Gallstone Glory, or My Trip to the ER and beyond.

The picture above is basically what I got to see in my abdominal ultrasound on Saturday (9/17).  I woke up at 3:30am with intense pain from about the bottom of my ribcage to my bellybutton.  I had never had pain in that area of my stomach before, at least not like the pain I was having.  I waited it out, called a friend and my mom, and decided that it had been going on too long. The friend came to pick me up and we went to the ER.

We were taken back to a room right away.  My friend hypothesized that it’s amazing how fast they see you when they think you might have appendicitis. I had pretty much ruled that out as I knew people who had it out and the pain was not in the right place. They did their usual blood and urine samples. I was set up with an IV to hydrate me. The doctor eventually came in and started pushing around on my stomach, then ordered an ultrasound.

Whenever I have any sort of imaging done, I try to see it.  I had my kidneys looked at earlier in the year via ultrasound and watched those.  I also recently had an MRI done on my back and asked to see the images. After all the reading I had done, I could pretty well tell which disc was herniated if any of them were. With the ultrasound on my gallbladder, I saw an approximation of the above.  It seems to me that you never want to see other things inside of an organ. My gallbladder had a lot of other things inside of it.  After I was wheeled back to my room, I looked up pictures of gallbladder ultrasounds and had a hunch before the doctor told me that I had stones.

We seemed to wait forever to get the ultrasound results.  My friend’s mom, who was visiting from out of town, came and sat with us as we waited.  There was no shortage of conversation, which was nice. There was an incident where the IV almost made me pee myself, which was sort of funny afterward.

The first thing we were told was that I had a really bad bladder infection. This didn’t make much sense since I had no symptoms. I know a thing or two about urinary tract infections and the like and I had not been having problems.  So after awhile, the doctor came back and said, “guess what? It’s gallstones!” Ok. Maybe he didn’t say it quite that way, but that was the news. He explained that fatty foods can cause your gallbladder to squeeze harder than normal and if you have stones, this can be painful. That’s maybe what happened. I was told that I didn’t need it out right then, but they were referring me to a surgeon to follow up. I might not have to have my gallbladder removed any time soon, but it might be necessary eventually.

They wrote up my official diagnosis as biliary colic: “Biliary pain is most frequently caused by obstruction of the common bile duct or the cystic duct by a gallstone.”  Sounds painful? It was.  They gave me a prescription for Vicodin and told me to return if symptoms didn’t improve, the pain came back, etc.

Fast forward to Tuesday when I had the follow-up with the surgeon.  I had called the surgeon’s office and gave them the name of the doctor that I was referred to.  They came back with “you’re already a patient of so-and-so.” I had kind of forgot about two years ago when I had had surgery to remove sebaceous cysts and a “tumor.” So I ended up with the same surgeon. My surgeon. It’s a strange phrase.  At any rate, he’s a pretty upfront doctor.  He said that if I didn’t have the gallbladder removed now, it would only be a matter of time before it really needed to happen.  It could be just because of more attacks or it could become an emergency situation.  All the reading I had done (like the threads at Ask MetaFilter, multiple medical websites, etc) about it seemed to say the same thing.  There was a small chance I could be fine, but a bigger chance that I wouldn’t be.

It was a pretty short visit with the surgeon. He answered questions, told me about the procedure, etc.  The estimated healing time is 5-10 days, though they give you a work excuse for 14 in case. He said I could get back to my C25k two weeks after unless he had to open me up. On that subject, he was pretty clear: laparoscopic was the best way and the intended way.  If something didn’t seem right when he got there, he would open me and take it out that way to be safe.  “And that’s going to hurt,” he said. Healing time is a lot longer under those circumstances and complications have a greater probability.  So let’s all think positively for a laparoscopic procedure to be quick and easy.

My surgery is set for the 10th. I am grateful I don’t have to do any awful pre-surgery prep. The worst part is going to be giving up my vitamins and Alpha Brain for a week beforehand. I am also grateful I have a lot of friends around who are willing to help. My mom might come up for it, but that hasn’t quite been decided yet.

I’m ready to get it over with. I hear stories that it’s pretty easy and the best decision you could make.  I hope it is.