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For Your 31st Birthday, I Give You a Blockage

My ER: TGHI definitely had a birthday to remember last year for my 31st birthday. I got the spend the next while in the hospital, but all of the misery began on my birthday. Let’s rewind a bit and start from the beginning, just for those who haven’t read everything about my history up until now.

I was born with meconium ileus and had about 25% of my small intestines removed in my first few days of life to repair the damage. Subsequently, I have a bottleneck of scarring that has always presented itself as a problem with various foods throughout my life. At first, it was whole kernel corn. For whatever reason, probably just because I became a better chewer of my food or my body grew big enough to let corn get through, I only have a problem with melted cheese when I haven’t taken enough (if any) enzymes. To keep this a little shorter, here is what happens and what normally solves my intestinal blockages.

My birthday is December 18th – one week before Christmas and two weeks before New Years. It’s been our tradition since we started dating to go out to a nice dinner (or as nice as I could afford when her birthday rolled around) to have a memory of the day. I can remember quite a few of my birthday dinners with Beautiful, and maybe even all of them… so you can imagine my horror when I started to feel cramps in the mid-morning on my birthday.

Not even a flesh wound

What made me convinced that the cramps were nothing was that I didn’t have a cheesy meal the day before, and certainly not exactly 24 hours previously, as per normal blockage procedure for my symptoms. As the day went on, the cramps got worse, but not necessarily more frequent. Some cramps were 20-30 minutes apart, which is not a normal pattern for me.

Against my later better judgment, we went to Outback for a gigantic dinner anyway. It was a fabulous meal, as usual. I had a 16oz steak, baked potato, sauteed ‘shrooms, and several glasses of Sprite. I was stuffed, but unfortunately, quite literally! When we got in the car to go home, the cramps came full-on, so we swung by Walgreens to pick up a couple of bottles of magnesium citrate in a desperate attempt to clear things from the top, knowing full well that it’s never worked before. I drank both bottles and Beautiful went to bed early figuring that I’d be waking her up later in the night to go to the ER.

I went to bed at 10 or 11 and quietly moaned and painfully writhed uncontrollably. It didn’t take long before Beautiful decided it was time to get to the ER so we could get the ball rolling before shift change at 6am. If you get there at the wrong time, it can be hours before you’re seen if you’re not bleeding or experiencing chest pains. Since we had just been there 3 months previously with a blockage, this time it actually went pretty smoothly getting through triage. She asked very few questions and just confirmed that everything was the same as in September and I found myself in a private room in the ER in nearly half the time as usual. I thought that was a good sign…

Back in the bowels of the ER

Then things started going downhill. It was now about 1:30am and my cramps were about 3 minutes apart. Every 2nd or 3rd cramp was a 12 on the 1-10 pain scale. I really can’t describe the pain. The only thing I can think of is to put yourself in Braveheart’s place (Braveheart spoiler) as he gets his guts ripped out at the end of the movie. The ER is always generous with their morphine, but to the point that it depresses the digestive tract, too. There is an immediate need to take the edge off the pain, but also keep the natural smooth muscle contractions going.

By now, I was pretty distended (my gut was sticking out like a “feed the children” commercial) and the x-ray showed a lot of crap, but didn’t show them any evidence of a blockage. They, as normal, refused to send up a Gastrografin enema up from radiology to the ER, but unlike normal also refused to send me down to receive an enema for relief because they didn’t see a blockage.

No, you have no idea what you’re talking about, CFer dude

Instead of treating me, they decided to send me for more tests. It was now well after shift change, on Saturday morning, when I finally got a contrast CT scan. I don’t recommend getting one if you don’t need one. It was highly uncomfortable. It felt like someone was choking me with a hot glove and also rubbing Icy-Hot on my bladder at the same time, which they said was perfectly normal as my eyes got saucer-big upon realizing these new sensations happening to my body. Morphine or not, I was fully alert at that moment.

Once again, the tests didn’t show a blockage. How the #$%* do you explain my medical history of bowel obstructions, distended belly, off-the-chart cramps, and an intimate knowledge of needing a warm, 2 liter, Gastrografin enema if I haven’t got a commanding knowledge of my body and precisely what is wrong with it? I’ve had this body for 31 years now, and you’ve only had 6 years of med school and just asked me if anyone has considered that I might have cystic fibrosis. Get your butt moving and send me down for treatment!

To be continued…


  1. The contrast CT… is that the barium enema for the lower GI tract? Or did you just drink barium for the upper? I've had both and hated them both. The barium enema was the most painful thing to date. Even though I took these freaky memory loss pills, I woke up mid-procedure and screamed bloody murder. That, I remember.

    Hope these things get better. I'm still miserable with gut pain as well. Ugh, thank you meconium ileus.

  2. It was an IV contrast. I guess it still lights up the intestines. It only took 3-5 minutes. The worst pain ever is every single time I get 2L of Gastrografin up there with nothing but the morphine I came in on. There's no sedation for that because they need you to roll around to get different angles, while saying, “sorry!” to you a lot because they can tell they are slowly killing you.

    I won't spoil the end of the story – it gets “better” – as in worse. I'll have my normal Monday What CFers Do and then post the rest of the story on Tuesday.

  3. The memory loss pills I don't think sedated me, but made me forget afterwards.. they were weird. It also calmed my nerves. They don't work on me anymore, I guess the trauma fixed that. Can't wait to hear the end, but sorry this keeps happening to you!! :[

  4. This sounds a whole lot like what they did to you several years ago. Same hospital, I assume? Sounds like they need a notice posted on the wall with instructions how to handle you. Good grief!!

  5. Whatever visit you're remembering (I think you mean the one where they did a blood gas on me and the old man wanted the nurse to take off her clothes first), that visit was a dream compared to that one because I walked out of there that day. The maddening thing is the lack of calling Dr. Rolfe after repeated requests to call him and let him know I was there. I've been told to call the on-call doctor, even if I'm in the ER at the moment to let them know I'm there and need an intervention. Crap, this is going in the Tuesday post – spoiler alert!

  6. It's the one somewhere after Thanksgiving 2003, but before you got married. Your mom and I got to TGH while you were filing out a gripe report with the head nurse. You'd been there since sometime the day before. You went point by point about all the dumb mistakes in the ER and on the floor, including not calling Dr. Rolfe. I was amazed at how lousy they treated you and how well you controlled your anger. You were so mad your hands were shaking and your voice was kind of breaking, but you never yelled at her.

  7. Oh, THAT one! That one was at UCH (I think! – maybe not, because I was at TGH in 2001) and Rolfe came in to make sure I was okay and was going to get my Gastrografin ASAP, told me to “take your d*** Creon!!” and proceeded to walk down the hall and rip the floor's head nurse a new one for being so incompetent to try using Fleet enemas on a CFer with a history of small intestine blockages, etc. etc.

    It's nice having Beautiful there now, because I can let her get mad. I can be annoyed and grumpy, and if they see that she's not reacting to my rage, then I must be right or I'd be getting corrected. If she's staring them down with the same intensity because SHE knows they're an idiot, I think they get the message a bit better. 😉