Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Love Your Liver

There's this sweet man at work, Ricky, who's always huggin' on me and checking in to see how I am...and he says the funniest things. Just recently he said "Jenn, I'm just gonna have to keep away from you, you pretty thang. You make my liver quiver!"
I have no idea what that means, or if I should laugh, or be scared....but with Ricky, the good ol' boy from Mobile Bay, it makes me crack up.

The liver. Overworked. Underpaid.

I have learned more about that little organ in the past week than I ever thought I would. I am so thankful I have though.
And for those who never got the full story because my fingers got tired of texting, or I couldn't answer and whisper around mama in the hospital room, or I was just plain exhausted, here's the rest of the story.....with some pictures mixed in to entertain those who actually stick with me through this long, medically challenged post!
(Jessie, Mom and I all smiling because the Demerol had made its presence known!)

Last Wednesday, March 10, Mama was having terrible chest pains, so Daddy took her to the emergency room at Stringfellow Memorial in Anniston. She was seen immediately and they performed an EKG, which did show an abnormality in the inferior portion of the heart (which was actually more than likely due to the level of stress her body was under from the pain.) Never the less, they admitted her for the evening (11pm) and gave her pain meds to ease her pain.
(Jessie putting all that music therapy talent to good use! We belted out Buffett til the nurses 'bout joined in! I, mostly, watched...to be honest....this is supposed to calm the patient afterall.)
Beginning Thursday morning at 5:30am throughout the rest of her stay a battery of tests have been run. She began with CT scans, abdominal xrays, a stress test, and rounding it out with an MRI, daily ultra sounds, and nearly hourly blood tests every day. Her diet has been restricted to "drinking" saline from an IV, TWICE of which now has either collapsed a vein, or exited on its own those her skin....She is battered and bruised, hungry, has cottonmouth, in excruiating pain all the time....I cannot tell you how much it breaks my heart to hear my mother cry out for help in the middle of the night, and be able to do nothing. She is a strong woman, for Heaven's sake!, she's been an elementary school teacher for 30-something years, but this made her weak.
(Mom and Dad throwing comfort to the wind and cat-napping together early Saturday morning)
When I pulled the night shift, there was no sleep. I sat on her bed and rubbed her legs, and told her about the night she was born. In a Army hospital in Germany. I actually wasn't there, my grandparents just told me the story last weekend...thank goodness....I had fresh material! We also talked about the new guy, any "happy thoughts" we could think of to ease the pain. Because I hurt when she hurt. Now I know how she feels when Jessie or I hurt. It's debilitating.
But after all the testing, organ by organ, the wonderful doctors finally narrowed down the problem to Mama's liver. Enzyme levels like her ALT and bilirubin were VERY elevated, which sent them into a round of scary questions involving words like hepetitus, juandice, and liver disease. Once they did even more testing, they ruled all those crazy things out, and discover in the last ultrasound that mama had stones in her common bile duct.....
So here's the skinny. Your liver makes bile. Bile is stored in your gallbladder. Your body will holler at your gallbladder to send it some bile when it needs help in digestion. Sometimes that bile will stick together and form stones. aka gallstones. Mom had these 2 years ago, so they removed her gallbladder. So now the bile's got nowhere to hang out except the common bile duct (the hose that connects all these organs together like the tummy, liver, duodenum, intestines, pancreus) until the body hollers for it. But again, they made more stones. And got stuck. In the common bile duct. And backed up the new bile in the liver. ANd the good enzymes the liver make can't go anywhere. So the liver couldn't do it's job with anything basically. The liver couldn't function correctly!
Mama's liver couldn't quiver!
(Mom's dear friend Jan Griffith took walks around the hospital with her, and visited I don't know how many times! You are so good to mama!)
SO.....first things first. Make her comfortable. Enter Demerol, stage left. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes she didnt feel a thing, and the tears kept coming. If I heard one nurse say it, I heard them all--apparently stomach, or gastrointestinal problems are the most painful of all! God love her.
Next, the procedure. Docs decided an ERCP (endoscopy) was in order. So Monday the ERCP took place, and went over very well. They removed the stones from the common bile duct, inserted a stint, and gave us all a thumbs up after surgery.
(Sweet friends Angel Rait, and Rod and Lisa Nowlin let mom know how much she was loved by giving her a special prayer quilt that was prayed over by her Sunday School class that morning. We also sent this into surgery with her.)
Which is where we are now. After surgery. In a lot of unexpected pain, and not quite eating sold (soft) foods as we hoped for. And certainly not out of the hospital as we REALLY hoped for. BUT....we have roughed the storm. The stones are gone. There are a few more liver issues we will address at home, to make us all as healthy as can be, and keep our livers working perfectly. And I say "we" to all of this, because we are making lifestyle changes as a family. Because now more than ever, I realize how I much I need these people. For a really, really long time.
(mom and one of her "besties" Sherry Gwin, who was at the hospital constantly with her sweet hubby Marty, cheering my mama up with their smiles.)

So today I ask you to say a quick prayer, because we're not quite out of the woods, but I think we're awfully close. Thank you so much for your prayers, your calls, texts, messages, emails, and love for my family!! We felt them!

Mom had a bladder infection a week ago, and prior to surgery yesterday had a very poorly functioning liver. If there is any lesson I've learned, it's to listen to your body. This has been a very painful blessing in disguise, to get to the root of the problem. Beyond the bladder, and the stones, we have learned how better to take care of our liver, and ourselves, and for that I am saying my prayers today! God is Good!


  1. And that story makes me quiver! Well said Jenn! I will be praying for Mama,and if anyone can motivate the family for lifestyle changes, it is you! You are an inspiration to all of us! Love you!

  2. love you and will continue to pray for sweet family. (liver quiver is hilarious.) xoxo ez