Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Dramatic End to Vacation

​All good things must come to an end…and vacation is one of them.  We had a fabulous vacation.  It was much needed.   It was productive.  It was too short.  And sadly, it ended on a bad note.


In my last post I shared the news (and before pictures) that we were on a staycation and that we were going to be spending a bulk of our time painting our barn with some outdoor hikes thrown in for good measure.    As the aforementioned post indicated, we were off to a good start with painting and a day at a lake in the Micheaux State Forest.  

I am happy to say that the painting is done!  (Well it is done as far as we planned to be done).   The shed looks so nice all freshly painted!

We look like we care now!!! 

We also did get up to Cowans Gap (a PA state park).  It was crazy seeing it with the water in the lake let down (basically the lake with no water).  Just for reference…we had been up there in February with Zoey when she was about 4 months old.  (Why the pictures never made it to a post back then is beyond me).  Here is what the lake SHOULD look like.  

But the water has been let down in order for them to work on the dam and to reclaim the sand from the beach.  It looks so different (sorry no pictures from the same spot as Zoey still wouldn’t go across the grate bridge at the dam and while we carried her the last visit she was only 40 pounds). But you can see the difference with these pictures!

What a difference!  We had a good time though!   And we wore Zoey out!  

The vacation time went way too fast and before we knew it we were heading into our last day of vacation!  It was the last day when things turned around!

Drama and Pain

The last morning we were awaken by a sick dog.   Yeah, nothing like being awoke from a blowout…oh my, the smell!   It happened once or twice more…and you could tell it hit and she just didn’t have the time to alert us that she needed to go out.  She was miserable.   I felt so bad.  But as the day progressed she seemed to perk up and by mo day she seemed back to normal.   But due to that I spent my morning scrubbing out her crate…and the cleaning some carpets.  (The joys of having a pet).  I didn’t eat breakfast because I honestly just forgot in the craziness.  

I was in the shower when I first felt the pain.  It was high in my stomach.  Just under my breast…dead center.   The first time it was just an ache that swept over me.   When it happened my only thought was ‘dude I need to sit down’.   I rushed through my shower and sat down.  And relaxed.  It passed pretty quickly and I went on with my day.  I don’t remember it hitting me badly again during the early part of the day.   I was still feeling good, and took the time to make salads for my week and I put together a tray of lasagna for our dinner on Monday night. And I even finished a bit of painting on the shed (the hardware).  Little twinges of discomfort hit me but nothing too bad.  However as the day progressed the twinges of discomfort started coming at more regular intervals.  I even felt a bit nauseous.  I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything all day and thought that must be hungry (a foreign concept for me…and one that always throws me for a  loop when I feel a true hunger pang.  I have had issues of this in the past, where I am actually hungry but THINK I’m sick because I interpret the hunger pains as sickness.). By the time dinner rolled around I was feeling bad.   But I forced myself to eat…still convinced that it was hunger pains.   Food didn’t exactly make it better but it didn’t seem to make it worse.    I did however tell Jason, ‘I just don’t feel right’.

I went to bed, reluctantly because I was dreading going back to work!  I remember waking up and before I even got out of bed thinking , oh thank heavens, the pain is gone’.   But I was mistaken.  I started to move around and voila, the pain was back.  This time I was sure it was stress.   Vacation had been relatively stress free…and going back to work and back to real life brought it all crashing back.  Makes sense right?  I was sure that’s why I was feeling pain in my upper abdominal area….notice I was refusing to think any higher to heart!  After all, that had happened to me before where I had chest pains and it turned out to be stress (and apparently all tests at that time pointed at me being healthy as a horse).   I ignored the pain and went to work.

At work, I just wanted to lay my head down on my desk and cry as the pains intensified and washed over me.  It came in waves.  I’d have a bit of time where it was just a dull ache…but then it would hit and I would just curl up (literally) as the pain rocked through me. I was in tears more than once.  Taking the dog out was pure madness…I was feeling horrible.  The mere thought of food or drink made me want to hurl.   So nothing passed my lips…which only added to how miserable and weak  I was feeling I’m sure.   

By 1:00 pm I was at my wits end. I never call off sick! But I did.  I slept the afternoon away (discovering if I laid on my side the pain almost totally disappeared).  But when the pain came back it hit with a force if I moved from that one position even if it was to recline on my back.   The dog was a mess….she just wanted to lay on me and take care of me…but 100 pounds on top of someone that is wracked with pain wasn’t a good thing.

I started to get concerned…could this be my heart?  After all, I have had two people from my school years have heart issues.  I didn’t do anything….not until Jason came home.  (I honestly didn’t want to drive I felt that badly and off kilter).   He took me to the ER.  (I knew urgent care would say ‘possible heart’ and ship me to the er anyway).    Immediately upon arrival they did an ekg. (Literally; before I even got a room,  they did an EKG).  When the doctor saw me the first words out of his mouth were ‘your EKG looked good’.  Which of course is not definitive….but a good first sign.  They drew blood to test my enzyme levels. (Apparently when you have a heart attack your body produces proteins/enzymes).  So we did that process.  My enzyme levels that would indicate a heart attack remained incredibly low.  Thank heavens.  So we were eventually able to rule out heart as the cause of my issues. And then we went on to other things.

The end result?   GERD.   Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.   It makes sense.  A few years back I had talked to my doctor about the fact that most times I ate I would have a wet sounding phlegmy cough…never quite coughing anything up.  I would cough once or twice and then I would be ok.    My family doctor advised that it was acid reflux but that it was nothing to be concerned with…since it was just a small annoying cough once or twice after eating.     When the doctor at the ER mentioned it, both jason and I at the same time were like ‘our family doctor mentioned acid reflux’. And I told the ER doctor what she had said and that she wasn’t concerned and said it was under control.   The doctor gave a rueful chuckle and said ‘apparently it wasn’t under control since you are laying here in my ER’.   They gave me a couple IV’s with various acid reflux meds and they sent me home with 3 prescriptions for heavy hitting doses of medications (stuff I can normally get OTC but higher doses apparently to get me past this flare up).

It’s now the next morning and both Jason and I called out sick since we were in the ER late.  Plus I have to get my meds from the pharmacy before the IV meds wear off.    

What did I learn during my ER visit

1.  It’s time for a new family doctor.   We have been talking about it for the last few months.  We have not been happy with the family doctor we have. She has ignored some complaints and issues that I have taken to her.   And this is the final straw.   She could have at least given me the risks of this ‘silent acid reflux’ issue and let me decide on how to proceed versus just brushing it aside.

2.  Don’t play with chest pains.  I should have admitted it much earlier and either called an ambulance or someone to drive me.  (Jason preached this point to me…as he was freaked out that I waited for so many hours after I admitted to myself that it was chest pains.)

3.  GERD is usually managed via medication.   Hopefully the higher doses won’t be necessary long term and I can rely on OTC versions as needed.  But it will be a learning process….and I will have to pay a lot more attention to what foods cause the acid reflux reactions.  It will be difficult because I’m the cough is now just part of who I am that I barely pay any attention to it.  (For example, I just ate some toast, first food in more than 24 hours.  I can’t remember if I did the throat clearing cough or not…..).  This will involve tracking my food…which I need for weight loss anyway and just adding that e xtra note about the cough and any heartburn/chest pain).   Hopefully I can manage this simply by knowing what foods trigger this and taking a dose of medication proactively versus taking a daily preventative medication (s).

4.  While doing my research on GERD I saw that there are some lifestyle changes that can help ease the symptoms.  They include things like the above mentioned finding and avoiding trigger foods.  It also includes avoiding alcohol and smoking.  No problem since I rarely drink and I never smoke.   Avoiding carbonated beverages will be a bit more of a challenge…but luckily I TYPICALLY don’t drink a lot…maybe one can a day. They recommend eating smaller meals throughout the day.  Not a problem on that one either…but it will make me turn away from the ‘one meal a day’ intermittent fasting method that I’ve been toying with trying.   Chocolate, spicy foods, fatty foods…foods high in acid…are all possible triggers.  So it’s recommended to limit those.     Like really, I was on vacation and drank a ton of carbonated beverages, ate fatty foods, and chocolate and the night before this happened a spicy Mexican meal. The night before was pizza.   Every food was full of things that is possible triggers.    So yes, watch my food intake.  But the BIGGEST lifestyle change to help ease the symptom is to lose weight and maintain the loss.

5.  Water water water!  Water helps dilute the acid in the esophagus and it is neutral so helps balance the PH levels that are out of whack.  Not drinking water let’s the acid run free.  I’ve been lacking with water lately.  

So yeah, full circle back to weight loss.  After I got the ‘heart looks ok’ report jason ran home to take care of the dog before coming back to the hospital and we texted a few times while he was with the dog. (The dog is ok for 5-6 hours during the day…but with her upset belly we didn’t want to push it that long..and luckily the hospital is only 5 minutes or so from our house.).   The weight loss thing can be summed up by sharing his text with you.

So there you have it.   No more BS.   I NEED a lifestyle change.   Early stages of GERD are bad enough.   But stage four..precancerous and cancer.   Not cool!   No more BS, it’s time!


Amy said...

So glad you're OK. I once went to the ER after I spent several hours in the fetal position feeling like adrenaline was rushing into my heart. Turned out to be gastritis. I had binged on sweets before that. I had GERD pretty steadily before I figured out my trigger is sugar. Since I have started the keto way of life 2 years ago, I have left the GERD behind and knowing that sugars trigger it, I have no problem staying away from them. Bonus! I hope you figure out your triggers and can get past it quickly!

SANRDJ said...

So glad you got checked out and are ok! What a terrible to end your vacation. Hopefully things improve for you and you find a doctor that you are happy with!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your words! It gives me hope that I can overcome this and not have to deal with it!!!

Maryfran said...

Thanks! I have an appointment with one in two weeks ..she is an NP but had amazing reviews!!!

Stained Glass Butterfly said...

I relate to this post so, so much. I recently had an appointment with an allergist, and when they took my blood pressure, it was so high that they almost sent me to the hospital. I am glad it was not your heart, and you must both be so relieved. I love the "No more BS" text. I need that on a t-shirt! It's a great motto.

Mrs Swan said...

I am so sorry that you went through that! I too have an idea of what it is like from when I went last year. I actually think I might be coming up or already over a year since I went to ER for chest pain myself. My protein/enzyme level was low as well. I am glad that they were able to give you a diagnosis! You may recall, that I never got one from the ER. Thankfully the DR I saw after (And finally started seeing the DR as i hadn't been since I was pregnant with my youngest) addressed my iron and that seems to have fixed it all.