How my parathyroid was sucking the life out of me

Back around 1997-98 I had my first bout with kidney stones. I don’t remember if my friend Audra Huelsman drove me to Miami Valley Hospital ER- or was the one that picked me up, but going in I could barely stand up. I remember lying on the gurney tucked into the fetal position. They gave me a shot in my butt- without telling me what it was. 10 minutes later I could dance right out of there. Welcome to my first experience with morphine. Now I knew how guys in WWII stormed machine gun nests despite being shot 5 times.

I started feeling like I had lost my “energy” around 2000. I went to my family doctor, I went to another. I started dating a girl in Cincinnati- who recommended me to a guy who specializes in cholesterol. He found that my triglycerides were at 1200 (normal is under 100) and started me on some meds to put that in check. I felt a little better, but I still didn’t feel like myself.

After eating, I’d often get tired- or feel a wave of depression. I started having reflux, and felt that eating more would help it go down. I’d have a pain in my lower, right side- toward the back. I wondered if it was my gall bladder, appendix or later my adrenal gland. In the last year, my memory seemed to be not as sharp- I found myself hunting for words.

Last September, I went to the hospital again for kidney stones. This time, they weren’t coming out without help. I had surgery to break them up- and a stent put in, and then a second minor procedure to take the stent out. I was sent to an endocrinologist for the first time. He ran tests. Vitamin D was low, calcium was high, PTH- the parathyroid hormone was elevated. He did more tests. 2 biopsies, 2 nuclear scans, multiple ultrasounds. He thought is might be my parathyroid, but wanted to be sure.

I didn’t even know what a parathyroid was, or what it did before that. A friend, Jen Alexander, pointed me to the website of a doctor in Florida who runs an assembly line for removal of parathyroid glands. Reading that site, www.parathyroid.com I learned more than I could ever need to know. There was no need for more tests- it just had to come out.

My grandfather, who was an MD, used to poke at my neck when I was 12 or so- wondering about my thyroid. My grandmother had had hers removed with radiation in 1948- when they were in the first stages of using all the new-found nuclear toys to do new things in medicine. All of my life I’d heard about the thyroid- but never the parathyroid. The parathyroid is actually four small glands that are supposed to be the size of grains of rice that sit on the thyroid- right next to your vocal cords. They are supposed to regulate calcium in your body. When one goes crazy and starts producing too much hormone, the others go dormant. Your body starts sucking the calcium out of your bones- and often times, makes kidney stones. But it also can do all kinds of other things- like be misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia among other things.

David Esrati's neck after parathyroid surgery

On leaving the hospital, the purple was marking the surgery- the scar below is the parathyroid scar.

Then came a few delays in scheduling which were frustrating me no end. Falling asleep while reading, feeling sore and stiff when waking up, all these things were driving me nuts. Never mind the recurrent kidney stones.

Yesterday, around 8:30am I went under the knife at the Cincinnati VA by Dr. David Steward, and got at least 1 oversized parathyroid removed. I have a scar at the base of my neck that follows a fold. The stitches are all internal- and there is a clear glue protective coating on it. It looks like someone tried to garrote me with piano wire- and didn’t finish the job.

My neck and throat were sore as I left the hospital around 1 p.m. They were still sore today- although it’s getting better by the hour. But the way I feel is magical. The haze that hung over me, the feelings of depression and tiredness are gone. I feel a clarity again that I’ve missed for so long, it’s as if I’ve been given a whole new life.

To think that I’ve spent the last 13 years thinking this was just because I was getting old, is a little bit depressing. I’ve always reminded people that doctors are “practicing” medicine – as in they still haven’t got it perfected, but right now- despite being sore, I feel like a gazillion bucks comparatively.

If you’ve had kidney stones, or if you’ve felt like you’ve had a loss in energy, or feel depressed after eating- I highly recommend you do a little research and have your PTH, calcium and vitamin D checked. Apparently, parathyroid disorders often go misdiagnosed for years.

 

 

 

 

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7 Responses

  1. Bubba Jones September 14, 2013 / 6:46 am
    I hope you’re continuing your recovery from the procedure, David.  Of course, you’re probably feeling especially old today!!

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  2. David Esrati September 14, 2013 / 11:12 am

    @Bubba- I’m still taking it easy- but feeling great. As to feeling old- at least I’ll always look younger than you.

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  3. Bubba Jones September 14, 2013 / 4:49 pm
    LMAO!!  Yeah, right David!
    My hair may be gray, but I’ve still got a lot of it!  That’s a lot more than you can say.  And a little bit of “Just for Men” and I’d look 12 years younger than you!!
     
    Hope you’re having a great birthday!
     

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  4. MinnesotaGirl January 17, 2016 / 9:20 pm
    Interesting story thst mimicks mine. I only lost 6 good years and I’m pretty bitter. I’m grateful every day for those damn kidney stones.. Otherwise I’d probably still be being treated for depression…. Think of the many, many people who are currently doing just that?! For women, they are told it’s just menopause & aging. It’s a shame. Screening should be done by psychiatrists, nephrologists, urologists, dermatologists, dentists, etc… By the time it was all said and done, there wasn’t a major system in my body that wasn’t affected.

    Anyways… I’m in an online support group now for this and the general consensus is that there is permanent damage done to our bodies. I am one year post-op and dealing with another issue (a pituitary tumor) so I can’t honestly say if I’m cured. But I did feel much better after surgery!

    Hope you are doing well now.
    Happy 2016!

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  5. David Esrati January 17, 2016 / 11:58 pm

    MN girl- I’m doing fine now- although the endocrinologist is convinced he has to reduce the calcium in my urine- and has tried all kinds of medications that made me feel horrible.
    I’m still making stones- but, I can live with that.
    3 years after the surgery- and I’m still not sure my energy levels or my metabolism is right- but- it is better than before.
    Thanks for commenting- you may want to add a link to the online support group.

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