Gallbladder Surgery

As some of you know, I recently had surgery to remove my gallbladder. This was to address a medical condition called cholecystitis - essentially, I had stones in my gallbladder which occasionally caused blockages.

It was a pretty frustrating experience leading up to this point. I had started having symptoms for this condition a couple years ago. In fact, I went through a similar enough set of symptoms nearly ten years(!) ago (although it is a little unclear whether it was the same cause or not). Typically, I would start feeling pretty intense stomach pain late at night usually a few hours after a fairly big meal. Often times, I would be woken up by the pain starting around two or three in the morning, and the pain would last for a few hours before eventually subsiding. It wasn't every time I had a biggish dinner that caused symptoms -- in fact I went months at a time where I didn't suffer any symptoms despite not really changing my eating habits.

At the beginning of December 2014, I had a particularly bad attack. The attack began just like other ones; around two in the morning, I woke up with some pretty serious stomach pain. This time though, the pain didn't go away. By 9AM, I let work know I was going to be out sick for at least a few hours. By lunch time, I was freaking out because the pain had never lasted that long before. I called my GP and got a quick appointment. He ended up sending me to emergency to have it checked out, suspecting that I had gallstones.

I ended up at the Hermitage medical clinic around four of five o'clock, still in significant pain. They did some tests, and I spent a fair amount of time sitting around waiting, but eventually a doctor saw me and told me that I had an elevated white blood cell count and temperature. They wanted to admit me overnight and do some tests the next morning to check for early onset appendicitis - which was a bit of a baffling thing to hear given what I had said about past symptoms. But I was happy to stick around and have them figure out what was wrong with me if they could.

So I stayed overnight and got an ultrasound scan in the morning. It was then that I found out for sure that I did have gallstones. Finally, a cause for my symptoms! They made me hang around at the hospital for the rest of the day and overnight again, I think mostly to monitor that my symptoms had settled down properly. In the morning, the doctor stopped by and talked me through the procedure that I would need to get: a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Essentially, removing the gallbladder using keyhole surgery. But they couldn't perform it right away - they needed me to wait six weeks to let it get less inflamed. So I was sent home with instructions to stay on a low fat diet for the intervening period.

The surgery date was on Wednesday the 21st of January. Diane and I showed up at the hospital just before 8AM and got me checked in. There's a barrage of forms and questions you need to go through, with many of the questions asked several times (just in case you remember a crown you've got or an allergy you were forgetting). Pretty soon I was all set and was brought to the operating room.

The operating room had a staging area outside it. Both the door to the staging area and the room itself had big metal doors that slid open at the touch of buttons labeled "patient" and "staff". While in the staging area, they sat me down and got me to sign the consent form as well as outfit me with an IV in my hand. I was a little nervous at this stage (hey who wouldn't be?), but there wasn't much else to do except go through with it. Once the last preparation steps were done, they hit the patient door button and led me through to the operating table. The anaesthesiologist stepped up and set up my anaesthetic, and soon I had passed out.

When I came to, I was pretty groggy and don't really remember much except being tired. I don't really remember if someone woke me up or if I just came to on my own, but soon enough I could hear the nurse outside giving Diane a call to let her know that I was back awake. I don't know how long I would've been in surgery for, but they began something like 9:30 in the morning and I woke up after 1:00.

Once fully awake, the hospital staff set about prepping to discharge me. They gave me a little bit of toast and coffee which was pretty nice since I had fasted since dinner the previous night. In not too much time I was painfully getting dressed and Diane was driving me home! On to the healing.

The first couple days were pretty painful. There are four holes in my abs: three in a row just under my ribs and one right on my belly button. It's a little surprising how often you want to use your ab muscles to sit up. Okay, maybe not that surprising, but you sure notice how often you want to use them when they hurt so much! Each day has gotten remarkably better though and I'm starting to feel well enough that I might take on a walk outside tomorrow or the next day.

Diane has been taking really good care of me. I'm pretty glad she was able to return back to Dublin for a few weeks before she returns back to Canada (It's a long story, but her mom's knee surgery is now scheduled for the end of January). I think the first couple post-surgery days would've been awfully tough without her here, and she's been pretty patient with me making sure I have everything I need.

I have one more week off work. Given my healing progress so far, I imagine that'll be enough to get me back on my feet and back to work. In the meantime, I've already put quite a few hours into playing the latest Dragon Age game and will probably keep that going this week!