Gallbladder Ousting: Rest, Relaxation, and Little Surprises

I had my troublesome gallbladder out a week ago. Six tests, all the standard ones they issue when symptoms rise, came back negative. I saw a surgeon at the urging of my Gastroenterologist and he scheduled me to have it out, simple as that. When asked if it was needed and what if it’s not the solution, he simply replied that removal is the next step and if it didn’t work, there were many more invasive procedures he could try, but was pretty confident this would do the trick.

I woke at 5 am the day of surgery and took a shower, the last one I’d be able to take until the following evening. I donned the most comfy bra I own plus stretchy pants and an over-sized t-shirt with the neck cut away, slip-on shoes, undies I’d be ok with people seeing, and I was ready to go (the clothes mattered because I knew Dylan would have to dress me later and buttons are mean). We pulled into the valet area while it was still dark outside and handed over the car. Checking in, they asked if we wanted to fork over the $758 deductible for the procedure or be billed (ha ha), wristbanded, and then we took a seat. I was fetched and ushered to the prep room where they took my blood pressure and temperature by running this wacky metal ball wand across my forehead, and asked me to pee in a cup (pregnancy test). My funny and delightful male nurse had further instructions for when I returned with regards to the clothing policy.

“Everything off”, he said. Everything? I asked. Yep. Even undies? Yep. I made a face and nodded ok then went to the bathroom to pee in the cup. I pondered being as God made me under a loose gown and didn’t like it.

When I returned, he held out a little white package and said I seemed uncomfortable with the “no undies” thing so he brought me some. Hospital undies?! Nice. I wiped myself down with the big, thick anti-bacterial wipes supplied to me and put the socks, gown, and undies on. The underwear, by the way, are boxer brief-styled gauze, basically. Very stretchy, mostly see-through, and almost non-existent. I got a little sad thinking about the circumstances in which someone would find themselves in need of them in regular hospital dealings. Once done and my clothes tucked into a provided bag, I cracked the curtain back open and waited. My nurse came in and set me up in the bed. I asked why the gown was open to the back if the surgery was happening in the front and he said that basically, it’s much easier for them to lift the whole gown off of me than anything else. I flashed on the previous idea of not having any underwear on and probably blushed. Oh, lord.

Pretty soon, a cavalcade of doctors, residents, anesthesiologists, nurses, and medical students came through. They reminded me not to eat right away, clear liquids only, and that my abdomen would be filled with CO2 so the tubes could get through easier, and when that gas starts to move around during recovery, it will be uncomfortable in the neck and shoulders, mainly. Weird. Forms signed, they all asked the same questions at least four times (name, procedure, birthdate), before my surgeon finally arrived. Dylan was there during all of it and waited with me for about 45 minutes until they were ready to wheel me into the operating room. The surgeon gave us a quick rundown of what to expect, pretty basic stuff, the nurses pumped me full of something potent and then… well, I remember nothing.

Next thing I know, I’m being gently shook awake and told to breathe, and there’s a beeping to my left. I became very aware of three things: My throat felt like it had been implanted with shards of glass, my lips felt like sandpaper, and the tops of my shoulders were KILLING me (the gas). Then I noticed how slowly I was breathing and as soon as I became aware of that, the beeping would begin again. Dylan came to sit next to me and the very first thing I asked him for was lip balm, at which moment he said he knew I was perfectly fine and still me (I have some on or near me, usually more than one tube, at all times). I asked why my throat hurt so badly, with not much of a voice to do so, and the nurse told me they intubated during surgery. I asked why, my only exposure to intubation coming from ER when it meant someone was dying. Standard procedure with the kind of anesthetic I’d had, they said. I asked for water but was told not yet. Ugh.

My surgeon came in to check his patient and let us know it all went very well. They in fact did find stones, so it wasn’t all a big waste, which all the tests and spending for them had seemed like so far. He also said that my gallbladder was on the opposite side of the liver than is typical, and in 500 surgeries had never seen anything like it. I was still too drugged up to make a joke about being a medical study and getting paid for it. He showed me photos that I don’t recall. Fortunately, he was able to get to it laparoscopically and they didn’t have to cut me open, that’s huge. That takes a six hour outpatient surgery to a two-day stay/six week recovery nightmare. I can’t wait to ask him more about the placement when I see him again because it’s all very fuzzy. He shook Dylan’s hand, I gave him a high-as-a-kite, “Thanks, doc” and with a squeeze of my foot, off he went.

A little while later, they propped me up and moved me to a recliner chair. Still very dazed but coming around, they brought me some vanilla ice cream and graham crackers (a terrible idea for someone whose throat feels like the Mojave), and I sipped some glorious water as best I could. Eventually, it was time to get dressed and prepare for my exit. They left Dylan and me alone so he could help me, which he had to because I had all the coordination of a newborn giraffe. Hilarious. Hospital undies vanquished and preferred ones back on, they got me into a wheelchair and took me to the curb to wait for the car. By now it was after noon, texts to family sent and updates given. Being right down the street from my pharmacy at Costco, we decided to just go and get my drug prescriptions filled.

They don’t have regular wheelchairs at Costco, by the way, just motorized carts. I was in a bad mood already and Costco on a Friday afternoon never helps. No one gets out of the way, in fact they seem to intentionally cut in front especially when samples are present, and feeling this might be the case, I left my hospital bracelet on and IV bandage affixed as a warning and silent horn. It didn’t really matter except for a few pity looks from random patrons, not helped by my pathetic frown. Drugs gathered, home we went. My shoulders were still very sore but once I got to bed, I laid down and tried to relax enough to forget about them. It didn’t work, really. I had an ice pack on them for two more days.

That was seven days ago, and now here I am, relatively much better. The four incisions are super glued shut, though the glue is more like rubber cement and it’s starting to peel. The bruising has subsided and the itching is less. I still can’t lift more than 10 pounds for a while, but I haven’t taken any pain meds for a day and a half and I’m sleeping better. I tried to go for a walk two nights ago and was surprised to find that after only about two blocks, I was winded. I slowed my pace down and relaxed extra when I got home. Dylan waited on me hand and foot, because that’s the kind of man he is.

I’ll spare you the details of what happens to a body when it’s drugged up and opioided out for hours and hours, if you’ve ever been on pain killers then you know exactly what happens. I am ready to get back to a normal routine in more ways than one. I worked at home all week and Monday will go back to the office. It was wonderful to have this time to relax, I think going back would have probably set me back a little bit in terms of healing, I can’t imagine people who try to go right back to living life only a few days later.

My follow up appointment is in 10 days, I presume to check the wound sites and make sure they’re doing alright, and to answer questions or concerns. I hope I get to see the pictures of my weird parts again. This weekend I will tackle fried chicken: the reason this operation happened in the first place. KFC, I am coming for you!

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