Tag Archive | gallbladder

Goodbye You Useless Sack of Stones

I don’t remember much about the hours I spent in the hospital the day I had my gallbladder removed – probably because they were handing out narcotics like Halloween candy.  But I vaguely recall being asked to strip naked and put on a hideous hospital gown that did little to protect my ass or my dignity.  It seemed no matter how much I fussed with the ties, some R-rated body part was always exposed.

But after the operation I felt like my guts were on fire, and I no longer cared if my ass was hanging out the back of my gown.  I only cared whether or not the onlookers had any painkillers.  I felt I was entitled to a little pharmaceutical relief since people had been stabbing me with sharp, metal objects for the last hour.  So, when a nurse offered me pain medication, I made it clear to her that I was more than willing to swallow, inject, snort, or smoke any drug she was willing to throw at me.  In fact, I would have opted for a week-long drug coma rather than going home that day to face what would surely be an unpleasant recovery process.

As I would soon find out, unpleasant wouldn’t come close to describing the week that followed.  I was led to believe by several people who had gone through the surgery, that it was no big deal.  They assured me I would be back up and running after a couple of days.

Lies.  ALL LIES.

As I laid there in agony, I felt like I had been duped – sort of like when I wanted to start a family, and all the parents I knew told me how great it was to have a baby.  Then I had one of my own, and realized they just wanted me to be as miserable as they were.  But I’m going to give it to you straight, readers.  This way, if you have to have your gallbladder removed, you’ll know exactly what to expect during your first week of recovery.

Spoiler alert – it ain’t all rainbows and kittens people….

Day One – Please kill me now:  I have about as much chance of making it upstairs to my bedroom as I do of climbing Mt. Everest, so I set up camp on the couch.  I quickly discover that my bladder is public enemy number one because it’s the only thing that forces me to move off my makeshift bed.  During the painful, excruciatingly slow shuffle to the bathroom, I debate the pros and cons of adult diapers.  I decide against them because I don’t think I can convince my husband to change a diaper filled with pee that (for some mysterious reason) smells like a revolting mixture of asparagus and nursing homes.

I spend most of my time alternating between writhing in pain, sleeping fitfully, and eating saltine crackers.  I try eating chicken soup (I hear it’s good for the surgical patient’s soul), but after the first bite, my stomach is quick to remind me that I just had one of my organs yanked out through my belly button today – looks like nothing more than saltines and flat ginger ale will be tolerated.  In the meantime, my living room clock and I are in a stubborn battle of wills – it bets me that I can’t last the whole four hours between my doses of percocet.  Bastard wins every time.

Day Two – I think the cats want to eat meMy husband returns to work, and my kids go off to school.  I’m left home alone with my two cats.  They appear concerned for my well being, standing like two furry sentries on the couch.  But in my weakened condition, I sense that their primal feline instincts are starting to kick in – they know an easy kill when they see one.  If my husband doesn’t get home soon, I fear they will take me down like the wounded impala of the herd.  I wonder if my life insurance policy covers being eaten by house cats.

Day Three – So NOT back up and running:  Screw running, I can’t even put on my own socks without my husband’s help.  The pain is slightly more bearable, but I’m still taking pain medication at fairly regular intervals because they’re the only thing that prevents me from screaming and cursing whenever I want to venture off the couch.  I keep waiting for the “percocet vacation” everyone told me I’d enjoy, because right now all the percocets are doing are making me constipated.  How long can a person go without pooping before they go into septic shock?  I take Milk of Magnesia because I’d rather not find out – pretty shitty “vacation”, if you ask me.

Day Four – This isn’t what I meant by running:  The good news is that the Milk of Magnesia worked.  The bad news is that it worked a little too well.  After the fourth or fifth trip to the bathroom in less than an hour, I start to feel nostalgic about being constipated.  I realize that my doctor (who recommended the M.O.M.) is a sadistic asshole for giving me diarrhea when I can barely walk.  I take some Imodium A-D in the hopes that it will counteract the Milk of Magnesia.  But if my experiment doesn’t succeed in tipping the intestinal scales in the other direction, I’ve decided to let my cats eat me.

Day Five – Weapons of mass affection:  You know that instinct you have to comfort your kids when they get sick?  As it turns out, kids have the same instinct – we just don’t get to see it that often because they’re usually too busy annoying the hell out of us.  But as I lay helpless on the couch for four straight days, I watched my kids’ nurturing side emerge.

As sweet as it is for them to want to comfort me, having them within a 10-foot radius terrifies me – especially my 8-year old son, Aidan.  He’s usually about as gentle as a bulldozer, and I know that even an uncharacteristically cautious hug will produce more pain than my percocets can handle.  So, he discovered a comforting compromise – the head hug.  It has all the heartfelt affection of a regular hug, coupled with the asphyxiating effects of a sleeper hold.  I’m pretty sure this is where the phrase, “I love you to death” originated.

Day Six – Jesus hates me, this I know for Bruce Springsteen told me soWe bought tickets to see Bruce Springsteen in concert before my surgery was scheduled, but we decided to keep the tickets afterwards because I thought I’d be back up and running in a couple of days – remember the lies?  I think I can cope with the pain because all I have to do is get to my concert seat, sit down, and enjoy the music.  Wrong.  There’s a rain delay (outdoor stadium), and because there’s a threat of lightning, they won’t let us wait in our seats.  So, I decide to find a patch of concrete somewhere in the sheltered recesses of Metlife Stadium, and sit down to sulk.

I’m fairly claustrophobic, so I’m less than thrilled about being crammed into a concrete box with thousands of other people.  After surveying my options, I’m happy to find a spot slightly separated from the soggy masses – at least until a total stranger decides to join me.  If it isn’t bad enough that this guy is playing a disturbing game of personal space invaders, I’m also pretty sure he has leprosy.  At first glance, I thought he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but upon closer inspection (which I couldn’t help since the guy is sitting right next to me) I see the stuff covering his arms aren’t sleeves.

I know I should feel bad for the guy, but it’s difficult to be compassionate when I’m wet, in pain, and now getting flaked on every time he scratches his scaly arm.  I don’t buy into religion much, but it’s hard not to feel like God is testing me a bit:  TWO HOURS of pouring rain with no rescue ark in sight, and now there are lepers.  What’s next, a plague of locusts?  It’s official, Jesus hates me.

Jesus: Linda, you’re supposed to love all God’s children.
Me: Yeah, but you make it hard when you flake on me like that.
Jesus: Duh, that’s why it’s called a TEST.
Me: Couldn’t you have come back as Ryan Gosling instead?

Day Seven – Sign, sealed, delivered, I’m curedJesus may hate me but there are plenty of people around who still love me, despite my inability to tolerate people with gross diseases.  During the course of my recovery, there was an outpouring of support and concern from my friends and family:  emails, texts, cards, and phone calls came in daily to check on my progress.  It’s impossible to thank everyone individually – mostly because I was too drugged up this week to remember what happened.  So, I’ll throw out a blanket, “I LOVE YOU!!” to all of you who cared enough to check in on me and make sure I wasn’t dead.  I’ll also make a few honorable mentions….

1.  Moe, one of my best friends since the 10th grade sent me flowers with a card that read:

Here is the text I sent in reply:

“Bitch, don’t you know it’s mean to make someone laugh after they’ve had a holes cut into their guts?  Thanks for the flowers though.  Love ya!”

2.  My mother and father in-law sent me cupcakes in the mail.  CUPCAKES!!!   Despite my mother in-law’s mistrust and confusion surrounding the internet, she managed to successfully secure and ship me a dozen of these tasty treats.  Had I known there was the possibility of cupcakes being involved, I would have had my gallbladder out years ago!!  Maybe I’ll go for my appendix next year.

Their card read simply, “Gallbladder out…. cupcakes in.  Love, Mom & Dad.”

3.  Last, but certainly not least, is my wonderful husband, Kevin.  This week, he was Florence Nightingale and Mr. Mom all rolled into one.  Had he not been there to help me sit-up, take showers, and put on clean clothes, I would probably still be lying on the couch in a pile of my own stink.

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I’m a Total Crack Whore For Cupcakes

If somebody asked me, “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” I never imagined my answer would be, “I’d have one of my internal organs yanked out through my belly button!”  You probably think I’m joking, but recent events have proved that I’m more than willing to make that trade.  Don’t you think that should entitle me to my own Klondike Bar commercial?  It’s a hell of a lot more than this guy was willing to do….

You might be wondering how I found myself in a situation where I had to choose between one of my organs and an ice cream sandwich – not too many people find themselves at that particular crossroad in life.  To get the full picture we’ll have to turn the clock back about four years to 2008….

We find the heroine of our story (that’s me, in case you’re wondering) elbow deep in a pile of leftover birthday cupcakes.  Remember what I said about Klondike bars?  You should, it was only a few sentences back.  Well, times that by ten and you’ll come close to what I’d be willing to do for a Betty Crocker cupcake.  Which is why my husband should have known better than to leave me alone in the room with them.

But on this day, my happiness would be short lived.  Somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd cupcake my stomach staged a coup – I guess it didn’t like the way I was running the show.  Judgmental bastard.  The revolution was messy and unbelievably painful.  I went from blissfully munching away on frosty goodness to feeling like Betty Crocker had strapped on a pair of combat boots and kicked me in the gut.  Shortly after the crippling pain started, the real fun began.  A wave of nausea hit me, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since my first trimester of pregnancy.  I’ll spare you the details, but I will say this much – the cupcakes were far less tasty the second time around.

After TWELVE hours of this agony, I caved in and called my doctor.  If you want to truly appreciate how much it takes to get me to go to the doctor, read this- I Hope There’s Not a Doctor in the House.  It wasn’t just the pain that finally made me pick up the phone, it was also the fear that with my next heave, I was going to puke up my lower intestines.  I didn’t know if that was a possibility, but it felt like it was.  And I figured that it was my doctor’s sworn duty to make sure that didn’t happen.

My doctor listened to me bitch and moan for a little while and then he told me I probably had an ulcer.  I agreed to come in the next day for an abdominal sonogram to test his diagnosis.  I didn’t think he was right, but I was too ashamed to confess to him that the previous night’s cupcake orgy was most likely to blame for all the medical drama.

My diagnosis of dietary stupidity was confirmed when I woke up feeling much better the next day.  When I went in for the test, I didn’t expect them to find anything legitimately wrong with me.  Much to my surprise, they did.  Though it wasn’t the ulcer my doctor expected – it was gallstones.

My doctor quickly scribbled down the name and number of a surgeon and handed me the slip of paper.

“What do I need this for?  I feel fine now.”

“Your gallbladder needs to come out or you’ll keep having these attacks.  That surgeon is tops in his field.”  He said, as if that was supposed to comfort me.

“I’m sure he’s awesome with a scalpel, but I’d rather keep all my internal organs where they are – even the expendable ones.  Besides, I’m all better now.  Really.”

My doctor let out an exasperated sigh, “It’s your decision, but you should keep the phone number in case you change your mind.”

Change my mind about being carved up like a Thanksgiving Day turkey because of one tummy ache?  Not likely.  The way I saw it, there was only one reasonable option – I threw out the phone number, changed physicians and pretended like the whole thing never happened.  Thankfully, my gallbladder agreed to play along with the charade.

I lived the better part of four years symptom free, which only served to strengthen my resolve that I didn’t need surgery.  I had one or two gallbladder attacks a year, but for the most part I continued on my merry way, indulging in the occasional cupcake or two (or twelve) without any physical repercussions…. at least none beyond the expansion of my hips and thighs.

Fast forward to July 2012, just one month ago….

The attacks were coming almost daily – despite the fact that I joined up with Weight Watchers, lost nearly 14 pounds and banned Betty Crocker from the house.  It seemed no matter what I put in my mouth, it made my stomach hurt and caused me to throw up.  And let me tell you, salad is no less gross than cupcakes when you’re forced to pray to the porcelain god.

After a couple of weeks of misery, I wanted to remove my gallbladder with a kitchen knife and a pair of tweezers.  It was then that I realized I was ready to revisit the idea of surgery, so I made an appointment for a consultation.

When the doctor walked in, I was relieved to see a head full of snowy white hair.  He didn’t look old, just experienced – like Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October (minus the facial hair and cool accent).  I felt like I had caught him in the prime of his surgical life; young enough to still have steady hands, but old enough to have had lots of practice cutting stuff out of people.

He started off by giving me a detailed explanation of the laparoscopic surgery, complete with colorful diagrams just in case I didn’t know where my liver and gallbladder were located.  I didn’t.  He also showed me where the four little 5mm incisions would be made, one of which would be through my belly button – where my gallbladder would be making its final exit.

Who the hell came up with this method of organ extraction?  Did his colleagues think he was crazy when he explained how he was going to pull the gallbladder out of his patient’s belly button the way a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat?  Do you think he yelled, “Ta-da!” when he was done?  These were the questions I was pondering as my doctor suddenly launched into a long list of foods that I’m not allowed to eat….

“You can’t eat any red meat or pork.  You also can’t eat any dairy – no ice cream, butter, cheese or anything with fat in it; skim milk is okay.  You can only eat chicken breasts – no thighs, wings, or anything with skin on it.  No pizza either.  Fish, turkey, fruits, veggies, and whole grains are all okay.”

I only knew the guy for five minutes and he was already trying to take away several of my reasons for living.  That’s no way to win friends and influence people.  In fact, in that moment I kind of hated him a little bit.

“Um…. wait a minute.  Is that the diet I’m supposed to follow after the surgery?  FOREVER??”  I asked with a hint of panic in my voice.  If that was the case, I was fully prepared to walk out of his office and take my gallstones with me.  I had already given up cupcakes in an effort to lose weight and stave off triple bypass surgery – what more did he want?  Did he really expect me to never eat ice cream again?!  Screw. That.

“No, that’s the diet you should follow if you decide not to have the surgery – to cut down on the risk of having attacks.  But if you opt for the surgery, you only have to stay on that diet for about a month.”

I was almost giddy with relief.  “Oh, okay.  In that case, rip it out.”  I said with a smile.  I suddenly wanted to hug him.

Then we talked about what to expect during my post-op recovery period. Since I was on a newfound health kick (a detail you might have missed because of my love affair with cupcakes and rabid defense of ice cream), my main concern was about my ability to stay active.  From past experience I knew that one week of couch surfing could easily result in 5 pounds being added to my ass.  So, I asked him how long I had to wait before I could go back to jogging on the treadmill.

“You’re basically going to be stabbed four times.  You’re not going to want to go anywhere near your treadmill for at least a couple of weeks.”

STABBED?!  Great, now I was thinking about the shower scene in the movie Psycho.  Good job, Doc.  Did you skip out on med-school the day they taught bedside manner, Mr. Bates?

“Do you have any more questions?” He asked, oblivious to the Alfred Hitchcock scene I had playing on a loop in my head.

“Nope, I think that about does it for me.”  I said, and with a shake of his hand I promptly left the examination room.

I needed a drink.  And possibly a cupcake.