Gallbladder - The Full Story

I made a post about my near death experience with gallbladder surgery about 3 years ago.  But, it was not as in depth as what I posted on Hubpages of which I no longer post articles.  I thought it would be  a good time to post it here and delete it on HubPages.  You can read the other gallbladder post HERE.  As stated, I made that post here on David's Musings back in March of 2011.


Gall Bladder Pain

Incredible Pain

About 6 months ago, I noticed pain in the very pit of my stomach. This usually happened after a brisk workout on my treadmill. I don't do the ordinary treadmill workout. I use 10lb dumbbells in each hand (negating ability to hold onto the hand rails) and wear a 20lb vest. So, in my own mind, I was simply saying to myself that I had pulled a muscle. I was doing something not even doctors will do; I was diagnosing my pain. As the weeks went by, the pain would become more acute. I noticed the pain would startup after eating. I have acid reflux. So, I thought this was just a symptom that would go away after taking a couple of teaspoons of Carafate. Carafate would give temporary relief of the pain.

This pain would make itself known and then, inexplicably, it would go away for days, weeks even. But, in the depths of my alleged mind , I knew something was wrong. I just couldn't bring myself to admit what was wrong. Stomach cancer? I admit that thought crossed my mind. If it was hurting this bad, it was probably already too late for me. I still ignored the pain. As time marched on, I noticed the pain was starting to shift. The pain was shifting toward my right side. Oh, I still had pain in the pit of my stomach. The thought then occurred to me that I possibly had stomach ulcers. Yeah! That made sense to my addled mind . My father had a history of stomach ulcers. So, yes, that is what I have. I just simply have to watch what I eat and continue taking the Carafate when the pain became too much. The problem here is that I did get some relief from taking the Carafate. That reinforced my belief in my own diagnosis; stomach ulcers and/or acid reflux. It was a perfect storm brewing toward the inevitable conclusion.

On Friday night, September 25, 2010, I ate some Jello chocolate pudding. Almost before I finished eating, I started experiencing incredible pain in the pit of my stomach. The pain was coming in waves. I started having spasms. I have had back surgery. I have had hemorrhoid surgery. The latter of the two is still number one in pain. But, this pain I was having, on that particular Friday night, was in a category all by itself. Despite pleas from my sister to go to the emergency room, I toughed it out. After about four hours, the pain subsided. I thought I was in the clear. No more Jello chocolate pudding for me! I was incredibly stupid to think I was past the pain.

Two days later, on Monday, the pain came back. It wasn't as bad as it was on the Friday night mentioned above. But, it was now clear this pain wasn't going away. I was still diagnosing myself as having stomach ulcers that would simply go away. Again, Tuesday morning, the pain went away. But, this time, I decided to call my primary care physician (at long last ) and make an appointment. I was convinced this was either acid reflux or the sainted stomach ulcers. Tuesday night went pretty smooth. No real pain. Sure, there was some discomfort in my right side. But, it was nothing I couldn't handle at the time. Everything changed the next morning.

Wednesday morning, I awoke with the same horrific pain in my stomach. I was now sure (finally) this wasn't just stomach ulcers or acid reflux. As the morning wore on, I became violently sick. I started vomiting and nothing would come up. At about 11AM, I stood up to go to the bathroom. The next thing I know, paramedics are working on me in our hallway. I passed out and don't remember ever hitting the floor. I don't remember a lot of what happened over the next 10-15 minutes as the paramedics worked on me. I do remember someone saying "gall bladder. " The thought of my gall bladder being the problem never occurred to me one time. The next thing I remember was answering questions about my insurance in the emergency room as I lay withering in pain on the hard examining table. My nephew was there to assist in giving out all information. But, I honestly don't remember saying much. My nephew said my response to some of the questions were a step out of character for me. I'm normally an easy going guy. But, he said I was giving profane, sarcastic answers to questions about my health. I just don't remember any of it. I feel bad about it now. The nurse was just trying to do her job.

The next step I had to have an ultrasound and other tests to find out the problem. I do not remember any of it. I must have been really doped up by this time. As it turns out, I had a very swollen gall bladder that a surgeon told me later was within 24-36 hours of bursting. He also said it was swollen with gangrene . He told me if it had burst and spread the poisonous gangrene over my vital organs...it would have killed me. That was a very sobering moment for me. I didn't even know what to say to the doctor. My own stupidity, my own "diagnosis " nearly cost me my life. I would have had no one to blame but myself. Of course, I wouldn't have had time to blame myself since I would have been dead. You go your whole life thinking you are reasonably intelligent. You go on in life feeling that you take care of yourself. I felt that way simply because I do exercise very frequently. As I realize now, I took better care of my car and truck than I did my own body . That is a hard, bitter pill to swallow. It's something I am still having a difficult time coming to terms with right now.

I was kept doped up all Wednesday night. I was given drip that did something to my bladder to keep it from endangering my life. I have no idea what that was. It was a long, thought provoking night for me. I still thought how stupid i was for not going to the doctor sooner about the stomach pain. Early the next morning, I was prepped for surgery. This was about 6AM. At 9AM I was wheeled into the OR. Something different happened before I was given anesthesia. The surgeon prayed for me, along with nurses prior to "going under. " I believe in God. I just don't go to church any longer. So, with that done, the anesthesiologist asked me a question I will always remember; "Do you see purple clouds, David ?" I don't remember giving an answer. The next thing I recall, I am in recovery. I remember someone asking me if I woke up during surgery!!! I said, "Are you joking? No, of course not !"

I was in the hospital for four days. That is about two days longer than usual for this type of operation. I had problems with nausea and received untold number of antibiotics while laying down in the hospital bed contemplating my near death experience. Maybe I'm making too much of that. It did appear that all the doctors and even some nurses told me I was mighty close. I came close to death once before as a young man in the U.S. Navy (which I will share at a later date in another category). I have no reason to believe they were exaggerating my brush with death. Maybe they just wanted me to be scared enough to never trust my own instincts again when it comes to my health. But, it was a very unnerving experience for me. It is not an experience I want to go through again. If I ever have any kind of pain in the future...I will go straight to my primary care doctor.

Presently, I am still recovering ten days after my surgery. I am having some minor problem with being lightheaded. I am told this is normal after an operation. Regardless, I'm not going to just let this go by. I intend to see my primary care physician in the morning about this. The pain of the incisions is very acute when I first get up in the morning. But, as I move around during the day, the pain seems to dissipate quite a bit. I have Lortabs to take. But, as yet, I have not taken any. I really don't like taking pain medication if I can get by without it. The surgeon's assistant removed the clips and drain bottle (that...was horrible ) this past Friday. So, I'm slowly getting my health back.

Lesson from all this? It should be obvious by now. Never, never, never try to diagnose yourself. I thought I was smarter than this. I am not as smart as I thought I was, apparently. I have great insurance and, as a nurse told me "USE IT FROM NOW ON! " As I look back on this experience, I now believe it was more my disdain for hospitals (more so than anything else ) as being an inhibiting factor to get a professional medical opinion on my stomach pain. My disdain almost cost me my life at age 59. I want to live longer, maybe even a lot longer. The only way I will do that is to use what little common sense I have left at this age. People have often told me, "You have a lot of gall.... " My answer henceforth; "Not any longer."


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