docs at the hospital. I signed myself out with the promise to seek medical care when I got home.
In a healthcare system where waiting is often the name of the game I’ve been shocked at how quickly things have happened. Unfortunately It’s also a reflection of how serious my problem is. Here’s the chronology of what happened.
February 4: Visit my doctor, who immediately orders blood work to be repeated two days later and then a week later. Finds my hemoglobin (or red blood cell count) has dropped nearly 30 points in about as many days. Refers me to a surgeon for endoscopy (scope of the upper GI tract and stomach).
February 19: Wake up from procedure to have surgeon tell me that the colonoscopy was fine but she wasn’t able to complete the endoscopy. She explains that I have a paraesophageal hernia, which means the stomach has bulged above the diaphragm beside the esophagus.
February 20: Return to same hospital for a barium swallow. Radiologist tells me my stomach is entirely in my chest cavity and has flipped.
February 21: Surgeon calls me (who ever heard of that happening?) to tell me results, and to ask for permission to refer me to another surgeon who has more experience doing the laparoscopicsurgery I need. I ask how long before I see him. She says surgeon to surgeon referral should be faster than GP to surgeon, so not more than a month or two.
February 28: One week later I’m listening to the surgeon explain the procedure and risk factors. Because of my age (I’m so young! Yes!) and the repeated bouts of anemia, I’m a candidate for surgery. The potential for a life-threatening emergency exists if the stomach flips again and becomes ?strangulated? (blood supply to the organ is cut off and it dies), in which case there are literally hours to react, and about half the time the patient doesn’t make it.
So, planning for a scheduled surgery seems so much wiser. Before hearing this I was envisioning asking for it, if necessary, to be done after harvest. Uh, no.
Hospital stay is usually two days if there are no complications. A collapsed lung and/or pneumonia are quite common because they ?peel the hernia sac off the lung and there’s often a tear and the carbon dioxide they inflate the area with? does something or other and blah, blah, blah. There is risk of early re-herniation. My surgeon does 80 per cent of these surgeries in Edmonton, which only amounts to about 20 a year, so It’s uncommon. He’s only lost one patient, who was elderly with other health/heart issues.
The surgery should end the anemia/transfusion drama and allow me to throw away my meds. I say, ?Okay, let’s do it.? And we will, March 27, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.