Going Under The Knife — Again

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

It has been several weeks since my last posting; once again, I have been extremely busy with work, both for my job and around the house. I also have been somewhat lacking in subjects to write about, but hopefully this will improve in the coming weeks. Of course, not all of the subjects are exciting or pleasant; such is the case with today’s posting.

One evening near the end of March, I developed what I first thought was a case of indigestion a couple of hours after dinner. I spent the next several hours attempting to relieve a constant pain that seemed to be just below my sternum (for those less medically inclined, this is the bone that runs down your chest that your ribs are attached to). I tried a variety of remedies – antacid tablets, water, even attempting to vomit – but nothing seemed to help. Finally, at 1am I did something I have never done before: I asked my wife to take me to the local hospital’s emergency room.

Once I entered the ER, the staff seemed to swarm all around me… even though the pain was in my stomach, because I had coronary bypass surgery in 2009 they were required first and foremost to run tests to determine if it was heart related. They quickly ruled that out, and so they started looking for other reasons for my discomfort. After three hours of poking, prodding, medicating, testing, and even being ultrasounded all around my lower abdomen, the verdict was in: I had suffered a gall bladder attack. What’s more, the ultrasound indicated my gall bladder was filled with “sludge”, which apparently is the first stage in the development of gallstones. The ER doctor gave me some very strong antacids (think “industrial strength Maalox®”) to relieve the pain (which it did), then told me to keep taking more antacids at home and check with my regular doctor as soon as possible. His own recommendation was that I consider having it removed.

After getting home and having a very short night of sleep, I called my doctor’s office and explained what had happened the night before. The scheduling nurse found an opening in his calendar to get me in the next day. When I went in to visit my doctor, he had already reviewed the report and test results from my ER visit, and used the same word as the ER doctor to describe what they found in my gall bladder: sludge. Always trying to find at least some humor in my situation, I remarked, “I’m beginning to feel like an old car engine!” We discussed the options, and his recommendation concurred with the ER doctor’s – it was best for me to have it removed. He referred me to a surgeon to discuss it even further and to learn about the procedure.

I visited the surgeon a few days later, and once again I heard that now-familiar term: sludge. His recommendation after reviewing all the results was the same as the two previous doctors: remove it.  He discussed more about what my options were, how the procedure works, and what I could expect to happen following the surgery. He then left me to decide whether or not to go through with it. After some deliberations within my head and discussion with my wife, I decided to go ahead with the procedure.

The date is set for tomorrow, April 20th, at 7:30am. I have to arrive at 6am to be prepped for surgery. The plan is to use a laparoscopic procedure; this involves making about four small incisions into me and using special scopes and instruments to go in and remove the gall bladder. However, if they find it cannot be removed that way, they will immediately switch to a more traditional procedure and “cut me open” to remove it. Either way, I expect to be sleeping while they work on me; I will learn what they ended up doing when I wake up.

Which one they use will be important for my recovery; if their first procedure works, then I will probably be allowed to go home the same day and actually resume a somewhat-normal life the next morning. If they have to switch to the second procedure, I could end up staying an additional one to three days in the hospital and my recovery at home will take much longer.

How do I feel about what is about to happen to me? Well, I am nervous; I would think it strange if I was not at least a little apprehensive about someone poking around inside me. I am a bit anxious as well, mostly from not knowing whether they will be successful with the first procedure or if they will have to use the second. If there is one thing I do feel comfortable with, it is that I know the doctors, nurses, and staff at the hospital will do their very best to take care of me. When I had bypass surgery almost two years ago I spent six days in the hospital; there wasn’t a moment when I felt neglected or unimportant to anyone there. The physical location of the hospital may have changed since then, but I have no reason to think the staff is any less professional than before.

And so, my readers, I am off to prepare for tomorrow… a little nervous and a little anxious, but confident everything will work out for the best. I hope to be back soon with an update.

UPDATE (4/28): The laparoscopic procedure was a success, and I was able to go home later in the day. It has been over a week since my gall bladder was removed, and I have had absolutely no complications or issues with eating any of my usual foods and snacks.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 at 10:38 pm and is filed under Today's Reality. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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