Nick Riviera

You would think, if I were excited about blogging again and started a new site to promote it, that I would have written a few more posts by now.  The problem is, I got blind-sided by something called pancreatitis… and diabetes.

A little over a week and a half ago, I arrived at work. I had just returned from a two-week vacation, and this was my second day back. Not long after I started my work day, I started to feel this pain in my left side. It progressively- and quickly- got worse. Pretty soon I was in enough pain that I found it difficult to concentrate on what I was doing. I called my family doctor, and they were able to get me in for a visit and I headed out. At the doctor’s office, a Physician’s Assistant saw me and decided to do a urinalysis. We both were thinking along the same lines; namely, that I had a kidney stone. When they were done the urinalysis, the PA asked me if I had diabetes. I told her that two years ago I had blood work that tested borderline for having diabetes but that the doctor had suggested trying diet and exercise (full disclosure: I was crap at these two things for the past two years). The PA said they found sugar in my urine, which was a red flag for them. So, along with ordering a CAT scan for me STAT, they also ordered some blood work.

So I trudged over to the hospital. The X-Ray department gave me these two awful liquid vials to drink, since the CAT scan was going to include an iodine contrast; namely, they inject me with iodine, and along with the disgusting “shake” they can see what’s going on inside of me. I start drinking the devil drink while I headed over to get my blood drawn. I had to come back a few hours later to get my CAT scan, and I was still in a lot of pain. I finally had the CAT scan done and waited around over 90 minutes for results, which came back negative for kidney stones (and diverticulitis, which they also suspected could be the culprit). I spoke to the PA again, who told me that my blood work showed that I was diabetic, and that one of their nutritionists would contact me. She also said they would refer me to a GI specialist… and that was it. I went home, still in pain. I tried taking Aleve but no joy.  I couldn’t lay on my sides because that would make the pain worse. Every time I breathed I could feel a sharp pain in my side. I literally was up all night, unable to sleep and get relief. Somehow I dozed off around 6am and slept for a couple of hours.

When I woke up, I contacted the GI specialist, who told me that the soonest they could see me was on Monday. This being Thursday, I couldn’t imagine putting up with the pain until then, and told them so. They gave me a few things to try, none of which worked. Finally, it got to the point where I told my wife that I just needed to go to the emergency room. She drove me there and I waited for about an hour before finally getting taken to a bed. They hooked me up to an IV and did blood work, which obviously showed the diabetic problems and also showed elevated levels regarding the pancreas, as well as triglycerides that were through the roof.  They gave me Dilaudid for the pain and told me that they were going to admit me overnight to keep an eye on me and get me fluids (as I was also dehydrated).

What started as an overnight stay turned into a 5-day excursion, and the truth was slowly unveiled. First, I had pancreatitis, which was being caused by the high triglyceride count as well as being agitated by my diabetes. On top of that, my diabetes was causing me to be dehydrated. And finally, a few days in, they told me that I had developed pneumonia.

Things slowly began to work out over my 5-day stay. They kept me on a clear liquid diet most of my time there to help my pancreatitis, along with giving me different combinations of liquids. They gave me insulin to help get my blood sugar down (it was very high). And aside from being on IV fluids most of the time, they gave me the medication for my pneumonia and pills to lower my triglyceride levels.  I was very tired during and after my hospital stay, and I barely wanted to watch any television, let alone check Facebook, Twitter, or do anything Internet-related on my phone. I just wanted to vegetate and get better.

I was also reminded of my teen years when I worked at a nursing home. There were a few old patients on my floor, and (at least) one of them had dementia.  She kept calling out in the middle of night, in a half-crying, half-moaning shrill of pain. As I was laying there, half-dazed by the Dilaudid, I heard this lady crying, only to be interrupted by another gruff old woman. “Shut up!” she cried to the moaning woman. “Shut up! No one wants to hear your crying!”  The other lady retorted, saying that the she wouldn’t shut up, but the gruff lady kept yelling at her. I kept hoping that the nurses would break it up… but not too quickly, as this was pretty entertaining. Eventually, they separated them, and a few nights later, I could still hear the dementia lady continuing her lamentations like a confused, worn-out Siren.

Obviously, the biggest long-term issue coming out of this experience is my diabetes. I have been eating very differently since leaving the hospital, keeping track of my blood sugar levels and taking insulin (for now).  It’s brought about a much-needed change to my routine and, while I regret that it came to this, in the long-run it will be better for me. I am just grateful that I had my wonderful wife to be at my side and help me through this ordeal.  And hopefully now, she will have me for a lot longer as a result.

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