The Agricoli have returned from our annual pilgrimmage to Montana, the Big Sky country. Usually a time spent with the in-laws fishing, visiting the neat town of Bozeman, and generally relaxing, this vacation had a nasty surprise in store for your scribe. 3 days in the hospital, followed by several days of recovery in the rustic cabin, effectively reduced the trip to an extended medical experience that we would wish on on one. Details as included in an e-mail sent to some concerned friends:
Subject: My trip to the Bozeman/Deaconess Hospital
Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2006 15:39:14 +0000
As some may know, Maia and I left Charleston at dawn last Friday for our long awaited 8 day trip to the Gallatin Canyon to spend some time with her parents and to reintroduce the trophy trout population to my presence. At midnight Thursday, I awoke with a severe case of "indigestion", followed soon after with several hours of awesome nausea. When Maia came into the kitchen at 3:30 AM to get us ready to go to the airport, we made the decision to see if I could fly out the next day. The airlines were uncooperative, so we decided to stick with the schedule and get to Montana.
The 3 flights were hell, as I progressively worsened. My "indigestion" began to assume the aspects of the dreaded Pancreatitis, but we had no choice but to press on.
As some of you may know, I have weathered other occurrences of Pancreatitis, and survived with the help of Vicodin and a diet of ice chips for 2 -3 days. Upon arrival in Bozeman, we were met by Maia’s parents and taken to our rustic, but glorious, cabin in the Gallatin Canyon, hard by the banks of the river. Alas, the soothing sounds of the river and my intense desire to start losing flies in the brush and trees at streamside were not enough to overcome the by-now INTENSE pain in my belly. After an hour of writhing on the bed, I was talked into visiting the hospital in Bozeman (45 minute drive) to be certain I did not have a ruptured appendix or was undergoing a cardiac "event".
We whisked into the emergency room and I was immediately put down by the staff. A resident looked at me, poked at all the tender spots, and agreed that I was not having a cardiac event and was likely suffering from the dreaded "P". Bloodwork quickly confirmed his (and my) diagnosis, with the evidence being highly elevated lipase enzymes and triglycerides that would make Grover Cleveland proud. My rating of my pain as a 9.5 out of 10 (who really knows what pain at 10, on a 1- 10 scale must feel like?) triggered the staff to ask if I would like "something" to make me feel better.
That something turned out to be Morphine, administered intravenously. The relief was partial, my faculties (including wit) were retained, but I did stop groaning, to the relief of the entire Emergency Room. By now, I had been put in the hands of Dr. Sarah Bronsky, the attending physician on call at the hospital that night. There was a flurry of arrivals at the ER, including a criminal with police escort and the victims of an auto accident. Their presence diverted the staff’s attention away from me for a few minutes, but when Dr. Bronsky stopped by my cubicle and saw the pain etched on my face, she firmly requested that the nurse give me a second dose of Morphine. This load was delivered within a minute or two, was apparently a larger dosage, and instantly sent me to a place I have never been before. I could feel the drug move into my hand, quickly up my arm, and then flood my body, particularly my very painful belly. The sense of "knock down" was so over whelming that I thought, apparently with my last clear thought, that I was crossing to the "other side". When the lights faded, but did not go out, and the pain receded, I dimly understood that I had, at last, received the proper dosage.
The next few hours are a bit vague, but there was an x-ray and a cat scan that revealed the greatest "Ad vs Pancreatitis" battle yet. I was admitted to the hospital and spent the next three days receiving an IV drip with Saline and Potassium, daily extractions of copious amounts of my precious blood, more pills than you can imagine, and suffered the indignity of the measurement of "all" bodily excretions" by an extremely vigilant nursing staff. One of the highlights of the first 24 hours in my very nice single room was learning to use my self administered pain pump, but the thrill of a legal high was pretty much gone by the second day.
I was released yesterday at 7:00PM, approximately 72 hours after arrival. The care was first rate, I wish Dr. Bronsky practiced in Charleston, the hospital is very nice, and the nursing staff was uniformly attentive and friendly (if a little too vigilant for my taste). Friends, if you ever have to get sick away from home, my advice is to do it in Bozeman.
I am still too feeble to fish today at Nelson’s Spring Creek, a premier spring creek in the world, for which reservations are needed many months in advance. We had planned to refresh our casting memory for a few days before tackling this very technical fishing, but alas. I think I may spend the time left fishing the beautiful Gallatin, which is not a poor substitute.
As a result of this attack, several things have changed. Although I have not, apparently, damaged my Pancreas beyond its ability to self-repair, I do not have the luxury of exposing myself to future attacks without a serious risk of permanent damage. Thus, diet and lifestyle are being modified. Alcohol, a dear friend and steady companion for nearly 40 years, is being banished from my kingdom for a significant period, mayber forever. Alcohol, for those of you not as knowledgeable as me on such matters, is a major factor in creating Triglycerides. Triglycerides and the Pancreas are not friends. A normal body has a Triglyceride number of about 100 – 150. My number, for years, has been in the 250 – 500 range. Anything over 1,000 triggers Pancreatis, at least in my body. Fat is the other creator of Triglycerides, and you all know how we deal with that. No liquor and no fat………..how much fun will I be?
Secondly, the reduced efficiency of my pancreas means less insulin, the major product of the Pancreas. Less insulin means more glucose in the blood, which is Type II Diabetes. I am currently taking 1 shot of Insulin, at night, and with the assistance of Nurse Maia, to help my Pancreas and my naturally produced insulin lower my glucose level. The doctor says this is a temporary thing, and I can only hope she is right. So, if you see me at a party, with a clear drink and a lime, having left untouched the glorious food on the tables, and I’m in the corner giving myself a shot with a very small needle, please know that I am not an alcoholic unable to process food, but addicted to Heroin. Rather, I am a healthy male, doing the things I need to do to live a long, happy life, and your support and discretion will be much appreciated.
And I will be available for further questions, if any.
Update: We have now returned to the comforting embrace of the Lowcountry, 19 pounds lighter and still recovering, determined to forever monitor fat and sugar in all of their clever disguises, and with a warning to our reader(s) to pay attention to their triglyceride and glucose levels. Mr. P is a bad man, and you do not want to mess with him.