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Ode to Pancreas

Free Discount Bananas ProTip: Do not mess with your pancreas. Do not let anything else mess with your pancreas. The pancreas is pretty anti-social and does not play well with strangers.

But who can blame it? The digestive system hired it on for one activity and one activity only: crank out the juices that let you digest, which in turn let you live. The pancreas is like the one grill cook at HuHot that doesn't screw around talking to the other lazy dudes who are joking with each other and burning your food. Pancreas is the silent guy flying around with the flinging spatulas, focused on one thing, getting crap DONE. Literally. If you throw something on this guy, say, a virus, while he's trying to work, he gets pretty PO'd and goes all stabby.

Such was the lesson whose beginning came last Friday afternoon when I casually mentioned to one of my students that "my tummy has not been kind to me" before we launched on a 4 & 1/2 hour road trip to Oklahoma. I was still okay and figured it was just "a thing" that would pass quickly. It got worse through Friday night and I figured I was finally being hit with the flu that has been wreaking havoc on every living creature in my vicinity. I stayed in bed all day Saturday while my students enjoyed the campus ministry conference I had worked so hard to get them to. I chugged some newly acquired NyQuil and tried to sleep, finally heading back with the group in a semi-comatose state that night.

Sunday rolled around, and so did I, almost in the fetal position from the four foot serrated knife that was slowly being drawn in and out of my abdomen. I figured I would try to pull through to Monday and say a prayer about getting into a doctor to get something for this "flu." Finally agony won out and I had a friend take me to the ER (thanks for being a trooper, Lauren).

I figured the ER folks would yawn, throw me some pain meds and a prescription, and escort me to the street like their thousands of other flu victims. But instead I was met with quizzical looks and continuous poking, pushing, and prodding. After getting some "8" (actually I couldn't bring myself to say it and wimped out with "7", which I discovered works just as well) and a field trip down to the CT Scan room, the official determination was "your pancreas is broke." Or something like that. I don't know, I was enjoying the "8."

Many things can break the pancreas. Heavy drinking being one. Gallstones being another. Less common is stuff like a viral infection. Seeing as how a glass of wine has been my biggest alcohol binge in the last couple of months, and there were no indications of a gall bladder problem, it looked more and more like some kind of freak virus that snuck in when no one was looking. Regardless of the cause, the immediate treatment when anything goes haywire around the pancreas is to immediately shut off all access to the oral cavity. For those of you with PhDs in anatomy and physiology, you understand that the "oral cavity" is the mouth, and those of you with lesser degrees probably comprehend the fact that the mouth is where food goes for most. Those of you who have degrees in Deductive Reasoning probably get that this means the treatment for anything having to do with the pancreas is a heavy regimen of absolutely no food. Also, water = food.

Now, this was no shock because the pancreas apparently invokes a natural road block to food by shutting off the apetite when as it goes into panic mode. Thus, I had not had anything to eat since that previous Friday night, save for a small tortilla on Saturday night because I felt the obligation to put something in me, if not the desire. But apparently this is mostly a component of the pain, because once that glorious morphine went to work and the sirens were shut down, suddenly I could hear the stomach screaming. But it would not be tended to in the least until Tuesday at noon. Therefore, total diet from 5:30pm Friday until 12:00pm Tuesday: one tortilla and a few cups of orange juice and water. And two cups of delicious red CT scan dye.

What I thought was going to be an in and out process suddenly became a three day hospital adventure. My first ever, by the way. I've been to the ER for myself before but never have I been invited to stay among the halls of the sickhouse.

So, anyway, I'm tired of writing today so I'll just say TO BE CONTINUED....


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