Pancreatitis

Wow, can’t believe I haven’t blogged in so long. I honestly kind of forgot I had a blog this weekend. I still always want my blog to have more of a focus but often don’t want to get too personal.

We went to Seattle for Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with B’s family. Despite two quite serious things happening over the weekend, I had a really good weekend. I love how “homey” their house there is. My parents’ house is so “homey” to. I can’t wait to have a house of my own. His parents actually have two homes and are selling their main house (the one we stayed at this weekend) because his dad is retiring next summer. It made me sad to think that that was the last time I might stay in that house. I got to go to the pool nearby every day and the water was warm and I felt really good. It was so nice to just being around people and not think too much. I just felt comfortable. Now I feel rejuvenated. I did really well.

However, as for the two quite serious things:

On Thanksgiving evening, we had to take B to the emergency room. He started complaining that his stomach hurt at about 7 PM, and within an hour he was doubled over in pain, couldn’t breathe well, and was very pale, nauseous, and weak. He finally said to me, “I think I might need to go to the emergency room. Something really isn’t right.” I had never seen him in any kind of state like that. So his dad and I took him to the emergency room. Of course, as usual for the emergency room, it took us over an hour to even get out of the waiting room after we checked in. While we were waiting for the doctor, he asked me what I thought could be wrong. {I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and used to work in a hospital. I’m not a doctor but I soak up medical knowledge like a sponge. Being in the medical field is what I want to do with my life again somehow.} I told him that I thought he either had gastritis, pancreatitis, or some sort of food poisoning. After over six hours in the ER, he was diagnosed with pancreatitis. I was right!

Pancreatitis is the technical term for inflammation of the pancreas, an organ found wrapped around your stomach that secretes digestive enzymes and is responsible for the production of insulin to regulate your blood sugar, among other things. Just like in appendicitis, when some people get an acute attack of swelling in their appendix, pancreatitis is an acute attack of inflammation in the pancreas. People with appendicitis get their appendix out; you can’t live without your pancreas. The sudden swelling in pancreatitis blocks the release of the digestive enzymes, causing them to begin digesting the pancreas itself.

Pancreatitis is characterized by intense upper abdominal pain that often radiates into the back. Patients also experience nausea and difficulty breathing. B described it as the worst pain he had ever felt. The thing that made me think that it was pancreatitis was the fact that lying down made the pain worse. He felt much more comfortable sitting on his knees and bending over, which is a characteristic symptom.

Swelling in the abdomen can push up on the lungs and make breathing difficult. Within a few hours of being at the hospital, B’s attack started to pass on its own. He didn’t receive any medicine there beyond an IV drip. By the time we were back into the ER seeing the doctor, his pain was reduced by 50%, though his vomiting was much worse. He was diagnosed through an abdominal ultrasound and a laboratory blood test which revealed the level of the enzymes lipase in his blood to be three times what is normal (lipase is an enzyme secreted by the pancreas; pancreas was going haywire and overproducing it). He was very lucky he got to go home that night (or the next morning, rather… we got to the ER at 9 PM and didn’t leave until almost 4 AM). Many people with pancreatitis spend several days in the hospital, sometimes being fed intravenously in the ICU. B had to eat very lightly, mainly just soup, for a couple of days, but now he is eating normally. He still feels weak and has some pain but he has gone to work the last two days. We are going to the doctor tomorrow. The pancreas, after the attack has passed, slowly starts to heal itself. Some people have lasting complications if their attack lasts much longer and does more damage (like compromised insulin production and maybe having to take digestive enzymes long-term because they’re pancreas can’t make them any more to digest their food). Considering all this, B had a very minor attack of pancreatitis, for which I am so, so thankful. At the doctor tomorrow we will see how much it has healed, but he’s on the mend. Mainly what I want to find out tomorrow is what things he will have to do in the next month or two to make sure that his pancreas heals fully and he doesn’t develop this again. Pancreatitis can be caused by gallstones that block the duct that the digestive enzymes exit through (he did not have this, as shown by an abdominal ultrasound, which is very good because he probably would have had to have surgery done). Alcohol consumption really exacerbates the condition and alcohol overuse is often another cause. Although this doesn’t really apply to B, he will probably have to really cut down on drinking if he can even drink at all now just because alcohol in any form really puts a strain on the pancreas. About 15% of cases are idiopathic (meaning no cause can be found) so it isn’t really that abnormal that we don’t know exactly what caused B to have this acute inflammatory attack. There is also another form of pancreatitis labeled chronic pancreatitis, as opposed to the acute/coming on suddenly form like this.

All in all, I am very thankful he is okay and that he had a minor case. I am nervous to go to the doctor with him tomorrow but I hope that the doctor will concur with me and the ER doctor that this was mild and will pass. I hope he doesn’t have to make too many unpleasant modifications to take care of this now. I hope it will just be over and not have to be something we have to worry about coming back!

For more information on pancreatitis, see this article on WebMD. If you suspect you have pancreatitis, go to the ER right away! There’s no guarantee that it will pass like this and if it doesn’t you will need medical care to limit the damage to your pancreas.

Also, my grandfather, my mom’s dad, passed away on Saturday. He was 80 years old and had bone cancer. As when my other grandfather passed away, I never expected to feel as sad about it as I did when it happened. I always feel like grandparents are old and that’s what happens, but it still made me feel down and cry several times just because I will miss him and I am just praying for my mom and my grandma that they will feel comfort and peace at this time. It is very strange to think that I will never see him again. I would just like to say a few words about him. My grandfather and grandmother had the most wonderful marriage. They were married for over 55 years. After all that time, you could truly still see the love in their eyes every time they looked at each other. They were true life partners. The thing my grandfather loved most in the whole world was singing. He had an amazing voice and played the guitar. I can remember him singing on almost every special family occasion and singing Christmas carols as my sister accompanied him on the piano. He was born and raised in eastern Kansas, but always loved the mountains and he and my grandmother moved to Denver when my mom was less than a year old. They had two daughters and six grandchildren. He was a very faithful and religious man. He never drank or smoked his whole life and he served with a headquarters company in the Army during the Korean War. I know that he is in Heaven now and at peace.

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5 thoughts on “Pancreatitis

  1. I hope B is feeling ok by now and my sincerest condolences for your grandfather. It looks like he was a great person and that you loved him a lot. It’s kind of funny but my grandparents were an ideal couple too. I always say that there is only one requirement for the man I want to be with “he should look at me the way my grandpa use to look at my grandma”. My sister says that this is the reason I am still single…

  2. Sorry to hear about B’s medical woes but I’m so happy to hear that he’s feeling better and spent little time in the hospital! Reminds me of a quote I scooped on Facebook today: “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” – Buddha

    Also, sorry to hear about your Grandfather… worrying about your Mother and Grandmother must be so hard, so I’m sending lots of positive thoughts in your direction!!

  3. I’m really sorry to hear about your grandfather. I am so happy that B is okay though! And kudos to you for soaking up medical jargon…it’s all a total mystery to me so I admire those who get it!

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