The Gall of My Gallbladder
I almost never get indigestion. Last October, around the same time as my dog went blind, I had one violent attack of tummy ache. I left work early and took some Tums and laid down. Since then, nothing, until about three weeks ago, when I dared to eat Jack in the Box for breakfast. I would recommend that if you know that you have gallstones (which I didn’t) that you lay off the Jack in the Box.
Pretty soon after that I was experiencing some discomfort. Then I decided to get lunch from Short Bus Subs. Short Bus Subs are excellent, and they offer some healthier sandwiches. However, eating again aggravated my stomach issues, and I went home early because I was in so much pain. The pain was in my central abdominal area, and it was like heartburn, only it wasn’t heartburn. It didn’t reach that far. What it did do was make me violently ill. I threw up in the women’s restroom before I went home.
The next night I went over to the Mr. Brewsters’ so that I could ghost write a cover letter for a job interview. We had chicken and spaghetti. Again, I experienced discomfort of the same sort as before. I drove home and threw up in my kitchen sink. I couldn’t make it as far as the bathroom. That was a Friday night, and I had pain pretty much every day thereafter. It would go away when I went to sleep at night, and I’d wake up the next morning feeling alright. I never knew what was going to set it off. I would eat something and then live in hell for the rest of the day. That is, until the following Thursday.
Thursday I went home a half hour early because that was all I could stand. I felt bloated all the time, like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And I couldn’t get rid of the air. I popped into bed, took a ton of acid reducers and Tums and lay there miserable while nothing happened. The next morning, more Tums and acid reducers, and I was just as miserable. The pain had kept me up half the night. I chatted one of my coworkers who works from home.
i am so sick to my stomach lately; i’ve been sick since yesterday, and nothing i take makes it any better
do you feel nauseous?
could be your gallbladder. you better go see a doctor.
So, I made an appointment with “my” doctor. Actually, my doctor was in India again, so I made an appointment with someone in her office. I rattle off my symptoms, and the doctor says, “That sounds like it could be your gallbladder.” And I said, “I thought so.” This is because I have the internet and can diagnose and prescribe for myself.
The doctor explained to me that he was going to send me to get an ultrasound. The ultrasound was to check out what was going on down there. If it was my gallbladder, then one of two things could happen. If it wasn’t so bad, then I could live with it until I could schedule a surgery. If it was as bad as he thought it was, then I would probably have to have emergency surgery. He gave me a prescription for some hydrocodone. I went in to work for only long enough to explain to them that I had to go home and take narcotics.
After about an hour, the doctor’s office called. A different doctor than the one I’d seen originally advised me to hold off and schedule the surgery for later. Then the doctor I’d seen originally had a nurse call and tell me to get myself to the emergency room where they would be expecting me for surgery. So, I packed my little overnight bag and drove myself to the emergency room.
Turns out they weren’t expecting me. In severe pain, I walked, with my loaded suitcase and my purse, back and forth from the emergency room to my doctor’s office and back again, twice. They could not admit me. The doctor’s office hadn’t sent the ultrasound or anything they needed. Well, it turned out that the doctor’s office had sent it. I was just asking the wrong people, apparently. When I finally got a bed in the emergency room, after nearly two hours of waiting, a doctor told me that he’d been waiting on me and asked me what took me so long. He was under the impression that I was in my doctor’s office when my doctor called him. No, I told him, I was in the comfort of my own home, enjoying my pain pill. Then I packed my little bag and drove myself here.
Now, when I finally got a bed in the emergency room is when life started to get better. They hooked me up to an IV and gave me morphine. Morphine? I thought that was what they gave to people who were about to die, like terminal cancer patients. Morphine! But seriously, I love morphine. I didn’t even realize how much pain I was in until they gave me the morphine. Wow! This morphine stuff is great.
They moved me to a bed in the hospital. I was going to have surgery the next day. I was not allowed to eat or drink anything. Seriously, I think you’ve never had a gallbladder attack if you think I want anything to eat or drink. Go ahead and hook me up to that saline. I hadn’t eaten since just before noon of the day before. I never wanted to eat anything again for as long as I lived. What was eating but pain and misery? Eating: it’s so not worth it.
In the hospital, they wrapped my legs in these leg warmer pump thingies that they give you to prevent blood clots from surgery. When the orderly came to get me for surgery, first off, he helped me get my computer in my suitcase ‘cause he felt sorry for me, trying to keep the back of my hospital gown closed and close my suitcase at the same time. Then, he grabbed my fancy leg warmers ‘cause he said that they would charge me for new ones unless we took those with us. I am going to spend the rest of my short-lived life paying for this surgery, and every little bit counts. I loved the orderly.
I really don’t remember much about the first procedure, which was the gallbladder surgery itself. I was “under” before they put me under. It was a laparoscopic surgery, so that means that they cut a small incision on the right side of your abdomen, just under your rib cage, just right of your sternum. Then they poke two holes under the incision, further right. They pump you full of gas. They stick a camera inside of your abdomen, along with a light and a tiny vacuum cleaner, I think. Then they basically suck your gallbladder out of you and glue you shut. No kidding. They don’t sew or even staple anymore. They glue you. Someone should redo Operation as a video game and make the players perform simulated laparoscopic surgery. I think there could be some serious money in that.
After they sucked out my gallbladder, there was more! Once I woke up from the surgery they explained that they needed to do a second procedure to remove some gallstones stuck in a duct, along with some bile. Honestly, I didn’t pay attention. There was something about a wire going down my throat, and then a balloon, like an angiogram, and somehow the balloon was going to pick up on this bile and the stones. I wonder how that works exactly. Static electricity? When I woke up the second doctor (the balloon guy) said he “flushed” it four or five times, so he was pretty sure he got the last of the stones and crap. How do you flush something with a balloon? Maybe it was a water balloon. I think it should definitely be a part of the new Operation. Sounds fascinating.
That was Saturday afternoon, and I was told that it was possible that I might get out by Sunday. I called Lubbock, and she insisted on picking me up and having me stay with her for a night or two, and that’s what we did. I called the Mr. Brewsters, and they would have come to visit me on Sunday, but I got released from the hospital before they could make it there. Lubbock drove me to her home where I promptly swallowed two hydrocodone tablets and passed out on her couch. I slept right through the Charlie Sheen special on the Biography Channel. I slept right through a neighbor coming to visit. I slept until sometime in the early morning.
I didn’t get much sleep in the hospital. Someone was always waking me up to change an IV bag or monitor vital signs or poke me with something or other. Not to complain or anything, but I liked the day nurse better than the night nurse. At least he let me sleep some.
On the Tuesday following my surgery I had to go back to the hospital for some kind of test involving kidney function. I gave blood again. Then I decided to go to my doctor and see if the back pain I was experiencing was normal. My doctor couldn’t tell me if that was normal or not. So, I went to the balloon dude’s office, and that doctor’s nurse also didn’t know if it was normal to have back pain after gallbladder surgery. Seriously, haven’t these people heard of the internet? The balloon dude’s nurse sent me to the surgeon’s nurse, who just so happened to be a really hot guy.
Here is one foolproof sign that I am now a middle-aged woman. When I was in my 20s I remember delivering an entire comedic monologue while I was out to dinner with some friends, over pizza at EZ’s, about how I hated that doctors were always wanting to see me naked. I have a cyst on my face. The doctor wants to see me naked. I have chigger bites. The doctor wants to see me naked. I have hives. The doctor wants to see me naked. What is up with that? Why do I ALWAYS have to be naked? My modesty was offended. But on the upside, that little rant is how I came to date Dr. Mark, who found it amusing.
I no longer have any sense of shame or modesty. And I haven’t even had a baby. Now I practically volunteer to strip in front of anyone who says he’s a medical professional. The dermatologist who removed my cyst was really, really cute. And I remember being embarrassed about that somehow. With the hot nurse, I no longer care. I’m flipping up my shirt for the whole world to see my scars. Yes, the back pain was normal and was from the gas they pumped me full of. Both the hot nurse and the surgeon poked at my abdomen and declared me healed, then helped me up off the examining table.
After my hospital trip that Tuesday I went to Lubbock’s and hung out, watching reruns of Little House on the Prairie on cable. It was my last day to play hookie. I was going to work on Wednesday. When she got off work I nuked a dinner I’d purchased from Wal-Mart earlier in the day, while I was waiting on my prescriptions to be filled, and we ate dinner together. I think we were watching another Charlie Sheen special on TV.
I said, “You know what I love about surgery?”
Lubbock said, “Pain medicine.”
“That, too. But I was thinking about the sense of accomplishment that you get.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that everyone gets excited about milestones that you first achieved when you were a baby. Like, look, Ma, I can walk and eat solid food and pee in the potty by myself. Just wait ‘til I have my first bowel movement after the surgery!”
“I think that’s too much information.”