Medical Adventures and SHTF
As you know, I’ve been absent for a while and I’d like to share with you a bit of what happened and how it would play out in an emergency scenario.
In January 2014, after having tried unsuccessfully for years and being told it was impossible, I became pregnant. Almost right away there were issues. I started bleeding heavily and was told I had miscarried. We ran some blood tests and my hormone levels weren’t going down so the doctor scheduled an emergency ultrasound to be followed by a dilation and cutterage (d&c) to remove the failed pregnancy. The tech at the ultrasound place asked if I was dating the pregnancy and sadly I replied that no, we were confirming my miscarriage. To our surprise, the baby was still there, heart beating and jumping around. The problem was not the baby, it was a huge sac of blood between my uterus and the placenta. This is called a subchorionic hemorrhage and can be very dangerous, so I was sent to the top high risk obstetrician in the city. The blood, it turns out, could do a few things; it could grow and disconnect the placenta thus ending the pregnancy. It could stay as is and not allow the baby room to grow. It could bleed out or it could re absorb. In any case, I wasn’t allowed to lift more than 5-10 lbs, raise my heart beat or sweat or do anything strenuous. I continued to bleed until I was 17 weeks pregnant.
At my 13 week tri-scan, I screened positive for neural tube issues. The baby could be missing its head and/or part of the brain, could have an open spinal cord such as spina bifida or could end up having Down syndrome. The doctors encouraged me to think of my options because there was the chance of miscarriage, stillborn or no quality of life. I chose to keep on and get more tests. After rigorous testing, it was determined that baby was healthy and I had screened positive due to the extra blood protein from the hemorraging.
At 23 weeks (1 week before viability here), the baby had stopped growing. At this point I was at the high risk clinic about once a week so we listened to the heart beat and booked yet another ultrasound for the baby. If he still wasn’t growing, we’d need to get him out of there and into the NICU. Thankfully, he put on an oz between visits.
Then, as if this wasn’t enough fun, I developed gestational diabetes at 30 weeks. I was expecting this as I had it with my previous pregnancies but it showed up late this time. This meant a huge diet change, multiple blood tests a day and 4 shots of insulin into my abdomen a day. My doses kept changing because the way the baby was reacting to the sugars and insulin.
Because of how high risk I was, the doctors encouraged labor as much as possible. I endured 3 painful membrane sweeps, ate ridiculous food and tried every old wives tale. Nothing worked and the little guy stayed where he was. Turns out he was transverse (so across my belly instead of head down). I then, very hugely pregnant in the middle of August with no a/c, had to do all sorts of crazy yoga poses etc to get baby head down. I wasn’t allowed to go past my due date and my OB booked an induction for the day of. I could be called in anywhere from 6 am to 10 pm but if not by noon, it probably wouldn’t be happening. I of course couldn’t sleep so was wide awake by 6. No call. Took my big kid to school for 9. No call. Finally had early dinner at 4, with still no call. At 5:30 I was rushing to the hospital with bad cramps and broken waters. Around 5 hours later I had my boy. He was healthy but with low blood sugars so the NICU was still an option. Finally they let me go home after two nights and then it was just me and a newborn and my big kid.
I was supposed to take things “easy” after child birth. Yeah right. Landed myself back in with the Dr because I was hemorrhaging from too much strenuous activity (aka taking care of the household). Finally, everything got sorted and I thought life was back on track.
Fast forward to February. Baby H was now 5 months old and the rest of us had adjusted to the new addition fairly well. Around the 21st I had a stomach ache but attributed it to the crappy dinner we had eaten to celebrate a birthday. But it didn’t go away all night. By morning I was fine but anytime I ate, it hurt within an hour again. So I thought I had a stomach flu, which was going around anyways. By the 24th I called the Dr because maybe I had something viral? It was a yucky stomach bug but I didn’t think much of it. Saw the Dr on the 26, she palpates my stomach but I had no pain response etc so she prescribed me pills for acid reflux but ran some blood tests just in case. February 28 I got a call before the Dr office even opened telling me I needed to go to the emergency room.
In the emergency room they told me my pancreas had shut down, my liver was almost pooched and my gallbladder was definitely shot. I had several blood tests, ultrasounds, an MRI etc. Turns out I had a gallstone stuck in my common bile duct. I should have been in excruciating pain but I have a high pain tolerance (which the Drs have said before). The other patients with the same problems were taking morphine. I only took anti nauseants because I wasn’t allowed food for 6 days. On the 5th day I had an endoscopy where they stuck a camera and tube down my throat, through my stomach and cut a hole in my bile duct to push the stone into my intestines so I could pass it that way. Well the stupid stone got stuck on the camera and I have it to this day (it has been named Herman by one of the nurses). I immediately felt better and my toxic blood levels dropped significantly. I stopped looking like Mr. Burns. On day 6, I had 4 incisions made into my abdomen and they pulled out my gallbladder and repaired a hernia that I had no idea was there (turns out the hernia was of their own making and is quite common with abdominal surgeries). It was around a 5 hour surgery. Finally, I was allowed to go home and have my kids again!! This emergency room visit that my Dr had said would take a couple hours had turned into the hardest week of my life. The Drs then dropped the bombshell on me that I couldn’t lift 10+ lbs for a month or I could pop the hernia right back out or rip my stitches. They expected me to somehow be a mum and basically not move. My mother showed up twice a day to move the baby from the bedroom to the living room and back. I could barely nurse since I was able to lift him (or be on my sides). I lasted two weeks before I started lifting him (which out of 4 wasn’t too bad for stubborn old me).
My most recent medical adventure (besides of course the regular sort of flus, colds, childhood illnesses and mastitis) has been a breast cancer scare. So far the results have been negative (ultrasound, antibiotics etc) but we also have no answers. (update march 2020, it wasn’t breast cancer, but now have a new breast cancer scare in the middle of a pandemic. Mammogram/ultrasound/biopsy scheduled for next week)
Sorry for the long explanation, the point is: if the SHTF, I probably wouldn’t have survived most of this. I have medical training but I certainly not a doctor. Even my surgeons were stumped, I had a 4 mm stone blocking my duct and I felt fine. I was literally dying and had no clue. After my gallbladder went through pathology, I was told there had been a 9 cm stone in there as well. So think like a grapefruit or just shy of a softball. My gallbladder could have easily ruptured. How do we prepare for this? I might have been able to (poorly) perform the surgery on someone else but there’s no way I would have a diagnosis without blood tests and imaging.
My best answer I suppose is to make sure yourself or someone in your group is medically trained in some form and to keep everyone at peak health through diet, exercise, proper sleep and regular doctor visits.