PSA: Don’t blame it on Popeye’s !!

So, the blog is going to go dark for a bit. You’ve probably noticed I was a little light on posts lately – well, yesterday the ole gallbladder needed to come out. I’d had an attack about 2 weeks prior, but didn’t realize at the time that the 12 hours of excruciating abdominal pain followed by relief-inducing vomiting was a gallbladder attack. Silly me, I thought it was a GI virus. I teleworked the next day, taking a quick nap mid-afternoon, but just shook it off. I felt a bit off in the days following, but didn’t think much of it.

Fast forward to this past Sunday, when an innocent lunch of leftover Popeye’s led to 6 hours of debilitating abdominal pain, again followed by a relief-inducing vomit. As I lay on the couch, pre-vomitus, crying, my husband is saying “You are going to the doctor tomorrow” and I’m agreeing, blubbering “Yes! Yes! I’m going to the doctor tomorrow!”

And off I went. There seemed to be some urgency, as I had an ultrasound on Tuesday (it would have been Monday except I had had coffee before my doctor appt), a surgical consult on Wednesday, and then surgery scheduled for Thursday. Each appointment ended with strict instructions to avoid any fat in my diet and if the pain returned, I was to head straight to the ER. So basically I’m a walking time bomb. I stuck to the diet instructions – relying on uber low-fat chicken soup, crackers, jello, and plain pasta. I called it the white diet. My appetite was a bit off – not surprising as I feared that the next bite might set off the pain again. Although I suspected since Monday that the gallbladder was coming out, I wanted it to be in a planned fashion, not some chaotic ER emergency.

The surgery actually went very well. Checked into the hospital around 1p, back to pre-op at 2p, promptly into the OR at 3p, rolled back to recovery around 4p, out of hospital by 6p. There were a few humorous moments I’d like to share:

  • When I was instructed to change into hospital gown and socks, I was so excited to see my socks were green – that way I won’t get them mixed up with Keith’s collection!
  • Before rolling to the OR, Tim, the nurse anesthetist, gave me a bit of a sedative in my IV. It kicked in immediately, making me pretty loopy. As they are rolling me to the OR, I exclaim, “Since pot isn’t legal in Virginia, this is probably as high as I’m going to get!” They laughed. I’m pretty sure I was their last patient of the day.
  • In the OR, as they are getting me ready, one of the nurses tells me she’s going to adjust my socks and leg wraps. I tell her I shaved for her, since I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to bend over again. As before – laughs all around. Do you think I missed my chance for stand-up?
  • Upon waking up in the OR, the first thing I wanted to know was whether it was laproscopic, as planned, or if they had to open me up. I was thrilled to hear it was laproscopic. Then I announced I thought I had peed all over the bed. They assured me it was no problem. I was too high to be embarrassed. Maybe they shouldn’t have pumped 2 liters of liquids into an unconscious, intubated, peri-menopausal woman.
  • Back in recovery, I was instructed that I had to sit up and see about getting dressed. I was pre-occupied with exactly where the incisions were, and insisted the nurse show me. Keith told me later she seemed a little uncomfortable with the whole thing. I think I had a valid concern – I needed to know if I could get a bra on (we decided no) and whether the pants were going to have to be rolled down yoga-style or not (not). There had been an extended discussion about the bra thing in the house, before leaving, and Keith had already called it – no bra.
  • When I changed T-shirts this morning, I discovered one of those sticky things with a snap on it on my shoulder — they missed one!

So I’m home with an arsenal of pain medications and a variety of bland foods for the next couple of days. I’ve been advised by both my surgeon and others lacking a gallbladder to take it easy on introducing real food again. My digestive system has been traumatized and permanently altered, so that seems a wise approach.

Many thanks to my husband Keith, who is doing a fantastic job of taking care of me. Also thanks go to the staff at Inova Medical Group (Annandale), starting with Dr. Seetha Durbhakula (“Dr. D”), who immediately recognized this was likely an acute gallbladder situation, and the nurses who were diligent about the scheduling and referrals. I really liked my surgeon, Dr. Virginia Madey of Virginia Surgery Associates. Her hospital staff’s cheerful demeanor (they laughed at ALL my jokes) and practiced manner went a long way towards calming my anxiety.

So I’m going to end this PSA by saying, if you have excruciating abdominal pain that lasts for more than 2 hours, whether or not it’s accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, please follow up with your doctor. An upset gallbladder is not something to fool around with — and if it needs to come out, it needs to come out.

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