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Surviving a 21-hour Blockage Without Pain Meds

I Would Rather Give Birth

At least she has an epidural!

A lot can happen in 24 hours. It’s been said by several people already: I jinxed myself blogging about my last blockage that I had in December (Part 1 and Part 2). Yesterday was a day and night of utter misery with yet another blockage. Yay, right?

Why the photo of the pregnant woman? I’ve had a family friend who experiences occasional IBS tell me that she’d rather give birth again than have another round of IBS and she is sure that the pain I go through with my blockages is worse than her IBS. Nothing against women; that came from a woman with 3 kids. That’s the kind of day I have when I have a blockage. So, I should have something like 20 kids by now…

It wasn’t my fault again

At about 7am, I noticed I still wasn’t quite feeling well from the late night before. I felt like I’d eaten greasy hamburgers, but I’d had a very healthy meal. Something just didn’t feel right. I checked my travel enzyme bottle and confirmed I’d taken my Zenpep. I had a normal breakfast and lunch and was sure to take enzymes with my cheese and crackers.

Deciding this might be a bad day, I had Honey Smacks for breakfast instead of my usual huge omelet (with 4 slices of cheese) to keep whatever I consumed in the soft food category until I confirmed real trouble via cramping. Around 9am, the cramps started. They started small and far apart at first. It’s that first one that actually hurts that confirms trouble. I was starving, so I had a Boost Plus and a Stouffer’s turkey dinner (sliced turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes) to keep everything soft in hopes that it’s just a momentary cramp-fest.

No such luck. Full-on cramps set in by 1pm. I called my coordinator, Sue, and she said to take 2 doses of Miralax while she got the doctor. That went down fine with my sweet tea. I had about 16oz to mix it in and try to keep hydrated. She called back and said they wanted me to sip on GoLYTELY. You know from Part 1 that this just doesn’t work. Never has, plus experiencing the effects of my gag reflex is not something that I particularly enjoy. I asked for a compromise to sip on magnesium citrate. Agreed.

Over the next 2 hours, I was able to take 4 doses of 2 sips each. I could feel that I was completely full and backed up into my stomach. I was hiccuping and my belches smelled of Honey Smacks. Not good!

Ohh, what’s that I hear?

Around 3pm, the most delightful thing happened: my intestine came to life, fighting on their own. I know from experience that even with a dead gut, ER doctors will refuse to diagnose you as bowel obstructed if your gut is making noise. As long as I heard and felt things move, I knew 1) I couldn’t go to the ER and 2) I stood a chance of things getting better on their own.

The problem was that the noise only came after a huge cramp ranking a 12/10 on the pain scale. We’re talking about the “I almost passed out” kind of pain. Sometimes it gurgled, sometimes not, but it was more often than not most of the evening. I discovered that lying flat or on my left side helped, but my right side killed the gurgle, even though that’s where the scar band is. Our heating pad also seemed to help quite a bit compared to when I wasn’t using it, but it sure didn’t help the pain. I had Beautiful look it up to confirm that Vicodin behaved like morphine by retarding the digestive system, so after that was confirmed I was dead set to continue a pain med-free night. I would have given small, useless body parts for a minimal dose of morphine.

A hard day’s night

Beautiful went to bed fully expecting me to get her up at some point in the night to go to the ER. She even got up around 11pm confused and wondering why I hadn’t come to get her yet. 😉 I gave it a 70/30 chance of clearing up on its own, which was up from 50/50 when she went to bed. I had a full cramp every 4-7 minutes. They last anywhere from 7-15 seconds, leaving me rocking my legs and trying to not moan and wake up Beautiful.

I kept going from sweating with the heating pad on whilst lying on a leather couch to freezing in the bathroom because, well, a lot of gassy material was building up because things were getting pushed through and it had to go somewhere. No dice on anything solid, though.

I kept looking at the DVR clock. 2:15, 2:22, 2:50, 3:07, 3:14 are all times I remember seeing, and many more – about this time, I had some longer periods of no gurgling that worried me. Right before Beautiful got up at 5:00, I guess things really started to move without any cramping because I was passed out asleep. I remember her coming down to sit on the other end of the couch and fell back asleep. She said I was making a lot of noise and guessed we weren’t going to the ER and that she was going to work today.

All of a sudden, I woke up with a frantic “uh oh” feeling and rushed upstairs to my bathroom. The saga ended at 5:24am. I was VERY tender when I came downstairs, was all day long, and likely will be for several days. I estimate that I experienced about 200 full-strength cramps to pass everything through.

A new treatment has been added to my list of meds: twice daily Dulcolax pills, which I will gladly take.


  1. Glad to hear that everything is moving again. We've been praying for you!

  2. Ivamarsip says

    hope you continue to have a better day~~~

  3. Today is already better than yesterday.

  4. Breckgamel says

    My goodness! What a great description of what you – and likely many others with CF struggle with. It sounds absolutely terrible!!

    A couple of questions for you: 1.) is there really anyway to prevent this?? 2.) What causes this to happen – esp. if you've been so conscience of what you're eating? 3.) do you think you have more GI issues because you had MI? Or, do you think your CF is particularly GI-intense beginning from birth?

  5. Let's just say I wouldn't give anyone with a blockage a loaded gun. I know Beautiful doesn't like me to say that, but I can assure you that someone with less to lose would use it. Even today, as the food leaves my stomach, it's inducing pain just a few steps lower than a blockage cramp. It will take a few weeks to fully recover from the internal trauma.

    Glad to answer questions!

    Part 1 and Part 2 linked at the beginning along with this post pretty much take care of the first two questions in more detail than is cool to put in a comment. I'm a responsible, compliant 31 yr old. If it could be avoided, I'd be the one to do it.

    For #3, I've never heard of anyone without MI having a blockage. They just get the runs if they don't take their enzymes. This is directly related due to the scarring. They say in radiology that if someone without a history comes in with a complete bowel obstruction, it usually leads to surgery to repair, but mine is due to a surgery and can be cleared… if they only do what I ask.

    I read last week that only 10% of CFers have MI. I thought it was much higher than that. I'm also finding a lot more people who aren't on enzymes than I would have ever believed – but CF is that varied.

  6. Glad things are improving. Any more talk of a possible repair of the scarring?