6.10.2015

Gallbladder Surgery and Recovery (with four little kids)

This is totally wordy. So, grab yourself a drink, cuddle on the couch under a blanket, get comfy, and have at it! 

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DIAGNOSIS 

When I was pregnant with my now one year old, I had excruciating pain -- which was determined during an ultrasound to be a 3mm gallstone. Not terribly big, but enough to make you want to crawl under a rock and die when the attack happened. Flash forward a year... I have been having bad back pain (which I figured was me sleeping in weird positions on my uncomfortable 10+ year old mattress).

One day I started having chest pain. It started out like heartburn and gradually increased to where I was sweating, dizzy, and felt like I was about to have a heart attack. After securing a sitter for my kids I go to the ER figuring if I'm going to have a heart attack, I want to be there! I spent 4.5 hrs in the ER where I was monitored, blood work was done, I had a chest x-ray performed, and a few EKG's... only to be told that the dr. didn't know what was causing the pain because everything came back perfect! His solution... get some Zantac. Great, thanks doc!

Three days later, I get that numbing- I want to die - kind of pain in my side... at least I knew what the pain was now... my GALLBLADDER! That was a pain I was oh so familiar with! After some research and talking with others I came to find out that my chest pain was actually a gallbladder attack. Turns out that not everyone has typical symptoms, and guess what?!?! I am NOT a typical person!

I spent the weekend hurting, and when the pain didn't go away I called my regular physician. The pain would come and go, but there was a constant dull ache in my side and back. The doctor ordered an ultrasound and gave me info on where to go get it done. I called from the parking lot of the doctors office -- having been in so much pain I wanted to schedule it AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! They were able to get me in later in the week, phew... a huge relief.

The night before my ultrasound I get a phone call from an unknown number. I don't usually answer calls from numbers I don't recognize so I let my voicemail get it. It was the ultrasound place. "Our ultrasound tech had an emergency and won't be in tomorrow. Please call to reschedule your appointment." I broke down in tears...

Of course, when I tried to call back their office was closed. So, I text my 7 month pregnant friend who offered to watch my kids for me and tell her she can sleep in tomorrow! In the morning I call and the next appointment they have is in a week... A WEEK! Great.... guess I will live with the pain a little longer. By this time I'm thinking that maybe going back to the ER and having emergency surgery is sounding kind of nice...

Fast forward a week. I go get my ultrasound done... finally... and the nice tech won't tell me anything about what she sees. I get it, they can't really because they are just techs and not doctors, but here I am wondering if my poor gallbladder is going to explode because it hurts so bad and she is stoic. Thanks.

A few days later I am contacted by my doctor who says that I now have 3 gallstones that are 2 cm in diameter. Hence the pain. (Your gallbladder is normally the size of your thumb and is tucked under your liver and is just under your bottom rib on your right side. Three 2cm stones together are about the size OF your gallbladder.) She tells me my only option is surgery and gives me a recommendation for a surgeon.

As if the pain wasn't bad enough I now had to deal with surgery. SURGERY. The only surgery I have ever had was when I had my wisdom teeth taken out at 17. Although that is considered surgery because I was put under for it, there is a big difference between having work done in your mouth and having someone cut you open and take out an organ. Right!? I was a little freaked out.. okay, I was TOTALLY freaked out. I broke down in tears...

The next week I met with the surgeon, who was a small man with small hands, good for surgery I guess. He explained the procedure in about 30 words (I've read way more than that online --- thanks google!) and said that as far as recovery goes I shouldn't lift anything for two weeks. Ummmm...... I have four kids ... and two of them still need to be lifted, cuddled, held, and have their diapers changed. SO, I broke down in tears....

My surgery options were either in two weeks -- the day of my 10 year wedding anniversary -- or two weeks later than that. I opted for the anniversary. Is that bad? Maybe, but my super hero husband was supportive because he knew how badly I hurt, and putting it off for a month just wasn't an option, my gallbladder would have exploded, or at least I felt that way. But seriously... on my anniversary!?! What are the odds that THAT would be the only day available.. only me. I broke down in tears...

Leading up to the surgery my best friend (seriously, everyone needs a friend like her) spent two weeks lining up people to come help me and the kids for two weeks. My husband would be home for the first four days, but after that I needed someone here while he was gone at work. I wouldn't be able to put my baby down for a nap (2x's a day), get him in his high chair to eat (3x's a day), or change diapers for my two little ones. Then what happens if there is an emergency!? Plus, my bigger kids needed rides to and from school because I wouldn't be able to drive on my pain meds. My lifesaver friend coordinated everything for me. I was already freaked out about my surgery, and in severe pain, and she didn't want me to have to deal with the stress of getting help in addition to it all! Seriously, best friend EVER!!!


DAY OF SURGERY

I had to go into surgery fasting -- no food, no water. Not too hard since I never really eat breakfast anyway, except... surgery wasn't until noon. That was really hard. It felt like my husband and kids were eating for 4 hours straight that morning. I spent time in my office/craft room just to get away from listening to and watching them gorge themselves on everything in the house -- or so it felt.

We had to be there 1 1/2 hours prior to surgery to get ready and fill out paperwork. While getting ready to leave the surgery center calls and asks if I can come early because the surgeon wants to start early. Guess he was hungry too...

My husband (who I made swear he would stay there the entire time I was in surgery just so I would know he was there) takes me in and the nurses rush to get me ready. They hand me compression socks to put on along with my gown. Have you ever had to wear compression socks? If not, imagine trying to put your entire leg (foot to thigh) inside one of those long balloons that clowns use to make a poodle with. It took me about 10 minutes ... to get ONE on. Then I realized it was on sideways. Oh well. It's stuck now! Another 10 minutes for the next one -- and the nurses kept checking on me to see if I was okay. My husband? Sat there laughing as he watched me stretch, grunt, pull, and fall trying to get them on.

After one failed attempt to get my IV in I was finally ready to go. They gave me "something to take the nerves away" and it totally worked. They wheeled me into the operating room, and I remember looking up at the big light (that wasn't on) above me. Then I was given an oxygen mask and the next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room.

When I say waking up, I really mean trying my hardest to stay awake and not throw up my entire insides. Yep, that anesthesia is powerful stuff!! After what only seemed like about 30 minutes (but again, I was struggling to stay awake so I'm not totally sure how long it was) my husband and the nurse dressed me, put me in a wheelchair, handed me two big zip top baggies and a chuck bucket (I'm really not sure what the technical term is... it's one of those pink plastic kidney shaped containers used when you feel like throwing up). As my husband drove home, I sat slumped back in the passenger side of our car, still fighting to stay awake, and holding my head with my eyes closed to keep from throwing up in his car. I was bound and determined not to lose it!

I distinctly remember when we got home and my sweet hubby helped me out of the car, I could barely walk. He practically carried me to my room while I kept saying, "I just need to lay down. Just get me to my bed." I seriously thought I was going to throw up all over the place... and I SO did NOT want to! I could hear my kids (though I'm not really sure which ones) asking if I was okay. I don't think I even acknowledged them. I can only imagine what they were thinking seeing me like that...


(Just to clarify. I had laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery. This means that (in my case) I had one 1/2" incision at my belly button and everything was done using tools inserted through that one incision.)

RECOVERY

If someone had told me ahead of time what to expect, I think I would have been more prepared.

Day ONE (day of surgery) I pretty much slept the whole day. My husband had to help me get up out of bed to use the bathroom and that hurt. I took my pain medication on the dot if not just a tad before they were to wear off. I absolutely could feel when the local anesthesia around the incision wore off. Walking hurt. Sleeping hurt. Speaking hurt (due mostly to the tube they put down my throat to administer the anesthesia). Just about everything hurt. At least the pain medicine worked!

Day TWO. I was still hurting, A LOT. I couldn't hardly get up without feeling like my head was going to spin off my body. I was convinced (thanks to some google research) that I needed to get up and walk around to keep circulation going and aid in my recovery. My head and body said, "no way Jose"! So, when my husband came in to help me get up to go to the bathroom I would hold onto his arms and do a quick lap around the main living area of our house. Not only did it HURT to walk, but I was scared to death that one of my little kiddos was going to run up to give me a hug. My husband acted as my bodyguard. Definitely kept up on all my medication, tried to stay really hydrated, got lots of sleep, and worked hard to walk a little.

Day THREE. Still hurting but now I was beginning to think that the other things (being dizzy, nauseous, my head spinning) was something to do with my medication. I took a regular dose instead of the higher recommended dosage and felt a little better, but was still in pain. The pain wasn't just at the incision sight. My husband now lovingly referred to the area inside my body where my gallbladder used to be as my "ghostbladder". It still hurt as though my gallbladder was still there and intact, but it wasn't there. When I ate it hurt more, so I opted to continue my diet of toast and water and tried some dry cereal. Really, I was way too dizzy, and way too nauseous to eat much of anything. BUT, I needed to eat in order to take my medicine. Catch 22.

Day FOUR. I had read, and the nurses told me, that by day four I would be feeling pretty good. Ummmm... they lied. Yes, I felt better, but come on... I had an organ removed! I was still in a good amount of pain. My pain level had decreased and I could sit up in bed to watch movies. I wasn't sleeping as much and I was getting better getting around the house for my laps... though I still took my bodyguard with me.

Day FIVE. I finally got to shower! Oh, and did I mention it was also my birthday!? Yep, surgery fell on my anniversary and my birthday was four days later. Lucky me, right? By now I was feeling better. I called the surgeon in the morning and explained how the medicine was making me sick. They suggested taking Ibuprofen instead and gave me the dosage I could take. After making the switch I felt SO MUCH BETTER! I still had pain and it still hurt to move around, but I didn't feel like I was going to lose the contents of my stomach, or that I was going to spin off the Earth. I could deal with a little pain.

Day SIX. My husband had to go back to work. This was a sad, Sad, SAD day. My husband is my rock. He knows me better than anyone on this planet. He was so good at taking care of me. I still couldn't sit up in bed on my own so when he went to work in the morning I was up for the day. I had friends coming over in shifts throughout the day to take care of me and the kids. They were truly heaven sent angels. They changed poopy diapers without complaining. They made me lay down and rest. They made food for the kids.

Day SEVEN. I feel pretty normal by now. It's really hard to NOT lift anything and take it easy. Though, if I turn/twist my body or stretch to reach something up high I can feel it. My "ghostbladder" still aches a little bit. I try and lay down to rest or take a nap at least while my baby is napping.

Week TWO. I definitely still need the extra help around the house. I can load the dishwasher ... very slowly and carefully... but unloading is tricky because there is a lot of bending involved in putting the clean dishes away. I can sit up in bed on my own finally and do most everything. Yoga pants are still the MOST COMFORTABLE thing ever invented. I have been living in them for two weeks now! My incision itches and hurts all at the same time -- but I'm hoping that's all part of the healing process. I go back to the surgeon tomorrow to get stitches removed (which I'm honestly a little scared about because I haven't touched the tape on my incision and I don't want it to hurt when it comes off -- though I know it will).

All in all it hasn't been terrible. It would definitely be a lot easier if I didn't have four little kids at home to take care of while I recover. If it wasn't for my bestie organizing my helpers I couldn't have done it. I'm secretly hoping that when I go to the surgeon tomorrow he will have my gallstones. I want to see how big they were... is that weird!?!?

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**Oh, and for the first entire week and two days I felt really lightheaded and dizzy -- my friend described it as feeling like you are living in a fishbowl. It's a very weird feeling. Turns out (at least according to my friend) that it's all due to the anesthesia wearing off. When she told me that I upped my water intake to try and flush it all out of my system. It took two days of drinking A LOT of water to get it to go away. I am so much better now. Next time I know to start drinking tons of water from the very get go to get it all out of my system faster. 


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