Attack of the Pancreas: Part II

The ambulance from the hospital was a bumpy ride.  It was late, and I would arrive at EIRMC at midnight.  The PA that day had been consulting with the GI specialists in Idaho Falls.  Somewhere near the end of the day that day, it was determined that TVH did not have the proper equipment to pull off a feeding tube.  They released me into EIRMC’s care.

When I arrived, I spent about 45 minutes with the shift nurse discussing my condition.  “We get a lot of pancreatitis here,” she said.

“Are they all diabetic?” I asked.

“Oh, no.”

“Are they mostly alcoholics?”

“Mostly,” she said.  This solidified the thought that I already had in my mind concerning my lifestyle.  I had morphed into a non-drinker overnight.  I don’t characterize myself as an alcoholic, but there is plenty of alcoholism in my family.  And yes, I have done my fair share of drinking.  It seemed to me that no matter how I felt about drinking, the inside of my body was saying, “You may not feel like an alcoholic, but your pancreas is a boozehound.  Stop drinking.”

Then she said, “So this is your first case of pancreatitis?”

“People have more than one?!”

“It’s mostly about not changing habits.  That is why it might happen more than once.”

I shuddered at the thought that this would ever happen to me again.  I knew that changes had to come.  But first, I had to get out of this hospital bed.  And I had only just arrived.

I saw my doctor by 9am the next morning.  He asked me a lot of questions about my pain.  He checked to see if I had edema.  After about ten minutes, he said, “Well I thought you would be in much worse shape than this.  Pancreatitis can be life threatening.  I thought we would have to prepare the ICU.”  I wondered if this was a comment on the facility I had just come from, or the lack of accurate information that had been provided to him.  He explained that I would get a feeding tube, which he also stated is usually “an immediate and regular course of action” when it comes to pancreatitis.  Perhaps he should call TVH and tell them this.

Placing the tube directly into the small intestine circumvents the upper digestive system altogether.  This is good, as the only way to talk an angry pancreas off a ledge is to let it rest.  The stomach and pancreas work in concert, so that must be avoided as well.  The feeding tube seemed a ghastly idea to me.  I kept thinking, they only give those to coma patients.  But after the explanation I received regarding its purpose, I knew it would get me better faster.  I got to see my insides on an x-ray machine.  The doctor told me it was the easiest placement of a feeding tube he ever had.  A gold star for the day, I suppose.

I was on that feeding tube for a solid four days.  During that time, I saw one of two doctors – both GI specialists, and both assigned to my case.  I was not subjected to meeting someone new each time they could “squeeze in” a visit with me.  During the nursing shifts, I saw only the nurse that was assigned to me during that shift.  Of course, this was an RN, not an LPN or a CNA.  When I commented to a nurse at TVH that, “All of the RNs must be very busy in the ER”.  She responded, “Well, you typically won’t see the RNs here on the floor” (um, thanks for sending in the second string?). Not to mention the fact that I would sometimes see up to three nurses during the day or night shift – not the same one consistently.  There were only about two exceptions to this method of how they chose to handle my in-patient care.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the other “diagnosis” that was imparted to me in the ER: that I had fatty liver disease.  I don’t know why this horrible news was thrown onto the table while I was suffering so severely on that gurney.  I found out later that it wasn’t correct.  I was told that my diet needed to be cleaned up, but that no, I do not have fatty liver disease.

I suppose I could get really upset over this, that some overeager PA was just itching to saddle me with more traumatic information while I experienced severe pain and fear all at the same time.  That’s right.  This misdiagnosis didn’t come from the MD on call (wherever he was), instead it was a Physician’s Assistant.  Apparently, a self assigned “expert” at identifying fatty liver disease.  It makes me sick all over again that a person like that is working at Teton Valley Hospital.  Ironically, I actually saw this particular PA about two years ago and begged to be treated with anti-anxiety medication.  She told me – a writer – to “journal my anxiety” and refused to prescribe me anything.  Two months later, I was in the ER suffering from a panic attack.  One of her peers diagnosed me with a panic disorder.  Let’s all applaud yet another stellar incident of treatment from Teton Valley Hospital.

After this experience, you will never catch me stating that the bedside manner of the nurses at TVH was substandard.   They were very kind and showed real concern over my condition.  As a matter of fact, I have already been contacted by patient services to discuss the circumstances of my care (due to this here blog).  They seem concerned that things didn’t go so well for me.

I’m glad they are concerned.  I am too.



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  1. Glad your’re feeling better… will there be a part three? I hate that you got sick but I admit to loving your writing! – Toast

  2. Part III will more than likely be about my recovery and the lifestyle changes I have to make. It is all pretty daunting, but I am ready for the challenge!

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