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Gallbladder Fun!

 

  
July 2007 sure has started with a bang.  Tuesday, the 3rd, found me in the bathroom at work writhing in some pretty intense agony.  The pain was among the most intense I'd ever felt and its location, just below my ribs on my right side, left me very confused.  My stomach is on my left, thus cramps from bad food or some stomach virus should be on that side, not the right.  But on the right it was.  And it hurt.  Bad.  Two rounds of cramps went through me on that day.  Then they went away.

I took in the 4th without issue or trouble or cramps.

Late in the afternoon on the 5th they came back.  Not quite as bad but still painful.  I was up most of the night as I simply could not lay down on my back or side in bed due to the pain radiating from my right side.  I made it in to work on the 6th and called my doctor's office.  I asked if there was anything going around of late and the internist there said that a stomach virus has been making the rounds.  She also said that it'd abate in two days or so.  Thus I decided that this is what it must be.  I went out and bought some Tums to deal with the upset stomach and that seemed to help.  Over the weekend I bought some Pepto-Bismol to do a better job of dealing with my stomach.  All to no avail.  The cramps continued.  I also noticed that my skin was taking on a definite yellowish cast.  At first I thought it might be the lighting in the bathroom that was making things appear yellowish in the mirror.  By Sunday's end it was too yellow to dismiss.  The dark yellow/brown of my urinations was also another sign.

Monday morning I went in to my doctor's office first thing.  On Friday the internist had said that if things hadn't improved by Monday I should drop by and they do some bloodwork.  I showed up, filled up a cup and then had some blood drawn.  Yet, because I didn't have an appointment and because my doc's schedule was full, she didn't think she could get me seen by him that morning.  She did agree that I looked a tad yellow.  She and I are going to have words about this.

I went off to work as I had work to do.  Once there however, I simply could not function due to the intense pain I was still having.  I looked up the nearest urgent care facilities and found one in nearby downtown Carlsbad.  I sucked it up in the waiting area and then for the one doc on duty to see me.  As soon as he laid eyes upon me he said "You are one sick man.  You need to get to an ER."  At last, some clarity of diagnosis!

I decided to go to Scripps Memorial Hospital in the UTC/ La Jolla area as it was closer to my home.  I first went home, gathered a change of clothes, a couple of books to read, my toiletries, and called a friend to take care of the the dog.  Then it was off to the ER.

It actually didn't take all that long before I was being checked over in an ultrasound exam.  Sure enough, there they were, gallstones in my gallbladder.  Not just one stone but a bunch.  Lucky me.  So, I was checked in and soon was in a bed up on the 7th floor of the West wing.  The next day, the 10th, I underwent an ERCP - Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography - to deal with the blockage.

You see, one of those gallstones had moved from my gallbladder and into the bile duct where it had become lodged.  This blocked the duct and prevented bile from flowing into the intestine.  The bile then backed up, filling the gallbladder, into the liver and then throughout my body.  The blockage was the cause of the cramps.  The backup of the bile was the cause of the yellowing of my skin and eyes. 

The ERCP was an odd thing.  I wasn't knocked out, just heavily sedated.  I don't remember the actual operation itself, just waiting around on the gurney on my stomach as they prepped me for the procedure.  It was very simple and minimally invasive thing.  It also worked like a charm.  I even got some pictures!

ERCP Image

The originals are in color and are part of my medical record there at Scripps.  One of my nurses there was kind enough to make this photocopy of the image.

Gallstone detail

That fourth image is the money shot.  Highlighted above is one of the gallstones that emerged once they opened the bile duct sphincter.  Apparently, as soon as they did that a number of gallstones simply fell out.  Lucky me!  Once the backed up bile had been expelled, Doctor Paredez inserted a stent to help keep the bile duct open wide enough for proper flow and to allow any other gallstones currently in the duct to pass.  This done, they pulled the endoscope out and called it a day.

The only after effects for me was a slightly sore throat and stomach.  That's it.  The pain, cramps, pressure and tenderness in that area went away.  I stayed in the hospital through that night and come the next afternoon I was wheeled into surgery to remove my gallbladder.  This to was done
endoscopicly. 

I was put under and then several holes were punched into my abdomen.  The largest was through my belly button and there are three other smaller ones scattered about my right side.  As Dr. Galloway described it to me, they pumped up my abdominal cavity with carbon dioxide.  This gave him a clearer view of what he was working on.  Using the various endoscopes he'd inserted into my torso, he then lifted the gallbladder up, clamped it off, and then snipped it off.  He then pulled it up through my bellybutton where he emptied it before pulling it all the way through.  With the gallbladder out it was a simple matter of pressing the CO2 out of my torso and then sealing up the various incisions.  That operation took just over an hour.  My time in the post-surgery recovery room took longer than the actual time on the slab.

I awoke there pretty disoriented and in no small amount of pain.  For some reason I thought all the clocks in the room read 08:30 and that I had two stomachs.  At least I wasn't puking from the anesthesia.  An administration of some nice painkiller meds soon eased the results of having four holes punched into my gut.  After about two hours I was considered in good enough shape to be wheeled back up to my room.  My night passed uneventfully.

The next morning, the 12th, was slow in passing but by early afternoon I was well enough to have my IV out, shower, and head home.  Yeah, that fast.  By late afternoon I was once again back at home.  I'm still in some mild pain with the incisions and will most likely remain so for some several days.  I've Vicodin for that however and those seem to work fine.  By now the jaundice has gone away and I look fully human again. 

In working up this page I did some Websearching and found a couple of good write ups on what gallbladder troubles are all about.  This page on the General Surgery Practice of New Jersey site does an excellent job of detailing the whole gallbladder thing from soup to nuts.  The ERCP page on the Johns Hopkins University site details what an
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is all about.

The end result of all this is that I am now out a full week's time off from work, have gone through an awful lot of pain, have four extra holes in my body, and am out my gallbladder. 
This has not been a great way to start this  month of July.


 
 



 

If you would like to know more about this adventure I had, then just ask!  Click on my email address here:
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This page was last updated on: 12 July 2007

 

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs and images on this page are copyright protected property of Madoc Pope.  If you would like to use any of my images you must contact me first before you do so.

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In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed your "stay" at this site.  Check back again to see what new images I have added.  Until then, stay well, play hard, play safe, and have fun!

Madoc