How old were you when you first had your first bout of pancreatitis?
I was 34 years old
What did you think it was initially?
On March 19, 2021, I gave birth to our son, Noah. On March 22, 2021, I went to the ER at (Memorial Regional) for severe abdominal pains. Here, they told us that I had gallstones, but they were too small to remove, and they sent me home with Pepcid. We basically begged them to proceed with removal (since we had a newborn and 2 other children at home) but they refused. Less than a week later, my symptoms and pain had worsened, I could barely hold our son and was having chest and debilitating abdominal pains and projectile vomiting. My PCP ended up looking at my lipase numbers from my initial ER visit, and said it looks similar to pancreatitis and to go to a different hospital.
After a four hour wait, and many tests, those same gallstones from less than a week prior, had lodged into my pancreas. After many scans, it was determined that I had a severe case of Gallstone Pancreatitis. My surgeon said it was one of the worst cases of pancreatitis they had seen. The gallstones that I was originally told were too small to remove, had lodged into my pancreas and that landed me in the CCU for 27 days. I had CT scans, chest X-rays, EKG, HIDA scan, ERCP to remove the blocked ducts, a feeding tube, breathing treatments, oxygen, you name it, I had it. Towards the end of my hospital stint, I then had my gallbladder removed and 2 liters of fluid removed from my abdomen. For 27 days, I was unable to be with our newborn, and missed out on those precious first weeks of bonding. I was away from our other two sons, missing out on birthdays and soccer games. My parents took care of our newborn son so that my husband could continue to work, visit me, take care of our older two sons, and kept our house afloat.
Did your doctors know it was pancreatitis right away?
Thanks to my PCP, and the doctors at St Mary’s (the second hospital), they were able to determine this pretty quickly. With that being said, I had pancreatitis attacks and had to stay in the hospital March 2021-April 2021, August 2021 (3-4 day stay), December 2021 overnight stay.
What did you tell your social circle and did they understand? Did your friends understand what pancreatitis was?
Many friends and family (including myself) never really knew what pancreatitis was until I was diagnosed with it.
Were there things that triggered your pancreatitis that you had to avoid?
The only thing I was told that triggered pancreatitis was the gallstones.
Any illness will take a toll on you mentally and physically. For patients that are living with pancreatitis as well, what piece(s) of advice would you tell them to help them get through this?
This illness definitely took a toll on me both mentally and physically. At the time, I was on a lot of pain medication, I was grieving the time I was missing with our newborn and our family. I was unable to see my family for a good portion of my stay. I continue to work through the mental parts of my illness. I still grieve parts of that year that I missed out on. I lost a ton of hair months after my stay from all the medications I was on.
For you personally, what has helped you the most during this ordeal?
How are you feeling now?
I have been working through medical PTSD. I have a lot of triggers and sadness from my health scare. My numbers all look good and fingers crossed I have not had a flare up since December 2021.
How did you and your family learn about the National Pancreas Foundation?
I started following on Facebook to gain knowledge and to find others who have been in my same/similar.