It's been a kinda nutty two weeks.
Shortly after my last post in which I expressed concern about what I was observing when I ate grain and how disheartening it was to find that most people thought I was overreacting or crazy, I decided to listen to my body and myself and follow my Paleo diet to the T again. It was the evening of July 4th when it began in earnest. I can't for the life of me remember what I had to eat that day, but I know that grain was not involved. In fact, I ate very little as I wasn't feeling well. I didn't think too much of it and assumed it was just left over from the pizza I'd had a couple days prior. The next morning I felt fine and ate my normal Paleo breakfast of a couple eggs over hard in coconut oil. About 45 minutes later I realized that I was having bouts of intestinal pain. They came and went much like contractions; waves of increasing pain that took all my concentration to get through but once departed I was fine and felt normal. I ticked off likely suspects: gall stones, no (don't have a gallbladder), pancreatic attack, no (those feel different), kidney stones, no (have had those and while the pain was of similar intensity those pains don't come and go they just punch you in the guts and keep punching until you're on the floor writhing in pain). Nothing fit. I wrote it off as the beginnings of a nasty stomach virus and didn't eat the rest of the day. I pretty much hate vomiting more than I do having my face ripped off so I avoid eating when there's a good chance I'll be ill.
By the dawn of day three my stomach was fine and completely flat. Actually I noticed this with some sense of elation. After carrying two full term babies in my body at the same time my tummy is simply not the same beautifully round thing it was before. It's sad and hangs and is the thing I hate most about my body. And the upper portion is usually swollen... only this morning it was noticeably flat. I had kicked around the idea of not eating again this day but as I was clearly better I went ahead and, at 10am, ate my normal eggs for breakfast...... And 45 minutes later realized this was a big mistake. The pain was back. It was more and more intense, sometimes causing me to break out in a horrible sweat. I would curl up on the couch, moaning and twisting in pain. The kids were scared. I posted on Facebook and got several answers that said: "hospital", "appendicitis", etc. When my partner came home from work he suggested, strongly, that I be seen by someone but I held out- assuming again this was passing and I had maybe done some damage to the lining of my intestines by eating grain again. I thought some more about Celiac's disease and considered some research online. I ran though the testing required. I realized how hard it can be to get diagnosed.
By 6 I knew I was going to have to get myself to a doctor. I opted for the ER as at this point I was only getting 30 minutes between attacks of pain and I knew I was going to need big drugs. I left my other half at home with the three littles and drove myself to the hospital (don't panic- it's only five minutes away). I prayed I would get back before another wave hit but the triage nurse warned me they were busy and I knew with unexplained abdominal pain I was going to be low priority. I waited in the lobby for about 30 more minutes, suffering through a painful attack and several trips to the bathroom. I rocked and moaned my way through it, reminding myself all the while of the many laboring women I've attended in my years as doula/birth photographer.
Once I was back, they were very quick to see me. The ER doc ordered a CT and I was given a muscle relaxer. At that point, I was under suspicion for appendicitis and kidney stones. Once back from my CT, when it was clear that my kidneys were not involved, I was given that drug from heaven- morphine- and I was able to rest and relax for the first time in 72 hours.
The CT was inconclusive. I had a swollen appendix but not one that required surgery just yet. I also had a mildly inflamed colon, or large intestine. Now, everyone kept stressing this was 'mild' and I just have to say nearly two weeks later.... I do not EVER want to experience what it would be like to have a severely inflamed one.
I was admitted for IV antibiotics, fluids, and observation. I was to consult with a surgeon in the morning. They kept me comfortable on narcotics and oral rest. Blood was taken and vitals were watched. So long as I did not eat... I experienced no pain.
The following day I met the delightful Dr. Chung who I had fantastic rapport with immediately. He'd reviewed my CT and was not concerned at all about my appendix. He had no other answers for me, however, and left me to wait for a consult with the GI specialist. He was ready to discharge me with pain meds and Zofran for nausea control. I didn't see my GI doc for quite some time and his was a more cautious approach: A gradually increased diet throughout the night and next day and discharge if I was getting better. I was kept on the antibiotics that the ER doc had ordered as a precaution though my GI made it clear he didn't think that was even in the realm of necessary. His diagnosis: I had the virus Isabella had had the previous week, though it was completely different symptomatically. I did not concur with this assumption. I asked about further testing for GI issues and his plan was to wait, see what happened, and discharge me the following day if I tolerated food well, which I did. I went home feeling somewhat better. I rested and geared up for the family vacation that we'd planned months prior. Though I dearly wanted to stay home, I did not want to disappoint my family or my loving partner/kids who'd been looking forward to the trip. I was still wiped out and mostly afraid to eat, but I felt well enough that I got in the car Monday afternoon after shooting a newborn session and we headed down to the Missouri Ozarks.
A week of camping and floating doesn't really mix well with two antibiotics that make one more sensitive to the sunlight than usual. As my GI was clear that he felt they were precautionary and unnecessary, I decided to take the decision into my own hands and stopped taking them on Tuesday, which was the first day we went floating. We had a delightful time. I was worried about my strength but I did okay in the canoe and even kayaked the last two miles with a toddler sitting jump seat on both front and back. I rested well that evening. I ate a normal dinner (was ravenous from the hard physical activity).
We decided to go ahead and float again the following day as well... which is where things began to take a turn for the worse. Almost as soon as we were on the 10 miles of river my daughter Claire, who is four, began to whine that she wanted to go back "home" to grandmas (grandma lives in her camper for much of the year and travels from cool place to cool place). To my complete surprise she curled up in the bottom of my canoe and slept almost the entire day. We got on the river at 10 and pulled off at seven and she was probably up and active for the best part of two hours total. It was hard to tell if she had a fever because we were in the sun so we just tented her with a towel and wide brimmed hat and kept her hydrated. Once back at camp, she went to sleep. I ate well again and fell into a restful sleep.
But Wednesday night is when everything unraveled.
I was awakened later by Benjamin. He was puking. He and Claire were both feverish again. I caught puke twice, and dosed babies in the dark with ibuprofen. I was miserable and wanted to go home but had no idea how to get us all there. If there's anything worse than puking in a tent, it's puking in a car going 80 down the interstate....
A camp day was decided upon the following morning and we played Scrabble and chatted with my brother, sister-in-law, and parents. Benjamin was clearly ill and he slept all day. What to do? Stay or go? It's a mother's prerogative to worry, but I know with my logical brain there isn't really more to be done at home than where we already were and I had the added bonus of helping hands in my mom and sister-in-law. No point in sticking them in the car for three hours. The day wore on and it was hot and sort of miserable. I kept the babies in my mom's camper for most of the day as it's air conditioned.
That evening, Jay purchased a bottle of blackberry wine for me at the camp store and I decided since I'd been doing so well that a glass would be fine. Shortly after, the bloating was terrible and then the twisting and churning began. Damn it!!! Not again! I'd been eating just fine for two days. I had not been avoiding grains with zero consequences to my stomach. Immediately I realized the antibiotics were not as 'unnecessary' or as 'precautionary' as my GI had suspected. I worked all evening with my mom to prepare a fish fry (a family favorite!) and then when the fish came out of the fryer there was no way I was risking a bite. I was angry, frustrated and in a lot of pain. I took two pain pills and camped out on the air mattress in our tent. Sometime later all THREE children climbed into bed with me. Two of them were very sick. I was vomited on twice by Ben. Claire was delirious in her sleep and kept talking, getting up, and rambling nonsensically. I barely slept and after being doused in vomit I slept sitting up against the air mattress for a couple of hours.
Friday dawned with happier children who had stopped regurgitating and when on fever reducers acted fairly normally. As for me, I was determined to get the hell out of dodge. I woke with the sun and began packing our things. I'd had enough. Poor Jay kept asking to hang out just a little longer but I'd reached the point of All Done. If you've never been trapped on a half-deflated mattress in the dark in a tent on Vicodin trying to catch puke in a small plastic bowl then I suggest you give it a shot. Fun times, that.
We came home. I felt better. I had started my antibiotics again as that was clearly the missing puzzle piece. I dosed kids again and they curled up on the couch in the AC and fell asleep. I felt well again, just a bit bloated, and I'd been on antibiotics again for about 24 hours. We decided to order in dinner as both of us were completely wiped out.
We ordered pizza.
To be continued.....