Battle Scars: Gall Bladder Surgery

Gall Bladder attack
Sometimes a "stomach ache" turns out to be something more...
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The day started out like any other day. I was in college at the time, so I got up out of bed and went to class. At noon I met my mom and grandmother for lunch at a local restaurant, feeling well. We talked and laughed and ate way too much off the buffet. The first inclination I got of what the evening would hold came as we were walking to our vehicles from the restaurant. I felt very sick.

To give a little of my medical background, I have had digestive problems for years, so naturally I chalked the nausea up to my “weak stomach.” I only made it a short distance down the road before the nausea got the best of me. I had to pull over at a Dairy Queen and go in and try to throw up. I gagged but nothing came of it so I regrouped and made my way back outside to my truck. Less than five minutes later I was sick again and this time I could not keep my lunch down. Luckily, by that time I had reached the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart. After throwing up three times, I considered myself able to drive again. Big Mistake! I had to pull over every few miles to throw up. I started to think that I had stomach virus or food poisoning. I finally made it home an hour later.

For a while that evening I felt better so I began to think I was off the hook. No such luck. About ten pm the nausea and vomiting came back with a vengeance and that time the pain was so bad that I had trouble breathing. I still thought that I was merely having a severe case of the stomach virus and that everything would be okay. My false beliefs were further cemented when I woke up the next morning feeling fine, albeit somewhat tired.

Flash forward two weeks.

Having not experienced any further episodes of vomiting, I considered my “stomach virus” to be old news. My mom and I got up early one morning to go shopping in a city that was two hours away. We got ready, drove over, and did a little shopping before it happened again. Leaving Olive Garden, I started feeling a little sick. Keep in mind it takes me a while to catch on. I thought it was my “weak stomach” again.

We drove over to the mall but had little time to shop before I found myself running for the nearest rest room which happened to be in a Sears. I threw up all over one of their stalls (I really should have sent their janitor a letter of apology or something). I then washed my face and popped a breath mint with the intent of continuing to shop. The breath mint did nothing for me and neither did the smells that were being emitted from the food court, soon I was running for the exit. I barely made it outside before I threw up again.

After that I could not stop throwing up. My mom literally had to move the vehicle several times so that I would not have to keep throwing up in the same place over and over. Then the pain set in, it was like the pain from two weeks before but intensified. I learned really quickly what it felt like to have pancreatitis. My hair was soaking wet with sweat, I could not breathe for the pain, and I was panicking because I had no idea what was going on inside my body. My mom rushed me to a local emergency room where doctors ran tests on my blood and found that my pancreatic enzymes were at five times the levels they should be. Luckily, the next day my levels returned to normal and I was released after being advised that I needed to follow up with my regular doctor.

The following week I went to see the gastroenterologist that I usually saw for my digestion issues, after looking at my chart he suggested that I should have a HIDA scan done to see if my gall-bladder was functioning properly. I scheduled the HIDA scan and by the end of the week I found myself laying in the radiology department of my local hospital watching Days of Our Lives while my gall bladder was being evaluated. The radiology technician who was doing my test was a good looking guy who was not much older than me. I did not mind the situation until he gave me some kind of chocolate shake, which tasted somewhat like Ovaltine, to drink. I could not handle milk products at that time and this drink was a combination of milk and sickeningly sweet chocolate. I had to tell the good looking technician that he needed to step back because I was getting ready to throw up on him. I can assure you that was not my best moment.

He was persistent and made me drink all of the “milkshake” as he called it so that my test would be accurate. Somehow, I managed to get it down and keep my food down. I left the hospital that day feeling confident that the test results would come back negative and I would be fine. By that time, I had already had numerous tests done because of my digestive problems and they had all come back normal.

About a week after my HIDA scan, I was getting ready to leave for school one morning when the phone rang. The caller was my gastroenterologist. I listened as he explained to me that I had gall-bladder disease and would need to have my gall-bladder removed. I remember starting to cry, the word disease scared the heck out of me. I left for school that morning feeling shaken. When I arrived at school, I told my best friend what had happened and she explained to me that her mom had had her gall-bladder removed when she was in her early twenties and that everything had gone okay. I felt somewhat better, but I was still worried about having surgery. Before my gall-bladder surgery, the only surgeries I had had were oral surgeries to have teeth removed. My doctor recommended having the surgery as soon as possible so barely a month later I found myself back in the hospital where I had recently had my scan, ready to have surgery.

On the day of my surgery, I was scared beyond words. I knew that having one’s gall-bladder removed was a common procedure and in most cases people lived to tell the story, but that did not make me feel any better as I donned the required hospital gown and climbed into the bed that had been prepared for me in the pre-op room. I remember my whole body starting to shake from a combination of being cold and being nervous. The nurses had a hard time getting my IV in. I kept thinking about those stories you hear about people waking up half-way through their operations, stories of successful operations never crossed my mind as I entered the operating room. The last thing I remember before the lights went out for me was asking for some anxiety medicine to calm my nerves.

I woke up to the sound of nurses calling my name. I was still drowsy when the doctor came to talk about the surgery with me; if my mom had not been there I would not have a clue what the doctor said to this day. One of the first things I did was ask for some water because I was very thirsty. When I came back around fully, my mom told me that my gall-bladder had been inflamed and that the doctor had had a hard time getting it out. My surgery had lasted a lot longer than expected. At that point I was still lying in the hospital bed and had not tried to move yet. I did not know how sore that I was going to be. I found out quickly how much my inflamed gall-bladder was going to make me hurt. I had to get up to go to the bathroom and I could not even walk across the floor without assistance. It took me a week to get back to my old self.

Afterthought

In the months that followed my surgery, I kept looking for the scars to go away anytime. I thought that, like any other cut, my scars would get better in time and go away. Now, two years later, I know that my scars are going to be a part of my body forever. I have come to accept my scars. I know longer look at my scars in disgust, instead I look at them with awe. The three little scars that form a triangle on my stomach, my battle wounds, are a part of my story. When I look at them I see that I can overcome anything, even a debilitating illness.

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