So that happened…
A couple of months ago, I had my gallbladder yoinked out. Thus the whole lack of posts an’ whatnot. It wasn’t a life-or-death situation or anything, but it was pretty traumatic. I’d not want to do it again.
My surgeon was great, and I had a lot of confidence in his technical skills (thank you internet research and doc review web sites) but like all doctors, he was overbooked and busy and didn’t really have time to hold my hand and walk me through the entire process as much as I’d have liked. He also wasn’t much help with my dietary questions or really with any general healy-uppy info. In fact, like most health professionals, he was too hamstrung by malpractice fear to be able to say anything. Which is a load of crap. But whatever. Research was all on me – I talked with a few friends who had gone through the procedure, collected all the firsthand information I could, and then hit up the Internet to fill in the blanks.
Thing is, people who have average experiences don’t often post about them, and those who post about their good experiences tend to boast so hyperbolically that it seems they are lying. They have to be lying — nobody goes in to get a gallbladder removed and comes out with a handful of Spanish doubloons! So naturally, the vast majority of what’s floating around the intertubes is horror stories, probable exaggerations, and a slew of terrible misspellings.
So I’ll do the dirty work that nobody else seems willing to do – post about my kind-of sort-of average, no frills gallbladder removal experience. For science!
I started feeling sick on a Wednesday afternoon. It was a stressful day, on top of a stressful week, that was a part of a stressful month, which was rounding out a very stressful year. So when my stomach started churning and clenching, I just thought it was just some more stress running around and gettin’ jiggy all up in there, but when the Mister picked me up from work, I could tell something was really wrong – when i got in the Zipcar, I started crying from the pain. Which is something that I never do. Don’t get me wrong, I cry all the time — when they cancelled Alcatraz, during the tender love scenes in Species 2, whenever I see those damn Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA commercials — but never from physical pain.
Even though I was feeling rotten, I made dinner when I got home – cooking is a thing that calms and relaxes me and that very day I had gotten my long-coveted corndog maker and I was bound and determined to use it, come hell or high water! So I whipped up the most basic of basic veggie corndogs (it hurt too much to whip up of any sort of creative corndoggery) and had a small glass of wine and then went right to bed. At 2 am, I woke up writhing and moved downstairs to the couch and proceeded to not be comfortable for the rest of the night. Morning. Whatever. At 7 am, the Mister came downstairs and convinced me to get myself to the emergency room.
I got Dilaudid! That stuff is platinum! It was like getting a warm and fuzzy hug from the inside! Then, after some poking and prodding, the nice lady in scrubs said all signs pointed to gallstones even though none were seen in the first CT scan. So maybe it was hepatitis? Umm, no. I got another scan, this time they saw stones a’plenty. They recommended Immediate Gallbladder Removal, but scheduling and life and stuff and junk conspired against me, and I had to wait 10 days. Ten really long, annoying, uncomfortable days. But hey, at least I had Vicodin.
I’m kind of glad I had those ten days, though; I was able to do a bunch of research and order up a good supply of nutritional supplements and find people to pitch in and help me out. See, the Mister wasn’t going to be around when I had my surgery, so I had to find someone to drive me to the hospital and back again, and some additional caretakers to help me through the first couple of days, watching movies and opening jars and such. Doing it alone would have been completely unpossible.
The big day came and my fridge was stocked with non-dairy protein shakes, applesauce, and mashed potatoes. I’d put fresh sheets on the bed and assembled an easily reachable collection of yoga pants and baggy t-shirts. Craft supplies were procured and I had 6 seasons of Supernatural queued up on Netflix. I was totally ready.
Jo Jo got me to the hospital at 6am, and I was under the knife by 9, and it’s all hazy, but I think I got home sometime right before 6pm.
I had 48 gallstones. Nasty little jerks.
Things have been quite different since the operation.
The first 3 days of healing were fucking excruciating. I couldn’t get comfortable, I couldn’t sit down or recline or lie down or stand up. The very first night, I got stuck in bed – I was alone in the apartment and I had accidentally rolled off my tower of pillows and couldn’t get up. You just try transitioning from laying down to sitting up without using your abdominal muscles, not even to roll over. It does not work. And of course, my phone was downstairs and the front door was locked so even if I could have called somebody to come over and help, they’d not have been able to get in. It took an hour to slowly creep and crawl my way into a position from where I could hoist myself up, and god, I don’t even want to think about that any more.
Life got better on day 4. I had a breakthrough – a friend took me out for coffee (lukewarm green tea for me) and my master plan was to walk all the way to the coffee shop (3 whole blocks!) and show off how well I was healing. Well, the plan failed. I got about 30 feet down the sidewalk and stopped and asked to be driven the rest of the way. But still, getting out of the house, just that little bit, was enough to kickstart my brain and body into getting up and on with it. I was itching to get out of the house by day 6 – I’d been shuffling laps around the living room, much to the cats’ annoyance, and on day 7, I went outside and walked for about a mile. It took over half an hour and I thought I’d die, but it was a good thinking I’d die; it was a thinking I’d die as an accomplishment.
Food is weird. Everyone I’ve spoken with has had a different experience; some can eat anything and everything with no ill-effects, while others don’t seem to tolerate anything above the blandest BRAT-type foods. Some have to stick to a very low-fat regimen, and others have increased food sensitivities or have developed food allergies. I’m kind of in the middle; I can eat nachos with jalapenos and the occasional mac and cheese, but it’s best if I don’t do that very often. For some reason, Indian yellow curry with paneer and potatoes is ok while Thai yellow curry with tofu and potatoes is not. Cheese is sometimes difficult to digest, but yogurt and sour cream are fine and dandy. For the first couple of weeks, I was doing pretty well with a high-fiber, low-fat diet, but now too much brown rice or certain cereal grains spells disaster. And I can’t eat fruit unless it’s peeled and/or cooked into oblivion. Apple pie ok, applesauce is fine, but even a couple slices of raw apples are right out. “Say goodbye to broccoli,” one friend told me, and he was right. Broccoli is now my kryptonite.
Although nearly everybody’s personal accounts of life after cholecystectomy were different, there was one thing that everyone did agree on – probiotic supplements are mandatory. So I got the best that I could afford, FOS-free, human-derived strains, the whole 9 yards, and I take ‘em every day. Every day that I remember, that is. I also take an essential fatty acid supplement, a probiotic fiber supplement, and extra doses of Calcium/Magnesium/Vitamin D. It’s a shitton of pills. My acupuncturist gave me a recipe for a congee that is full of grains and herbs and things that are all kinds of good for me. It tastes like chunky bathwater, but I try to eat it often.
That brings us up to now. It’s been a couple of months, and I’m still working on getting back to normal. I’m a very emotional eater, and since the gallbladder attack some of the things that gave me a great measure comfort are gone. Or changed. Or just… different. Some of my favorite foods are now verboten, and on top of that, my main support system is also gone, and to be quite honest, I fell into a pretty deep depression. I’m still fighting my way up and out of that.
My abdomen is still a little swollen (I like to refer to it as “being post-surgical,” it sounds better than “I got all fat on protein shakes’), and I still eat gingerly. I found out the hard way that I’m quite allergic to surgical adhesive. Oh, and I have also developed a pretty bad Dean Winchester problem. But I really do feel a huge sense of accomplishment in knowing that all the healing and stuff — I did it, and am doing it, on my own. I had friends nearby if I wanted them, and I had friends right there when I needed them, but the day-to-day stuff, I did that all by myself. It sucked, and I was in a quagmire of self-pity because I really should not have been alone, but as it turns out, I ended up ok. Just some little pink scars on the outside and a few gnarly ones on the inside.
But I’m ok.