Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Coffee-ground vomitus

Like Sarah, I'm sure that everyone is dying to know why I know about coffee-ground vomitus. What's that? You really aren't all dying to know? Well, too bad, 'cuz I'm going to tell you anyway.

Actually, it's not nearly as exciting a story as it could be. But I think it has to do with this guy:


On Sunday I went out for my 18 K run. Felt great. Finished my run, had a shower. Started to feel not so great. I think "oh, I'll be fine", walked to the grocery store. Start getting groceries. Start to feel really, really not great. Like intense stomach pains, extreme weakness. Do I drop what I'm doing and go immediately home like a sensible person would? No, of course I don't. I finish getting my groceries, pay for them, and walk home, having to stop a few times to lean against a pole and gather my strength. Now, I think that someone who just ran 18K should surely be able to walk 4 blocks carrying a few groceries, no? Apparently, not so much. When I got home, I dropped the groceries on the floor and crawled into the bathroom, as by this time I was having the most intense stomach pains - I could actually feel my stomach muscle contracting! - and nausea. Really, really nauseous. "I've been food poisoned by the Power Gel I had on my run!" I decided. On my previous 18 K, my Power Gel (vanilla flavoured) did wonders, but this time, I'd clearly been poisoned. How could you let me down so, Strawberry-Banana Power Gel??

Every so often, I would gather my strength and crawl out to my living room and get something to bring back to the bathroom with me - first a pillow, since lying on the bathroom floor is not all the comfortable. Then my laptop* to try to distract myself, and possibly summon assistance. The pain and nausea got so bad that I thought, "Well, I have 2 options. I can sit here and continue to sob from the pain, or I can make myself throw up." Whenever I've had food poisoning, I've always felt so much better after vomiting. My body knows when there is something bad in my stomach and knows that getting it out is the best solution. So I did something I've never, ever done before. I actually stuck my finger down my throat to make myself throw up. And thus, the coffee-ground vomitus. It actually looked just like coffee grounds! It was so disgusting that the sight of it made me vomit even more**.

Now, I have never seen or heard of coffee-ground vomitus before, so, being a little freaked out, I consulted Dr. Google. I was pretty sure that I didn't actually have yellow fever, which is the oft cited cause of black vomit, but other causes of upper GI tract bleeds were a possibility (coffee-ground vomitus is the result of an upper GI tract bleed of some kind, as the heme iron in the blood becomes oxidized by gastric acid, resulting in the lovely black vomit), . So then I decided that perhaps I should consult my personal physician, Dr. Kaede***. After a series of questions, she determined that a possible cause could be a bleeding ulcer, although it is odd for it to come on so suddenly (I hadn't had any stomach issues prior to this).

So, on Monday after suffering through a day of stomach pain (but no nausea, thankfully) at work, I went to a walk-in clinic****. I got a ride there from my personal nurse*****, who asked me the same questions as my personal physician and came to the same conclusion. Although she did point out that my ridiculously high caffeine intake (which is usually about 2 large travel mugs of coffee and a diet Pepsi per day, sometimes more) probably doesn't help the old GI tract. "But I've been drinking this much caffeine for 15 years," I said. "Yeah, and that's probably catching up to you now!"

I wait at the walk-in clinic for an hour and fifteen minutes so that the doctor can ask me all the same questions as I had gone through with Dr. Google, Dr. Kaede and my nurse. And then ordered a test for H. pylori******, the bacteria that causes ulcers. I wish I could have just ordered the test myself and saved that hour and fifteen minutes.

On the plus side, I was given the option of either a breath test or a blood test. Obviously, being even more of a needle-phobe than I am a vomit-phobe, I opted for a breath test. The drawbacks are that you have to fast for at least four hours and that you can't take any antacids before the test*******. A small price to pay for keeping needles out of my arm, in my opinion. So I went for my breath test today... they made me drink some radioactive drink and blow through a straw into a tube. As far as I can tell, the radioactive drink has not given me any superpowers... yet. Test results should be back in a day or two. I'm really hoping it is H. pylori, because it's fairly easy to treat - just a week of antibiotics and you are good to go. If it isn't that, who the hell knows! And I don't want to be dealing with this - it's not fun to have constant stomach pain and I have a half marathon to run in less than 3 weeks, but right now I can barely walk the three blocks from the bus stop to my office.

Also, my mother is convinced that I am hemorrhaging to death. She is sure that somehow running 18K caused my internal organs to be ripped apart and my death from blood loss is imminent. So now, on top of the non-stop stomach pain, I have to deal with that guilt that I'm worrying my mother. The stress of that is enough to give me an ulcer!

*You know you are an internet junkie when...
**This will not be a surprise to Sarah, who gave me the nickname "Flush" after that party in high school were I was puking and I kept flushing the toilet mid-puke because I didn't want to look at it.
***OK, she's not actually my personal physician. She's a friend of mine who also happens to be a physician
****Since I don't actually have a family doctor. I'd been going to Student Health Services, where I had the best doctor EVER, but I can't go there anymore since I'm no longer a student.
*****OK, she's not actually my personal nurse. She's a friend of mine who also happens to be a nurse.
******See picture at the start of this posting, which seems like ages ago!
*******I got to take the antacid (which is actually an H+, K+, ATPase inhibitor - a pretty powerful antacid) after the test, but it didn't really seem to help at all anyway.

6 comments:

Sarah said...

Oh babe...I am so sorry. Yuck.
I went through something similar a couple of years ago (I felt like my a hole was being burned into my stomach lining), but it wasn't H. pylori. I can see what meds I was given, though, if you are curious. They helped a bit with the pain, and eventually the pain went away.
Fingers crossed for H. pylori, though. Stupid freaking ulcers.

Jeremy David said...

That is a terrible story. Although I can relate to the... self inflicted vomiting thing. I usually throw up anytime I've been drinking, otherwise I get terrible hang overs. Wow randomfactor.

I'm psychic and my magic 8-ball told me that you will be fine. Let's see if we can trust the manufactures of Tyco or whatever company made the damn thing. My fingers are crossed for the less bad ailment as well.

*HUGS*

Kelly said...

You get the results sooon! The pain will (hopefully) be gone!

Courtney-O said...

I hope you're feeling better, Beth!

Dave said...

Dude, that sucks so, so, so bad. Hope you're feeling a little better by now, though I fear that no news doesn't necessarily mean good news.

Had it happened to me and I told the circumstances to my parents, they would have come to the exact same conclusion. Do we, in fact, have the same parents?

Beth said...

Dave, I think we may, just may, have the same parents.

Thanks for the well wishes, everyone!