Rolaids vs. Morphine

This is the 14th in a series of articles about my recent trip to the emergency room, my intestinal surgery, and my recovery afterwards. Here is an index to all of the articles in this series.

Sunday night in the hospital I rested a bit uncomfortably. I had a sharp pain across my shoulder blades and around to the front of my chest. It was in the area where the top of my back brace presses on me. In the front however it almost felt like heartburn because it was high in my chest almost to my throat. I had been having problems with heartburn so it might have been a combination of heartburn and some other pain. They seemed to be willing to give me morphine whenever I needed it I went ahead and took it and that not only calm the pain that helped me sleep. Since it was in an area where my back brace puts a lot of pressure, I concluded that having not worn the back brace for many days and admittedly putting it on in a strange fashion because it seemed not to fit anymore, I decided to take Monday off and not try to sit up again.

Over the weekend my regular doctors were gone and I had been visited by various of their associates whom I didn’t know. Monday it was good to see the familiar faces back on the job again. The surgeon Dr. Davis makes his rounds very early in the morning like 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. He seemed very pleased with my progress. He removed some of the staples from my incision and gave me an almost guarantee that I could go home on Tuesday. I had entered the emergency room and had surgery the previous Tuesday so his prediction of five to seven days was pretty much on target.

Dr. Swinney who is my primary care internist seemed pleased with everything as well. He agreed I was ready to go home and he suggested I make an appointment with him to follow up about a month after I returned home. The lung specialist Dr. Vohra was similarly impressed with my recovery. He didn’t expect to see me until my regular annual checkup with him in July. I reminded him I would be back in a few months to have the colostomy reversed and he would have to supervise my lung issues for that surgery as well. He said OK, just let him know when.

Mom and Dad were in during the early afternoon. They stayed through dinner time and helped me sit up on the edge of the bed hanging in the lift seat to eat my meals. I probably should have tried to put on the brace and sit up again but that pain in my chest the previous night made me very leery of trying that. They were excited about the fact that I was coming home.

While watching TV Monday night the pain around my chest and shoulder blades started to return. I discovered it would subside some if I would have the nurse lowered the bed completely flat. The only disadvantage to lying completely flat was that I couldn’t see television. I tried listening to episodes of “Saved” and “The Closer” on TNT which are summer replacement shows which I had gotten addicted to. It was a little bit weird watching a medical show while in the hospital but fortunately that particular episode didn’t have anything about people whose intestines ruptured or other similar diseases.

In the middle of the night the pain around my chest got worse. I begin to wonder if it was muscle pain of some kind so I tried having the nurse roll me over on my right side. That put me in a much more comfortable position but the pain continued to build slowly. It seemed about every 10 minutes I would change my mind about what was causing the pain. Sometimes I thought it was muscle pain. Sometimes it felt like heartburn. At one point I decided to try some sort of antacid. I asked the nurse what could I have and he said Mylanta liquid. I was already lying on my side and knew I could not drink anything. I ask if I could have something like a chewable Rolaids or Tums. She said they would have to call the doctor to get approval for that. It was 3 a.m. and I asked her did she mean some sort of floor resident on duty or actually call my doctor at 3 a.m. She replied they would have to call my doctor. I said we’re not going to awaken him at this hour for something like that. But I’m going to have to do something because the pain is getting worse. She said “We can give you morphine.”

Somehow I managed not to laugh in her face. I couldn’t believe how ridiculous it was that they could not give me a Rolaids without awakening my doctor in the middle of the night but I can have all of the morphine I want. Naturally I took the morphine! As always it gave me a brief period of nausea but that passed quickly, the pain subsided, and I had no trouble getting to sleep.

In our next installment I describe my return home.

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