The Great Gallbladder Break-Up Part 1: Surgery

Well, it’s officially been one week since I came home from the hospital.  Last Monday (October 10th), I broke-up with my gallbladder.  I first talked about my gallbladder problems here when I ended up in the ER and discovered I had gallstones. For those still wondering about what exactly your gallbladder does, WebMD gives a short summary:

“The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver… In response to signals, the gallbladder squeezes stored bile into the small intestine through a series of tubes called ducts. Bile helps digest fats, but the gallbladder itself is not essential.”

That whole “not essential” part is what I was personally banking on last Monday.  We arrived at the hospital at about 5:45 in the morning with surgery scheduled for 7:30. I didn’t sleep much the night before and spent some time on the phone with my sister who had a kidney removed a couple of years ago. I like knowing what to expect, so talking to her helped a little bit in that department. I was also put at ease that my boyfriend, R, was the one taking me to the hospital. I knew that he had one of the best chances of keeping me calm and the atmosphere light.

Parts and Tools

Most of the body jewelry and necessary tools used for removal the night before.

After getting checked in, we didn’t wait very long before being taken up to surgery prep. The nurse was pretty nice overall and asked all the necessary questions. I got changed into my gown and those weird tractioned socks they give you. My surgeon came by to check in.  He made everything seem really casual and pretty in-and-out.  I knew it was supposed to be outpatient, but he surprised me with how fast it sounded like I would be at home.

One of the best parts of pre-op was the anesthesiologist. He reminded me of my brother-in-law in a strange way.  He made jokes about learning how to start IVs on YouTube and was the most gentle person I’ve ever had set up an IV on me.  I couldn’t be in bad hands if the guy reminded me of my brother-in-law, right?

A little bit before 7:30, they said it was time. I said goodbye to R at the point where he couldn’t go any farther walking with us and that was when I started to get scared and things started to sink in.  By the time they had wheeled me to the OR doors, I was starting to lose it. Very nice nurses took me into the room, got me on the table, and just talked to me.  Then there was the anesthesiologist again! He and one of the nurses bantered back and forth a little with me and I told him again how much I appreciated him. The last thing I remember was having a mask over my face for breathing.

If you are interested in details of what the surgery entails you can find things here, here, and here. A short summary: there are four entrance points for the tools.  They blow up your stomach with gas so they can manuever, cut out your gallbladder, and stitch you back up. I have two small invasion points on my side, one on my upper stomach, and one just below my belly button (which is the worst one and has the most stitches).

I woke up in recovery however many hours later.  I was disorientated and remember that I kept asking the nurse what time it was.  I don’t remember what her response was, but I remember being alarmed with the idea that R had been waiting a long time.  I pretty much forced myself to wake up at that point. I was fed ice chips and they ended up removing my oxygen because I was complaining about how my nose was irritated. I don’t think it was too long before the nurse decided that I could go to my room. I think I was still kind of in and out while they were moving me. I remember seeing R in the hall as we passed and saying something about how that was the face I wanted to see, maybe?  Most of that time is pretty blurry.  I remember my mom and friends showing up kind of vaguely. I remember how nice it was to have everyone there, but some of the conversation (aside from comparing my gallbladder to a jeweled purse of some sort) is fuzzy.

Once I got to the room is when the disconnect started between what the doctor had said and what everyone else thought.  The nurses seemed to think I was in the for the day and I was under the impression that I was going home.  I didn’t start to have problems until I started to have to get up and go to the bathroom.  I didn’t seem to have a lot of pain at first, but that changed pretty quickly. I was getting lightheaded when I tried to stand up and there was an instance that I couldn’t get up until they gave me pain medicine via my IV. The surgeon came by at some point and asked why I was still there and told us how full of stones my gallbladder was. This was something that R had told us about earlier: “tons of stones” was the description he was given after surgery. I suddenly felt much more relieved and like I had made the right decision to have surgery.

Even after the surgeon had come by, none of the nurses were big on me leaving until about 8:00 that night. The night nurse came on and said “We have your discharge orders from the doctor. Are you ready to go home?” At that point, my mom had already gone back to my apartment for the night thinking that I was staying. One of my friends was still there and stayed until the nurse figured out that I probably wasn’t going home. I still couldn’t get out of bed on my own and the patient assistant had to talk me through the pain of getting up.   The whole night, I was up every two hours to go to the bathroom and needed help every time.  My blood pressure and heart rate were both low for reasons no one seemed to be able to explain. The nurse was trying to get me to walk the hall because it would help the pain, but what she didn’t seem to understand is the level of pain!  By the time the night was over and I’d been up and down a few times, I was feeling better and sure I’d be good to go in the morning.

Look how excited I am to be staying the night...

Continued in part two

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6 thoughts on “The Great Gallbladder Break-Up Part 1: Surgery

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