If you’ve been with me on this journey for long, you know that I had an issue with my gallbladder when I made the transition to all conventional food. I wrote about the entire saga on this epic post. My doctor encouraged me (that is, nagged me) to have it out. After weighing the costs and the benefits, I decided to go ahead and have the surgery. So many of you in the comments here and on Facebook provided me with wonderful support and advice. I’d like to share my gallbladder removal experience with you in hopes that someone might be helpful in the future.
In advance of the surgery, I did a ton of Internet research on what to expect. I asked questions of my doctors, I talked to friends, and I read quite a bit. Most signs pointed to a quick recovery, though the first few meals after the procedure need to be small and bland. I fixed some sugar-free gelatin and readied everything I needed for the BRAT diet that I’d read about in several places. I purchased some chicken noodle soup, too.
One of the factors that contributed to my decision to have the surgery was the availability of a “responsible adult.” I’m single and pretty independent. I hate to impose on people, especially someone who would have to take off work to shuttle me around, sit with me, and chaperone me after anesthesia. While in a Facebook chat with an old high school friend, Sylvia, who was telling me about an upcoming career change, it occurred to me that she might be available during the week of my Spring Break to be with me for the surgery. She was free, and it turns out that she was the perfect person for the job!
For reasons that are up to her to describe in the comments section if she so chooses, Sylvia has had a lot of surgeries. She jumped at the chance to advise me on what to wear, how to prepare, and what to expect. Her advice was spot-on. From, “You’re going to be crazy thirsty after you wake up,” to, “take your pain meds before it hurts bad enough that you need them,” everything she told me was unbelievably helpful. If you need a “responsible adult,” I’d highly recommend Sylvia!
In addition to buying and preparing the foods described above, I made sure that my house was cleaned, that I had some movies queued up in the DVD player, that my couch was ready for recovery, and that I didn’t have anything to eat or drink after midnight. Although I might have gone a little over-board, I also wrapped Sylvia’s “Thanks for waking up at the crack of dawn and wasting a day with me” gift.
The Day Of Surgery
The morning of surgery, I popped out of bed like a slice of toast. I showered, I dressed in older, larger clothes, and I waited eagerly for my ride. We gathered up a few things, drove to the hospital, and checked in at admissions. I answered relevant medical questions, signed some forms, and then retired to the waiting room. I made sure Sylvia knew how to post photos to the Needless Pounds Facebook Page, and asked her to keep the readers up-to-date. Sylvia was happy that the hospital had free WiFi. I was happy that Sylvia was happy.
When they called me back, I was taken to a “bay” with a small bed, some equipment, and “the gown.” I was told by the most witty nurse I’ve ever encountered, “If you weren’t born with it, it needs to come off.” The nurse, Tiffany, was highly-caffeinated and very helpful. We bantered playfully as I got settled behind the curtain. She brought me some extra warm blankets, took my blood pressure, and questioned my pulse rate.
“Do you know what your heart rate is normally?”
“Well, you must be really at ease. My machine says it’s 48, which either means you’re an athlete or I need to call for help.”
Tiffany entered my vital signs into her computer, started an IV, and called Sylvia back to join me while I waited to be taken into “holding.” We discussed the need for a better name for this area. We also discussed podcasts, the news, commutes, robotic surgeries, and the effectiveness of this door-to-door salesperson who had visited her friend.
I could have visited with Tiffany all day, but she soon wheeled me up to the second floor where I was introduced to another nurse, Susan. Susan wrapped my legs with what looked like large blood pressure cuffs which connected to a battery-powered air pump. This assembly massaged my legs, promoting blood flow and helping to prevent blood clots during surgery. The surgeon came by to see if I had any last-minute questions, although I didn’t. The anesthesiologist then introduced himself, administered a drug to relax me, and then left.
I woke up with an oxygen mask over my mouth and nose in a bay that very much resembled the one that I was in when the anesthesiologist visited me. A nurse was nearby, and I asked her how long I had been out. She looked at her watch, at my chart, and then back at me, and said, “44 minutes.” She took the mask from me, and I asked, “Are we on the first floor? Near the waiting room? My friend Sylvia has my glasses.” I’m sure it didn’t come out as eloquently as that, but that’s how it sounded in my head.
Sylvia came in, handed me my glasses, and the nurse offered me some ice chips. When I had finished the first cup, she offered me a beverage. Although I was inclined to go with water, the nurse recommended either juice or soda, saying that the body tolerates sweet drinks better after anesthesia. I chose a Diet Coke, which was delicious.
Once the nurse deemed me ready to go, Sylvia went out to pull the car around, I got up, got dressed, and the nurse wheeled me up front in a wheelchair. This process was pretty rapid, as I was still fighting with the bendy straw on our way to the pharmacy.
While waiting for the prescription to be filled, Sylvia and I walked around the pharmacy. I was fascinated by the As Seen On TV section. This wasn’t the anesthesia talking. I am generally fascinated by the As Seen On TV section of most stores. We picked up some over-the-counter items and headed to the pharmacy counter when my name was called. $15 later, we were on the road home.
I brought in my meds, popped a pain pill, ate some Jell-O, settled onto the couch, and got comfortable. Sylvia stayed and chatted for about an hour, and then left me to rest. I had other plans. Having eaten only Jello-O since the previous night, I started into my BRAT diet with a banana. Eating cautiously at first, I consumed the whole thing within a couple of minutes with no ill effects. Later that evening I had chicken, rice, and green beans. And graham crackers with Nutella. And toast with preserves. And Jell-O with pineapple rings. And some grapes. And some Greek yogurt. And on, and on, and on. I finished my 1500 calories and my 74 ounces of water late that night with no ill effects.
The Next Day
My surgeon said that patients who have surgery on Monday generally “turn the corner” on Wednesday. I’m writing this on Tuesday, after having spent an hour walking around Kroger, a bit of time browsing at Best Buy, and the better part of an hour haggling with Ford over a problem with my car. If this is “recovery,” I’m afraid to see how able I’ll feel once “recovered.” You might think it’s the pain pills talking, but I stopped taking those last night. I’m not pain-free, but the soreness that I feel is manageable with Tylenol.
I have four incisions on my abdomen. Three small ones are in a diagonal line tracing my right ribcage, and one larger one is in my navel. Each is closed with dissolving sutures under the skin and covered with a water-resistant plastic shield. The shield on my navel wasn’t quite large enough, so it has leaked. I spoke with my surgeon’s nurse this morning, and she had me come by to have a larger piece of plastic put on. Water-tight again, I’m safe to shower.
While in the shower today, I realized that in addition to my free leg massage, free Diet Coke, and free pair of booties, I also got some free manscaping. Apparently, although the procedure was done laparoscopically, I was prepared for an open procedure in case of emergency. If you’re going in to have this done, keep that in mind.
Tomorrow is our grocery store tour in weight maintenance class.
I’ll probably see you there!
- Surgery Fund Drive (needlesspounds.com)
- Gallbladder Surgery Scheduled (needlesspounds.com)
- Gallbladder and cholecystitis (lisac25.wordpress.com)
- foods to be avoided by patients with gallbladder stones (imtiazzaki.wordpress.com)