66) An Exhausting and Terrifying Intruder Enters our Life

Welcome to my autobiography!

During the last 65 posts (about 16,500 words) you have read mostly about my crazy experiences while drinking life from a fire hose.

In the previous post you were reminded how someone can excel on their job even though they may not possess the natural gifts (aptitudes) that would allow them to really enjoy their work and prevent struggling while trying to keep pace with their peers. 

I discovered this while working with Analog Devices in Wilmington, Massachusetts on the design team that developed the world’s first accelerometer on  a chip – the ADXL50. I wasn’t one of the fastest at drawing the design but because our tasks were so new, the atmosphere in the laboratory each of us were expected to be continuously learning.  At this, due to overcoming my struggles in college, I was excellent. 

In this post I will tell you about Stevie’s diagnosis and early experiences with chronic pancreatitis, a rare and painful disease that affected our entire family for the next 15 years.

Our son Steve, 8 years old by this time, had been having stomach pains for what seemed like most of his life. He would cry as an infant every evening at a certain time. Nadine would not be able to console him. Usually, we would take turns carrying him around the room, which lessened, but did not stop his outbursts. Then, at 8 years old, in 1995, while we were living in Andover, Steve was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis. We hadn’t heard of the disease but since it wasn’t common, we weren’t very worried, until we investigated it further. Instantly, we became numb with disbelief, then when fear set-in, dread.

What is Pancreatitis?

The pancreas is a large gland located behind the stomach and next to the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). The pancreas has two primary functions:

  1. To secrete powerful digestive enzymes into the small intestine to aid the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat
  2. To release the hormones insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream; these hormones are involved in blood glucosemetabolism, regulating how the body stores and uses food for energy.

Pancreatitis is a disease in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. Pancreatic damage occurs when the digestive enzymes are activated before they are secreted into the duodenum and begin attacking the pancreas.

Source – http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-pancreatitis

In Stevie’s case the pain would occur sometime after eating and last between 30 minutes and several hours. During the times Steve was in pain, nothing seemed to provide relief.

Intruder

The onset of Steve’s most severe pain – if memory serves – occurred only twice in 1995. In 1996, however, while Nadine, Jenner, Steve and myself were living in Londonderry, New Hampshire, Steve’s pancreatitis flare-ups began occurring randomly and became increasingly central in our families existence. Each of us was affected in different ways. But for what seemed like months on end, the family was exhausted with worry. Months turned into years. We wondered how long we could cope. A few times, I had the terrifying thought, after months and months of random and unrelenting episodes of pain, night and day, had I lost ALL hope?

Dad’s Hypersensitivity

Being the Dad and I guess the most sensitive to his suffering, Steve’s episodes of severe pain nearly paralyzed me with grief and sorrow. Frequently, I couldn’t sleep or work. All of us began to experience the days, weeks and months not in units on a clock or calendar but instead in frames between Steve’s bouts of unrelenting pain.

Stevie Became Someone We Didn’t Know

Sometime around the age of 9 or 10, through trial and error, Steve’s physicians were able to find a course of treatment that diminished pain somewhat, and in turn, the family’s sorrow and preoccupation with the pain in Steve’s chest. Slowly at first and innocently enough – none of us perceived it at the time – Steve began his 15 year addiction to demerol, Oxycontin and whatever else he could find.

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