Sunday, March 06, 2005

Pain and Basketball

Playing basketball has always been a joy to me. When I'm playing I can endure almost anything. It's like I'm alone in my own world with no worries. It's the best analgesic I know of! About nine years ago, when I was having severe pain from recurring endometriosis, the docs kept telling me it wasn't possible to be having pain from endo since I'd had a complete hysterectomy about four years before. Despite the fact I'd had progressively worsening pain during the entire four years since the hyst, I couldn't get the doctors to believe me. One day, when I was having some of the worst pain I'd ever felt, over my left kidney, a friend challenged me to a game of basketball. I played him and won (in a game to 10) on a last second shot. I then played a friend of his and lost, but just barely. The second guy was about a hundred pounds heavier and kept driving to the basket when he discovered I wasn't a push-over girly-girl as a player. While we'd been playing, I didn't think about the pain; my focus was playing & beating these guys.

After we'd finished playing, I headed home in my car. The pain got to a point where I could hardly sit up straight, so I went to the nearest ER. Since I'd been there so often because of this recurring pain (as well as to my primary medical doctor), they treated me as though I was a drug addict. By this time, I was in a fetal position and screaming in pain. They made me wait an hour and a half until a friend (my basketball friend's wife) came to the hospital at my request. Finally, when she insisted they do something about my agony, they gave me a shot of demerol, and sent me home without doing any tests. The pain was back within a couple of hours, though. I held out for another seven to ten days, though, and finally couldn't handle it anymore. At 1am, I lay in my bed, crying out to God and begging Him to please help the doctors find out what was wrong with me. (I'd had Cat Scan after Cat Scan over the past four years which showed nothing.) I called my brother, Steve, to come and take me to a different hospital, in a nearby town. I was terrified about doing this, 'coz drug addicts do this sort of thing in order to feed their habits. I was afraid that it proved I was an addict, having been accused of this so many times in the past four years. (The docs said either I was "drug seeking" or it was "all in my head" every time they I went in & they couldn't tell what was wrong.) I just knew that if I went back to the hospital I'd always gone to, they'd not treat the situation appropriately.

We went to Edward Hospital, in Naperville, IL, and I was seen fairly quickly. When I spoke with the ER doc, I could hardly talk because it hurt to breathe even. I told him I wasn't wanting a narcotic, such as Demerol, or anything, because I was so afraid he would think I was "drug-seeking". I begged him for "just one Vicodin, to just help me to have a few hours relief from this pain". He smiled & said, "Debbie, Vicodin is not going to help you with this pain. We've done a urinalysis which shows you have blood in your urine. This is a strong indication that your problem is from a blocked ureter (the tube which runs between the kidney and bladder) from what is probably a kidney stone. You'll need some IV Demerol & Toradol to help with this pain because it's some of the worst there is!" Well, I could not then, and cannot even now, express the relief which flooded through me at hearing this! I finally had a diagnosis!! (It turned out to be the wrong diagnosis, but still it was something, at least! And a doctor was finally believing me! Instead of a kidney stone, the endometriosis had grown back &, like a cancer, had metastasized around the ureter, cutting off the flow to the bladder. However, the pain was EXACTLY like a kidney stone!)

I was sent home from the hospital later that morning with the kidney stone diagnosis & told to drink lots of water. This was about the worst thing I could have done, due to the obstruction (although it would have made sense to do it, if the obstruction was caused by a kidney stone). The next day I was admitted into the hospital with projectile emesis and earth-shattering pain. They placed a stent (a straw-like tube threaded through the ureter and into the bladder) to relieve the pressure in the kidney, but they still thought it was just a kidney stone. I'd been admitted to the hospital I'd always gone to, where my PMD was a staff member, and so had problems getting them to believe me when I told them the pain was still very bad. Finally, a CT scan showed a large mass surrounding the ureter. That afternoon, I had surgery performed by a gynecologist, a urologist and a general surgeon to remove the mass, along with 5-7mm of the ureter, which was then reattached to the bladder. They also removed a large endometrioma from my right side, which was near the bladder/ureter. My PMD came in the next day and apologized for not believing me all this time (he was a good Christian man, who was doing the best he could in a difficult situation, otherwise I wouldn't have continued seeing him). He said, "This explains all the pain you've had these past four years, but the good news is you'll never have to deal with this problem again because we got it all out. Plus, it is almost unheard of to have endometriosis grow back so aggressively after a complete hysterectomy."

Unfortunately, he was wrong and seven months later the endometrioma grew back on the right side and obstructed the right ureter!! I was a traveling nurse up in Wisconsin, just beginning an assignment, but I knew immediately what was wrong because the pain was so horrendous. It was difficult to be a long way from home, helpless & scared, being treated by people I'd never met before. Turns out, though, God was completely in control and I had fantastic care. I had the same surgery I'd had seven months previous, only this time on my right side. Since then, I've had severe chronic pain in my right kidney, but by God's grace, I am being treated by a doctor who believes me and is treating the pain appropriately.

Isn't it interesting, though, the only thing which made the pain bearable in any way, shape or form, was playing basketball? I suppose, when you play with your whole mind and heart, it distracts you from everything else... Oh the wonder of creation, as the Psalms say. This story is one of the reasons why Psalm 139 is my favorite, "I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvellous are thy works; and (that) my soul knoweth right well." (Darby Translation, v. 14)

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