Always Getting A Stony Reception

, , , , | Healthy | August 27, 2018

(I’m 22 years old, female, and reasonably healthy for my age while living away at university. When I’m home at my parents for Christmas, I suddenly get a sharp pain in the centre of my chest, radiating out to the centre of my right rib cage. It’s not too severe at first, but I cannot walk straight and end up laying on the floor for two hours.)

Mom: *sitting on my bed, trying to keep me calm, talking to the out-of-hours telephone service, as well* “This pain has never happened before; I’m not really sure what to do here.”

Phone Responder: “All right, there’s not much we can do, unfortunately; judging by your description it could be a diaphragm spasm or a fructose allergy causing the tightness. You can give her pain relief, but all we can recommend is to call your GP in the morning.”

Mom: “All right, thank you.”

(Thankfully, the pain passes in about three hours, so we figure it’s a one-time thing and continue our lives. I get more pains, like this one and worse, about two or three times a year until I’m 24, where I finally go to my GP after a particularly bad “attack” where I end up vomiting from the pain.)

Me: *describes the symptoms in detail* “I was speaking to a family friend who’s had gallstones and says she had the same pains. Could it be that?”

Doctor: “Hmm, I doubt it; you’re simply too young and too healthy for it. It’s probably acid reflux. Try some [Known Heartburn Brand] for a while and see how you get on with that.”

(I leave and do as he asks, and for a while it seems to work… until this year at the age of 25. I have a pain so bad I begin violently vomiting, begging my mom to call an ambulance because I’m convinced something inside me has ruptured because of the severity of the pain. She does, and thankfully they arrive within minutes. I’m unable to talk because of the pain, so my mom is the one having to describe everything.)

Mom: *helping me explain the pain and pointing where it is on her own body, since I’m curled up into a ball on the bathroom floor* “She’s had these pains before, but never this bad. We don’t like to bother emergency services unless it’s severe.”

Paramedic: “We’ll try paracetamol and [heartburn medicine] first to see if that helps. Is that okay?”

(I nod, and the paramedics do as they promised, but after 20 minutes the pain is still worsening and I’m not able to think on anything else anymore. I can’t breathe, I feel like I’m dying or I’m going to pass out, and it’s overall a terrifying experience.)

Paramedic: “All right, since that’s not helping we’re going to give her some gas and air until we can move her over to the bed and check her over, okay?”

Mom: “That’s fine; she’s definitely not allergic to anything, so she can have whatever is needed.”

(Thankfully, the gas and air dulls the pain enough for me to get off the bathroom floor onto my bed, but it’s still severe and I’m shivering from the intensity. The paramedics do all their checks, pressing on the area with the pain, which causes me to cry again.)

Paramedic: “I think she’s got something wrong with her gallbladder. It’s unusual for her age, but it’s the only explanation for this pain and the area of it. I think it would be wise for her to go to hospital to check for sludge stuck in there or stones.”

(My mom agreed, but I insisted that she stay home so she didn’t have to see me in pain anymore. Once I was in the ambulance, I was also given morphine and some anti-vomiting medicine, as I was still being sick. At the hospital, the pain was starting to fade and eventually the emergency room nurse discharged me with the diagnosis of stress from just finishing university. I was tired, delirious, and fed up at this point, so even though I tried to argue, I didn’t have the strength and I left. I went back to my GP a few weeks later, and with a note from the ambulance team included in my file with their suspicions, and my mom not letting me leave without an answer, I was booked in for an ultrasound and a blood test. The ultrasound revealed I had some of the biggest gallstones the staff had ever seen in someone of my age, and I’m now waiting on surgery to remove my entire gallbladder. Just because someone doesn’t match the “average” symptom group doesn’t mean it’s absolutely not that illness, and if I had been listened to in the first place, I wouldn’t be losing my gallbladder!)

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