I’ve apparently not yet hit the yearly quota of “life lessons Jenn needs to learn”, as evidenced by the circumstances of the last two weeks.
On Thursday, June 23rd my husband and I were headed south on I-35, on the road to Des Moines. We were finally on our way to take in our (okay, MY) first Michael Buble concert. I’ve been obsessed with the thought of seeing him live for a couple of years now, and I was finally getting my chance thanks to the patience of my sweet husband and his desire to please me. I was crazy excited. Then… things got interesting.
We hit the road at about 10:00AM that morning, ready for a short break from work and life, and excited to spend our summer “vacation”… our one night in Des Moines… together. We also decided to give ourselves a break from calorie counting for the trip, and I’d left the little Sugar Nazi that lives inside my head at home. We agreed that our first indulgence should be a delicious baked good from Granny Donuts in St. Paul. It’s a rare occasion for me to eat donuts anymore, but if I’m going to have one, it HAS to be from Granny Donuts – they are perfection. We stopped on the way out of town and made our selections. As we were leaving, the cheerful, eccentric owner dished us up each two complimentary donut holes to enjoy on the spot. We popped the tasty, glazed balls of dough into our mouths (“Mmmmm!”) and headed out again.
Mal needed to take a phone call in the car at about 11:00 AM (par for the course when you’re a business owner), during which I noticed he was clutching his abdomen with a look of great discomfort, if not pain. I was concerned, as it continued through the duration of the call (at least 20 minutes). Once he completed the call, I asked him what was going on. He told me he was having pain in his upper abdomen, just under his chest, and described it as a feeling of “pressure”. I recognized the symptoms as gallbladder trouble right away, as I’d had mine out in 2004.
Mal felt he could continue on, so we did. I’m guessing he didn’t really want to — I think he was just pressing on as he knew how disappointed I would be to miss the show. The pain continued, and we eventually stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s in Medford, MN. Probably needless to say, but that quarter pounder with cheese proved to be too much for his weakened digestive system to bear. Long story short, after calls to our doctor for advice, Mal’s pain increasing after a walk to use the restroom and us stubbornly attempting to carry on south, I finally insisted that we turn around and head home. We didn’t make it very far, however, as Mal’s pain became so severe, I worried it would be necessary to call an ambulance. Thankfully, we passed a brand new, what appeared to be state-of-the-art hospital facility just off the interstate in Owatonna, MN. Thank God we had the good sense to turn around and go back at the next exit, since we were heading to the ER anyway.
A few terrible hours in the Owatonna ER turned into two days in Owatonna Hospital. Then a transfer by ambulance to the Twin Cities (Abbott Northwestern, to be exact), the hospital where my husband was born in 42 years ago. Time rolled on, and before we knew it we’d spent four more even more terrible, frustrating days at Abbott, unfortunately not terribly close or convenient to home. Mal ended up having a scope to look for a gallstone in the common bile duct. No stone was found, but due to the wicked case of pancreatitis and concern over his high white blood count (that signifies infection), it was assumed that a stone had passed through the bile duct, created havoc, and finally passed out through the intestine. After days of treating the damage done with bags upon bags of IV antibiotics, his gallbladder was finally removed to prevent this from occurring again. We were able to go home the following day.
It is a relief to be back home, but I’m finding it difficult to get back to my regular nutrition and exercise routine. Abbott Northwestern hospital offers surprisingly few options for healthy eating, and perfect opportunities for stress snacking, as I like to call it. The cafeteria was down in the basement (yuck), and the food there just didn’t look appetizing. The other option downstairs was a 24-hour McDonald’s (!) — truly the LAST place I wanted to eat after this episode, but due to the oddball hours we were keeping (large hospitals like Abbott schedule surgeries late into the night — Mal didn’t go into the OR until 12:14 AM), I had to resort to a couple of meals there, due to my own poor planning. Now I am dealing with the after effects (can you say french fry cravings?) I did find a cafe on the second floor that was a little better, where I could at least get a cold turkey sandwich on whole wheat, fresh soup and sort of fresh, prepared salads during the daytime hours. And, they had Caribou Coffee — premium fuel that kept me going!
I am still trying to wrap my head around what I’ve learned from this experience. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still feeling sorry for myself over missing my big summer concert event that I’d looked forward to for months… but I am thankfully able to see the big picture, too. I’m filled with gratitude to have my husband home again, and healing. I’m so grateful for the competent, compassionate care of his doctors — these people are the cream of the healthcare crop. The nursing staff was hit and miss with compassion, but were kind more often than not, and I never felt like he was in the care of someone who was incompetent. I consider this a great blessing.
I’ve also learned that I am much stronger in a crisis than I ever used to be, which is surprising to discover when you are going through this sort of ordeal with the person you love most in the world! I used to be one who would panic at the mere thought of my loved one in a medical emergency, even when surrounded with wall-to-wall support. This time, Mal and I were alone for the most part (Kris actually paid me a visit on the afternoon of Mal’s scope procedure, just when I needed it – MANY thanks to her for that!), but I felt so at peace with everything. Mal’s family wanted to be there to support us, but his parents are elderly and aren’t comfortable driving into the city – plus they were packing for a move scheduled for the day after we came home. I would have loved more support, but I surprised myself in that I remained calm and felt that everything would be okay on the other side this struggle, and I experienced an unusually minor amount of worry. I can’t help but wonder if this is due to me being more in control of my own health… or me becoming more reliant on my Creator and my faith. I hope it’s a little of both.
Two things I that do know right now: Today was my first day back to the gym in more than TWO WEEKS, and after only a 30 minute workout with Trainer Sharon, it is very clear that my body has turned to goo. God bless her for her patience with me! And the other thing: Donut holes are little balls of evil! 🙂