So I don’t remember if I mentioned my gallbladder in my previous string of mystery stomach issues, but during a lul in the pandemic I had my gallbladder removed. The Dr told my partner it looked “terrible” and he later described it to me as “opaque white like scar tissue and full of gallstones”. It was attached to my upper intestines, pulling on them basically.
For years really my stomach has slowly been getting worse, in more ways than one. Most recently and the tipping point was in May of 2019 when my stomach was so painful I could barely take steps. I went to urgent care and was given a couple acid related medications and sent home. I scheduled a checkup with a Gastroenterologist who scheduled an endoscopy to check out what was going on. After a month or 2 I went in for that procedure and they found that I did have GERD, basically acid reflux, and was kept on Omeprozole. None of the reasons behind my ‘stomach area’ pain were discovered and everyone seemed at a loss. I went into for a follow up with my continued issues and was put on a low Fodmap diet (easy on digestion) and finally after my Dr poked around at my stomach and I had physical pain, suggested my gallbladder be looked at via ultrasound.
Weeks later I got an email in the online system that I DID have gallstones but for some reason I read it as DID NOT and thought she was suggesting I schedule with a surgeon for an exploratory surgery, no thanks. It wasn’t til a month or so later that I wen’t back and read the email again and noticed she said I DID have them. One of them about 3cm (about an inch) which is associated with gallbladder cancer. I think I probably read it while subconsciously assuming they again won’t have an answer. Had I noticed I might have gotten in before the pandemic, doh!
The surgery itself went smoothly. Since it was during a pandemic I was rushed out of the hospital pretty quickly, groggy and sore, and sent home with a prescription for pain killers. The surgery was laparoscopic so I only had a few incisions but I would find out in my follow up about a stitch put inside where the gallbladder had attached itself to my intestines. This stick may have been the reason for the intense pain I experienced the first night.
They told me, and the bottle repeated, that the pills should only be taken every 6 hours, 1-2. However, it got significantly more difficult to manage the pain after 4. I tried though. I took a couple before I went to bed and woke up in more pain than I had ever been in before. Not because of the incisions themselves but my muscles on the right side were spasming uncontrollably. It felt like I was being shivved. All I could do was bite down on a sheet and wait for it to stop. I thought we might have to go to the emergency room, though I couldn’t even remotely imagine walking to the car and getting to the hospital – and if there’s any time you should examine the level of an emergency, its when the city is mid pandemic. I took more pain killers and used an ice pack to try and ease the spasms, and made it through the night.
For the next day or so, if the pills even wore off a bit, the spasming would return. By the end of the third day I started to replace one pill with ibuprofen and by the third day I was taking only ibuprofen. On the 3rd day in the evening however some really severe nausea kicked in after we had an asian noodle soup. I never knew nausea could be so bad, and even after I lost my lunch and my partner ran off to the store to get me Dramamine and Pepto-Bismol, just the smell of food made me horribly nauseous again.
Getting into bed was pretty painful but getting out was nearly impossible for about a week and I usually needed help. The pain regularly kept me up part of the night and I dreaded the act of getting up as much as getting shivved again. Not lying down at all was the least painful.
I thought our entire summer would be ruined but after a month or so I was mostly able to hike and do normal things. I reinjured myself for a few days trying to stretch my back. My incisions weren’t ready apparently. Even until last week, months after the surgery, I had “biodegradable stitches” finding their way out of my body and sticking out of my healed incisions. Ew. I left them a day or so and they were easily removable. Weird.
The constant dull pain and aching that I’ve lived with for years (of increasing intensity) has almost completely gone. Once in a while I feel a little shadow of it, more like a hunger pain, and get scared it’s coming back however nothing has really returned. I knew something more than ‘stomach acid’ was the problem. I do have to take Omeprozol every day, at least once, or I do notice feeling acidy, and my digestion still doesn’t enjoy wheat much so I’ve been just having it here and there and experimenting with my tolerance. Coffee still isn’t super compatible with me but it never really has been, even low acid or cold brew.
I have more energy and less back pain which was a surprising side effect. I know chronic pain can cause a myriad of problems but didn’t know how much it was affecting my overall life, energy and comfort. If you have any inkling that your gallbladder might be an issue for you, ask for an ultrasound because when this stupid little organ causes issues, it can be systemic apparently. As far as side effects, I haven’t noticed anything major that makes it not worth it. Eventually I’ll feel more comfortable getting back to my physical therapy for my back and getting back in shape a bit.