I got my degree results in July 2016. Yippee you say. But my excitement was diluted when I became very ill very quickly. Turns out my gallbladder was trying to kill me.
Ok well not actually trying to kill me, that might be a tad dramatic, but it was in a sorry state. This is my story of my symptoms, diagnosis, surgery and aftercare. A bit of a long rambly post so grab yourself a cuppa and a snack and let’s get to it.
I started off with severe nausea. Like I literally felt like I was going to throw up all the time and it wouldn’t go away. This is not normal – I am not a sickly person in the sense that I rarely get a cold, stomach bug or virus. My immune system is pretty good. I didn’t go to the GP until I ended up missing my nephew’s first birthday as I just wasn’t well enough to get on the train to London. I was heaving the morning I was due to travel and just didn’t know what to do for the best.
My GP thought I might have had an inner ear infection so put me on tablets that you dissolve under the tongue. A couple weeks went by and they were just not helping. Back to the GP and had a multitude of blood tests taken. A few things came back such as low Vitamin D but nothing that would explain the nausea. GP just gave me more anti nausea pills and sent me on my way.
It was a Saturday as both Phil and I were at home and I was due back to the GP for a follow up appointment. All of a sudden this horrific pain came over me on my left hand side. Literally, I couldn’t stand up. We decided to go down to the GP earlier than planned as I was sobbing with the pain. GP didn’t know what was causing it and gave me pain killers, referred me for an ultrasound and sent me on my way.
I was diagnosed with gallstones during my ultrasound. This didn’t explain the pain on my left hand side which we now think was probably really bad constipation (tmi!). During the scan, the Ultrasound technician kept asking me if I had any pain on my right hand side to which I repeatedly answered no. In the end, I asked what they had found that should be causing me pain. Turns out I had 4 gallstones ranging in size from 0.8cm to 2cm. I asked if that could be the root of my nausea and they said yes. Luckily, I have private health insurance through work so as an appointment with a Consultant would have been over a 6 week wait on the NHS I was able to go private.
I saw a Surgeon a couple of weeks later at the BMI Alexandra in Cheadle. He was not convinced that the gallstones were the root of the nausea, and with the absence of any other symptoms, he didn’t want to do the surgery and asked me to monitor my diet – particularly high fat foods and dairy.
So off I went feeling really deflated and bloody fed up. I was so frustrated with not being able to get through a day without feeling like I was going to puke – and the thought of cutting out coffee and cheese was making it even worse. I love cheese. Maybe too much!
A couple of weekends later, the pain started. It felt like someone was putting their hand between my ribs and going through my body and out of my back .It was uncomfortable more than painful to start with and I couldn’t seem to get rid of it or get settled. After 2 days of this on and off I went up to the walk in centre. I explained what was going on and if it was related to my stones and they said yes. I had what is known as Biliary Colic which the NHS website describes as severe abdominal pain that can last 1-5 hours. The GP at the walk in centre told me there was nothing I could do except take pain relief and once again I was sent on my way.
My graduation arrived in September. I was so excited and had been waiting so long for this day to arrive, and on the morning of my graduation, I was again heaving and trying to puke. I didn’t want to go and just felt so ill. My mum and Phil convinced me to go, and so I did – and I’m so glad I listened to them.
Determined to get this sorted, I arranged another appointment with the surgeon. Explaining that things seemed to be escalating and something needed to happen. We agreed that at this point that surgery was the best option and we looked at approximate dates.
On Friday 15th October 2016, I got a call to say my surgery was booked in for Tuesday 18th October and to go in for a pre-op assessment the day before. Finally, something was happening!!
The surgery day arrived and boy was I nervous. I had my own room at the hospital which Phil was allowed to stay in the entire time. I got given my lovely green stockings got in my hospital gown and waited to be seen by my surgeon and the anaesthetist.
It was a couple hours wait to go down, and then I got the call. It was freezing in the room where I would get my anaesthetic – like really freezing! I was shaking on the bed so they put one of those foil heater blanket things on me. Vaguely remember one of the doctors telling me he was giving me an injection but it wasn’t the anaesthetic. The next thing I remember is waking up in recovery and having a woozy chat with the recovery nurse.
When you are that drugged up there is no concept of time, but I was eventually wheeled back to my room where Phil was waiting for me.
The surgeon came round to see me and explained my surgery had been done laparoscopically, so I had 4 incisions’ one under my belly button, one just below my sternum and 2 on the right hand side. He said that my gallbladder was in a bad way – worse than they expected and it took a good yanking to get it out. He also told me one of my stones was stuck in the gallbladder neck, which is what caused the Biliary Colic I had a few weeks earlier. If the stone hadn’t been so bloody big, it could have travelled into my liver resulting in emergency surgery, so really having the surgery now was a good preventative move. He also told me I had an umbilical hernia which he fixed during the surgery.
It was some time later and I needed to have a drink; I sat up and literally felt the colour drain out of me. I went hot, and was feeling like I was going to puke. Phil went and got the nurses to give me a hand and I was heaving yet again. Only this time, every heave felt like my stomach was going to explode. Nurses helped me sit up and put me on an IV fluid drip as I was very dehydrated and on oxygen to help me breathe.
During the surgery, they blow you up like a balloon so everything is easier to get too, and when I had gone from laying down to sitting up the trapped air had shifted into my chest. The pain radiating through my left shoulder was unbelievable. I had been warned about this by a friend and had come prepared with peppermint cordial. The nurses kindly made some up for me with hot water and slowly sipping this helped to relive this somewhat.
After an hour or so (once the drip had finished) I needed to get up and pee. Now I haven’t had a C-Section or any previous surgery on my abdomen so was completely unprepared for just how difficult this would be. Phil helped me up to get the loo and had to hold me up on the toilet [we are a very closed doors when peeing type of couple so this was testing our boundaries!]. I could not pee. It was right there waiting to come out, but just could not do it. This continued every 15 minutes or so. It got to about 7pm and the nurses told Phil to go home. They were not allowing me home as my blood pressure was too low so wanted me in overnight for observation. How the hell was I supposed to get up and down without his help? The nurses were firm but fair and explained that I needed to do things myself in preparation for going home.
So every 15 minutes or so throughout the night, I got up, and tried to pee. Sometimes it happened, sometimes it didn’t. Nurses took a swab and there was no infection so it was just as a result of being poked about during the surgery.
The next day, I was finally allowed home. The taxi ride was interesting, every bump in the road felt like my internal stitches were going to tear. I got home, and Phil propped me up onto the sofa with a shit ton of pillows and there is where I stayed. I think for the first 2 days I slept on and off – sleeping upright as I couldn’t lay down, even in bed I had to sleep sitting up.
Once Phil went back to work, I had to do things for myself. It was frigging hard, and I can’t tell you how many times I cried in frustration. Perhaps the worst part was going to the toilet – I could not poop – everything that involved my abdomen had me crying in pain – sneezing, coughing, blowing my nose and pooping are the ones that stand out for me!
This discomfort lasted for the first week. The second week was easier, and every week since I have seen some improvement. Every night I found myself gradually getting lower and lower in bed until I was sleeping flat again. I can’t tell you how good that felt – or how panicked I got when I first got flat and couldn’t get myself back up again! 3 months on from removal and I am pretty much back to normal as far as movement and physical healing is involved.
I will do another post on diet post gallbladder removal as that is a different story again and this post is long enough without it.
I was very lucky in that from symptoms to diagnosis to removal was very quick. And then my recovery has been fairly uncomplicated. A lot of people had it worse than me and recovery has not been a smooth process.
Have you ever had issues with your gallbladder or had yours removed? Let me know in the comments.
Bye for now.