I have been experiencing some severe pains right below by sternum for about a month. The first time it happened, it started at 1 am and lasted until 3 am with no relief. At times I thought I was dying. I could even feel pain in my back. It was so painful. I told Sam that the pain was worse than childbirth. There never is relief until it goes away completely. It's not a burning sensation; more like someone punched me in the stomach and the pain never goes away. The next time it happened, it again started at 1 am, but this time it lasted until 7 am with no relief. I started feeling better, a little weak, but then again that same day around 2 pm it started again. This time it lasted until 6 pm. This time, I mentioned it to the doctor, Mark (the doctor on campus), and he thought it could be an ulcer and put me on Prilosec. I mentioned to him that I was taking doxycycline and at times for the last couple of weeks when I would take the medicine, I would get a little heartburn. Nothing severe. He said then the pain was associated with the doxycycline. That perhaps a pill got lodged in my esophagus and was eating away. I stopped taking the doxycycline. I have been pain free (very lethargic though) until last night. At 7 pm Molly Grace was walking down the hall and I didn't know it and it scared me and the pain started. It lasted for about an hour. I took too chewable Pepto Bismols and drank a full glass of water at the onset. I called Mark after an hour of pain and asked him if I could take a pain killer. He told me to take 1/2 of Hydrocodone. I did, but when I laid down, the pain was gone. I know the pain killer didn't work that fast.
I have been checking symptoms online (not a good idea for me; I tend to always think the worst) and found several things that could be wrong. Some that were listed were aortic dissection, gall stones, pancreatitis, and acid reflux (which is what Mark thought it was). It's scary to be so far away from good medical facilities.
Well, then last Saturday morning at 1am it started again. This time it lasted until about 8:30. I called Mark and he told me to go to the clinic so they could run some tests. He wanted to check my pancreas. They did an ultrasound and did some blood work. When the technician was doing the ultrasound, he showed me my organs and said, "See, there are the gallstones." I asked, "What, I have gallstones?" He then asked, "You didn't know?" I said, "No." So I took the report to Mark and we discussed what should be done. He told me the pain was caused from a gallstone passing and the longer the pain lasts, the bigger the stone is.
Mark encouraged me to send his report to doctors at home to see what their opinions were.:
CC: epigastric abdominal pain 1 ½ weeks. Episodic. Presented with nocturnal epigastric pain that radiated through to the back. Takes Doxycycline for malaria prophylaxis – not always with full glass of water and often lays down soon after taking. Was prescribed omeprazole 20mg bid. Ultrasound on 26th January revealed cholelithiasis without ductal dilatation or stones. Pancreas normal. AST 143, ALT 158, Total Bilirubin 2.67, GGT 176, Alk. Phos <20, Amylase 32.6.I think LeAnne has been passing gallstones causing her episodic pain. I advised that she see a general surgeon to evaluate for laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Mark Boersma, MD
Mark wants me to go to South Africa at Easter Break, which is 5 more weeks away to see a general surgeon and possibly have my gall bladder removed. In the meantime, he has put me on a low fat diet. He will check my blood weekly to make sure nothing changes with my liver.
I had my liver checked again today and Mark said that my levels were down which was a better sign. My bilirubin is still up though. The numbers are Bilirubin is 1.36, GGT is 101, SGOT (AST) is 25.3, and SGPT is 58.2.
We have had several people (some which are doctors) tell us that it is better to have the surgery done sooner rather than later. Other problems could develop if the duct became blocked with a stone. We could go to South Africa, but we don’t know anyone down here and I would have to recover in a hotel. Not fun. So, we have decided to go back to the States for me to have the surgery. We have a good friend, Michael, who is a surgeon who will perform the operation. I will have family and friends to help take care of me and the girls there. I would appreciate prayer. It's one thing to have this happen at home, but for it to happen in a foreign, third world country, it is kind of scary for me.
We will leave next Friday, February 8, and arrive in Jackson Saturday. We will fly from Lilongwe to Johannesburg, SA to New York to Detroit to Jackson. I would also like to ask you to pray for a safe trip home.
Some specific prayer requests that I have are:
For the girls not to get too antsy on the plane
For me to be pain free all the way home
For Michael as he prepares to do the surgery
Thank you already to those of you who have been praying. I have felt so much love. I have some really dear friends back home in Brookhaven and also here in Malawi. Also, thank you for all the emails we have received. Everyone has been so encouraging.
With Love in Him,