On Saturday I turned 36. It was a lovely day. Jamie and I went to kickboxing and then had some breakfast tacos at a new place near us. Not long after we got home, Jamie, Ani, and I headed to the book festival. Ani had to do a shift at a booth for her magnet school. I finished reading Blackbriar. We dropped Ani off at home and Jamie and I went to dinner at Olive Garden. My parents gave me a gift card for that dinner. It was delicious.
But eating that dinner apparently set of a stress test for my gallbladder that did not end well.
Go back nearly 6 years. After Adrian was born I kept throwing up and I’d have pain between my shoulder blades. We figured out it was gallbladder attacks. I’d take Lecithin and Tylenol and throw up and within a couple hours I’d be fine. Time went on and the attacks happened less and less often. I never told a doctor because I did not want surgery. The last attack was in May of last year.
And then Sunday happened. I woke up about 3:30 or 4 in terrible pain. This time it wasn’t just my back hurting. It was also right under my ribs on the front right. I threw up several times. Nothing helped. We went to Urgent Care. They couldn’t do an ultrasound. Looking back we should have said we’d go elsewhere since we walked in saying we thought it was gallbladder. But I was in pain and did not want surgery so when the doctor (who reeked of cigarette smoke) said it was typical gastroenteritis, I was willing to accept that (even though deep down I knew that had to be wrong). They gave me fluids and anti-nausea medicine. They told me to take Tylenol for the pain. I already had. Twice. I threw it up both times. Jamie questioned two or three times if the doctor was sure it was no gallbladder. The doctor said it definitely wasn’t, and if it was it was a 1 in 1000 chance. Jamie said I had thrown up the Tylenol and was there something else I could have. That’s when the nurse asked me how long I’d had this “muscular disorder.” Ummm… 6 hours? I think she thought I was a drug seeker (and all I was asking was if Advil instead of Tylenol would be okay!).
Meanwhile, the doctor and nurses had a very loud conversation in the hallway (with only a curtain between us) about the previous patient. I know all the details of the case. Can you say HIPAA violation?
I was sent home and took the Tylenol as instructed. Jamie headed to Walgreen’s to get the anti-nausea drugs. I really felt like I was throwing up because the pain was so bad it was causing me to become nauseated, but I still didn’t want surgery and was willing to try anything to get rid of the pain. The doctor clearly decided I pulled a muscle because I threw up. The pain was first. He wouldn’t listen (of course, he also said pain in the places I was pointing to were “definitely not” signs of gallbladder problems). 10 minutes after I took the Tylenol I was running back to the bathroom and throwing up so violently I bled some and felt like my throat was trying to turn inside out.
I Skyped my parents and burst into tears. My parents, aunt, and uncle all told me to go to the ER. I didn’t want to because I still didn’t want surgery and I knew that’s where I’d be headed. Jamie got home some time in there while I was sobbing to my parents. He called the Urgent Care since they said to call if anything changed and they said I should go to the ER. But I didn’t want to go because Ani had a spoken word poetry competition Sunday afternoon (one of my amazing visiting teachers took her – and Ani won her age division and will be moving on to the finals in May). The Elder’s Quorum President (Jamie’s in the presidency) ran over and helped Jamie give me a blessing before we left for the ER.
I was taken back in the ER very quickly. When the PA came in checked me over he said I was having textbook signs of a gallbladder attack (the Urgent Care doctor was crazy to say I wasn’t). Plus my mom, her mom, and her mom all had their gallbladders out (and my dad’s sister, too!) so family history is there, too. He ordered an ultrasound which showed that my gallbladder was full of little stones and the bile duct was super inflamed which meant one was probably stuck in there causing the pain. Once they got the results of the ultrasound, they called in the surgeon. That’s when I had to come to terms with having surgery sooner than later. The doctor over the PA came to make sure nothing had been missed and he concurred that it was definitely my gallbladder and it needed to come out.
At some point, the Urgent Care got creepy. They called Jamie’s phone (apparently several times) but reception in the ER wasn’t great. Since Jamie didn’t answer, they called the ER to check on me. Um… HIPAA, anyone? The ER nurse was a little weirded out by that. Jamie called the Urgent Care and told them it was in fact my gallbladder and we were waiting on the surgeon. So much for his “1 in 1000 chance.”
The surgeon got there and discussed what was going on and said I could choose to try to stop the inflammation and go home and be back next time it happened or I could have surgery. By then I was okay with surgery. I knew it was when, not if. And the pain was so bad I needed to be done with my gallbladder (morphine, by the way, didn’t quite take away the pain and made me feel weirdly heavy and made me not care about the pain). So within an hour I was being prepped for surgery. At 6:30 on a Sunday night. They gave me some Versed and the next thing I know I was waking up after the surgery.
They used a da Vinci robot for the surgery, going through my belly button. It’s pretty fascinating watching videos about that thing.
Once I was awake they took me up to a room for the night. As I was trying to move from the gurney to the bed I needed to throw up and proceeded to throw up quite a lot of blood. It’s a little scary to hear a PACU nurse say she’s never seen something that bad and she’d contact the surgeon. My blood pressure was good and they repeated my blood work the next morning and since my hemoglobin and hematocrit were fine, they didn’t worry about it. I suspect it was a combination of throwing up so violently all through the morning and then being intubated so I bled a lot down my throat and it had to come out. There are a few places inside my throat that were very painful the first couple days and are much better today so I am sure those were the problem areas. It was scary anyway. More for other people than me, though, I think, because I was still pretty out of it.
I spent the night at the (very, very nice) hospital and went home about 10:30 or so Monday morning (and a few minutes later the Urgent Care called *again* to check on me). Since then I’ve been working on getting better again. It seems slow, but probably isn’t. Jamie stayed home from work Monday and Tuesday. People from church brought us meals and came to visit. Jamie went back to work today and a friend of mine came to “baby-sit” me for a couple hours so I wouldn’t have too long without help over the age of 7. She even bought pizza to feed my boys (and hers) lunch.
I can’t do taekwondo for at least 2 weeks which is a bummer. I’ll see the surgeon for a follow-up on the 21st and he’ll decide if I am sufficiently healed to go back to it. I’m needing the pain medication a little less today and even was able to take a shower with Jamie’s help, so I’m happy with my progress. It’s been a crazy few days for sure!