Just when summer was in full swing, we were having a blast with vacations, enjoying the empty town, and I was getting things accomplished at work… I started having some health problems. You’ve got to be kidding me?!?!?!?!? I was just starting to get some energy back from my bout with mono, and blamed some of my continued nausea on just that – it had to be the mono, right?
Now comes the time for my TMI (as in too much information) description. If you’re weak in the stomach department, skip this paragraph and read on to the next. Right towards the end of the whole mono thing, I was finding my stomach more and more sensitive, and I even had a few (yes, as in… more than one) instance of random projectile vomiting. Oh yeah, Linda Blair kinda suff! It would hit me in a split second, and about the time that I vomited… I was good to go again. My whole life I’ve had a sensitive stomach, I drink a lot of coffee, and don’t always have the best eating patterns… so I never thought anything was too weird. I never got sick more than once in a day, and didn’t have any trouble after an incident… so never quite made it to the doctor.
The summer went on and so did my nausea, but it was never extreme enough for me to make any drastic changes or call my doctor. Even though summer is in full swing until late in September, I consider it being over for me the first of August. Because of my job, I still live on the “school-kid” schedule in which the seasons are delineated by the semesters. Kevin and I attended a wonderfully beautiful wedding the first weekend of August, celebrated his birthday, and kissed summer goodbye. My staff was returning, and it was time to get into work mode. STAT!
One evening during one of our staff training sessions, one of my employees had an allergic reaction. I took her to the Emergency Room, and while we were there I ran into a custodian from my building in the ER too! She was there being treated for a gallbladder attack. As I stood there watching her in pain I was unable to think of anything at all that I could say to be comforting. I told her the truth. I said that I couldn’t imagine being in such pain, and there being no end to it.
Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night. I was up again in the morning, ready to go, and nursing a cup of coffee all day. I felt fatigued, tired, and was having some back pain. It all made sense though: I was up all night, and standing or sitting in crummy chairs. I’ve had back problems in the past, so I figured that I had just agitated something. I powered through the day, and went home to watch TV. Turns out, I didn’t really watch at all – more like slept. I woke up laying on the floor on my stomach because my back was really starting to hurt. I bowed out from even trying, and excused myself to my bed.
I tossed and turned all night, and woke up around midnight to some pretty severe pain in my back. I rummaged through the medicine cabinet until I found my back medicine. I poured myself a glass of water, took my medicine, and tried to go back to bed. I found myself unable to find a position that would allow me to go back to sleep, so I just decided to get up. After about 45 minutes, I realized that my medicine was not working and the pain had moved to my front… right under my ribs. Nothing was working to ease the pain, and I had some difficulty getting dressed as I was now vomiting every couple of minutes. I felt awful about tossing and turning all night, and figured Kevin deserved some sleep. That is just what I let him do. I drove myself to the ER, and was admitted. I didn’t sleep one wink, so was awake when Kevin woke up, realized I was gone, and sent me a (not so happy with me) text message. I didn’t have much time to reply because they took me into the ultrasound room.
The ultrasound room is really nice, actually. It kind of has that ‘expecting-mother’ feel to it. It kind of gave that ‘expecting-mother’ feel to me too! I had never seen an ultrasound in person, and the only ultrasounds I had ever seen on tv or in movies were those in which a doctor finds a tiny, little heart beat, and the room is filled with joy, tears, and congratulations. Unfortunately, my ultrasound experience was NOTHING like that. I even explained to the technician that I was expecting warm-fuzzies. She laughed, but I couldn’t because of the piercing pain in my ribs every time she pushed harder. Imagine the irony when she printed out my little ultrasound photo just like a real ‘expecting-mother’ would get! I didn’t have one human baby, I had about 15 gallbabies. Okay, so I called them that… not the technician. In my motherly state of mind I uploaded my ultrasound picture to facebook just like an expectant mommy, and received several congratulations! … that was until I pointed out that it was a gallbladder not a womb. After that everyone said “yeah, your baby did look like a couple of caterpillars.”
Yup, that gallbladder was full of calcified stones, and it needed to come out. Unfortunately, I had to struggle with the pain and random vomiting for a couple more weeks before I could get into surgery to get it out. I went on about work and etc. I was just moving a little more slowly. We had opening day, freshmen moving in, students returning, and the first day of classes. I was prepped for surgery and just waiting for a date. I made it through the first week of school, and had surgery on the 30th of August.
Your gallbladder isn’t like your kidneys in that it can not pass stones. The options are to remove them or remove the gallbladder. In most cases they just remove the gallbladder. The fancy term is laparoscopic cholecystectomy. They said that they could remove mine laparoscopically unless the stones were to big to allow it to be sucked out. The surgeon places a tiny incision at three points in your abdomen to insert tools, and one incision in your navel. Luckily, I was able to have mine removed without the need for an “open cholecystectomy” which would have meant that they cut me open to get it out.
The only real complication that I had with the surgery was that I didn’t ‘deflate’ correctly. I guess I forgot to mention earlier that in order to see once they’re in there: the surgical team pumps your stomach full of air. I kept saying that my stomach was swollen, that my belly was puffy, and etc. Everyone kept telling me that of course it was: I had just had surgery!
I kept insisting that it was weird looking and really hurt. My stomach turned rock hard, looked like I was 6 months pregnant, and was really painful. This didn’t seem normal. I was starting to have trouble breathing, and my progress on my breathing machine was getting worse. At the end of the second day out, I finally had a bit of a dramatic moment in which I exclaimed “does this look normal to you?!?!?!” and exposed my tight, stretched belly. Everyone agreed that it did not, but we didn’t have to wait long for a decision as to what to do because I began coughing up blood. We decided a trip to the hospital might not be a bad idea.
The prognosis at the ER wasn’t anything bad at all… other than that the pain wasn’t likely to go away until the air started to go down. I couldn’t breathe well because my lungs didn’t have the space they needed to expand, so when they were it was putting pressure on everything else. The whole blood coughing up thing was not nearly as dramatic as it looks in print, and was only because of the fact that I was intubated during surgery. All-in-all it was not too terrible of an experience, and I would do it again in a second to not have another gallbladder attack. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see my removed gallbladder and that I wasn’t back to work in two days (yes, I really thought I would be) … but it was not nearly as dramatic as it sounds when I indicate that I had an organ removed!