3 Things You Should Know About Bowel Obstruction That Could Save Your Life
On September 25,2015, our house was full of boxes from weeks of packing for a move that was going to take place in just two days. It was just past midnight (4 days after the symptoms started), and my partner Rose was restless and could not get comfortable. She had a stabbing pains in the stomach and was not able to have a bowel movement. The pain was increasing no matter what I did to help her or what she took to relieve it.
When Rose finally told me she had never felt pain like this in her life I got dressed and we were in the car within minutes. We were scared and did not know what was causing the pain.
I wanted to race to the hospital but I had to drive slowly and carefully to keep the car from being bumpy. We arrived at the hospital within 15 minutes. It was a busy night, the sky was clear and the moon was 2 days away from being a total lunar eclipse. For some reason this was bringing out the crazy people, or maybe it was just because it was just after midnight and we were entering a busy ER waiting room with an assortment of patients dealing with a variety of issues.
A little insight: I have come to believe that I can help people and be the best patient advocate and help someone get the best care possible. But not tonight. Not with Rose. She started vomiting shortly after we had her checked in. I fell apart. I have a gag reflex and started gagging (it happens to run in the family- I am not a total schmuck).
I begged Rose to walk to the bathroom to complete her puke session. She looked at me like I had three heads but she slowly walked to the bathroom. It’s amazing how a puking woman can get you into your own private ER area in seconds. Just saying. Use what you can at this point I thought.
What next you ask? Well we were very fortunate to now be out of the waiting room and this handsome scruffy-faced doctor came in. He pushed here and there on Rose's stomach and he had the best bedside manner. After asking questions like “Have you been out of the country or camping recently?“ and running blood work, they had Rose lay in the hospital bed for 3 more hours. Rose was now on pain meds, so she was relaxing which was a relief.
The stories we could hear going on from the other patients and the doctor were priceless. It was sort of a comic relief almost to hear our ER doctor say to a woman behind another curtain " well you asked me to help you, you have gonorrhea, so I gave you something that will make you better. I am so sorry for doing what you asked me to do”. It was classic and it made Rose and I whisper in laughter while being totally disgusted. Anything to take our mind off what was happening to Rose.
After being at the hospital for 4 hours, the medical team sent Rose back for a CT Scan. This test probably saved her life. The results came back within 15 minutes.
“Rose we are going to admit you because you have an obstruction in your bowel. We cannot tell if it is a tumor or maybe its Crohn's disease causing inflammation, but we have to admit you for a few days to figure it out ," the doctor told Rose and I.
“Really????,” I thought. “Tumor or Crohn's? Ugh..” Both sounded serious and there was still uncertainty of what the diagnosis really was.
I called my sister and she did not skip a beat. It was now 5:00am and she said I am getting changed and I will be there shortly so you can go home and get some rest. She does not like hospitals but was willing to do anything to help us.
Rose was moved to her room. She was being the perfect patient. My sister stayed with her while I went home and slept for a few hours then came back the hospital.
Timing is everything I truly believe. Just before I walked into the room Rose had another puking session and it was black in color. This was alarming to the nurse so they took a few minutes trying to convince Rose that they needed to do something extremely painful and stick a tube through her nose and push it down to her stomach.
The procedure is called nasogastric intubation. It can be very painful and they can not give you any pain medicine before the procedure because you have to be lucid enough to swallow the tube down into your stomach.
I can say that I have complete and utter respect for Rose and what she went through. She screamed while they were putting that tube up her nose. I had to leave the room.
Two days went by of aspiration and by the third day if Rose had not had a bowel movement, the surgeon said he would have to go in and find out what exactly was going on. By this time Rose was getting tired of taking the morphine and made them stop all pain medication.
The third day arrived, I was scared to death that Rose had a tumor and was going to die. She was a pale shade of yellow and just was just laying there helpless and afraid with a tube coming out of her nose. I was praying constantly and asking for prayers from around the country. Rose’s Brother and niece visited daily as well as my sister and a few friends. We were all scared but trying to be strong for Rose.
That Monday morning the surgeon came in the room and told us, “Well we have to go in and see what it is. I am hoping for it to be minimally invasive surgery also called Laparoscopic surgery, but if I find something I will have to cut you open.”
“We still do not know what is causing the inflammation. It could be a tumor and you have lymphoma or it could be Crohn’s, but we have to eliminate the blockage.,” he continued.
Two hours later they took Rose back for surgery. Rose’s family and I were in the surgical waiting room during the procedure.
About 90 minutes after they took her back, the surgeon came out and said to me, “Well its done, I pushed through the inflammation, there was nothing in there obstructing the bowel except inflammation. The steroids and antibiotics helped.”
There you have it.
“Wait a minute, you are saying that she is going to be fine and able to go home?“ I asked.
The surgeon said yes I have done my part, so when she is ready she can be released and go back to normal activity.
I just stood there. I thought back to them asking numerous times if Rose had been out of the country or camping or at the river recently. I think in 3 days I heard them ask her that 4 times.
I turned back to the surgeon and said, “Is that why were you asking about traveling or camping?“ and he responded, “Well there is a viral bacteria that has been seen in more and more places in this county so that could have been one angle but she could have gotten this virus from somewhere she ate maybe. Really? That was not so comforting.
So for 3 of the 4 days we thought she had a tumor/lymphoma or Crohn’s and luckily it was just a viral bacteria and she would be fine.
Well the story has a good ending. Rose went home that afternoon. She rested for a couple days while I packed up moving containers with the help of a friend and my brother, and one week later we were driving cross-country to Michigan as planned.
From the whole experience, there were 3 main things I learned about bowel obstruction that are important to keep in mind:
#1 - Discomfort and pain will start in the upper stomach area (hurt to touch).
#2 - Appetite is low and you may have difficulty having a bowel movement.
#3 - If you’re nauseous and pain increases, go immediately to the emergency room because it can be life threatening.