Monday, June 16, 2014

My First Real Surgery - Gallbladder Removal (Cholecystectomy)

My last post discussed my experience with my first ever colonoscopy. Now, a few months later, I'm about to undergo an even scarier procedure - a cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal.)

After my colonoscopy, my digestive issues never really got any better. To top it all off, I started getting a throbbing ache in my upper right abdomen. It hurt to stand up, it hurt to bend, it hurt to eat... heck, everything just hurt! 

I went to my doctor, who initially just wrote off my pains as possible, "fatty liver disease" or "IBS." Well, nope. I definitely knew it was neither of those causing the aches and pains I was feeling. After some prodding on my part, a blood test and ultrasound were done. The blood test showed slightly elevated liver enzymes. My ultrasound ended up revealing 3 gallstones (one was 2.6cm!) 

I am CLEARLY not impressed that my gallbladder "maked these" stones!

Back to my doctor I went, who suggested I see a surgeon and get out my gallbladder as soon as possible. Fast forward a few weeks, and my surgeon also agreed my gallbladder pains would only get worse, rather than improve as time went on. A surgery date was set! (and changed THREE times, but that's a whole other story.) 

There are two types of gallbladder removal. Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy (also known as "keyhole" surgery), and the traditional open surgery. The laparoscopic approach is where they make 4 very small incisions in your abdomen, and use small equipment to remove your gallbladder. Open surgery is where they instead slice you open in the abdomen with a large 8-12" incision and do the work in the old-fashioned manner.

Laparoscopic requires no cutting into stomach muscles, and is much less invasive. The healing time is much much shorter, and you can usually leave the hospital that very same day and be back on your feet in 3-7 days. The open method is more hardcore and may leave you down and out for 3-7 weeks, and potentially longer. Some people have such a bad attack they do not have time for the laparoscopic approach. There are also some cases where your laparoscopic surgery has to be converted to an open surgery, based on your anatomy or some other unexpected complication that may arise. In these cases, you wont even know until you wake up from your surgery, so there is nothing to decide on in that regard.

I'm scheduled to have things done laparoscopically, so I've got my fingers crossed everything works out in that regard.

In terms of pain, I've been dealing with the strangest this month and last. Everything from debilitating and extremely painful right back pain (it felt like all the nerves in my back were pinched simultaneously for over an entire day) to sharp and dull aches in both my left and right upper abdomen. I've even been getting weird fluttery and pulsating sensations in my abdomen (mostly the right) where it feels like a nerve is jumping around all out-of-control. 

The pain in my left (a sharp, shooting pain that comes and goes, which I'm currently dealing with at this very moment) scares me the most. Why do I have pain on my left side, if my gallbladder is on my right? A little over a week ago, I found myself in the ER because the pain was just SO severe. I thought my pancreas or my spleen might erupt! Of course, after an 8 hour stay in the ER, my blood work turned out fine and another ultrasound showed nothing new. I went home and the pain eventually wore off (and they didn't even give me any medication! Guh!) 

Doctors seem to think the left-sided pain in unrelated to my gallbladder issues, but I've read some other stories online from stone-sufferers who have experienced the same thing. I hope it's nothing worse, and simply pain radiating from a failing gallbladder. 

Have I mentioned that I've lost 20 pounds since all this gallbladder diagnosis came about? I'm happy about this (what girl doesn't want to lose weight?) but it's been tough. I've adopted a super low fat diet (eating any greasy or fatty foods seem to trigger even worse pain). It's been hard watching my friends and family eat steak, Chinese take-out, drink some beers, etc. while I'm in the corner munching on a plain piece of bread and eating light veggie soup. I'm HUNGRY! *grumble* 

Anyway, tomorrow is the date of my surgery. I've never had a full-on surgery before. I've never been seriously put out, or carved open. Thankfully, my surgeon told me if everything goes according to plan, I'll be back home the same night. It's only a day surgery, and since they are doing everything laparoscopically to remove my gallbladder, my healing time should also be cut in half. 

That doesn't stop me from being TERRIFIED though. I've read such horrible stories about gallbladder removal online. I'm scared of the pain, I'm scared of complications during surgery, I'm scared I won't even wake up, or that I'll end up with even worse side effects than I had going in! 

I know recovery will be rough, but right now I'm thinking it's worth it if this horrible sharp pain would just go away. My surgeon seems like a super knowledgeable guy, so I know I'll be in good hands. 

Wish me luck, Internet peeps! I'm super scared, but I'm praying everything works out for the best. :) I'll update as much as I can during the recovery period!

I won't miss you, you little green monster! 


  1. Yikes!

    Reminds me of my cystoscopy post!

    I'm not even sure what the gall bladder is supposed to do, but obviously it's something that we can do without. I don't envy you.

    I'm a couple of days late reading this, so I'm pretty sure that everything is over, and that you're doing much better. So that's a bonus :-)

    I don't know if I could do that super low fat diet... not fun! But hey.. 20 pounds is 20 pounds!

  2. Thanks Stephen!

    The gallbladder is mainly a storage organ that helps in the digestion of fat and helps to make bile more concentrated to increase its effect on fat cells. We don't NEED it to live, but it definitely helps after you eat a big, juicy burger. I'll have to be very careful about the things I eat, from here on out.

    I'm still in the recovery stage right now, but I'll be updating about how THAT is going soonish. :)