Thursday, May 05, 2011

Home is where the pancreas is

Happily, soon after my last blog post, The Unfortunately Loyal Boyfriend was discharged from hospital, after a stay this time of almost four weeks. At home we coped fairly well with the almost-no-fat diet, the tube sticking out of his abdomen draining pancreatic fluid into a (very this-season) bag, which had to be emptied twice daily, and the general gingerly-does-it approach to all activities that characterises slow recovery from serious illness.

We had the first visit from the free community health nurse (yay public health system) and, far more incredibly, a visit from other people. You know, those people rumoured to exist but not directly employed in the health care professions, generally encountered during what are commonly known as social occasions, but the existence of whom had started to seem doubtful to a certain pancreatitis sufferer due to a lack of personal evidence of same during the previous six weeks. This doubt had also been assuaged the day before his discharge when, with fairly major effort by all concerned, he was able to leave the hospital for a couple of hours to attend the wedding ceremony of good friends. A most festive occasion and one on which he was happily overwhelmed with the presence of about thirty friends and quite a lot of people corresponding to the category of other. So a positive and intense weekend overall and wonderful to have him home.

Unhappily he began to feel sick again soon and due to an infection was readmitted to hospital six days after leaving. So if you're wondering how we spent the Easter bank holiday weekend while the rest of the country was at the beach in the unseasonably warm weather, that's our answer. Infections are a very common feature of pancreatitis, especially with pseudocysts which he has, so this wasn't altogether disastrous or a major setback. His shortest stay yet, and after four more nights as an in-patient – bringing his grand total to a roundly-square 36 nights in hospital over the course of just over seven weeks – he was discharged for what I really hope will be the last time. It's now nine days later and this is the longest period he has been out of hospital since this all started, and while things are far from normal they are radically improved and, all extremities crossed, will continue to get better.

Of course, that doesn't mean we haven't been to the hospital in the past nine days, don't be silly, we could hardly have four or five days go by without hanging out with our good friends the nurses. Instead we've had two unanticipated and brief trips back to the ward to have various things checked, but so far looking good. It won't be this week or next week but I'm hoping soon to have an entire week go by without a hospital visit of some kind. Such are our radically revised holiday aspirations.

Meanwhile I'll continue my efforts to provide some insight into this illness. It was pointed out to me by the principal subject of these efforts that the illustration for my last post is, apparently, of a female body. I had failed to notice this despite looking at it quite a few times, and perhaps because, as he hypothesised, I automatically view a female form as the norm, as he probably does a male. So in the interests of anatomical clarity, and for reassurance to viewers who may have feared that a little-discussed side effect of pancreatitis could cause breasts and/or a vagina to spring into existence, here is another illustration of a probably male or at least gender-indeterminate digestive system:

Also, if you are looking for more information, I strongly recommend the PubMed Health overview of pancreatitis, as well as its more detailed subsections on Acute Pancreatitis and Pancreatic Pseudocyst. PubMed Health is "a consumer health Web site" produced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. It's a source I have found to be excellent – evidence-based, factual, clear, up-to-date and lacking in the hysteria, fear-mongering and dubious efforts to sell you stuff that are all too common when looking for health information on-line. PubMed Health is related to PubMed, a massive, publicly accessible database of 20 million citations from academic journals and books, which I used to use almost daily in academic research and which is a good place to visit if you want to dig further into academic articles on any health topic.

In contrast, I don't recommend the Wikipedia article on pancreatitis – it is very unclear, is quite misleading and incomplete in its emphasis, lists possible complications without giving much indication of likelihood or seriousness, and has both far too much detail in some places and not enough in others. The U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) section on acute pancreatitis is quite useful, provides a measured layperson's analysis and gives some indications about incidence in the U.K., though not Ireland. Another reasonably good source is the WebMD overview on pancreatitis, though the overview and subsections are quite annoying to navigate and there are lots of ads sullying it.

Again, it's important to remember while reading any of these sources that what we're talking about in this case is 'moderately severe acute pancreatitis' - essentially at the upper end of mild acute pancreatitis, not the more serious 'severe acute' and definitely not the quite different and much more serious 'chronic pancreatitis'.

That completes the Great Pancreatitis Adventure update for today. He came home, he's still home, he's not in pain, he can eat - these are good things. Have been taking things day by day for about two months now, so until tomorrow, the whole world is my home. Hmmm, that's actually The Littlest Hobo. Point still stands. On we go.



Anonymous steve said...

good to hear he's home. i was on no beach for either of the long weekends, just so you know.

Thursday, 5 May 2011 at 21:42:00 GMT+1  

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