**This blog post (Gallbladder Removal – Ending The Agony) contains images of my post baby, post gallbladder-ectomy (a new term I’m trying out) belly – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!**
You should know that I am in no way a medical processional – so if you’ve found my blog looking for answers about what might happen when you have your gallbladder removed from someone who has recently had theirs removed YOU HAVE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE!
However, if you are looking for sound medical advice you should always consult your doctor.
I am now three weeks post op – rewind to three weeks and three days ago I was sat up in bed desperately googling anything to do with gallbladder surgery and what would happen from someone who wasn’t a medical centre website. I found nothing.
I wanted answers to my questions such as: Would it hurt? What would my scarring me like? What do I need to take to the hospital with me? What are the chances of things going wrong? You can read more about my pre-op anxiety here. At that moment in time I vowed to myself that once I was feeling better I would write all about what I went through.
So, answers to my own questions:
Will it hurt? Yes, like a mother. But nowhere near as much as gallstones hurt.
What will my scarring be like? Sore. Slow healing. But really, really minimal. In fact – you’ll be impressed by it.
What will I need to take to the hospital with me? Way less than you actually packed you numpty. But I’ll cover this in another blog post.
What are the chances of anything going wrong? Slim to none. And in your case – nothing will go wrong.
For anyone new to their diagnosis – here is a little bit of background:
What is a Gallbladder?
The gallbladder is a teeny sack that lives beneath the right side of the liver (under the right hand side of your rib cage). It’s main purpose is to store liver bile when your liver isn’t using it. Bile is released from the gallbladder after eating to digest of any fats consumed.
What Causes Gallbladder Pain?
Problems are usually caused by gallstones (tiny stone like
little bastards consisting of cholesterol and fatty bile build up) that form in the gallbladder. The stones have a bit of a disco whenever something high in fat is consumed because the gallbladder releases more bile into the liver – it is this little disco that causes all that pain.
I was refused a scan to look for gallstones in the first instance by my doctor because I did not conform to the rule: fair, fat and forty. Gallstones tend to pick on those that are over forty and over weight. I’m neither of these – and neither are the handful of other women my age that I know that have had this procedure. No one else is my family has ever had this procedure, nor have they been diagnosed as having gallstones – so as far as I am aware it is not hereditary. Just bad luck. You can read more about my diagnosis here!
How are Gallstones Found and Treated?
I was diagnosed as having Gallstones by a simple, non-invasive ultrasound scan. The type used during a pregnancy anomaly scan.
Gallstones do not go away on their own unfortunately, but can be managed by adjusting your diet to eat less fat. After a while I learned what it was that ‘made my tummy angry’ and avoided those foods. Even with this my symptoms continued but episodes of severe pain were less frequent.
I’ve heard of gallstones being treated with medicine and being zapped with lasers (which I’ve been told stings like a mother!), but these treatments are largely ineffective. Long story short – you don’t actually need your gallbladder so if you are suffering just have it removed.
Also, I am not trying to scaremonger at all – but if gallstones are left there is a possibility that the condition can become very serious, very painful and end up major, emergency surgery. This is why I opted to have my gallbladder removed using keyhole surgery.
What is Keyhole Surgery?
Four small openings in the abdomen – one under the ribs, one through the belly button (both about 2 cms in diameter) and two smaller incisions to the right hand side of the abdomen (about 1 cm in diameter).
Air is pumped into the abdomen to ‘make room’ (hence the trapped wind after the surgery) and a drain is inserted afterwards. Your surgeon is able to perform the surgery through these small incisions with a camera. Very, VERY clever if you ask me.
Potentially, the recovery from keyhole surgery is faster than traditional open surgery. Less time is required in hospital, less pain and less medication.
Recovering from Gallbladder Removal Surgery:
The NHS Choices website says:
“It doesn’t usually take long to recover from keyhole surgery to remove your gallbladder.
Most people can leave hospital the same day or the next morning. You’ll probably be able to return to most of your normal activities within two weeks.”
I don’t consider myself to be a big softy by any stretch of the imagination – but anyone that is back to normal within two weeks has a MUCH higher pain threshold than me. Not too long ago people undergoing this procedure could expect a two night stay, minimum.
I didn’t have my surgery until around 13:30 on the Wednesday. I stayed on the general ward for one night because a) my drain was still attached, and b) I wanted to be where the pain killers where. I found that I couldn’t cope on just paracetamol until 48 hours post op. For the first week I took paracetamol and ibuprofen alternatively every 3 hours.
Ending the Agony:
I arrived at the ward at 8 am as instructed by my letter from the hospital. I hadn’t eaten or drank anything since 6 pm the night before. After waiting for a bed until 13:00 (and just after I had instructed my poor starving husband to go and get something to eat – he sat with me the whole time #keeper ) I was called into a changing room to put on my hospital gown, my dressing gown and slippers (that I had taken myself from home), my hair net and my sexy compression socks (provided by the NHS).
By half past I was in the operating theatre… after I entered the pre-op theatre my identity was checked, I was asked some routine questions and I was fitted with a cannula. This was the bit I was most anxious about, but I barely noticed it being done. Phew.
I was wrapped in a blanket, laid back on the bed and felt a cold sensation in the back of my hand. The next thing I remember is the ceiling disappearing.
Over and Out:
I was woken up in recovery by a very kind blonde nurse, the clock was in-front of me. It said it was 15:40. I didn’t feel any pain. But I did feel sick (because of the pain relief), I had sore shoulders and collar bones (because of the trapped wind) and I felt mildly embarrassed that all of those nice people had now seen me naked (because you’re not allowed to wear anything under your gown).
I was wheeled back to the ward where my lovely hubby was waiting for me. I was off my face on pain meds. Everything had gone to plan – and even better – I was thrilled to discover I had no clips and was glued back together and any stitches I had were dissolvable. I wouldn’t have to have any staples removed. Hurrah!
I was encouraged to drink lots of water, eat an egg mayo sandwich and go to the loo. I did all three… and then felt the colour drain from me when I started to feel the pain whilst sat in the chair (side note – going to the loo with a drain in is not easy so ask someone to come with you). At this point, the nurse recommended I stay in for one night. I was feeling the pain now the good stuff had worn off and my blood pressure was low.
I have low blood pressure anyway and a general antithetic will lower your blood pressure. Since getting home I have been taking a daily iron supplement with the fruit juice chaser (for the vitamin C and the fibre). I’m already feeling the benefits.
I stayed over night and had a ball with the lovely ladies that I was on the ward with. I chatted as much as I could but my throat was very sore and my voice had disappeared. This was due to a tube being inserted down my throat whilst I was asleep in the operating theatre to help me breathe. This is totally routine. As are the oxygen mask you wear whilst in recovery.
I was much more comfortable once I was home in my own bed with my very own (husband shaped) nurse. I was able to eat right away but only got my appetite back after three or four days. I’ve been trying out my new stomach since. Although I’ve found I can eat things now that made me sick before they generally still don’t make my tummy happy.
The most difficult thing for me during the whole thing was not being able to lift or cuddle Little Miss Vista. Three weeks post op and I can now give her a good Mummy squeeze (provided shoe doesn’t knee me by accident), but I still don’t feel up to lifting her. My muscles are still knitting together and often feel like I have a stitch or like when I’ve done too much at the gym.
I hope this has been helpful – please feel free to contact me if you have anymore questions. I intend to write about what happens post op soon. Watch this space.
Thanks for reading: Gallbladder Removal – Ending The Agony
Love and ‘the good stuff’