Liver, No Onions

A couple of months ago, I lost my appetite.  I also woke up in the middle of the night with severe heartburn, to the extent that I had to get up and sleep upright on the couch the rest of the night.  I continued to have occasional heartburn, which did not encourage me to eat more.  Then I started having a mild discomfort and occasional twinge of pain where my gallbladder used to be.  I had an appointment scheduled with the nurse practitioner anyway, for December 17th, but at the urging of my coworkers (who were concerned that my lunch often consisted of Jell-O), I moved the appointment up to the 8th.

The nurse practitioner, Kelly, had me pee in a cup and poked and prodded at my abdomen before declaring it could be: a gallstone in one of the ducts, my liver, or my upper intestines.  She scheduled an ultrasound for the 16th, and in the 8 days in-between I nervously Googled my symptoms.

The ultrasound felt like it took a really long time.  This could be because my previous one was only looking at my gallbladder, or maybe because I was so drugged up that I barely even remember the previous one.  The technician said Kelly might have the results later that day, since it was early in the morning.  Late the following day, I still hadn’t received a call but I did get an e-mail notifying me that the ultrasound report was posted to the hospital patient portal.  Naturally I read it, and was unsurprised that the finding was hepatic steatosis – fatty liver.

Lots of people have fatty liver, which is, kind of obviously, caused by consuming too much fat.  Given that my triglyceride level in September was double the upper end of the healthy range, this diagnosis is not a surprise.  I figured Kelly would recommend diet and exercise, but really wanted to hear that officially and was frustrated when I called her office on Friday and was informed that she hadn’t reviewed the results yet and was already gone for the day.

Monday morning I did get a call, from Kelly herself, and she wanted me to go get some blood tests to check my liver enzymes.  She faxed the order to the hospital and I went over before lunch to let the lab vampires suck my blood.  I hoped she’d call the next day, which was the last day she was in the office before Christmas, but it was late that day before my test results finally appeared on the portal.  Both ALT and AST were elevated, although I didn’t know if they were elevated enough to be a concern.

I was surprised when I got a call from someone in her office on Wednesday.  She said Kelly wanted me to get retested in 6 weeks, but if I had increasing pain before then I should call and they’d refer me to a liver specialist.  That makes me wonder…if the results aren’t improved in 6 weeks, will they be referring me to a specialist then?

I worry.  I worry because Latuda, which I’ve taken most of the time since April 2014, can cause increases in triglycerides.  I worry because my liver is already at risk because I have the gene for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency.  I worry because I’m a worrier.

As for the recommendation to eat healthy, I went grocery shopping today and loaded my cart with fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, and fat-free yogurt.  I came home and ate an orange and then a carrot.  I also ate several pieces of peanut butter fudge and a slice of pumpkin roll.  Baby steps, right?

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2 thoughts on “Liver, No Onions

  1. Will be keeping you in my thoughts! It’s never easy to face medical scares like this; I know first hand. I’d be freaking out and huddled in a corner. Let us know how things turn out. Are you going to mention this to your pdoc? Would continuing Latuda be harmful?

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    • I see Brent on the 31st and he always asks about new medical issues. I’ll be sure to tell him. I don’t know if it’s harmful to keep taking the Latuda or not, but he was already planning to take me off it if we try Lamictal, so it’s probably not something I need to worry about.

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