Let's talk gallbladder surgery

Well, so far 2019 is off to a crazy start! I've been intentional about trying new things (aerial yoga, joining OrangeTheory) and taking care of myself mentally. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram though, you know that physically I had some physical health issues earlier this month! I've openly talked about my gallbladder issues before and unfortunately gallstones often form as a result of weight loss. I was diagnosed with gallstones in June 2016 right around the time I joined WW. However, thanks to a change in lifestyle and eating habits it seemed like it was mostly under control. My gallbladder attacks were few and far between and I think between June 2016 and now, I maybe had about 6.

After a bad attack in November 2018, I did speak with a surgeon about getting my gallbladder removed. He said that since I don't smoke, rarely drink, take care of what I eat (mostly) and have lost a significant amount of weight that this was the next step as long as it wasn't getting worse. I knew I needed it out because 1) duh, it hurt but also 2) I wanted it out before we have kids because God forbid I need emergency surgery while pregnant, plus a lot of people actually get gallbladder issues while pregnant. I had hoped to have it removed right when school got out this summer, but "You make plans and God laughs". That Saturday evening we were celebrating family birthdays at my in-laws and I felt totally fine. We ate dinner, had cake and went home. I fell asleep on the couch and around 10:30pm I was jolted awake by a gallbladder attack.

If you've never had them, it can be really scary. The first time I had one, I honestly thought I was having a heart attack and had to go to the ER. The thing with this is that everyone's symptoms are different. If I had just "googled" my symptoms I would have been missing some and not realized what it was. It took an ultrasound and imaging to determine what I was suffering from. For me, the pain comes on incredibly suddenly and it sits right in the middle of my abdomen and feels like someone is tightening a rope around me until I can't breathe. Anyway, this most recent attack was by far the worst. I was crying, couldn't sleep, had the chills and was still sweating and felt like I couldn't breathe even though I could (a common symptom). I went to the hospital for blood tests to make sure I didn't have an infection because sometimes this can lead to pancreatitis. The whole way there I was throwing up, which had never been one of my symptoms in the past. Thankfully my tests were clear, but the surgeon said I needed to have it removed. I was prescribed Tylenol 3 for the pain and told I would have surgery the following evening at 5pm.

We went home and all Sunday I could barely move and just was on the couch. By mid-day the pain had subsided a bit, but it was still there. On Monday the doctor's office called to go over everything, remind me not to eat or drink and let me know what I could expect. I even drove myself to the nail salon to have them remove my dip because they said I should have no nail polish on and I assumed the hospital wouldn't have the necessary chemicals to remove a dip haha! I did pack a bag because the plan was so stay overnight in the hospital and I was not about to be nickel and dimed for every last pair of socks, sip of water, etc! I had told Scott to go to work Monday because my mom could take me to the hospital and he could just come after work, I really didn't see the point in him taking an additional day off (he took off Tuesday). We arrived at 4pm, checked in on the surgical floor and right away I had to change into the hospital gown and give a urine sample. At this point I was in a room with my mom and then Scott showed up early and surprised me! His boss told him he had to leave work early to be there, which was so nice of him. The nurses were super nice and had a lot of questions I had to answer and then they hooked me up to an IV. Then my dad came as well and we just talked and waited in the room until I could go to "holding" where one person could go with me. The surgeon is a friend of my dad's and he came in to chat and just let us know it was almost time.

Now for me, this was surreal. I have stayed overnight in the hospital before (pneumonia) and I have been sent to the ER 3 times during my life (1 concussion, my first gallbladder attack and an unfortunate incident with a SkipIt while on vacation that resulted in a sprained ankle..) but I had never been wheeled through the hospital on a bed with all the bells and whistles. I really was much calmer than I thought I would be, mostly because everything was moving so fast and I didn't have time to actually be nervous. I trusted the surgeon and his team and knew that I was in their hands, as well as God's, so I really was fine. We stayed in the holding room for about a half hour during which the anesthesiologist came to speak with us and then Scott went to the waiting room with my parents and I was taken into the operating room.

They moved me from the bed I was in onto the operating table and inserted the anesthesia right into the IV. Guys, I am not kidding when I say that's the last thing I remember! Next thing I knew, I was back in the holding room and a nurse was waking me up and Scott was there. I kept going in and out of sleep, but finally when I was awake the nurse checked me out and told me the doctor said I could go home if I wanted to. I definitely preferred that so she put me into a compression garment for pain, gave me 1 pain pill and a few ice packs and they wheeled me out to the car. I slept in bed the first night because I was just so out of it, but after that I slept on the couch because it was much easier.

Week 1 of recovery was hard, if I'm being honest. My stomach was swollen, the incisions hurt and I couldn't do anything for myself. I am a very independent and motivated person so that aspect was especially hard. I don't want to have someone else put my socks on or empty the dishwasher for me (well, I don't mind that one), but I really needed help for almost everything. I spent 6 nights sleeping on the couch because I could hardly move and laying down was not an option. I wasn't allowed to shower for 2 days because of the stitches and I couldn't bend over or life my arms. I have 3 incisions at the top of my abdomen and they make one incision in your belly button and remove the gallbladder through that hole.

The surgeon said my gallbladder was so inflamed that he had to make the incision larger just to remove it. I wasn't able do drive until the 2nd week and I went back to work on that Tuesday. It was recommended that I take additional time off of work, but I am an hourly employee with no PTO so if I wasn't working I wasn't getting paid. Thankfully I live very close to my school and people have been understanding that I am not 100% yet. 2.5 weeks later, I am almost back to normal! I do have 2 more weeks restricted from the gym and laying on my side still causes some pain. My biggest issue currently is that I have just been very tired, but every day is getting better.

Overall, I am so glad this is behind me. I know this is a long post and if you read the whole thing, props to you! I just wanted to be as detailed as possible because I know people had a lot of questions about it and it seems like this is a common issue! I am so very blessed though because I had such an outpouring of love and support from the people in my life. People brought dinner, they stopped by to chat, sent flowers, said prayers and texted me every day. I have my 2 week check up this week and I am looking forward to being back in my normal routine once again.



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