The day my urine turned black

I happened to meet up with my longtime family friend, Jane* after we finally made time out of our busy schedules. Over a healthy lunch of salad, she told me something scary that happened to her just last year  – her urine turned black. Yes. Black!

Below is her anecdote…

The Beginning – 25th December 2017

The pain was excruciating. I woke up with a stabbing pain in my stomach and I couldn’t breathe properly. I was feeling sweaty, clammy and extremely tired. Must be indigestion or food poisoning perhaps?

I took some painkillers and somehow managed to go back to sleep.

I endured the pain for another 5 days until the Panadol tablets didn’t provide any relief and I was curled up in pain on my bed and called out to my parents for help.

They quickly brought me to A&E, where the nurse gave me a strong painkiller.  The painkiller worked after a while and I was told that it was possible I had muscle spasms and to come back to A&E if the pain came back.

I was sure it wasn’t simply muscle spasms and true enough, by the time I got home, I was peeing out dark-colored urine.

My thoughts began to race. Did I have hepatitis? I was a nurse in training and I could not afford to have this viral infection. Did I have cirrhosis? I was overweight but I did not drink alcohol so it could not be that. Did I have gallstones? Please just be gallstones.

My parents drove me to A&E again and this time they ran some tests. I prayed hard that it was not hepatitis because I did not want to lose my job. Meanwhile, I was warded and given even more tramadol, which did help to lessen the pain somewhat.

Diagnosis – 1st January 2018

Finally, the next day, the test results came back. The first thing I wanted to know was whether it was hepatitis. Thank goodness it wasn’t. It was gallstones and must have been there from all the fried and unhealthy food and lack of exercise that have led to this.

There and then in hospital bed number 500C, I made a resolution to stop overeating all the delicious char kway teow, fried chicken, oyster omelette and chicken wings and start exercising.

I made a resolution for the future, but I still had to make up for my unhealthy past by having my gallbladder removed.

Surgery – 2nd January 2018

I was scheduled to be wheeled in the following day at 3 pm. Despite feeling extremely apprehensive about undergoing general anesthetic, I desperately wanted to have the excruciating pain on my side relieved.

The doctor placed me under general anesthetic to undergo a laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery. A mask was placed over my mouth and I slowly drifted off to sleep.  

Three hours later, I awoke groggy, with a sharp pain whenever I attempted any small movement. Instead of four small incisions, I had a moderately large scar of about 5 inches long.

The Doctor told me they had to switch to open surgery due to complications; apparently, my organs were sticking together due to tissue inflammation. An open surgery meant that I had to extend my stay to 3 days instead of a day.

It also meant greater costs. I was in a B1 ward and ended up paying almost close to S$9,000 in total due to the longer-than-expected operation and extended stay.

Luckily, I had purchased additional coverage on top of the compulsory Medisave, so my hospital bill was payable by Medisave, which meant I did not have to pay for anything.

After Thoughts:

I was thankful that despite having to go through the open surgery, I survived and am now alive and well. I have since changed my diet and started eating healthier.

Despite working in healthcare, myself, it never hit me how expensive hospital bills can be. I am glad that I took out added healthcare protection. I had only been working for three years up to that date and I had to look after my elderly parents and younger siblings. Having not to pay that S$9,000 was as much of a relief to me as the riddance of my abdominal pain.

My purpose in sharing this anecdote was to make sure that others take care of their health and keep themselves adequately protected with the right health plan.

Final words by the author

Having just started working for a few years, I had never thought about buying any additional health protection for myself and find it unnecessary. But as a matter of fact, you don’t usually wake up one morning and think “I want to buy insurance!”. This thought only occurs once something unexpected happened, and it’s often too late. After hearing Jane’s* story, I started to do my own research on additional insurance riders for basic Medshield and try to find a suitable one for myself. Even though self-education on insurance can be complicated, it gives you peace of mind knowing you are adequately covered, rather than risking a hefty medical bill for a health contingency, be it black urine or something else more sinister.

*Name changed to ensure anonymity.

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