Recovering From a Gall Bladder Removal

Recovering From a Gall Bladder Removal

photos taken by dooce

Well. Six days of intense gut pain and I’m mostly standing. I’ve got a little bit to share, in the hopes that somebody out there might find this helpful and/or have some tips for the next little bit of my life. We pick up the scene at approximately 10am, Thursday, June 2, 2011 where I was about to crack a joke on Twitter about how the staff were mumbling about “the goods”. I decided to hold off on that tweet for a moment and as I saved it into the drafts folder, the anesthesiologist and the residents came in to talk about what was going to happen next.

The IV went in just fine. One of the best in the past months of being stuck countless times for blood draws, scans and a number of procedures and tests leading up to this surgery. I’m convinced that most medical professionals contain a tiny bit of sadistic bent and this is evident when called upon to draw blood, give an injection and/or insert an IV. This doc was kind.

Prepping for surgery

After going over the procedure, I kissed Heather and they wheeled me into the operating room (OR) and placed a mask over my face. As part of the wheel-in, they gave me some chill out meds to calm me down. I was assured that this was standard operating procedure.

After a moment, I was out. The next thing I remember was struggling to wake in recovery. I kept hearing very loud beeps and a surly nurse telling me I needed to breathe on my own. For the rest of the day, I was terrified of sleeping, even though I nodded off more than a few times.

After what seemed like hours, they wheeled me into the recovery room, which consisted of a recliner and a chair or two. When I stood up from the recovery bed to move to the chair, I just about passed out from the pain. It was severe. Heather was called into the room and the concerned looks she gave me let me know that something hadn’t gone quite to plan.

She mentioned that I had been in surgery for two hours because they found a lot of scarring going on around my gall bladder, and to remove that tissue took extra time. I didn’t know this until yesterday, but Heather says I was in the recovery room for another two hours trying to breathe on my own.

I haven’t experienced stomach pain as severe as I had that day. Standing up was brutal. Sitting was brutal. The only comfort was the two Lortabs they gave me and laying as horizontally as possible. They had slowed my saline drip for most of the day and after we expressed that we wanted to go home, they finally drained it into me quickly. When they did that, I began to feel a tiny bit better. I did not want to spend a night in the hospital. The notion of “getting rest” in a hospital is folly. They wake you all the time, all the monitoring gear gets in the way of sleep and the bed is noisy. I didn’t want a night of all of that.

Finally, at 6:30pm or so, Heather wheeled me out of the hospital, me clutching a barf bag and trying to keep it together. We got home okay, but getting in and out of the car was an ordeal. Getting upstairs to bed was an ordeal. I sat on the bed and barfed into the barf bag, breaking a 6.5 year barf-free record, one of my best barf-free periods. Pure bile. Disgusting. I immediately felt better and ate a slice of toast with peanut butter. I hadn’t eaten for 24 hours at that point. I took my meds and went to sleep on my back, as any other position made the shot put in my gut feel like it was crushing the remaining organs.

I’ve felt a little better each day, with the exception of today. I tried to be up more yesterday and I think I pushed it too far. I should have spent more time horizontal. I’m sitting in my desk chair writing this and I’ll be honest, I’m ready to lie down.

I took the pain meds for Friday and Saturday, but started to get off them Sunday, only taking them before bedtime. I’m thinking I’ll take a couple today, because I’m exhausted. From sitting.

Side effects:

  • Gut bomb feeling. I can sleep on my left side, but not my right. At first I thought this was gas/bowel pain, but I think it’s just post-surgery pain. Whenever I move, it feels like a shot put is rolling around in there.
  • Shoulder pain. This was described to me as a well-known side effect from having my abdomen inflated to make room for the laparoscope and other surgery tools. Apparently, despite best efforts to remove the air from the gut, some can remain and travel to the right shoulder area. I’ve definitely experienced that.
  • Phantom radiant pains. For me it has manifest as esophagus pain, rib pain and right shoulder pain, similar to what I’ve been experiencing prior to surgery.
  • I still can’t sit up straight for too long. There is a sweet spot, but I can’t stay there too long before I have to adjust my position.
  • Gas. Severe, debilitating and painful. Burps are happening with more frequency. Farts are intense. I’ve had Heather in stitches from laughing so hard. Who knew that the ticket to family comedy hour was surgery? I’m going to have to replace several pairs of drawers as well as bedsheets. Horrible gas.
  • Pain med nausea. Only if I don’t sleep it off.
  • After meal upset stomach, feeling like I did before surgery for a couple of hours, depending on what I’ve eaten.
  • Constipation. I’ve been drinking a ton of water with Miralax and that has helped immensely.


I’m hopeful that the rest of the week will mean a gradual return to normalcy, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen, given how long I was under and the complications that arose.

The worst part of all of this is that I’m not supposed to pick up anything heavier than a gallon of milk for another week at least and Marlo wants me to pick her up and hug her all the time. Pain.
UPDATE: Other posts about my Gallbladder:

Gallbladder Removal: Post-Op Week 3 – 4

Recovering From Gallbladder Surgery: Post-op visit with surgeon

Gastroenterology and Me

Gastroenterology and Me II: Red, White & Blonde

Gastroenterology & Me III: Gut 3D

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