07 March 2012

I Got Smashed in 2011

A knitted Pancreas, a gift from An Snag Breac. Works better than the real thing.
Today is P-Day.

One year ago today (or 366 days to be precise, thanks to the peculiarities of our Gregorian calendar), I had the first attack in a series of painful incidents that would later come to be diagnosed as Pancreatitis (first Mild, then Severe, followed by Acute, and now finally Chronic). As you all should well know by now this put me in hospital for good many weeks, caused a significant enough change in my BMI that I am now forced to shop in American Apparel and dress like a hipster, lead to the loss of a good portion of my innards (which, I might add, they didn't even offer to put in a jar for me to take home, keep safe, and always have within reach for when the Rapture takes me, though to be fair my disembodied gall-bladder sitting in a jar has a better chance of getting into heaven than I do, it can always plead that it was being held hostage for the previous 38 years and was not a willing participant in my ungodly and heathen ways), and really put the kibosh on any and all plans that I may have had for the remainder of 2011.

I have tried to stay away from the Internets with regards to my condition. The Internets can be very useful when looking to find out the names of all the kids from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon (Hank, Eric, Diana, Albert, Sheila and Bobby, but then you all knew that already, didn't you?), but for medical research it can be less than helpful, with an hour's casual reading leaving you convinced that either a) you are in danger of immediate death, and/or b) drinking your own urine will cure you. There are few grey areas on the Internets.

Still, given that none of the cohort of residents, surgeons and GPs that have attended to me these last twelve months have been able to offer any sort of explanation as to why I became sick, I have once or twice delved into the murky depths of the medical Internets in search of plausible suggestions that did not involve chemtrails, fluoride or Alien Lizard People masquerading as the Duke of Edinburgh. Alas, however, my search has proved futile, learning nothing more useful than the fact that St Pancras, the patron saint of Eurostar, was beheaded at the age of 14 during the Great Persecution of the Christians by the Emperor Diocletian. Say what you like about Diocletian, he did make the trains run on time.

Actually that's not strictly true, for I did find something else of interest (also, given that there were no trains in the 4th Century CE, that whole last part of the paragraph is probably a bit suspect). In college I knew a good few med students, and meeting them later on as junior doctors confirmed everything that I suspected when I knew them in college, that I would never, ever want to get sick and be treated by them. Deep down inside, every single one of us knows that we are making it all up as we go along and we live in constant fear that our ruse will be discovered at any minute. The only thing that prevents this discovery from happening is that everyone else is also making it up as they go along, and are themselves too busy trying not to be found out to do any exposing of other folks around them. This is especially true of doctors, and luckily for them we all play along, accepting the pretense that they actually know what they are talking about because of a) the white coat, b) the stethoscope and c) the fact that the reality would be too horrifying to contemplate as you are lying on a table and their hands are somewhere inside your ribcage.

To help them maintain this pretense of competence, Doctors use a great many catchy mnemonics. Much as the phrase "Ring Out Your Great Bells In Victory" can help us to remember the colours of the rainbow in order (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. Albert was called "Presto" by the others in case you were wondering, but that wasn't his real name. Details matter), so too can such poetic phrases help a doctor diagnose and treat a patient. While glancing through the Internets I came across a med student's notes on Pancreatitis, which included the following mnemonic:
Causes of Pancreatitis
I- idiopathic (10%)
G- gallstones (40%)
E- ethanol (alcohol) (35%)
T– trauma (usually in children), tumour
S- steroids
M- mumps (paramyxovirus) and other viruses (Epstein-Barr virus, CMV)
A- autoimmune disease (Polyarteritis nodosa, Systemic lupus erythematosus)
S- scorpion sting , snake bites
H- hypercalcemia, hyperlipidemia/hypertriglyceridemia and hypothermia
E- ERCP (4%) , emboli
D- drugs (steroids & sulfonamides) and duodenal ulcers
Which spells out (altogether now) "I Get Smashed".

That, ladies and gentlemen, tells you everything you need to know about the medical mind.

It's also worth noting that they did in fact rule everything on that list out pretty quickly, even scorpion stings, before finally deciding that I was in that lucky 10% of idiopathic cases (from the Greek ἴδιος, meaning "too stupid to know why". Now I know some of you would have said "Uni" as well, but that was just what Bobbie called the unicorn. We never did learn its true name), but the fact that the resident who first examined me was probably also reminded of his last night out in Coppers as he went through his mental check-list does not fill me with confidence.

Still, a year has passed and although I still suffer from some form of attack about once every six weeks or so (in fact I am experiencing one even as I write. Yay for me!), it is perhaps time to move on and as @arjedre subtly pointed out a few days ago, I do say "pancreas" rather a lot on this blog, possibly less than "citizenry" but hopefully more than "poo". So with this post it is time to move forward, not look back, and thus I am going to officially retire the word "pancreas", only bringing it out on to the pitch again to adjudicate the Super Bowl coin toss or be inducted into the Booming Back Hall of Fame.

Or if I end up back in hospital.

Which would be Poo.

Now I just need to find something else to complain about.

Shouldn't be too difficult.

A huge thanks to everyone for their support these last twelve months, friends, family and most especially The Very Understanding Girlfriend. It is no exaggeration to say that without her I would not have made it through it all, physically or mentally.

She is amazing.



At 10:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After my own brief recent experience with doctors (on the arrival of our dragon), I also had to ignore my non-medical interactions with junior doctors.

We asked one what the acronym for the blood test they were doing was...he didn't know. At that point I told "the one in charge" that that jr doctor could stay in the room but wasn't allowed do anything else.

And YAY to the very understanding girlfriend :)

At 10:03 am, Blogger 2BiT said...

Moar Poo please


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