Thursday, September 30

I swear I'm not a hypochondriac

I'm a firm believer in Murphy's Law.  Now, this of course makes me seem a pessimist, which I used to be.  In college, I guess something stirred in me that made me realize the glass is indeed half full, not half empty (which is funny considering I've never had much motivation and determination in what my life holds for me.)  So I assume most people who believe in Murphy's Law are pessimists.  Which I am not.  Unless, a situation presents itself in which one bad thing happens with a series of other bad things.  Then it's just a free opportunity to be pessimistic. 

I work for the state, which lots of folks are jealous of because I get great state holidays, good vacation/sick leave and hella benefits.  Or, I did get hella benefits.  As of January 2011, our benefit options are changing.  I used to have no deductible, vision insurance, my dermatologist was covered in my plan (yeah, I still go to a dermatologist even though I'm 24--it sucks), and I only paid like $80 out of my paycheck every month for benefits.  It was awesome.  Now, I will have a $350 deductible, they'll take $110 out of my paycheck every month, I will no longer have vision insurance and my dermatologist is out of network.  So I've had to open up an account called flexible benefits to have an additional $12.50 taken out every month to pay for my vision visit and contacts.  Sooper.

Now I know  $125 a month isn't a lot of money to a lot of people, but to me it is.  Considering the fact that I make hardly anything per month, I have rent to pay, gas and groceries to buy, co-pays to pay (that are also increasing) and the possibility of having to meet a $350 deductible all while my car seems to break every other month which seems to always cost between $200-$400, plus having to pay for car insurance twice a year and owing my parents money, $125 is most definitely a lot of money per month.

So anyway....err, where was I going with this post?  Oh yeah, so benefits are going to be more expensive.  And guess who found out around the same time that her benefits were changing that she has to have surgery...yep, me. 

I have a genetic issue/disorder called spherocytosis.  Sounds fun...right?  So my blood cells are shaped weird (this is easier to describe in person because I can do a cool hand demonstration.)  Instead of being flat, discus type cells like you have, mine are shaped like spheres (thus the name spherocytosis.)  So as a result of this awesome disorder that has also plagued my mom, uncle Lonnie, cousin Lou, grandmother Sisi, and her sister (plus, I'm sure many others), I no longer have a spleen.  I had it removed the summer after my junior year of high school---[I love telling people I don't have a spleen and seeing their reactions.  I have been asked more than once if you can live without a spleen upon me telling them.  Uhhhh....definitely not?]--- Basically because of the way the blood cells are shaped they don't filter through your spleen correctly and somehow that affects the breakdown of billiruben in your blood.  I'd never heard of billiruben before I found out I had spherocytosis.  So yay, I had my spleen taken out.  People visited me in the hospital, I got cards and flowers and a stuffed pig named Spleeny from Build a Bear, and when I came home my friends had decorated my bedroom.  I was cured and happy.  HOORAY!

But guess what?  I wasn't cured.  So you know how I said that my mom, uncle, cousin, grandmother and great aunt all have/had spherocytosis?  Well, it doesn't only affect your spleen.  Somehow in the incorrect breakdown of billiruben process, the billiruben clumps to form gallstones.  Now, in the typical, happy, (usually obese) person that has gallstones, their stones are smooth, pebble like lumps of cholesterol.  For the poor, atypical, unhappy person (and I am not obese) who has spherocytosis, their gallstones are composed of billiruben and are shaped like know from the game ball and jacks.

Sounds pleasant and comfortable, yes?  Wrong.  For the past year and a half to two yeers I have been waking up around 3 or 4 am with the worst back pain ever due to a gallbladder attack.  I know that sounds wussy, but it's pain so bad that the only thing I can do is curl in a ball and wait it out, usually until 6 am when the pain dissipates.  Initially I didn't know what the heck was going on.  So after a while, I decided to google my symptoms and self diagnosed myself after reading the wikipedia article with gallstones (since I knew they run in my family.)  My mom has gallstones but they don't bother her.  My cousin had his gallbladder removed but not his spleen.  My uncle and grandmother had both removed and my great aunt died from a ruptured gallbladder.  YIKES (now granted, this was back the 1950s or so when medicine wasn't as great as it is now.)

So in August, I finally went to the doctor and told her my concerns.  I HATE this activity, by the way.  When I list off symptoms to the doctor I feel like they think I'm a hypochondriac.  Which I'm not.  I just knew that this couldn't possibly be some random pain that had no validation.  So I told her, she looked skeptical, but told me she'd do some blood work to check my liver, kidneys, and thyroid....uhhh hello...Gallbladder!  And she scheduled an ultrasound two days later to see what I might be inflicted with.  I could tell she doubted me and my google diagnosis.  

I go to the ultrasound and the tech was really sweet...nothing like the bitchy ultrasound tech in Juno.  She's looking around and makes her way over to my gallbladder.  She tells me in confidence that my gallbladder is packed full of stones.  I wish I could import the images she took into my blog.  It looked kinda cool.  She checked my kidneys and liver.  I could tell she was searching after that, and I said "Oh, by the way, I don't have a spleen."  She looked relieved.  I think she was worried she was going to have to inform me I didn't have one.  That would've been a riot.

So after a whole week of waiting, the doctor finally called me back and said what I already knew, that I had gallstones (google diagnosis DOES work!)  She suggested surgery, but my mom wanted to know how high priority it was.  See, the tricky part here is that I needed to have the surgery before my new insurance kicked in (you were wondering why I ranted at the beginning about that, huh?) but I also had to wait long enough to build up enough leave at work that I didn't have to take leave without pay.  We made an appointment with a gastrointerologist (I've seen a large variety of doctors, including a hemotologist.)  Basically to sum-up, he said I'd most likely be fine to wait until November (which was my ideal solution.)  So I proceeded with an appointment with a surgeon.  I had to find a new one because my old surgeon, Dr. Peppers (no joke), is some sort of traveling laproscopic surgeon.  So anywho, we scheduled the surgery for November 8.  It'll be a blast.

See, Murphy's Law in action.

Today at work, we had a health screening.  Hooray-free!  So I go down there for my schedule appointment and sit and sit and sit as they ran 25 minutes behind.  Then went from station to station as they took my height, weight, blood pressure, and a bit of blood.  The lady who drew my blood told me I had tiny fingers...then once she pricked me she goes "ooh, but they sure do bleed."  I guess that's a compliment?  Right, so then you have to wait for your results.  

Turns out I'm the same height I've been since 5th or 6th grade, I'm not overweight according to my BMI.  My blood pressure is great, as was my glucose (which is impressive considering it was supposed to be a fasting test and I'd eaten part of a donut an hour before...whoops.)  My total cholesterol was great and my triglycerides were really low.  So low that the machine couldn't calculate a number because it was below 45.  Because the number was so low, they couldn't figure out my LDL cholesterol, but my HDL cholesterol is suuuuuuuuuper low.  Like, it should be at least 60, mine's 18.  And because of such, my total cholesterol to HDL ratio was 8.8.  It's supposed to be 4.  So guess what makes your HDL run low?  Lack of exercise, too much alcohol intake, and lack of fiber.  Swell.  I already struggle with trying to get enough fiber into my diet.  Even when I do, my HDL is still too low.  Fail.

This added to my attitude toward Murphy's Law today.  Of course I have all these dietary issues already, on top of my damn gallstones, and now my HDL sucks which leads to heart disease.  I wish there was a store like an auto body shop, but it was just a body shop where you could buy human parts to replace the parts that don't work to begin with. 

And don't worry, if you're worried that you can't live without your gallbladder, I assure you, you can!


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