Sunday December 9, 2007

I’ve had many things removed from my body by doctors–splinters, teeth, even body tissues that had to be tested. This week, I left my gallbladder at Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville.

Really I think about it, I’ve had a few minor symptoms of gallbladder trouble for a while but I just thought they were normal indigestion symptoms that gastric bypass patients tend to have. I’ve known since about September that I had gallstones but was told not to worry about it unless they give me trouble. That trouble started Tuesday night.

I started feeling nauseated and crampy. Thinking I just had gas, I kept working even though the discomfort was mounting. Soon, I was in full blown pain but I kept trying to work. I tried going to the bathroom where I just dry heaved and agonized. I finally was able to finish work and made it home around 9. I pretty much knew at this point that it was my gallbladder but I thought it COULD still just be gas. I took Tylenol, which often helps ease gas pain because I’m not tensing up from the pain anymore. Well I didn’t have gas so I knew it had to be my gallbladder. I almost talked myself out of going to the emergency room since I wasn’t hurting anymore (1,000 mg of acetaminophen tends to have that effect). Coworkers who had seen how much pain I was in told me to go to the ER anyways. So, I went, feeling foolish for going in for pain that no longer was there.

They checked me out and of course found the gallstones I told them were already there. They also ran some blood tests and it turns out not only did I have a gallbladder attack, it turned into pancreatitis. It turns out that one of the stones had tried to pass through the bile duct and probably got stuck, which essentially “pissed off” my pancreas. I forget which one it was, but one of my liver enzyme levels was about four times the amount it was supposed to be. Anyways, this bought me a night in the hospital.

The next day I met with the surgeon and he confirmed that I really should have surgery. Although waiting wouldn’t kill me, I was gauranteed pretty much to have more attacks that would only be as painful if not more. It is also not good to have your liver enzymes that out of whack. So, I of course consented to having an laparoscopic cholecystectomy. The surgery was around noon Thursday and I came home Friday morning. Technically I was released to go home that Thursday night but John couldn’t stay with me until Friday and I didn’t feel alert enough to get around by myself.

As I’ve recuperated, I’ve been amazed at how well it’s going. A big part of that is the nature of my surgery. Many people seem to think I should be in bed all day or maybe still in the hospital. Well it’s not that way any more. For one thing, I had the gallbladder removal done laparascopically, which means they didn’t have to open me up “stem to stern” as some say. I just have four small incisions … one in my belly button, one under my breast bone and two on my right side. The surgery itself took only 45 minutes. In fact, they took me from my room at around 11 a.m. or so and I was back in my room watching TV by 3 p.m. that afternoon. They had prepped me, operated on me and woke me back up all in that time. The instructions I was left with were to rest of course, but also to add back my daily activities. They saw no reason I should not be able to work on Monday if all goes well. That’s amazing to me! I still might wait until Tuesday because I have trouble transferring still. But it’s going better and better each day so we’ll see.

Throughout my “ordeal” I had several friends come visit and I received several gifts, which was really kind of everyone. I especially appreciate John for taking care of me this weekend. All the people helping me and visiting me meant a lot because this surgery was several “firsts” for me. It was surgery no. 16 (I think) for me but it was the first time I’ve ever had a surgery where I didn’t know my surgeon. Well, I had a shunt surgery when I was a kid when I met the surgeon the day before, but he was my doctor for a long time after that. This doctor, I didn’t even see after the surgery at all and will only see him one more time probably. This was also the first time I’ve ever gone through a surgery without my parents there. Although that felt odd, this was a good thing because it showed me that if John and I get married, he truly can “handle” being the one I lean on for support. As we develop a life together, we will truly have to “leave and cleave” and that idea is cool to me.

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