About two years ago, I started on a journey that has changed my perspective on everything. At that time, I was overweight and had just come out of pneumonia, followed by the flu, back to back. I was disengaged from my family because I was constantly tired. And I decided it was time to do something about it.
I read about Keto and decided to try it. I added up what I ate every day and it was atrocious. I cut out all fries and sugary sodas, which cut my caloric intake in half. I cut carbs 80%. And I did full fasting once or twice each week. Within three months, I lost 30 pounds. I felt great. My mind was alert. I was not tired anymore. That’s where the story begins.
Then came the obstacle — a huge one.
I have had a problem with my gallbladder for a long time, so this isn’t Keto related. But it was time to do something about that too, and I had it removed on May 8, 2018. Later the doctors would speculate that a gallstone must have escaped during the surgery.
A week after the procedure, I started having complications in the form of violent pain and nausea. I went to the ER, who treated both symptoms and sent me home. And I returned the next night with the same signs. I was admitted to the hospital this time.
It turns out that the escaped gallstone had found its way into my pancreas and blocked a duct. That means the enzymes produced had nowhere to go except back into the pancreas. It was eating itself.
While in the hospital, I was also diagnosed with two blood clots. One was in the leg, the other in the lung. This created all kinds of problems as treatment for one could not interact with the other.
For pancreatitis, they pumped fluids in me. The 30 pounds I had lost was put back on me in 2 days. The fluid was to keep my blood pressure up. Pancreatitis patients can die from low blood pressure as the body attacks the issue by diverting blood to the organ. I had six IV bags going at any one time.
Then the hiccups started. Uncontrollable. I couldn’t rest because of them. For days, every 20 seconds. And the staff all but laughed when I asked if there was something they could do about it. They did say to hold my breath or drink from the wrong side of the glass.
Lack of Trust
So I had a trust issue with this team. Some of the doctors included the same team that performed the surgery. I was in the same hospital that sent me home from the ER only to return the next night. And the physicians were telling me one thing but the staff something else.
On the 3rd night, I moved into a standard room. It was tiny, with a slit of a window positioned in the wrong corner so you couldn’t see out of it. I think Johnny Cash “heard a whistle blowing” through that window that allowed no “sunshine since I don’t know when.” It was depressing.
I assured my family it would be OK for me in that room. But after they left, I had a lot of time (between the hiccups) to think. Am I dying? What will happen to my family if I do? And I resigned myself to trust God to work out whatever my family needed, whether I make it or not.
Get Out NOW
About 2 am, I heard His response. It was so jarring when I heard it, but gentle at the same time. “Bill, you’re the project. This leadership team doesn’t know what to do. Get out of there before they kill you.”
All of a sudden, it made sense. God speaks to you in the language you understand. God was making it known that He was not done with me yet. Let that sink in a bit. I knew I was going to make it. In addition, He was reminding me that when project leaders do not know the way, the project always fails. And if I am the project…with this leadership team, I was going to die. Change the team NOW.
But I’m in a hospital bed with 6 IVs. I can’t just walk out. Somehow I had to get out.
I texted my wife, Kimberly. It was about 2:00 am. She was up trying to research everything she could. I told her to get me out and, they’re going to kill me if I don’t get out of there.
She contacted the hospital immediately and initiated the request for a transfer. We asked to transfer to either of two hospitals in Lexington and eventually got accepted into Good Samaritan, which is part of the University of Kentucky. It took until 6 pm to get the transfer on the road.
I would spend the next 2+ weeks at Good Sam.
Now I refer to this transfer from the local hospital to Good Samaritan as the time I fired the hospital.
A New Team, A New Vision
At Good Sam, they did the opposite of everything the previous hospital had done. They outlined a plan to me within an hour of my arrival and stuck to that plan throughout the stay. They took the fluid off (which required countless trips to the bathroom). They treated the hiccups (and replaced it with bathroom trips). And they paid attention to everything.
Between both hospitals I went probably a 10 days without any food. For a time, the only liquid was through the IVs.
The Damage is Done
Kimberly did not share her research with me until later. She found, among other things, an article called “The Atlanta Classification for Acute Pancreatitis.” This article outlined mortality rates for Walled Off Necrosis and explained that the best treatment is not to treat it. Any effort to drain the necrotic material risks infection. And because there are no surviving blood vessels through the necrotic material, there is no way to get antibiotics to treat any infection.
The damage to my pancreas is severe. 70% of it has been liquified – a condition called Walled Off Necrosis. I became a type 3c diabetic, insulin-dependent and requiring digestive enzymes.
The Importance of Kindness
Dr. Calder was finishing up his residency at UK that month. I was one of his last patients before he finished. Several times, he wheeled me out of my room and ate lunch with me. I still get emotional thinking about that simple kindness.
I finally made it out of the hospital. I walked around the yard. Then twice around the yard. Eventually, I returned to work.
I lost another 20 pounds after leaving the hospital. So that means I lost 30 over three months before the surgery, gained 30 in two days, lost 30 in 2 weeks, then lost an additional 20 over the next two months. Now that I’m diabetic, I do not try the Keto diet. That does not mean I’m against that diet, just that my organs already have some extra strain so I choose to be more normal.
The Importance of Community
But the obstacles were not done. Every demon tries to kick you one last time as it is banished.
Back in May, just before the surgery that started all this, several people were let go from work. Our staff of Business Analysts was cut from six, counting the director, to three. About two weeks after returning, I also was released.
One of my friends, Richard, who had been released in May, provided me contacts for jobs he had worked. So, I landed a new job without missing a paycheck.
Between my family, Dr. Calder, the staff at Good Sam, and Richard, I owe so many people so much.
When you look at me now I look and act as healthy as most people. I have more energy than most. My mind is sharp. The only difference is that I must know how many carbs I am eating so that I know how much insulin to take. As long as I know, like most diabetics, I can eat what I want. With that in mind, I also have to know if my blood glucose is high or low, so I can adjust my insulin dosage accordingly.
If you see me jittery, that means I’m running a bit low and I need something with sugar in it. I have a built in excuse for junk food. But really the best thing is 100% juice with the sugar.
At the beginning of this article I talked about how this medical event changed everything. Since the medical event:
- I started taking the stairs at lunch. In December 2018, I was able to climb up to 21 stories. Not bad considering the building was only seven stories, and I could barely walk around the yard in June 2018. No one else was doing that in the building.
- I understand how viewing things through a project lens can illuminate the need for change. I believe God used my project oriented mind to save my life. If you think that is exaggeration, then read this again.
- I am grateful for simple things. I do not want anything fancy at all. I just want things to work. Simplicity is the key to abundant living.
- I’ve completed my AAC certification from IIBA and my PSM-1 certification from Scrum.org. And I’m currently working toward Salesforce Administrator. This is on top of my CBAP certification from IIBA.
- I’ve developed a course to teach AAC certification to other Business Analysts. The course has caused ripple effects in my local IIBA chapter, causing a change in approach to other certification courses. (See, this article is relevant to Agile Analysis).
- I started this website, and in doing so, I taught myself WordPress and took some courses on writing. Related to that, I revisited a course on Web Development.
- I’m working to improve family relationships that were damaged through my neglect back when I was fat.
- I have convinced my family about changes we all need to make for long term financial stability.
- I am always aware of my health. I’m not obsessive about it. But I have to test between four and six times each day, inject insulin with meals and bedtime, and take enzymes with meals. With that kind of regimen, it is impossible not to be aware.
- I realize the importance of being your own health advocate. I know that you must make people listen when it comes to your health. I’ll never know how much less damage there would have been if the ER admitted me the first time. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO FIRE THE HOSPITAL. I DID.
- I have had a personal revival of faith. Although I had never walked away from my faith, I had gone through the motions there for too long. I am currently reading the Bible through for the second time since the medical event, this time my goal is in 4 months. And by reading larger sections at a time, I am making connections that I had missed before.
- I am constantly listening to podcasts that inspire and educate me toward goals I am attaining. My favorite is ChooseFI, which I’ve binged in it’s entirety, and talks about everything, not just finances. Between that, my family and my faith, I consider this one of my major sources of motivation.
I’ve been told to never make more or less than three points. I just blew up that rule. That’s twelve different areas of improvement in about 18 months.
Summing it up. I no longer neglect my family relationships, my faith, my health or my career. I thought I was taking care of family and career before. Now I am seeing how much more I can and will do on all fronts.
Do I want my pancreas back? You bet. Am I better off now than before? If that is still in question, then read the last section again. Because…
Obstacles are there to make you better in all areas of your life.
If there is anything to take away from this story, I hope it is one of these three ideas.
- Simplicity is the key to abundant living.
- Be a vocal advocate for your own health, even if it means overriding what professionals say. Don’t be afraid to “Fire the Hospital” if you have to.
- Obstacles are there to make you better in all areas of your life.