I know you think you know, but…
And I didn’t know how to recognize the signs of internal bleeding. It’s kind of gross, but certain things that come out of your body change color. And not in the way you would guess. Nothing red is involved. So because it happened during the holidays when we had been travelling and after being in contact with a number of grade-school-aged relatives, some of which had the sniffles at the time, I attributed my growing feelings of fatigue and shortness of breath as signs that I was coming down with a cold.
Because of how close I came to heading to the great editing room in the sky, every medical professional who had any contact with me after learning of the incident (including my pharmacist, her assistant, my aunt-the-nurse, and even my dentist!) emphatically urged me to keep an eye out for the symptoms in the future, and get myself to a hospital if it happened again.
So, at one point Sunday night I came out of the bathroom, stuck my head in the computer room, and said to my husband, “Honey? We need to go to the hospital.”
Fortunately, I when I explained why I thought that I was having esophageal bleeding, I didn’t run into any skepticism. I have had a couple of very unpleasant trips to ERs in the past where it became obvious that the folks didn’t believe me and things dragged on for a lot longer than they should have until the incontrovertible evidence popped up, and then suddenly everyone went into overdrive.
However, I did run into one problem again and again and again. “So when did you first feel nauseated?” or “And keep following these instructions until the nausea is completely gone.”
But I have never felt any nausea. None. That’s not the kind of symptoms I got last time, and not the kind I’m getting this time. And while I have been being treated for acid reflux disease for years (the acid reflux is what caused the original ulcer in my esophagus), I had never, ever felt “heartburn” with it. Reflux means acid getting up out of your stomach and into your esophagus and sometimes lungs. I choke, cough, and sometimes get a burning sensation up in my throat, but my stomach feels just fine when the reflux is giving me trouble.
So when the discharge instructions said no solid foods and only clear liquids until the stomach upset went away, I had to figure out what symptom I would instead use to determine when I can start adding solid food to my diet.
The other thing that people assume when they hear that you have an ulcer, is that it is caused by stress. Stress can exacerbate any condition you may suffer from, but it isn’t necessarily the primary cause of an ulcer. Some ulcers are the result of a specific kind of bacterial infection, for instance.
My previous ulcer was specifically an result of the acid reflux disease, and my attempt to deal with that primarily by modifying my diet. I didn’t want to take medication for it all the time, and had this notion that if I just exercised, watched what I eat and most importantly when I eat it, I could tough out those times when the reflux happened, anyway.
Monitoring what I ate and when did cut way down on when the attacks happened, it’s true, but they still happened. Particularly when I have less control over those other things, such as when we’re traveling. Sometimes you just have to eat when there’s a chance to, and the options on the menu may not include safe foods, and you can’t wait three hours after eating before going to sleep.
After the experience ten years ago, and having not one but three doctors explain in detail how close I came to dying, I decided to take the medication every day, and stop trying to be natural/tough it out/what have you.
Because as a human in the 21st century, my life and way of life is sustained by all sorts of unnatural things: detergent, eye glasses, electricity, et cetera. And while death is natural, it isn’t anything most of us want to rush into.