So I had a second gallbladder attack Sunday night, and this one was a whopper. The short version is that I had it removed. The long version is as follows:
I’ve been having some pretty consistent gallbladder (GB from now on because gallbladder is a surprisingly funky word to type) pain for the last few weeks. Every day my GB would start to hurt, and I’d have… um… bowel issues. That continued for two weeks. I finally decided to try a GB flush. The basic idea is to take a dietary approach to help flush your GB of sludge (the precursor to stones). There are some people who swear by it and others who call it a gimmick. I’m in the middle. I don’t think there’s anyway the GB flush actually removes stones (they are simply too big), but I do see how it might help remove the sludge. I figured why the heck not. The diet basically consists of a lot of apple juice and some grapefruit, epsom salts, and olive oil. No big deal, and certainly not going to kill me.
I started that on Thursday just wanting to get it done and over with. This Sunday was Fast Sunday… And now a brief pause to explain that to my non-LDS readers:
Fast Sunday is typically the first Sunday of each month. During that time, we forgo food and water for a period of 24-hours. There are many reasons to fast, but some of the primary ones are helping us be more spiritually in tune (puts the spirit over the body), demonstrating obedience to the Lord, and supporting the poor. As part of a fast, we are asked to donate the amount of money we would have used for food to the fast offerings of the church. Those funds are used to assist people in our communities and abroad with critical needs. I know in my neighborhood, our fast offering funds helped replace the roof of a neighbor’s home who are elderly and struggling to make ends meet. Fasting is quite simply one of the best ways we bring ourselves in line with Heavenly Father and demonstrate our obedience to Christ’s example of caring for the sick, the hungry, and the needy.
For Fast Sunday, I decided to focus my fast on a few things, one of them my GB and specifically that I’d find healing. It was a marvelous fast; one of the most spiritually uplifting I’ve had in a very long time. Sunday night after the fast, I made myself a delicious omelet with mushrooms, ham, and cheese. And then off to bed. About 1:30 I woke up with the tell-tale signs that I was about to have a GB attack.
I took a warm shower to relax and then headed back to bed. By 3:00 I was writhing on the floor in pain. Courtney got two percosets down me, and those didn’t even touch the pain. At all. I was in tears, unable to sit, stand, or lay. It was easily worse than my first GB attack. At 7:00 Kiffen and Troy came over to offer me a priesthood blessing. I immediately felt a peace and calm wash over me.
Then off to the ER. At the ER, they dosed me up on dilaudid, which is supposed several magnitudes more potent than morphine, and it dropped the pain down to maybe an 8 for only 30 minutes. They kept pumping me full of different pain killers in different doses, and nothing was taking the edge off. It would drop the pain down to a 7 or 8 for maybe 30 minutes. I had an ultrasound done, and while it still showed a lot of sludge, it did not show stones. The doctors then took me in for a CT Scan to see if that would show up anything, it found what appeared to be a stone in my bile duct. Stones mean surgery, so….
We weren’t scheduled for surgery until almost 4:00 in the afternoon, and in the ensuing four hours, I kept going back and forth on whether I wanted to do surgery or finish the flush. Every time I would move away from the idea of surgery, the pain would come roaring back. When I would settle on surgery, the pain would diminish back down to a 7 or so. Looking back, I feel that the Lord was pushing me to get the surgery in the only way I could understand at the time.
I had a lot of fun with the nurses. I always try to memorize all their names and learn about them as a way of keeping my brain engaged. We had lots of running jokes by the end of the day. Anytime someone new would come in and ask how I was doing, I would tell them fine except Rachel (my primary nurse) was keeping me drugged up. I challenged the anesthesiologist (Dr. Richie) that I would count down from 10 to 1 before I was knocked out. He smiled, and that’s the last thing I remember. I challenged another patient who was also in a wheelchair to a race (Rachel would win I’m sure!). It was just fun. I tend to heal through people once I’m passed the initial exhaustion and tiredness, and there were a lot of good people around me yesterday. You’ll need to ask Courtney about the fig newtons sometime. Apparently I love those now. Also, I supposedly asked if my mom knew at least 20 times post-op. I also named my biggest incision Bob. It’s a good name.
The surgery went very well. I wasn’t nervous at all, and it felt like the right thing to do for sure. The doctor told Courtney that my GB had gone necrotic (dead) and gangrenous. That’s where the miracle of being pushed to surgery comes in. I’ve heard that a ruptured GB makes a burst appendix look like a common cold in terms of severity, and with the necrosis setting in, my GB was basically just leaching poison into my body mixed with potent acids. No wonder I’ve been having all these problems for the last few weeks.
I’ve lost a lot of weight since February (18 pounds), but I feel like I haven’t. I’ve especially noticed that my abdomen always felt a touch bloated, and I have to wonder if this was related to the GB. I feel like it must have been.
I feel fantastic now. All that violent pain and discomfort is gone, and my digestive system feels completely normal. The incisions hurt, especially Bob, which is expected and normal. I’m off my pain meds, though I have them should I want them. Really it all just feels tight through my stomach, and when I flex my abs, it burns. That’s all normal and expected. I’m supposed to have pain through my incisions for at least the next four or five days, and I’m supposed to stay on more or less bed rest through next week. I’ve worked it out with my job to take the week off, and it’s a game time decision for returning to work next week.
All in all I’m quite pleased with what has happened. I would have liked to not remove my GB had that been possible, but I’m quite happy being rid of it as well, especially knowing that it was necrotic. There’s a chance that I will need to be very careful with my diet regarding fatty foods. My mom had hers removed when she was younger, and she never noticed an issue. I have a neighbor friend who had his removed similar to my situation (necrotic), and he can’t do refried beans anymore without knowing that he needs to stay close to a bathroom. It’ll certainly be a road of discovery as we learn what I can and can’t do, though I expect with my mom’s history, I’ll be just fine.
The hardest part going forward will be the lifting. I can’t lift anything more than a gallon of milk for the next 4 to 6 weeks. That means no bees and trouble with some other basic tasks like caring for the kids. The Primary president is going to have a sub take over for Courtney’s class at church so that she can help me with the kids, and I’ve got several neighbors who are beekeepers who will gladly help me out. I went out on Saturday to take care of them, and I’m sure we can manage. I’ll have to write about that inspection later. It was a classic, “Dave what were you thinking?” type inspection. 🙂
Thanks everyone for all the prayers and support. It’s been felt!