Bye, Bye, Gallbladder

I had surgery on Monday to have my gallbladder removed. I’d been having “issues” with it for quite some time, and this past December, I found out why: it was functioning abnormally. It wasn’t the one, large stone I had in it. It just wasn’t working. And I was paying for it mostly with pain and nausea. No matter how bland I ate, the pain and nausea were constant. Every day. For hours sometimes. It wasn’t fun.

I scheduled the surgery for May 14 since I didn’t want to take time during a regular semester. Turns out, my uncle also had surgery the same day, to repair a hernia. So Monday became a family event. My mom was a bundle of nerves, repeating the same story over and over again. I wasn’t too nervous. Ironically, the thing that had me the most nervous was the idea of having a foley catheter put in. Forget surgery. Forget removal of an organ. Forget the anesthesia. Nope. It was the foley catheter. The nurse laughed when I asked about it, but thankfully, it wasn’t necessary. For some reason, that really freaks me out.

The last time (and the only time) I’ve had surgery, was when I was 9. My appendix ruptured and I had to have emergency surgery, twice. I don’t remember much about that surgery, only that I had recently been to the beach and gotten burned so much that, during recovery, my skin peeled off. And I remember I had my favorite PJ, a teal-and-white colored gown with some ruffles on the bottom and a pink bow towards the top. I think it made me feel like a princess; that’s why I liked it. I don’t remember the pre-op or post-op. Just my peeling skin and my princess PJ.

Since then, I’d only had an endoscopy once, ten years ago, and that was outpatient. No big deal.

This time, I was more aware of what was going on. I wasn’t nervous; I just wanted to be knocked out already and get it over with. It was done laprasopically, with a robot, and I really only have one incision (in the belly button) and another tiny puncture. They glue it now so there are no stitches or bandages.

I had to wait, though. Initially, I was scheduled for 8:30 AM. Then it got moved to 1, then 1:30 by the preceding Friday. I got to the hospital on time, got into the pre-op area on time, only to be told, once I was ready with my IVs and all, that we’d have to wait yet another hour. I read to pass the time (I started reading Amanda Hocking’s Trylle trilogy), while my husband sat next to me and my mother tended to my uncle. Crazy day.

I don’t remember much after they said we were ready. I think I was dreaming. It was a dark, still sleep but I think I was still dreaming, though of what I can’t be sure because right when I realized I was dreaming, I came to, with the realization that a tube was being removed from my mouth. And I started having a panic attack. Panic/anxiety attacks are bad enough when you’re awake: the heat, pressure, the lack of air, the unrelenting beating of the heart against the chest. It’s like drowning and trying to break the surface, to get air, to breathe, to live. Imagine that, but still sedated, unable to move, arms and eyes unresponsive. Aware of what’s going on (like I have a tube shoved down my throat) but unable to react. It was horrible. In retrospect, it looks like the anesthesia wore off too soon, something I’m going to have to remember for any future surgeries (though, God willing, I won’t have any more).

Recovery in the post-op room was slow and painful. I felt neglected, in and out of consciousness, and vaguely aware of the gnawing pain in my throat (from the tube) and in my belly. I couldn’t speak to ask for medicine, and for a while, I was alone, the nurse attending other patients. I remember shadows and shards of those three hours.

But recovery since has been going well. I stayed overnight in the hospital. I kept liquids and food down, didn’t throw up, and began walking fairly quickly. I was released the next morning with a prescription for Percocet that wasn’t working for me. I’m weird like that. Drugs that work for others have absolutely no effect on me. The pain would get worse, actually. It’s frustrating, especially when I’d tell the nurses and they didn’t believe me, like I was just looking for stronger painkillers, looking for an addiction. Even when I stressed that I didn’t need something stronger, I needed a different type of medicine, they didn’t believe me. So I came home and took ibuprofen, 800 mg, and it’s been working.

Though I don’t like having surgery, there are a few perks that come with it:

1) no more pain and nausea and frustrations with eating

2) I’ve lost 5 pounds since the surgery

3) I can rest, and I spend most of the day in peace and quiet while my son’s at school. Hours of time just for me, to rest, read, catch up on Glee, grade and, most importantly, write.

But seriously, I hope to never have to do this again.

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