I jinxed us with the Christmas letter I wrote.  I should have known better.

I was being all positive, counting our blessings, claiming we were both happy and healthy, but I went that one step too far by stating flat out that the “only bad news of the year” was Cara’s recent injuries.  I should have waited until January 1st before I wrote something like that.  I was tempting fate, Murphy’s Law, and the Evil Eye with that one.

Christmas morning, I woke to a husband who had been dealing with abdominal pain and vomiting all night.  He hadn’t slept a wink since 2:45 am, when his gut suddenly started hurting.  But he insisted the pain would go away soon, and I should go ahead with my family’s traditional Christmas conference call.  He thought soaking in a hot tub might help, so I got a bath drawn with him resting in it, and then headed downstairs to take turns opening packages over the phone with my parents (in Massachussets) and my sister (in North Carolina).  A crazy tradition of ours that started in the last few years, but adorable too.

By the end of our call, T was lying on the couch next to me with his eyes closed, but definitely not sleeping.  He agreed that it was time to head for the hospital, but he needed time for the nausea caused by coming downstairs to settle down before he could move.  While we waited for that, he drifted off and slept for about 15 minutes, but the pain woke him up again.  So we headed for the nearest ER.

Fortunately, not many people want to go to the ER on Christmas, so there was no wait.  They got him into a bed, and doctors and nurses were taking his personal and family medical history, blood pressure, temperature, and blood for lab tests within a few minutes.  He had pain that started at the sternum and radiated down his right side, just under the edge of his rib cage.  By the time we got to the ER, it was starting to radiate down his left side as well.  The doctor thought it was either gallstones, since he was showing the classic symptoms, or possibly an ulcer.  T was betting on an ulcer.

To make the diagnosis, they used a few techniques.  First, the ER doc used a small bedside ultrasound to look for gallstones.  He also gave T what he called a “GI cocktail,” basically Maalox and a numbing agent, which if it provided temporary relief might point to an ulcer.  But the mini-ultrasound seemed to show gallstones, so they shipped T off for a full-scale ultrasound.

I went with him, and got to see parts of my husband I’d never seen before.  Like his kidneys, spleen, lungs and gallbladder, both lengthwise and in cross-section.  (The tech was captioning her images as she went, otherwise I’d have thought we were having a boy.)  When the tech was finished and stepped out for a minute, T swore it was an ulcer, since his stomach was feeling much better with the GI cocktail.  But as she wheeled him back to the ER, she let us know she’d definitely seen gallstones.

While we waited on the doc, T was given some anti-nausea medication and a touch of morphine.  He was buzzing a little, but still quite coherent when the doc came back and said he needed his gallbladder removed.  He said he’d called the surgeon in on Christmas, against his will, but it was necessary.  When the surgeon finally came in a little while later to talk to us, he said people can have their gallbladder removed in the morning and be home the same afternoon.  T asked if we could put off the surgery until the next morning, since he didn’t want to ruin a whole surgical team’s Christmas day.  The surgeon thought that was very generous of him, and didn’t think there was any risk at all from putting the surgery off, so they scheduled him for first thing the next morning, at 8 am.

Later, T asked if I was okay with the delay.  I said I’d rather have it out and know he was ok and on the mend sooner, but if the surgeon didn’t mind, then I could wait too.  T then divulged his real motivation, and proved once again that he’s smarter than me: he really didn’t want the team rushing through the surgery to get back to their families, and wanted to wait so that all of their attention could be on him the next day.  With this rationale, I was more okay with the wait.

So they admitted him that evening, gave him a liquid dinner, which was better than nothing, and kept him comfortable on morphine during the night.  I went home, fed the dogs and myself, called my folks with the news, watched Avatar to keep my mind off things (probably not the very best choice, given the ending), and then took a Benadryl so that I could actually get some sleep that night.  It kinda worked.

T told me not to worry about getting to the hospital before his surgery, just to be there when he woke up.  He sent me a text around 7:45, just before they took him into surgery.  I got to the hospital around 10 am, and he wasn’t out of recovery yet, so I waited in his room.  When they finally wheeled him in, he was holding something kinda bloody in a little plastic specimen jar.  I was afraid it was his gallbladder, but no, instead it was “the largest gallstone the doctor had ever seen.”  (This piece of information was repeated several times during the course of the day, with pride, but since he was looped up on drugs I forgave him the repetition.  I also promised to tell all my girlfriends he had the largest one the doctor had ever seen.)  He was still pretty woozy from the anaesthesia, but he was definitely feeling much better than he had been before the surgery.

The rest of the day was just a waiting game.  T slept, ate some solid food, and did a lap up and down the hallway to prove he was recovering well.  I sat in the chair by his bed and watched him, watched TV (Airplane! and Cliffhanger), played Piccross on my brand-new Nintendo DSi (thanks Mom and Dad!), and read my latest copy of Mental Floss (a great magazine that everyone should go check out).  T kept trying to get me to go home, but I wasn’t budging.  Finally, around 5 pm, he convinced me to go back to the house, get some dinner (the hospital cafeteria was worse than most, I’d discovered at lunch), feed the dogs, and he’d give me a call as soon as he knew he was good to go.  I got home and only got halfway through dinner before he called and said I could come pick him up.  We got him into the car, stopped at a pharmacy for some prescription pain meds on the way home, and he was at the house by 8 pm.  Only 12 hours after having a whole organ removed.  He was even feeling well enough to open his Christmas presents that night!

He mostly slept on the couch that night, and I got to re-dress his incisions the next morning.  Since the surgery is done laproscopically these days, he has four small incisions: one vertically just below his belly-button, one in the center of his chest, and two high on his right side.  None of them had stitches in them, and in fact, all they had used to close the wounds were little X-es of skinny surgical tape!  I was able to dress each of them with just a square Band-Aid apiece.  Talk about the marvels of modern medicine.  He needs to stay home for a week, and then he can only be on light duty (no heavy lifting or scaffold climbing) for a second week, and then he should be healed up and good to go.  The surgeon even confirmed that he should be completely unconcerned about scuba diving in March on our honeymoon.

Lakeview Hospital, Bountiful, UT

All the staff at the hospital were great, and if you ever find yourself in need of care in Bountiful, Utah, don’t hesitate to go to Lakeview Hospital.  (Just don’t eat the food if you can avoid it.)

And even though I jinxed us, I can definitely say this is a Christmas we’ll never forget.  And of all the things I got for Christmas this year, a healthy husband was by far the best one of all.  *grin*

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