Thursday, 30 June 2011

Another trip to A&E

Yesterday, just after a rather large lunch, I started to get pains in my lower abdomen, which rapidly got worse.  After a while, I took my tummy up to the local Health Centre, where the duty doctor poked and prodded and did all those things you'd expect, but didn't seem to really have much idea what was wrong.  This is no criticism.  At no point throughout proceedings did anyone actually decide what was wrong.

At first she recommended standard pain killers, but as my pain got worse, while I was just sitting there, she suggested I go to A&E.  I'd already decided that was where I needed to be, but by then the pain was too much for me to safely drive to Addenbrookes, so she referred me to A&E there and called me an ambulance.  By now I was lying on the bed in her surgery, groaning.

The ambulance crew fitted me up to all the usual instruments and then, oh bliss, gave me 10ml of morphine.  I began to imagine I might survive!  They didn't treat me to blue lights and a siren, however.  Damn, twice in two months I've missed out on that!

From the ambulance I phoned Jenny to let her know what was going on.  This being Wednesday, a group of us were down to eat in a local Indian.  Obviously I wasn't going to be there, but there wasn't anything Jenny could do to help me in Addenbrookes, so no reason for her not to eat out as usual.

At A&E I got more pain killers and then a battery of tests, lots of poking and prodding, lots of questions and few answers.  As time passed, the pain got worse and I started groaning again.  At around 6.30 a nurse fitted me up with a drip.  I inferred from that and the rest of the proceedings that one possibility was a perforated bowel, which would require surgery, and I was then on nil-by-mouth, as you'd expect.

I asked this nurse if I could have more pain relief and she said she'd sort it out, but 20 minutes later, nothing had happened and I could see the end of my tether.  I spotted a red button labelled Emergency - Pull, so I pulled it.  That got me a telling off, since that button is the Cardiac Arrest Alarm button.  Still, it worked.  I got instant attention, which is what I wanted!

I was given two tiny grey and green capsules, which worked after a bit, though not as well as the morphine had.  And a nurse squirted some anti-nausea stuff into the cannula in my hand, because I kept thinking I was going to throw up.  By this time they'd done all the blood tests and everything else they could think of, apart from an X-ray, and everything was showing as completely normal, so still no idea what's actually wrong with me.

Some time around 7.30 I think, I was taken for an X-ray, then shunted back to my cubicle to die wait.  With the pain slightly ameliorated, I was able to doze, and when I awoke, to my amazement, the pain had subsided to almost nothing.

They still took me to the Clinical Decisions Unit, back of A&E, where I was given a bed to wait in, along with two other, sick-looking guys.  Nothing happened for a long time, except Jenny, Lorna and Richard turned up, having thrown together an overnight bag for me, which I thought was really good of them.  It was lovely to see them, too.

Their timing turned out to be impeccable.  Around 10, not 10 minutes after they'd arrived, my surgical team turned up, listened to my tale of how the pain had gone away, and discharged me on the spot.  So not only had my lovely wife and friends brought me stuff I might have needed, but they were on hand to run me home when I was liberated!  Perfect!

But the medics still had no idea what had caused my pain.  One of the nurses in CDU said it's like that with most abdominal pain - it goes away by itself and no-one knows why it came or went.  Terrific!

Update: as recommended by A&E I visited my doctor on Friday and he said, testing my urine, that a kidney stone will often leave a trace of blood in the urine, having scratched the inside of the ureter, but there was no trace on Friday.  When I reported this to Jenny, however, she said the nurse in CDU had seen blood in my urine sample just before I left on Wednesday, but I'd completely forgotten that.

So it seems likely that I was passing a kidney stone, and when I looked that up on the web, the symptoms do match quite well.  The way you avoid kidney stones is to drink lots of liquids, which I already do, so a repeat is not impossible.  Well, it's progress, but not necessarily of the sort I'd like to make! 


Jennyta said...

Commiserations, Rob and let's hope it doesn't happen again. You were lucky to get pain relief. Here, the nursing staff will tell you all they can give you is 'a paracetamol' until the doctor does his next round, which is usually hours later.
(Still, we do get free prescriptions! ;))

Rob Clack said...

Thanks, Jenny. It's frustrating not to know what was behind it all, but at least it's all over. I'm grateful they didn't actually have to cut me open!