(Repairs to the Luthier)
I haven’t felt very good for most of this year, but usually nothing very specific– back-aches, belly-aches, indigestion, etc. Nothing that would send me hurrying to a doctor, for sure.
Then, back in May or June, one evening after I had showered and was getting ready for bed, I noticed a definite, thumb-sized lump in my abdomen. I could easily feel it by running my hand across it, and it was quite firm…and hadn’t been there before.
It did not feel like a hernia, so I figured the only two things it could be were a subcutaneous cyst or a tumor. I called in my wife, Ann, to examine the thing, and she could actually see it, poking up when she pressed down the skin. She concluded, too, that it must be either a cyst or a tumor, and insisted that I see a doctor (I would have anyway– I’m not stupid, I just don’t run to the doctor everytime something happens.) So I went off to sleep, intending to call for an appointment in the morning. The problem was that, in the morning, the thing was gone. I mean completely gone! No trace. We marvelled over the disappearance, and figured that it must have been some sort of cyst, and, with our probing, we must have caused it to drain overnight. We shrugged and went on with life…nothing to show the doctor…no other symptoms; no reason for an appointment.
So, last Thursday, after work, I had a fairly severe bout of belly/back pain. It seemed to begin in the solar plexus area and radiate through to the middle of my back so completely that I was really unsure which was the source of the pain…but the pain was severe enough that if I had possessed some type of narcotic pain reliever, I would have taken it (another thing I don’t often do). So I took maximum doses of Tylenol and Advil, and called in sick on Friday. Saturday morning I seemed to be a little better, but it began to get worse again, and Ann prevailed upon me to call the doctor. So I did, and ended up, an hour later, at the St. Vincent Providence Hospital ER.
By the time I got there, the pain was much more severe, and had moved around to where I had a band of pain all the way around my waist at the level of my solar plexus. They immediately ran test after test, and within an hour had it pegged as the gall bladder. The surgeon came in Saturday night and palpated my abdomen, and she commented on how rare it was to be able to feel the gall bladder through the abdominal wall. (?) I reached down, and, sure enough, there was that “cyst” again!
10:15 Sunday morning, they took the thing out. They were able to do it Laparoscopically, so I have four tiny incisions instead of one large one, and recovery is two weeks, not six. They said they had to partially empty the monster before they could get it out, as it was the size of a small squash. That’s hard to believe…I had no idea they could be that size…but they said it was completely blocked, and filled with “sludge” (their word). They emphasized several times how unusually enlarged it had been.
The hospital stay was extremely positive. Every single member of the medical team, care staff, orderlies, radiologists (or whatever the correct term is) and other technologists…EVERYone was completely kind, compassionate, helpful, professional and supportive. I always felt completely surrounded by care, not criticism, or anything negative.
I was home by Monday evening, and am feeling pretty good, all things considered. There are not even any stitches to remove– the stitches inside are the kind that eventually are absorbed by the body, and the outside incisions were closed with superglue. (I love it!)
I hope that all the general malaise had been caused by the one incipient source, and that I will enjoy good health again. I had gotten pretty discouraged for a while, and was losing interest in lutherie (as well as most other things), so I hope this will improve my outlook a little.
I did sell four (cheaper) student violins this past month, so at least I am getting rid of old stock, if not selling my better instruments. Product flow is product flow. I’m not complaining.
I need to get back into the shop and get building again.
Update, November 10th: I ended up back in the hospital last Thursday. It turned out that there was a small (6mm diameter) stone that had already moved down into the bile duct before they removed the gall bladder, so I was plugged again within about two weeks, and had exactly the same symptoms again. I was pretty despondent about it, as I really did NOT want more surgery, but as it turned out, they were able to remove the stone using a special type of endoscope, without surgery at all. What a relief! I came home Saturday afternoon, and I really do hope I am finally on the mend now.
My thanks to all who have extended friendly wishes.