Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gallbladder Surgery Recovery...

It's officially been 4 days since my gallbladder was removed via laparoscopic cholecystectomy.  Overall, the surgery was successful.  The surgeon was concerned that he might find small stones in the ducts because of the location of my pain, as well as some of my pancreas/liver enzymes.  During my surgery, he took an xray of the ducts to ensure that nothing was in there attempting to pass.  If he did find more stones, I would have had another procedure the following day to remove those.  Luckily, the ducts were clear, so the only procedure I needed was the gallbladder removal.

Since I was an add-on surgery, it was a long wait on Wednesday to meet with a surgeon and finally get confirmation that they could squeeze me on the OR list for that same day.  Finally, around 3:30, they came in to get me and wheeled me down to pre-op, where they confirmed my identity approximately thirty-three times!  As I told Nick, Alzheimer patients must really have difficulty with this part of the procedure.  Around 4pm, I was rolled into the OR... or as I like to call it, the icebox!  Within minutes of being in the room, I was out cold.  When I woke up in recovery, the first thing I asked the nurse was about the other stones.  She told me that she didn't have any of the details from my surgery and didn't know.  Luckily, I was reunited with Nick shortly after I woke up.  He had spoken with the surgeon and knew that no other stones were found.  The surgeon also cleared me to go home that evening if I was able to get up, move around, eat/drink, etc.  He had previously told me that he was doubtful that I would want to go home that night.  I was out to prove him wrong!  

The biggest "pain" I had after the surgery was the gas traveling up to my shoulders and back.  I had Nick rubbing away at my shoulders hoping to break up all those air bubbles trapped from the surgery.  Within a few hours of arriving back to my room, I was inhaling saltines (I hadn't eaten in 24+ hours) and chugging down apple juice.  I took my first few steps around the room and then started wandering the halls of the hospital.  I wanted home!!!  The nurse looked at me like I was crazy when I told her I wanted to be discharged.  But, she paged the surgical resident, who came up to take a look at me and declared me healthy enough to head home.  Nick ran out to fill a script for some pain medication while everyone completed my discharge paperwork.  

Our biggest "thank goodness" moment was when my hospital roommate also arrived back from surgery around 11:30pm... and was accompanied by half of her family, including several small children.  Something tells me that I would not have gotten a lot of sleep had I stayed in that room that evening!  I may have muttered something about insane visiting hours on my way out of the hospital and was told that there were no set visiting hours at the hospital.  So, it's acceptable to have 10 people pack into your shared post-op room at midnight?!?  INSANE!  Hence, thank goodness that I was able to be discharged because it would have been a very long night in that hospital.

We arrived home shortly after midnight and tip-toed around to try not to wake Georgia or the Brodeurs, who had kindly entertained our child all day long.  I was pleasantly surprised that I could walk fairly easily.  Much easier than after my c-section surgery.  The only difficult part was twisting or bending.  I took my pain meds, climbed into bed and actually slept fairly well that first night.  I think everyone was fairly surprised to see me climb down the steps the next morning and join everyone in the kitchen for breakfast.  Happy 4th of July to me!

Recovery seems to be going okay.  I have 3 small holes right under my bra line and one larger incision in my belly button area.  The 3 small holes burned a bit the first few days, but I don't even feel them at this point.  They still have steri-strips on them and I assume those will stay until my post-op appointment.  My belly button is a different story - the larger incision is covered with a steri-strip, but also includes a softball sized bruise that is very tender and sore.  I'm assuming my gallbladder must have left my body from that hole.  I've had an ice pack on/off my belly button the past few days to help with the swelling and burning sensation.  The most frustrating thing is that I can't lift up Georgia and have been told that I shouldn't lift anything heavier than 15lbs for one month.  It's really difficult when you're child is screaming crying and just wants her Mommy to lift her up for a hug and I cannot do it.  I'm trying to be a good patient.  

Overall, I think that the recovery is much easier than a c-section.  I stopped taking the pain meds after the first day and have survived on Tylenol since that time.  The hardest physical movement is getting up from sitting or getting out of bed, but that motion is slowly getting easier.  I'm anxious to get moving again, so my mom and I took a quick trip to the farmer's market this morning to stretch my legs and get some fresh air and veggies!  I can't wait to meet with the doctor to talk about when I can start to exercise again... even if it is just getting cleared to walk on the treadmill.  Standing is actually easier than sitting in some positions, so I want to get moving again.  I think being in decent shape pre-surgery is probably helping with my recovery.

As for recommendations for other people having the surgery... I read lots of blog posts before the surgery and I completely agree with everyone else that said that getting up and moving ASAP after surgery was vital!  I was up and walking within 2 hours of being back in my room and I think that made a huge difference.  I didn't have the horrible gas pains for days that some people talked about.  They were definitely present immediately after surgery, but quickly went away within a few hours.  I can still feel gas moving around in there when I lay down or move around, but it's not "painful" vs uncomfortable.  So far, I've eaten a pretty bland diet.  I don't want to aggravate anything in there and I'm still a little hesitant knowing that certain things seemed to have set off the attacks in the first place.  Although I doubt I'd have another attack as painful as those I experienced last week, I don't want to push it.  As Nick said, my gallbladder looked like a snow globe on the ultrasound - if I rolled, the snow/gallstones moved all around.  My only regret is not asking to see the stones after surgery!  I would have liked to have seen those little suckers!!


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