A Holiday Gallbladder Story

There’s not many things that go as well together as the Holidays and Gallbladders, eh?

They’re like crackers and cheese, hugs and kisses.

Or not.

More like salted caramel on eggs (oh yea, that was for you Big Brother)

Let me tell you.  The last thing you want to deal with around the holiday season is any sort of gallbladder issue.

And boy oh boy do I know from experience.

It all started on Thanksgiving.

We had an amazing Thanksgiving this year.  It was so nice to have Ariadne at an age where she really is engaging in the holidays.  We played, we cooked, we ate.  It was fabulous.  Especially the food.  The food was fabulous.

And so after dinner, while the boys were clearing the kitchen (one of the major pluses of being one of the cooks, the men clean up!) I posted this picture to my Instagram feed with the caption – “Post thanksgiving dinner relaxing at its best”

And that right there sealed my fate.  But fate gave me a few more hours of bliss.

I’ve never been one for Black Friday shopping.

Maybe it was the wine.  Maybe the free spirit of a great day.  Maybe my minds way of knowing that something bad was about to happen.

Regardless, my Mum and I had the same thought at the same moment – “Let’s go Black Friday shopping!  You know, just to see what it’s all about”

So in the middle of the night we took off.   We shopped, nothing crazy, but this mama brought home a bomb.com JCrew dress for uber cheap.

At about 1:30am, at Target, I started feeling off.

My chest started feeling tight.

It was a feeling I’d had about 7 times since birthing Ariadne.

Immediately I told my Mum we had to get home, because I knew exactly what was going to happen.

She asked me what all this was about, since I had not mentioned it over the last 18 months.  I just explained it was a weird pain, one I could only associate with my rib cage expanding during pregnancy.  That’s what I thought it was.  For the last 18 months I had drawn the conclusion that these episodes were just body pains, normal body pains.  They would come on every other month or so, always in the middle of the night while I was sleeping (or nursing, like the first time I felt it), would last about half an hour (time duration increasing with the frequency of the pain episodes) and nothing would make it better.  Nothing.

I got home, laid in bed and immediately started realizing it was worse than it had ever been.  I started to panic.  At this point I was in the most intense pain of my life and couldn’t get any relief.

I woke The Hubs and told him that it was happening, again.  We talked over my symptoms while I was trying to think through the pain, and came to the conclusion that it must be indigestion.  I begged him to run out to get me something for it, tums, antacid, something.

He woke up my Mum, who was thankgoodness spending the night that night.  She came in as I was now sobbing through it and immediately knew this was something more serious.

For the first time I heard the words gallbladder attack.

I had no idea what that was, or why I would be having it.  No, this was most definitely indigestion.

So The Hubs left to pick me up some relief.  But it didn’t do anything.

And then I started begging for an epidural.

It.was.that.bad.

Worse than childbirth people.

My smart Mum started googling “Gallbladder Attack”

And when she read the symptoms; chest pain, increasing intensity, happens at night, radiating around the back, pain.worse.than.childbirth – I went “That’s IT!”

The problem was, there were no recommendations for things to relieve the pain.  Just wait it out and then see a specialist to discuss having the organ removed.

Everything we read said that attacks shouldn’t last longer than three hours.  At this point I was hovering around the 3.5 hour mark.

I didn’t want to do it, but I made the call to go to the ER.  I just couldn’t do it anymore and started to worry that maybe I was having complications from the attack.

Off we went.

And wouldn’t you know, within five minutes of checking in, the pain disappeared.

But still, I found myself posting this picture

Immediately upon seeing the doctor and describing my symptoms, he nodded and replied “gallbladder.”  Multiple tests later, and we had a confirmed diagnosis.

I had pesky gallstones, which were causing my gallbladder to constrict painfully causing the attacks.  There was no known reason for the stones, although it is more common for pregnant women to develop stones, which makes sense to me since this all started right after I gave birth.

The only known treatment was surgery.   Otherwise, you just deal with the attacks.  I was given some muscle relaxants to take if I had another attack before having surgery.

Over the next few weeks I met with a surgeon, and heavily considered my options.  I didn’t want surgery.

But I was absolutely terrified of the next attack.   Would the next one last 6 hours?  I knew I couldn’t handle another attack if they kept getting worse.

I still couldn’t pull the trigger though.   So I scheduled surgery for late January, giving me time to process and cancel if I changed my mind.

Ten days later I had another attack.  And promptly decided that I couldn’t wait until January.

So I re-booked surgery, this time, for one week before Christmas.  Worst timing possible, but I just needed it out, as soon as they could.

I was truly lucky that I did that, because in the week before my surgery, I had two more attacks.  On surgery day, I practically ran into the O.R – begging “Just take it ouuuuut!”

It was sucky to have to get surgery right before Christmas, but honestly, it was the best decision I ever made.  Gallbladder attacks are scary, and ridiculously painful.  It’s really quite unfortunate that there is not much else to do, other than remove it. But luckily, with advanced surgical technology, and a very good surgeon, the aftermath of the surgery is not that bad.

Some patients have very bad episodes after having their gallbladder out – but I was lucky – after about a week, I was symptom free, and seriously feeling better than I had in years.

It’s funny how you can go so long without realizing that something was wrong, but as soon as the problem is eradicated  you realize how much of a problem it must have been.

Let this post serve as a warning – don’t ignore chest pains.

It’s not always indigestion.

Oh and if you need a really cute surgeon – errrr – I mean – a really talented surgeon… Shoot me a call…

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2 thoughts on “A Holiday Gallbladder Story

  1. My husband has been dealing with what we think are gallbladder stones for a couple years now, so I am curious as to who your surgeon was! (We also live in the valley, but on the west side so not sure he’d work for us, but maybe!) Also, did you have to have a referral to see the specialist? My husband doesnt have a primary care physician and it is like pulling teeth trying to find one around here accepting new patients. So im really hoping we can skip that and go straight to a specialist and hopefully get this nightmare solved once and for all!

    • Hi Taryn!

      I’m going to email you the info – We are also on the west side, so I think my surgeon could be a great option!

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