Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm More Than My Gallbladder

So, as you know, the cause of my mysterious stomach problems turned out to be my gallbladder. I had to get rid of it. I scheduled my surgery for the Wednesday before Halloween and got all my ducks in a row. Kids, food, house.....everything was covered. The surgery was scheduled for 2 in the afternoon--not the best time for surgery--because you can't eat or drink after midnight the night before--but it was the soonest available time spot. I figured I'd be too nervous to want to eat, anyway. Mr. Minivan and I headed to the hospital. I had packed a few things just on the off chance that they kept me overnight. Someone had just told me about a friend or relative who had gone in for the same surgery the previous week and had been nauseous from the anesthesia and had to stay overnight. So many people I spoke to had warned me that they had had the same reaction to anesthesia. One friend told me to ask for an anti-nausea drug in my IV. So I was also nervous about that. I always say that the things you worry about usually turn out to be fine--and it's usually something else that you never thought about that is the problem. And so it was. I had no problem at all with the anesthesia. The surgery went longer than usual, which made Mr. Minivan, in the waiting room, a little nervous.

It turned out that two rogue gallstones had escaped and were lodged in my common bile duct, which I think connects the gallbladder to the liver?? I don't really want to know. They had to be removed. The doctor both my internist and the surgeon wanted to perform the procedure wasn't available til Friday, so guess who had to stay in the hospital??? Yes, that's The procedure is called an ERCP--a scope is put down your throat and maneuvers its way down to the duct where a little basket retrieves the stones and pulls them up. What if it can't get them, I asked. I was reassured that they will get them. If the stones are too big, they are pulverized by a little roto-rooter type thing. Thankfully, I would be knocked out. With the Michael Jackson drug. But more about that later. So far the procedure reminded me of those arcade games where you try to retrieve a prize--that you really don't want --with one of those little claw-things. I always dropped the prize as I was pulling it up. I hoped that the doctor was more adept than I. I also was told that during the procedure I would have to have a stent put in--to keep the duct from narrowing as it healed--which would be taken out in a month. Lucky me!!!!

The gallbladder surgery itself turned out to be no big deal--I was a little sore afterward--my stomach sort of felt like I imagine it would after doing hundreds of sit-ups. I can't really say for sure, never having actually done hundreds of sit-ups. I took two extra-strength Tylenols that night and then nothing else. Being in the hospital sucks. I woke up every two hours to go to the bathroom--from all the IV fluids they were funnelling into me. That was at, like, 1 AM, 3 AM, 5 AM. Then at 2, 4, and 6, various nurses popped in to take my vitals, steal more blood, and change the IV bags.

My parents decided to come in from Chicago for moral support and because they were worried and wanted to help out. I admit, it was a drastic way to get them to come, but you do what you have to do......:) The day after the surgery I had a lot of visitors, several friends and one of my brothers, who also lives here. I also met the doctor who would perform the stone retrieval the next day. Turns out he is from a nearby suburb from mine in Chicago. Small world. He started to tell me about the procedure. I stopped him. "I don't really want to hear about it," I said. "Do you want to hear about the risks?" he asked. For sure, not. "No," I said, "because it doesn't matter--I have to have it done anyway. I have complete confidence in you." I then instructed him to go to bed early and to have no more than one cup of coffee in the morning. We don't need any shaky hands.

The procedure was scheduled for 3 PM. Here's the weird part.......they're going down my throat, remember? I was on my stomach. Yep, it made no sense to me either. I didn't want to tell them how to do their jobs, but really.....
So, I'm on my stomach, with my head turned to the side and my right arm propped up on a little bolster. They put a little plastic ring in my mouth that sort of looked like the ring you rip off a gallon of milk, only thicker. The IV drugs (the Michael Jackson drug, I was told) were already flowing. The next thing I knew, I was on my back on another table and I heard, "You're done!" Freaky. They could have done anything to me. NOTE TO SELF: Check for tattoos. The doctor told me they were the biggest stones he had ever seen. I told him I bet he says that to all the girls.

I went home the next day, Halloween, having already had my own personal trick and treat. I was really tired for a while but that passed. I got a ton of flowers, baked goods, and other thoughtful gifts from my wonderful friends and family along with so many messages of support. Thanks to everyone for caring. Mr. Minivan and Boys #1 and 2 were great! It was wonderful to have my parents here...I wonder how I can get them back......luckily humans come with a few spare parts. Maybe my appendix next.....JUST KIDDING. I feel much better. Next on my to-do list.....getting rid of the stent.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Gall of it All

You don't really think about how your body works when it's working right. You just take it for granted. It's when a problem arises that you start thinking about it. For the last few years I have had occasional, random, very painful stomach (or so I thought) spasms. I haven't been able to figure out if there was a certain food that was triggering these episodes, which always came on after dinner, at night, and lasted anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes or so. It's hard to remember. I would feel my stomach area start to spasm, or contract, and disappear into the bathroom--where nothing happened. I got flushed and sweaty and would feel like throwing up but I never did. Sometimes it felt like I couldn't take a deep breath or speak above a whisper. It was scary. The pains would peak and then start to recede. Then everything settled down and I was fine. This happened with no regularity--weeks would go by and there would be another episode. My internist thought it might be spastic colitis. I sort of ignored it until it was happening. A few weeks ago I decided to just deal with it and figure out what the problem was. I was referred to a gastro guy who scheduled an abdominal ultrasound. On the table, I flashed back to the only other ultrasounds I've ever had. Except this time the jelly was warm. Apparently they've made a few improvements in the last 13 years. The technician took a lot of pictures and did a lot of measurements, typing stuff onto the little screen I couldn't really see. I peppered him with questions. "Is this a normal amount of pictures?" "What are you typing?" "Do you see anything?" Of course, he couldn't tell me anything. The doctor had said he might have the results that day. The technician said it would probably be the next day. That night, with no call from the doctor, my mind was racing. "What if the doctor wanted to give me one more good night?" I thought. The next day I got the call--Friday at 5:00. Gallstones. Numerous gallstones. I had never really thought about my gallbladder and now it has to come out. So now I have moved onto the next stage in making myself crazy--looking stuff up on the internet about gallbladder surgery and life after. I've never had surgery before and I am nervous. I have spoken to several friends who've had this surgery and they all say it will be fine. Not to worry. My mother had hers out a hundred zillion years ago--NOT laproscopically--and she is fine. One of my friends, whose surgery was more of an emergency situation, listened to me babble and said, "It's coming out, deal with it!" I suggested she look into a volunteer job counseling hospital patients, but, really, she's right. It has to come out. I meet with the surgeon this afternoon. To be continued......

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Fun With Rice Paper

To see how to make these little beauties, click on this.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Chance Meeting, Continued

Yesterday I had another strange chance meeting that has absolutely no chance of happening. No chance. And yet it did. To me. Again. Almost exactly two years ago I ran into a friend of my aunt's at the Farmers Market in L.A. You can read about it here. Somehow she knew who I was, yet I had absolutely no memory of meeting her before. I met her family, including her daughter. They were all out in L.A. on vacation from Chicago. I probably chatted with them for all of five minutes. That was two years ago. Yesterday I was at the Farmers Market with some friends who were in town from Chicago, my two boys, and my dad, who was also visiting. We were sitting and eating lunch and I glanced down the aisle and saw a young woman pushing a baby stroller. She looked very familiar to me but I couldn't place her. I looked at her two other kids walking beside her and at her husband. He didn't look familiar to me at all so I figured I didn't know her. Here's the weird part. She looked at me, came up to me, and said, "I know this is going to sound a little crazy, but are you E's daughter?" "Yes," I said, "this is so strange, I looked at you and I knew I knew you but couldn't place you." "We're out here on vacation," she said, "and I was speaking to my mother this morning and I told her I was coming to the Farmers Market and she said "Maybe you'll see E's daughter there again." "And this is E's husband," I said, pointing to my dad. Yes, this young woman was the daughter of my aunt's friend who I had met at the Farmers Market almost exactly two years ago. I spent maybe five minutes with her at that time. After she and her family moved on, my friend brought up the point that now she's going to think I hang out at the Farmers Market every day eating lunch! What a strange weird coincidence. What are the odds? Maybe I need to start buying lottery tickets........

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Crazy in a Can

I've been on this new eating program for a couple of weeks....OK, OK, it's a crazy fad diet that I can't tell you about because my mother reads this blog and she will have me committed....but anyway, I was doing a little research on it last week and one man (who loves it, btw Mom!!!) said he bought this canned chicken from Costco and it was great--each can contained just the right amount of protein to split between lunch and dinner. So a couple of days later I was at Costco to return the Magic Bullet I bought several weeks ago in a moment of As Seen on TV weakness, and of course I walked into the store to "see what they have." The sure-fire way to spend money is to return something, isn't it? Anyway, I picked up a pair of Levis for Boy #1, a novel that looked good, 6000 pounds of broccoli, and.....6 large cans of chicken. Think about that for a minute. I bought chicken. In a can. I can only blame this on lack of calories because never in my life have I ever bought any meat or poultry product in a can. Tuna doesn't count. I came home and assembled a salad to top with the chicken. And then I opened a can. Inside were chunks of chicken floating in water. I was a little doubtful at that point, but decided to try it anyway. I speared a chunk of chicken and tasted it. It was salty, very salty. And the texture was what I guess you'd expect of chicken trapped in a can for only who knows how long. I had just consumed my first, and last, piece of chicken in a can. I don't know what I was thinking. Now when I say, "I bought chicken in a can" I realize how crazy that sounds. After all, grilling or baking actual chicken is NOT too difficult. But when I was in Costco, surrounded by industrial size everything, chicken in a can really DID seem like a good idea. I've got 5 cans left......let me know if you want one.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Tiny Little Cyber-World

The other day I checked my email--not my regular email but rather the one I use for this blog. I must admit that I don't check that email account too often because I don't get a lot of legitimate emails. I mostly seem to get stuff from Yahoo and a lot of requests to help people in Nigeria get money due to them--with a portion of it going to me, of course. I get some emails relating to this blog but not a ton. Anyway, I checked my email and I had an email with "Your Brother #2" as the subject--except it actually said my brother's (#2's) name. The email was from a guy who said he had stumbled upon my blog by accident and loved it--"it's a riot and I have bookmarked it"--so I already knew he was discerning and intelligent--thanks Steve!!--and he went on to ask if I was Brother #2's sister. Why, yes, I am. How clever. How strange. The funniest part of the email was this... "and I am assuming that he was the brother you threw against the wall." And, yes, Brother #2 was the unlucky fellow who forced me into hurling him into our living room wall once upon a time ago. This guy went on to say that he had gone to college with my brother and had lost touch with him. He asked me if I could send him my brother's email address. Which I did. And then immediately realized I should have just sent my brother the email and let him contact his old friend. So then I sent my brother an email apologizing for giving out his email address to this old friend. After all, what if he was a serial killer or my brother's arch-enemy?? Then I went back through my blog posts to see what gave me away. I mean--it was only 8 AM on a school day (late start, though) so I really had nothing better to do. I couldn't figure it out. It was driving me nuts. So I emailed my new friend (and possible future president of my fan club as long as he's not a serial killer or my brother's arch-enemy) Steve to ask him how he cracked the case. Turns out he had been at my parents' house a couple of times with my brother while they were in college and recognized my dad from a couple of photos on the blog--or maybe he recognized the furniture. That, along with a few other references to location, was all he needed. If your day job doesn't work out, Steve, the CIA may be hiring....
But really--what a great email to get. It made my day. Oh, and my brother reports he's not a serial killer or his arch-enemy, just an old college friend. From all the way across the country and all the way across decades, it's really a small, small cyber-world.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tax Time

I just bought Turbo Tax and am starting to input my tax info. Turbo Tax is great--easy, helpful, and a whole lot smarter than I am about taxes. I hit a little snag figuring out some cost prices of a couple stocks that I sold last year, so I put the whole pile of papers aside for a bit hoping that a break will help my brain figure out how to compute the cost price of a stock that was received when another stock was taken over and morphed into 4 different companies, each with its own percentage value of the original stock. My head hurts again just typing that. Anyway, I heard on the news today that the state of California is almost bankrupt. I also heard that if you are due a tax refund from California you might receive an IOU that will be paid when the state gets some money. What is up with that??? I started to wonder...does it work both ways? I mean, if you OWE money, can you just enclose a note with your tax forms saying, "I'm a little short right now but this note will serve as your IOU--and when I get some money I'll send it in."??? I'm guessing not, but it sure would be fun!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Dark Side of Facebook

Being the savvy computer gal that I am, I, of course, have a Facebook page. It is so much fun! I am able to keep in touch with friends and relatives from all over as well as people I just met and people I haven't talked to in years. But--sometimes--Facebook can be a little tricky. I have a very good friend who just got a Facebook page. I sort of forced her to--but that's a whole 'nother story. She loves it now, though--updates her status with great regularity. Anyway, her brother--whom I actually know in person-- has a FB page and became one of my FB friends. FB is the kind of thing where you can flit around and see what is going on with your "friends" constantly or once in a while. Her brother commented on a photo of my friend and me, so I checked out his page to see what he was up to. I don't even remember what his status update said--I think it was that he was going to see someone--although on his page, it had the person's name, like he was famous or something. So it said something like "Going to see Tom Cruise" except I didn't recognize this person's name, so I posted a comment like "Who is Tom Cruise?" except I used the other person's name. Get it? Then one second after I posted I saw that that person (Tom Cruise but not really) was listed as one of my friend's brother's friends. Are you still with me? So I posted another comment--something like--"never mind, I see who he is" or something like that. It was so insignificant I have almost no memory of it. Anyway, I was speaking with my friend today and somehow that subject came up and she told me that her brother had gotten so many comments after I posted MY comment that he deleted my comments. Apparently his friends could not believe that he could be friends with someone (ME) who didn't know who Tom Cruise (you know who I mean) was to him. So then I went back on to his page to see if I could see any remnants of this conversation and guess what??? HE DEFRIENDED ME!!!!! Yes, he booted me as his friend! Can you believe that? Well, needless to say, my feelings are hurt. I will bounce back from this, I am sure, in time. I don't even know what I did to be defriended! But as we all know, chicks hold a grudge, so even if he tried to add me as a friend now, I'd just have to press the Ignore button. Facebook can be lots of fun, but remember, there are lots of peeps out there reading what you post. Be careful out there.