After my Mom died in 2013, I got terribly sick, losing weight and having severe stomach pain. I was diagnosed with Celiac Compression Disorder—an artery to my stomach is compressed by 70%.
Since then, I have had some reoccurrences but nothing like what I’ve experienced in the last three weeks. On Monday, March 4, 2019, I was at a square dance promoting a festival we’re having in May, and the cramps started at about 7:00 PM on the drive to the dance hall. I kept thinking they’d go away, but they intensified. I hadn’t had a full-blown stomach problem for several years.
It only worsened during the evening, and I had to leave abruptly in the middle of making a promotional announcement about our dance. I had an eighteen-mile drive home and prayed the whole way, hoping the diarrhea would hold off until I got home. The cramps increased. Sweat beaded on my brow; I turned off the radio so I could concentrate on breathing and not exploding.
I called my husband, Lin, as I turned down our lane, and he had the garage door open. I turned off the car, jumped out and ran to the bathroom, and the diarrhea hit. It relieved the pain for a while, but the cramps/spasms came back with a vengeance until 3:00 AM. At one point, I thought I was dying the pain was so intense.
Tuesday morning I called my GI doctor and luckily scheduled an appointment for the next day with a Nurse Practitioner because my doctor was not available. To my surprise, my doctor followed the Nurse Practitioner in the exam room and was a part of the discussion. I shared the questions I had written out and they answered them, as best they could. We scheduled a CT Angiogram scan for that Friday. Again, I was able to get this much quicker than I thought possible.
The scan was done easily in the morning, and I received the results that afternoon on MyChart, the medical portal I have access to through Presbyterian insurance. I read the results, not understanding the findings. It all sounded good, but I wasn’t sure. I needed a doctor’s interpretation.
I had a long weekend, not feeling good and wondering about the results.
On Monday, a nurse called me from the GI office with the results, but still I wasn’t clear about the results and next steps, so I asked to have the Nurse Practitioner call me. She did call back on Tuesday, but my phone was upstairs and I was downstairs, so I didn’t make it. She never did call back.
I kept wondering—what are the next steps then? And I felt lousy!
On Thursday morning, I had another stomach attack that hit suddenly. I called the GI office, and they counseled me to go to the emergency room. Lin and I decided not to do that, so we spent the afternoon researching on the Internet—what could this be?
We both came up with an ulcer and the need for an endoscopy.
I spent most of Friday and Saturday in bed, but Saturday afternoon, I joined Lin downstairs to watch some TV, and it hit again. The pain doubled me over into the fetal position. This was different—two episodes in a few days. That had never happened before.
I spent the rest of the weekend in bed, miserable with the pain and fear of what was going on.
On Monday, again I called the GI doctor for another appointment, and I was able to see her on Tuesday. Lin accompanied me. We walked in, armed with a list of questions, and we requested an endoscopy, so she scheduled one. I was afraid it would take a while, but there was an opening on Friday—again, my God intervened.
Our conversation took a strange twist during this appointment. The Nurse Practitioner asked if I had any stress in my life which I could understand with stomach pain. I answered yes, and she asked me how I handle it. I told her I write. Then she told me that many people come to their office with stomach pain, do the testing and end up with normal test results. She suggested I see a therapist for stress management at their Behavioral Science department, and she prescribed an anti-depressant, Amitriptyline.
I was so sick that day, I filled the prescription without thinking—Medicare and my supplemental insurance didn’t cover it, but it was inexpensive. I brought it back to the car and read the warnings to Lin. We both gasped at “Suicide, depression, etc.”
Here’s what shocked me even more when I researched this drug on the Internet:
This drug has a black box warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.https://www.healthline.com/health/amitriptyline-oral-tablet#warnings
Amitriptyline can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior, especially in children, adolescents, and young adults. People of all ages who are started on antidepressant therapy should be watched closely for signs of changes in behavior or worsening depression.
The Nurse Practitioner called me after I filled the prescription and said to not start it until I got an EKG because I didn’t have one on file. I think that was my God intervening here to stop the process.
When I got home, I received a call from the stress management office; they have no openings and put me on a waiting list.
I did the endoscopy on Friday, and the doctor there was really concerned about the compressed celiac artery, saying it could be causing all the problems. We’re waiting for the biopsy results.
I’m having the EKG tomorrow, Monday, March 25, but I’m not going to start the anti-depressants. I know what depression feels like—been there, done that; I am not depressed. Lin said she didn’t prescribe it for depression; she prescribed it for pain. Why not use Tylenol?
Besides its alternative use as sleep aid, amitriptyline is also used to treat pain associated with a wide array of medical conditions.https://www.insomnia.net/medications/amitriptyline/
I still don’t understand the prescription of this medicine. Is this how the opioid crisis happened in America? She took a sidetrack with me that day trying to prepare me for no new diagnosis for my severe stomach pain, forgetting about the 2013 diagnosis I received.
The doctor that did the endoscopy said the compressed artery could cause the severe stomach pain and could be fixed surgically by removing scar tissue. That seems like a solution—the anti-depressant doesn’t!
Have you ever had an experience like this? What did you do?
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