When Crohn’s Disease Brings Life to a Halt

I’m sorry for the lack of postings this week, but I’m here to tell you what’s been happening the last few days.

Actually, scratch that. It goes back a week or so. And word of warning, this post may mention bathroom things and/or poop, and you should understand why having already read the headline. Prepare yourself for a longer read.

Many of you know that I have been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, as I’ve written about it here on my blog, but I’ve also been in remission for many years. Flareups happen every once in a while, but they were uncommon, and usually occurred when I chose to consume something I knew might have a negative side effect.

Crohn's PainHowever, within the last few weeks, I noticed abdominal pain happening more often in the evenings, a LOT of gurgling in my gut, and sometimes vomiting. It didn’t happen every day, but enough to make me say “when my insurance kicks in, I’m seeing a doctor and getting referred to a gastroenterologist.” With my new job, my health coverage didn’t kick in until the first of the month following 60 days of employment. That’s August 1st. I’d see a doctor as soon as possible and get this sorted. I didn’t have long to wait it out, and I’ve done this before.

My body, however, had other plans, starting Tuesday.

That afternoon, I once again had severe gut pain. I resigned myself to bed around dinner time and stayed there, not able to sleep much, and threw up late in the night. I woke Wednesday extremely fatigued and feeling like hell. It took me double the time to get ready for work (sick days aren’t allowed until you’ve worked for a whopping six months. I know, I think the same thing.) and I let my boss know what was going on. I made it only a half hour late, but within a short amount of time I knew I’d be worthless in the office. I tried to make it to lunchtime, but I knew something was very wrong, so I left after two hours, immediately crawling into bed when I arrived home. Again, I stayed there all day, only getting up to use the bathroom or feed my cat. Extra strength Tylenol did nothing but give me weird dreams and slightly dull the ache in my abdomen. Sleeping was intermittent, and I threw up bile, as I hadn’t eaten since lunch the previous day.

Thursday morning was just as bad as Wednesday. I needed a doctor. Needed help. Now. I was exhausted, in a lot of pain, bloated, and sick of throwing up. I was days away from my insurance kicking in, but I wasn’t functioning, and I couldn’t wait any longer. My mom offered to come down, and I happily accepted. I needed encouragement and definitely having a driver was most welcome. We went to Urgent Care, just down the street, hoping they could give me something to ward off the pain until I could see a GI doctor. However, it being Crohn’s related, they suggested we go to the ER.

When I heard ER, all I could see was me drowning in thousands of dollars in bills, especially without insurance. My brain really fought going in, but I didn’t really have much of a choice. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Luckily, the nearest hospital is around the corner from my apartment complex.

Oh, and side note: obviously when you visit a doctor’s office, you get weighed. Well, at some point since I began having these issues, I lost quite a bit of weight. I was a staggering 97 pounds. And I usually clock in at about 105. Not good.

The ER wait was quicker than expected, but then again it was late morning. Went into a room, gave the nurses and a resident doctor the scoop, and they immediately started an IV of fluids, gave me anti-nausea meds, and took some blood for testing. Oh, and they also gave me a shot to slow my bowel, which doesn’t sound bad. Except it was. It was the most excruciating shot I’ve ever gotten because the nurse literally had to jab it into the front of my leg, right into the muscle. My mind was screaming expletives. The area still hurt yesterday. It did help the pain in my gut, but I’m still not sure if the pain of the shot was worth it.

Fast forward through wait periods and I went in for x-rays of my abdomen and a CT scan of the same area. Yes, the procedure with the nasty barium to drink beforehand. Hooray. More waiting, a urine sample, and then they delivered the news: I had a partial small bowel blockage and needed to be admitted.

Hospital Stay IVAgain dollar signs flashed before my eyes. We went over the alternative options with the doctor, especially concerning the lack of insurance coverage, but he really stressed the need to be kept at least 24 hours on current fluids (with nothing to eat or drink) to see if the blockage resolved itself. Otherwise I could be facing bigger problems, surgery, and bigger bills. What else could we do?

I got up to my room and resigned myself that I’d be spending my first night in a hospital bed, hooked up to an annoying IV system that beeped loudly whenever I so much as moved my one arm (or didn’t move it at all). More blood was drawn, my mom was able to grab me some necessities from my apartment, and I tried to settle in as well as I could.

The next morning, Friday, additional vials of blood were needed, but I felt good. Like, really good. No gut pain, no gurgling, no nausea. And I had an appetite, which hadn’t been present since lunchtime on Tuesday. A number of primary care, GI doctors, and those from a surgical team talked with me. Thankfully, my labs were showing as normal and my lack of symptoms were a very good sign, so surgery was not going to be necessary. And since I hadn’t been able to see a primary care doctor or gastro yet, they set all of that up for me, but laid down the law that I needed to start properly managing my Crohn’s now. Duh, right?

More tests, more waiting, and they allowed me to select something from the full liquid diet menu of the cafeteria. If I could prove eating and keeping food down wouldn’t be an issue, doctors were confident I could be released. Best. News. Ever. So I ordered some Cream of Wheat, ate that up, and sipped water without issues. A few hours later and another blood draw, I was free, and told to take it easy on eating, but stay away from high-fiber food like vegetables and fruit for a few days. I was also given prescriptions for Prednisone and Zantac for inflammation.

Now I can’t say I’m yet at 100 percent. I still have some gurgling and minor abdominal pain in the evenings since I’m still dealing with inflammation, so it makes me a bit nervous to eat much of anything until I have my next bowel movement (I’m not an everyday go-er. TMI?).

I’m taking it slow, day by day, hoping the meds kick in sooner rather than later. Praying I don’t have another trip to the hospital in my future. For those of you who saw my post about it on my personal Facebook page and sent well wishes and offered prayers, thank you so much. It’s great to see support when fighting an invisible disease.

—K

About Karin

Journalist, singer, reader, movie fanatic, photography buff, GVSU alum, wanna-be-Brit, Crohn's fighter, Coca-Cola addict, animal lover, not a kid person, hater of winter, Michigander
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3 Responses to When Crohn’s Disease Brings Life to a Halt

  1. Stacey says:

    So glad you are feeling better – and following doctors’ orders 😉 Hope the steroids are working and you can keep things ‘moving’ and clear up that inflammation. Everything else will look much better once you are feeling back to normal. Love you!

  2. Nancy Paine says:

    Hi Karin,
    I have IBS through Fibromyalgia, and Hashimotos Thyroiditis. I can sure relate to your post! This last May, I had a “flare”, I guess, with off and on (mostly on) days of terrible gut pains, nausea, diarrhea, and an occasional bout of vomiting. We had a fabulous vacation to Scandinavia that we were leaving for in less than a month, and also were to see our daughter, who was studying abroad in Denmark. I saw my gastro doc, and he ordered stool samples, more blood work, a celiac test, put me on an IBS drug, etc. Tests came back negative, all the while I was doing all kinds of research and trying things, going off things, and losing weight and getting weaker because everything I ate made me miserable and run to the bathroom. A really bad thing was, we would lose all of our money for this tour we had booked (thousands) because we had not bought trip insurance, if we did not go. It literally was down to the day before, and I decided (after much prayer!) to just go for it, and if I was sick on the long flights or tour bus, we could go back home if needed, even though that would be awful. We went, and I was better from almost day one! I felt so blessed, to be able to go, to feel better, to live this dream trip! And lesson learned for us with any of these type tours or cruises, etc., to buy trip insurance!
    I hope you are feeling better, I can so relate with the “invisible” diseases. Have you heard of being a “Spoonie”? Here’s a link to a post about it, with the original post linked within.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sophie-cowley/coming-out-as-a-spoonie_b_7013638.html
    Nancy

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