Photo of Christina in a hospital gown with a funny smile on her face after getting morphine

Monday morning, I was awakened by a stabbing pain in my gut. I tried to roll over and go back to sleep, hoping that would make it go away, but the pain would not be ignored. So I dragged myself out of bed and into the bathroom. The effort brought me to tears. After a brief debate in my head, I picked up the phone and called my husband at work, asking him to work from home today. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and I didn’t know if I would be able to dial the phone later if I waited any length of time to do so. Was it appendicitis? Was it something worse? I wanted my husband to be there if I ended up losing consciousness or something.

My husband came home immediately. I’m so grateful that he works so close to home. I’d managed to get myself somewhat “dressed” after calling him: sweatpants, clean underwear, bra, thermal shirt, and slipper socks.

If I’d had any illusions of just taking it easy at my laptop until the pain passed, they were shattered rather quickly. Even the smallest movement brought on involuntary groans, and I was still crying. Thankfully, one of the local hospitals opened up an emergent care center about 7 minutes from our house; it’s like an ER-lite. My husband battled traffic and traffic lights to get me there as quickly as possible. Tears were still running down my face as we walked in, and the registration clerk apologized for the wait – which was only 2-3 minutes – as they cleaned up an exam room for me.

Photo of Christina in a hospital gown with a funny smile on her face after getting morphine

I don’t know how long it took before anyone came to take more than my vitals. (Would you believe that my blood pressure was only 111/69 even with my pain level?) But once I did get someone to examine me, it’s almost funny how quickly they got me drugs. The doctor asked if I would agree to getting some pain medication, and about a minute after she left the room, someone came in to hook me up with an IV.

“They told you that you’d be getting an IV, right?” he asked me.

“No, but she said I’d be getting some pain meds, so it makes sense.”

“Do you have an arm preference?”

The IV I’d had gotten when I gave birth was more traumatic for me than labor itself. My hand hurt the entire time it was in there.

“It doesn’t really matter as long as you can keep it out of my hands.”

He laughed.

“Got it. Stay away from the hands.”

It hurt going in, but it was worth it. Because when he came back in, he had morphine with him, and he pushed it into the stream of saline that was dripping quickly into my veins.

I’d been expecting something like hydrocodone, but they went straight for the good stuff. I have to wonder if they run every patient’s information through a state database before they administer opiates. I know there’s a New York State registry for controlled substances because of the Ativan I take for my anxiety. I have to get a physical prescription slip every time I need to get it filled, written on a special pad of watermarked paper, because they don’t allow doctors to call in refills. But boom, I was getting morphine.

The nurse had warned me that morphine might make me feel sleepy or “funny.” And the second he pushed it into my drip, I did feel sleepy. And “funny” was the most appropriate description for the way it made me feel as well. I couldn’t come up with another adjective to describe it, except for maybe “fuzzy.” That’s the only way I could describe the way I felt it affect the nerve endings in my shoulders. Because yes, I’m a blogger, and I was trying to come up with the proper words for my narrative when I got around to writing about it.

The morphine was a means to an end. They wanted to do an ultrasound of my abdomen to see what was going on in there, and that would have been absolute torture if I could still feel the pain. I kept my eyes closed when they wheeled me back to the imaging room, but it was still a dizzy-making ride.

She tells me that there will actually be two separate ultrasound scans – one of my abdomen and one of my pelvis. The pain is all on my right side, but I’ve been having a hard time determining exactly where. Higher could be my gallbladder. Lower could be either my appendix or my right ovary. Ultrasonic waves would find out what was going on.

This is where anyone who’s not up for the TMI part of the story might want to bow out.

Based on where she was scanning when I grimaced the most from the pain, it was my right ovary. Based on this, I became the lucky recipient of an internal ultrasound. I hadn’t even had breakfast yet, and there I was, spreading my legs for a stranger wielding a cold ultrasound wand.

And then it was over, and I was wheeled back to the exam room and my awaiting husband.

My ultrasound results turned up nothing. My gallbladder and my ovary were deemed “clean,” and my appendix was “not observed.” Which was a good thing, I guess, because being able to observe my appendix would have likely meant I’d need surgery to get it out because something was wrong with it. And my Mirena IUD was still in its proper place; it hadn’t perforated any of my organs or anything. It was a relief to know they’d checked for that, because I’d also harbored a fear that it was an ectopic pregnancy. That can happen when you have an IUD. But my ultrasound was clean.

With no discernible cause for my pain, I was discharged with a prescription for hydrocodone and anti-nausea pills.

Later that evening, it came to me that this was a menstrual thing. The ultrasound wand must have knocked some stuff loose, and the pain hadn’t returned as intensely when the morphine wore off. I felt slightly embarrassed that I went to the hospital for menstrual pain, but I could never have imagined that would be the cause. It was worse than labor pain. (Admittedly, I had an epidural after I’d been in active labor for five hours, so maybe it would have been worse in the end – but I didn’t feel it.) And intense pain is intense pain, no matter the cause.

As it turns out, crippling pain during ovulation isn’t that unheard of. I had a private message on Facebook from a friend who knew very well what it was like. I called my mom to let her know I was feeling better, even though a dull ache remained. She’d dropped in to see me before I’d been discharged, and I didn’t want her to worry unnecessarily about me if I was pretty sure it wasn’t anything life-threatening. When she called me back the next morning to check in on me, she told me that Grandma had suffered from terrible ovulation pain, too. (She’d called Grandma so she would stop worrying about me, too.)

I hope this isn’t a new “thing” I have to deal with roughly every month. I say “roughly” because my IUD makes things unpredictable. My right ovary has put me on notice; it hates me. I got the message loud and clear, buddy. At least I have a bottle of pain meds on hand now, if this becomes a recurring thing.

[Update: It was not my ovary. It is a gastrointestinal issue that has yet to be properly diagnosed as anything but IBS as of July 2015. But the rest of the narrative remains true to my experience at the time.]

Read my Big Fat Medical Update for more details.

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