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Abdominal Pain, Colonoscopy

Maggie Guterl 620

Released: May 7, 2013

No matter how old your child is, a phone call saying "I am going to the ER" can still ruin your day. When our daughter, Maggie, 31, who lives in Philadelphia, called to say she had a sharp pain in her lower abdomen and was going to an emergency department in Philadelphia, my husband and I were concerned.

Maggie is in tiptop shape. She is a personal trainer by profession and a marathoner by hobby. She runs about 60 miles a week and is in excellent physical condition. She listens to her body and knows when a pain is serious and can usually trace its genesis. But this time was different!

After that call, Maggie would visit the emergency room in the city twice in two weeks. The diagnosis after the first visit was an ovarian cyst. She was told to take over-the-counter pain relievers, and that in most cases, the cysts dissolves naturally and so would the pain. A week later, when the pain increased and migrated higher up on her right side, she went to the same ER a second time and received a different diagnosis: it might be an ulcer. She was directed to take another over-the-counter medication, antacids.

A week passed and Maggie could not stand up straight, and definitely could not train any of her clients. If after two ER visits she was getting worse, where should she turn for help?

Our family doctor at Gateway Medical Associates in West Chester has always been there for us, so we encouraged Maggie to schedule an appointment.

On the recommendation of the nurse practitioner at Gateway, we took Maggie to the Emergency Department at The Chester County Hospital; thinking, "Not again!" Seeing the pain she was in, the ED physician really listened to her and ordered blood work, which indicated elevated liver enzymes. After an ultrasound was inconclusive for any gall bladder problem, he recommended she be admitted to the Hospital to "get to the bottom of this."

Soon after Maggie was settled into a bed and an IV was started for pain medication, the surgeon on-call visited her. When he said: "Don't worry; we are not going to send you home until we find out what the problem is," I could have cried. To hear that from a second doctor at the Hospital was just what the patient (and her parents) needed to hear.

The care Maggie received in the Medical/Surgical Unit at The Chester County Hospital could not have been better. The nurses on the unit were attentive and professional. They were careful to monitor Maggie's pain, which seemed to increase even with the IV medication. As each shift changed, her new care team came into the room, introduced themselves and asked Maggie if she needed anything.

Through a week-long hospital stay, the surgeon ordered several different blood and radiology tests. And while it was good news that her gall bladder, appendix, liver, kidneys and ovaries were normal, it meant we still didn't have an answer.

The surgeon then consulted with a gastroenterologist who ordered a colonoscopy. Lo and behold, he found two inflamed spots on her colon, corresponding to the area where she was experiencing pain. Thankfully, further tests showed it was not colon cancer or colitis.

So what was the problem? Very simply, the inflammation was the result of regularly taking over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin. Who would think a non-prescription medication could cause so much trouble? We knew people with certain conditions should not take over-the-counter pain relievers, but we never knew that it can adversely affect normally healthy individuals if taken regularly.

Now when Maggie experiences muscle pain from training or running, she turns to yoga, stretching exercises, or ice or heat. Occasionally, she will take a pain reliever, but not regularly.

We are so grateful to the care team at Chester County Hospital for being persistent, listening and finding the cause of our daughter's pain! Thank you. I am proud to share that after her hospital stay, Maggie is feeling better. She recently ran a 62-mile race and won first place among female runners.

By Gail O. Guterl

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