If there’s anything good about a trip to the hospital, it’s the footies. Along with the name band, they usually hand you a set of specialty socks: these have friction grids on the soles so the chance of a patient slipping (and suing) is decreased. The footies also keep the tootsies warm in chilly examining rooms. (They also have warmed blankets for the rest of your body.)
Mike has been feeling ill, wrong, fatigued for the last several weeks. As this coincided with our local blizzard and sub-zero temps, plus the everybody-has-it virus that has swept the country, we tried various home remedies and explanations.
Until he started to turn yellow. Actually, on Mike, it was more of an attractive tan but still, coupled with other symptoms, it was time to visit the doctor. Blood work confirmed that his bilirubin level was rising: his liver was working hard to get toxins out of his body and the toxins were winning.
They suspected a clogged common bile duct. They explained that the only way to know for sure was to conduct an ERCP, get ready – endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatopography.
So, we drove down to University Hospital early Friday morning to meet Dr. Fogel, who “does this all day, every day.”We hit the road early, 6:30, which would get us there before 8 AM.
The trip to Indy, early in the morning, is nice and straight. The sun was just starting to break through as we got to Westfield, 10 minutes ahead of plan. So, I decided to take a pit stop and turned off US 31, onto an E/W road.
This was a 4 lane, headed to and away from a large school complex. I was in the left lane, wanting to turn L; I would have to wait until the heavy traffic on the other side had cleared.
Except, in the left-facing lane, a large yellow school bus stopped to give me room to turn. It looked like there was no traffic behind her but I hesitated. The driver flashed her lights -- a little wave to me -- and a sure signal. So I inched in front of her, looked in the right lane next to her, and whipped into the convenience store parking lot.
I thought that this was a poor place for a U-turn. So, it seems, does the State of Indiana. As I parked, I heard a ‘whoot,’ and saw blue lights in my rear view.
Officer S. Newlin-Haus, badge OL94, asked me to stay in my car. He wanted my registration and license. He mentioned that there is a No-U-Turn sign posted.
So, although I DID mention that I was a teacher taking my husband to the hospital (work it), Officer S. Newlin-Haus gave me a citation. Ok, later with that.
We got the hospital, checked in, and soon were in the examining room, with the new footies.
And here, we get serious.
The doctor explained that he was going to look for blockage. He would then insert a stent, either metal (size of baby finger) or plastic (smaller) to open the blockage. At that point, Mike’s body would begin to move the biliruben out of his body and his symtoms -- the yellowness, the itching, the nausea -- would be relieved.
Although they don’t administer general anesthesia, they DO really really snow the patient. The doctor explained that he would be back to talk to me as Mike would be too groggy.
ERCP takes about 45 minutes. Two or three nurses popped in to tell me how well Mike had done. Then, they wheeled him in, fully asleep, a pleasing sight as he has had fitful nights for about 3 weeks. Then the doctor.
“This is what we expect with Mike’s diagnosis. We usually see it much sooner. I’m about 95% positive that the tumor has come back. I mean, why would anything inside the liver be pressing on the duct now?”
He also based his assessment on some prior testing; his opinion seem to contradict what we believe to be true, that a suspicious spot on Mike’s liver has been there since birth. I know we had it biopsied and when I mentioned that to Dr. Vogel, he seemed surprised.
(Doctors must know that patients’ families are hyper sensitive to facial expressions and tones of voice.)
I asked if he saw any tumor. He said that no, he hadn’t. “But I’m like a mouse in your house’s ductwork. I see inside the duct. I can’t see what’s outside.”
Doctors and their similes! Such good word pictures.
ERCP is one of several palliative procedures available to binary cancer patients to relieve symptoms. So, Mike’s symptoms should be gone by the beginning of the new week. As soon as they open on Monday, we will call out to the oncology center and schedule an appointment with Mike’s doctor.
This is where we are now. We know that so many of you pray for us regularly. After resting and coming to an understanding, we want to bring you into this continued journey with us.
We will keep you posted here.