In the last two posts (here and here) I had mentioned my “back spasms” and then mentioned that my health had been deteriorating throughout December. The “back spasms” and “back discomfort” in fact had little to do with my back. As symptoms progressed – nausea, loss of appetite, exhaustion, weakness, general sick feeling, back pain, itching in hands/feet, darkened urine, and so on – it had become clearer that I had liver and gall bladder issues.
Gall bladders store bile, and I had developed small gall stones (perhaps I had already passed larger ones during those horrific nights spent writhing in pain?) and gall sludge, which were preventing bile from moving through the organ as it ought. It is not recommended that you try blocking your flow of bile at home. Oh my painfulness!
It was determined on Thursday, December 11th that I would need to have my gall bladder removed, so I scheduled a surgical consultation. After scheduling the appointment, my symptoms worsened to the point where I had only about four good hours in me a day. By Sunday (just one day after Ro passed away), I turned jaundice. Seriously yellow. That was enough to have all procedures expedited, and I was admitted to the hospital that day.
I really have so much to say about the hospital experience. I’m not just talking about my 3-night stay or the unflattering gown or the fact that from Sunday to Wednesday the only thing that I was allowed to eat/drink were two liquid meals consisting of Jello, popsicles, broth, and juice. I’m talking about what I learned about advocating for yourself, trusting your body, and communicating with hospital staff what your body is telling you. This sort of hospital drama is a story for another time – like maybe when the medical bill arrives.
I had two surgical procedures. First, I had an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP; scoping procedure) to rid my biliary ducts of the gravel-like gall stones and sludge.
The procedure was supposed to take 30-45 minutes, but due to my “notably J-shaped stomach” and the doctors’ several attempts to clear out my duct-work, my ERCP took almost two hours. As I was coming out of the anesthesia and clearly still incoherent, I explained to the doctor that “J” is for “Jesus.” That was right after giving him a fist bump instead of a hand shake and asking him if 1) he found any macaroni and cheese in my biliary duct and 2) it was okay that I kept farting. I do recall Brian apologizing on my behalf; I saw nothing wrong with my behavior at the time. Moral of the story: If possible, always have a friend or family member take you in and bring you out of surgery so that they can make excuses for your ridiculous behavior.
The next day I had my gall bladder removed laparascopically.
The surgeon told Brian that this surgery went perfectly. I have this foggy memory of screaming and thrashing as I came out of anesthesia this time, and in the first recovery room I had noticed that they put weights on my legs. As far as I know, it is not normal to put weights on people’s legs for this type of surgery, so I am assuming they were placed on me due to the thrashing. Recovery was strange and scary for me, but after about 3 hours of recovery time I was discharged.
By the evening of my gall bladder surgery, Wednesday night, I was home. Ro’s funeral service was in Cleveland on Saturday morning. If you would have asked me Friday morning at 6am if I would have been well enough to travel for the service I would have said no. In fact, Brian did ask me that question at 6am on Friday morning, which is why I cried in response: “We’re not talking about this now!” I couldn’t deal with no. But by the strength and healing power of God I rallied to a point where I could travel. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t in best form, and maybe traveling set my recovery back a day or two, but it was completely worth it. To be a part of such a wonderful tribute to Ro and to be with family during that time was completely worth it.
Recovery has been a process, but I have been living in a state of gallbladderlessness (thanks for the term, April!) for just over a month now and am fairly well acclimated. And you know, I may not store bile like all of the people in this world with gall bladders, but I think my J-shaped stomach, the rest of my GI tract, and I will be just fine!