Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Sudden Surgery

I just had surgery last Friday. I'm doing fine, but I had a scare.

I woke up at 5:30 AM with what felt like stomach acid pain in my stomach. I had no antacids in the house. I was not nauseous. I did not have diarrhea. The pain grew as the morning went on. I had to make a move.

I decided I did not want to drive the 25 miles to Duluth to my GP's office. It was a Friday in Atlanta on the cusp of Memorial Day weekend. What a drive that would be. Instead, I decided to stop by Rite-Aid and get some Tums. See if that helped. If not, then I would drive a couple of miles to a nearby Urgent Care clinic. Tums did not help.

The MD at the clinic wasn't sure what was wrong. He said it was either my gall bladder or bad gas. He sent me for an ultrasound and told me to go to the emergency room by Saturday if I was not better. He clearly didn't understand how bad the pain was.

After a short drive and about an hour wait, I had my ultrasound. The tech told me it was my gall bladder. She gave me a CD of my ultrasound and called the MD. They tried to set me up for a surgery consult at the local hospital, but no one was on duty. I would have to just sit in the emergency room. I've done that too many times. I decided another route.

I called my GP on his cell. I left him a message as to what was going on. He called me within five minutes, told me he would make some calls, and then he would call me back. I drove back home.

My GP called me back in about 15 minutes. He had made arrangements for me to go to the emergency room at St. Joseph's. They knew I was coming. He also found out the surgeon on call there had also performed my GP's gall bladder surgery. What a stroke of luck! He knew I was coming too. The only hardship was driving the 20 miles to St. Joseph and fighting all the traffic in a lot of pain. It took 45 minutes.

After a short wait and an intake, the attending physician and surgeon consulted on my ultrasound. I was told the surgeon would be there soon. They gave me pain meds. Oh, the relief. When you have that kind of pain, you would welcome death for relief.

I met the surgeon. He told me he would operate that day. By then, it was late afternoon. Events quickly took place. I had the surgery, was kept overnight, and was discharged on Saturday morning. I drove myself home, although I had friends who offered to help. Thank them all.

I am on a low-fat diet now for about two weeks as my body adjusts to not having a gall bladder. I have some minor pain from the four small incisions, but I feel a lot better than I did on Friday.

I try to imagine what I might be facing if I had not kept COBRA insurance after my job layoff in January. (In another 12 months, I won't even have COBRA. It expires after 18 months.) I would have thousands of dollars in bills with no income or might have been denied the surgery. That's what many Americans face every day. We need a public universal system. No one needs to be forced into bankruptcy or denied medical care because they are too poor to pay their medical bills.