As you may recall from this post, I've been dealing with some mysterious, intermittent abdominal pains since August 9th of this year. At first, it was just a discomfort and I blamed a virus I'd apparently caught, since I had a sore throat for a few days after my husband got sick. However, the pains continued and I couldn't make heads or tails of the cause or triggers.
On Friday, August 20th, I was at work when a particularly painful episode snuck up on me that afternoon. I headed to the Emergency Room. The tests came back mostly normal, but the abdominal ultrasound revealed "possible sludge" in my gallbladder, which my internist doubted could have anything to do with my particular kind of pains. The gastroenterologist I saw on his recommendation had me try skipping my probiotics for a while. When that didn't work, he ordered a HIDA scan to check my gallbladder and liver functioning, as well as an EGD to check things out, since my blood and urine tests revealed nothing.
Meanwhile, per Don's suggestion, I had stopped drinking the water and coffee provided in my office by my work. Our building was built in 1976 and I noticed a long time ago that on Monday mornings, the water from the kitchen sink really stinks, even after washing and drying my hands. Our drinking water is UV filtered, and doesn't stink, but I've learned that UV doesn't remove all contaminants from water. I also noticed that I wasn't having episodes on the weekends or on days when I'm not at work, which we both thought was a strong case to avoid SOMEthing at work.
So, as of Wednesday, October 27th, I believe, I have been avoiding the work water (I bring my own supply in a thermos), and for the most part, I've been without my afternoonly abdominal pain episodes (that start around 2:30pm or so). I started looking into possible contaminants that may be affecting me, though apparently not all of us in the office are doing as poorly as I am. I'm open to the possibility that my body has some defect that makes me especially susceptible to problems. At any rate, I brought this list of possible drinking water contaminants and their health effects to my fibro doctor and told him about the absence of abdominal pain episodes while not drinking work water. His immediate suspicion was excess copper from old plumbing in the building, possibly causing problems in my body. He urged me to discuss the problem with my work and get the water tested.
(He also suspects formaldehyde in the air (from old insulation) or some other air contaminant that could be contributing to my daily voice degradations that also happens only on days I go to the office. But that's another story for another day.)
I brought my concerns to my human resources manager and urged the company to take some action to find out if the water is safe - not just for myself, but for the entire office. She agreed to look into it.
In the meantime, last Tuesday night, around 5pm or so, I was in the office, both shivering and sweating at the same time, wondering if I'd caught the flu or was having a fever for some reason. I went home to rest and still felt awful in the morning, so yesterday I stayed home, still unsure what's going on. I even had to run to the bathroom for fear of vomiting, but it wouldn't happen. Then, oddly, for the first time after a couple weeks now of not drinking work water, my abdomen was in severe pain. I couldn't even straighten up to walk. I was also starving, so I fixed myself a healthy lunch salad and tried to rest a bit.
Well, yesterday was also the day I got a call from the gastroenterologist's office regarding the test results from my HIDA scan. I expected to hear that all was normal, especially since a nurse was calling to report the results (and not my doctor), but she said my gallbladder isn't functioning very well at all. My ejection fraction was measured to be 16%, which is less than half of a healthy gallbladder - 36%. She also said that I should have my gallbladder removed because of this. I gasped. I was so shocked to hear all this. She couldn't tell me why my gallbladder contractions are not effective. I had to have another ultrasound just before the HIDA scan to ensure I didn't have gallstones, so I assume I still don't. However, nobody reported about that test. I asked for a copy of the test results to be mailed to me so I can see all the details.
While I wait, however, I did a search on copper and gallbladder and found that excess copper in one's system can cause a gallbladder to become ineffective. Not only that, too much copper in one's system can cause all sorts of damage, including liver problems and neurological symptoms. Wilson's Disease also came up a lot in my research. It's a hereditary disease that causes the patient to be unable to rid the body of excess copper, and if left untreated, can be fatal.
I decided I need to understand what's really going on here. Is my gallbladder just faulty for some reason, or is something causing it to fail? Is that something too much copper? Is this copper coming from drinking water? Can I treat this, or do I really need to remove my gallbladder? Will removing my gallbladder solve my problems, or only remove one of the symptoms of my bigger problems? What the problem stems from brain damage from my concussion? Is there any way to find out if that's the case? Can anything be done about that, if that's the case? Will anything else go wrong if that's the case? Is any of this related to my other symptoms, like the new Erythema Nodosum on my legs?
I sure hope medical students are required to take some detective classes in med school, because I require some deduction and thinking to be done. I'm not willing to go under the knife so easily. I've read that up to 40% of patients who have had their gallbladder removed continue to experience abdominal pain and nausea.
I would love to have an easy, cut-and-dry diagnosis that makes sense and for which removal of my gallbladder would solve my problems, but I'm not convinced of this yet. Stay tuned as I learn more about this all. If you have any experience with any of this, please feel free to share.