Thursday, January 3, 2013

Recovering from Gallbladder Surgery

O.k. - so here I am. Seven weeks out from my surgery and finally sitting down to write about my recovery. Once again, this is not a fun crafting, recipe or Lily Ruth post (although I WILL get back to those soon - promise.). This should be the last time I post about my gallbladder and subsequent lack thereof. I just want to put more information out there for folks who are looking for it.

Day 1: The day after surgery, I woke up feeling great. I made myself a smoothie from a blend that I had pre-made and frozen (very green and yummy) mixed with some yogurt. I drank it slowly and made a few phone calls. I had grand plans to have my grandmother take me out for lunch (she was my support person for the day), then I would pick up my pain prescription then maybe lounge about. I took a (very careful) bath. I got myself dressed and coiffed. Then I tanked. I called my grandmother and asked her to pick up my prescription. Then I hung up, stripped down and crawled into bed. My intestinal tract spent about ten minutes protesting the re-introduction of food after over 24 hours with only a very small amount of water. I situated myself in bed with a nest of pillow support and a hot pack. My entire belly ached. My wound track (navel to gallbladder internally) hurt. My right shoulder HURT (remember the referred pain that I talked about before?).

To back up for a second, back when I was a full time massage therapist, I experienced occupational pain on a daily basis. My right shoulder, arm and hand were miserable. I loved what I did, but I was existing on 4 Advil 3 times a day just to keep working. I obviously stopped the Advil when I became pregnant with Lily Ruth, but the only thing that stopped the pain was not working as a massage therapist full time. The pain that I experienced post-surgery was that same, agonizing, constant burn.

My grandmother brought my pain pills, and made potato soup for me. The soup went over very well with the remaining internal organs. I fell asleep hard for most of the afternoon.

My parents came over for dinner. I managed a small-ish, but normal portion of chicken casserole and steamed veggies. This also went over well with the digestive set. That made for my first two pain free meals in WEEKS, people.

Pain management: I took 1 Hydrocodone (I think it was 325 mg acetaminophen / 5 mg hydrocodone) every 4 hours. The prescribed maximum dose was 2 pills every 6 hours.

Day 2: I woke up in a lot of pain. I called my mama at work immediately, and when she asked me how I was doing, I snapped "I feel like someone yanked my gallbladder out through my belly button." I'm a delight.

She came over almost immediately - because she loves me, not because I am so charming - and brought me a rice-filled sock. If you are not familiar with the rice sock, you are missing out. All you need is a (clean) knee sock and a bag of rice, barley, flax seed, etc. Dump the grain into the sock then either tie the open end in a knot or sew it closed. I prefer to sew because then there is no knot to fiddle with, and you can stuff more rice into the sock. Once it is securely closed, you can heat it in the microwave - no more than 2 minutes at a time!!! - and apply it where you hurt. I used mine at the base of my ribs and under my pregnant belly. I also used it under my belly when I wanted to lie on my side. When you have been inflated with carbon dioxide then deflated and glued shut, you feel a bit 'sloshy' for a few days. Not unlike the sloshy feeling just after you give birth before stuff remembers where it belonged before it took up residence in your rib cage. In any case, I could not have rested on my side without support under my belly.

After she warmed me up and made soup for me (a family specialty ;-)), I felt enough better to sleep the afternoon away. Meals went fine all day.

Pain Management: 1 Hydrocodone every 4 hours.

Day 3: Overnight, I began to develop a reaction to Hydrocodone. Not surprising since I am allergic to Codeine. I began to itch. Not like a mosquito bite, but in a 'I may rip all of the skin off my legs' kind of way. I finally woke up enough to realize what was happening around 3 or 4 a.m. I almost started crying. I called my surgeon's office when they opened. They were sympathetic, but because I am pregnant and allergic to Codeine, there's nothing else that they could give me. I had to stop taking Hydrocodone, and tough it out with Tylenol.

I was up and around a little. Still sloshy, so moving slow. I made my own rice sock. Lily Ruth came home from her grandparent's house. I made Lily Ruth her own rice sock. She confiscated Nanny's rice sock and carried her two 'Snakeys' around non-stop.

Oh, and I conned a friend into bringing me coffee!!!!!! Well, she brought herself, her daughter and coffee. My first real clothing (no pajamas), sitting upright on the sofa visit! It was great. The coffee didn't hurt a bit!

Pain management: 500 mg Tylenol every 5 hours. Zofran for nausea.

Day 4: With Lily Ruth home, my morning was a bit busier, but her daddy took her to Parent's Day Out, and I rested most of the day.

Pain management: Tylenol, Zofran for nausea.

Day 5-6: Things were better each day. I was still moving slowly, but I was moving. Lots of resting, but I was still able to interact with my family.

o.k., so I mentioned that my navel had been filled with glue following my procedure. Well, it started to come loose over the weekend. It was awful. The glue had held everything in that general area very still. as it started to loosen, I was very nauseated and slightly alarmed. I knew intellectually that there was nothing going wrong, but it was a highly unpleasant sensation. I had a very strong urge to grab a tube of Crazy Glue and re-fill my navel. I did not give in to said urge.

Pain management: Tylenol, Zofran for nausea.

Day 7: I managed a short trip to the zoo with Lily Ruth in the morning, and had a quiet afternoon resting and playing around the house.

Day 8: I took Lily Ruth to meet some friends in the park during the morning. I waaaaaaay overdid it on the walking, and had to put my feet up for the rest of the day. I also accidentally slept for 2 hours in the afternoon. I swear - Lily Ruth is a SAINT. She only slept for part of that time. The rest of it was spent playing quietly next to me on my bed. I was in and out of awareness. Each time that I surfaced, the pile of toys on and around my body had grown.

I managed to cook my contributions to our upcoming Thanksgiving celebration during the evening without over-doing it.

Day 9: We drove to Houston (4+ hours) to spend Thanksgiving with Don's family. I could feel a knot of swelling just above my navel, and my entire wound track was very uncomfortable. It was a lousy drive :-( but worth it to see family.

Day 10: Thanksgiving Day - I could very clearly feel the surgical path from my navel to where my gallbladder used to reside. I had a lot of pain under my ribs (diaphragm?) and in my back. Luckily, I have an awesome extended family, so Lily Ruth was entertained by aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents in addition to daddy. She swam and sang karaoke for hours while I napped. I was able to eat and enjoy each and every part of the Thanksgiving feast, though!

Day 11: We drove home. This was a much better drive. I don't know if I was just better rested, or if 2 additional days of healing made that much difference, but it was definitely better :-) I could still feel a lump of either swelling or scar tissue (golf ball sized) just above my navel. It worried me.

Day 12: For whatever reason, I was irritated and nauseated all day, but I could still tell that things were improving.

Day 14 and 15: I still didn't fell 100% myself. I was upset that I could still feel a lump above my belly button, and I became fixated on my scar. I spent a lot of time worried that when my belly button 'popped' that there would be a thick, ropy, ugly, visible scar. I was frustrated that I had made it to the 2 week mark and still didn't feel completely healed.

Day 16: A BIG day. I had my anatomy scan scheduled, a visit with the midwives to review the results AND my post-surgical follow up visit with the surgeon. As you could have predicted, I was running behind, so I raced through my morning ablutions - including wound care) and ran out the door. During my visit with my surgeon, I started to whine about my lump / ugly scar worries. He took a look and said 'what are you talking about?! That is a beautiful incision!' I felt around on it (for the first time that day), and he was right! It had changed totally. The lump was gone, and the scar was thin and faint. I apologized for deriding his good work. He accepted and released me into the wild with no further recommendations  My only follow up from here is to bring the baby boy by for viewing when he's ready :-)

This was my first day of feeling really good in a very long time. Part of it was (I'm sure) the abundance of great news, but I was on the go from 9 a.m. until after 4:30 p.m., and I was fine. No bone-crushing exhaustion. No debilitating or worrying pain.

Luckily, that trend has continued. Aside from normal pregnancy (tiredness and weird stretching) stuff, I feel great. I eat without fear. I don't take medication of any kind on a regular basis.

I truly believe that I made the right choice for me - even though it was really scary - in having the surgery while pregnant. I am healthy. My baby is healthy. I am fully able to take care of my family (something that I was losing the ability to do because I had to spend so much time and energy on pain).

So that's what I have to say about that.


  1. I would like to thank for giving this advice and i got a good knowledge, most of them easily can know about how to recover in gall blader gurgery

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