In 2013, I had some health issues that should have been very basic and easy to fix. My low-functioning gallbladder finally gave out and stopped working. I couldn’t keep food down and was in extreme pain, which due to the nerve paths in my body were showing up as reference pain in a different area. The pain location was symptomatic of appendix pain rather than gallbladder pain, which only made diagnosis more difficult. Despite being in the worst pain I had ever felt in my life, none of the ER doctors in the area I was in would give me the time of day. Since I was in a college town, they wrote me off as a drug seeker and told me that it was simply cramps or ovulation pain. Both of which I’ve experienced and were no where near the pain I was suffering.
After about six weeks and more than a few ER trips, my doctor’s appointment finally came. She was the only doctor who took me seriously. By this point I was extremely dehydrated and had developed a heart murmur (most likely due to a lack of potassium absorption because of malnutrition). After a few tests, she did not hesitate to hospitalize me to get my gallbladder removed.
And then entered the surgeon. This jerk came to me and said that he doubted that this was what was wrong with me. In all his holy knowledge he had never seen a gallbladder case with such odd symptoms. I ended up having to have an endoscopy the morning of my surgery (a procedure in which they knock you out and stitch a camera down your throat and into your intestines). As soon as I returned from my endoscopy, I was immediately whisked off to be knocked unconscious once again, but this time to have a tiny, trouble-making, lazy organ removed.
As soon as I came out of the anesthetic haze, I was immediately feeling better. But that could’ve been the drugs. I was released pretty quickly and was happy to be going home.
After a few days, I began to refuse to take my pain medicine because I hated the hazy, clouded feeling that I was experiencing. However, that feeling didn’t go away as the medicine left my system. I had already missed nearly two months of school and now I couldn’t even focus for more than fifteen minutes of class! That sort of stuff does not fly in nursing school.
I went back to my doctor and explained my feelings of confusion and memory loss. More blood tests later, the results showed that my b12 levels were far too low. During the chaotic couple of months and all the symptoms and effects that occurred due to my gallbladder, my stomach lining stopped absorbing the very important vitamin and I had developed pernicious anemia.
I had hoped that it would normalize, like my potassium level and the heart murmur that resulted from it, but the confusion and memory loss continued. I wasn’t able to drive for extended periods of time, I wasn’t able to cook if I was alone for months, if my husband left the room for more than ten minutes I would forget where he went. It was torture for me and I was forever changed from the unknown period of time that I was in this horrible haze.
Eventually, my levels stabilized enough that I was able to function on my own. My memory and attention span is still very much affected and I have to take an sublingual supplement at least two times a day to simply get a semblance of normality. I get a little better everyday and I still hold hope that I will eventually return to normal. It does affect my writing and art – especially my writing – but when I’m mentally with it then I’m very on point. Thanks to the amazing support of my husband, Jesse, I’ve been able to learn so much even at a time when I thought my education would be stagnant.
I feel that it is important that people respect those who suffer from invisible illnesses such as this. Simply because someone doesn’t look sick, doesn’t mean their not. It’s a battle and the fight is exhausting, but I still fight.