So my year started off okay and then took a somewhat dramatic turn that saw me in the hospital with a necrotic gall bladder.
I’m not even making that up.
So, two weeks ago I had surgery to remove my gall bladder and check on a blockage in my bile duct.
I’ve had the odd pain attack over the past year or so but nothing that lasted before disappearing for a few months. Then the first week of January I had a really bad night with abdominal pain. Up all night in pain.
It passed and it’s generally impossible to get a GP appointment. I was enjoying my week off work so I didn’t push for one either. And I was fine until the Sunday.
First Trip To A&E
Then Sunday evening the pain comes back, not as bad, but more than just uncomfortable. I manage to get some sleep though and wake up and go to work in the morning. I lasted an hour and a half, deleted some emails and packaged some eBay items (we have a work eBay to raise money, I work for a charity. And I also spent ten minutes lying on the floor on my stomach to try and ease the pain. While I was at work, I called the GP and he told me to come in and see him.
He thought it was my gall bladder, took some blood, scheduled me in for an ultrasound to confirm and I went home.
But the pain got worse and around half seven in the evening my sister came and took me to A&E. My wife came too and my toddler went to our friends across the road.
Let me be clear, in my entire adult life, I have been to A&E for myself just once before after self-harming while drunk.
They checked the bloods the GP had ordered earlier, a little off, but without an ultrasound, they couldn’t confirm gall stones. They gave me a diclofenac suppository which worked great but do not recommend lol) and sent me home around midnight. By that time I was still in pain but it was bearable. I was lying on a bed in a corridor anyway because there were no beds for me.
I went home, slept, work up the next day to call in sick and went back to sleep again.
Back To The Hospital
Then the vomiting started. I managed to keep down a cracker or two but then at half seven, not even that, then by half eleven, not even water. So I called for an ambulance on the advice of NHS Direct. They sent a taxi for me around 2am (no ambulances were available and I didn’t need one, I just couldn’t get a lift or get a taxi of my own cause no one was bloody answering the phone). I left my pregnant wife and toddler at home, they needed to sleep, I needed medical care.
My blood work was worse, by a factor of thirty apparently, and I was so dehydrated I had to have IV fluids. They thought they might operate that day but changed their minds when they realised I possibly had a blockage somewhere. However, I managed to eat and drink and the pain was bearable again. Sleep was hard cause I was surrounded by little old ladies who didn’t sleep much and I couldn’t find a comfortable position to lie in. Mostly I listened to Netflix on my headphones ’til I dozed off until the doctor prescribed me some lorazepam.
My wife brought my toddler to see me every day at visiting. He coped really well considering his bow was in the hospital and not at home with him. He only had one tantrum when he realised he would not be seeing me for a second day in a row (no buses on Sunday and Monday I was in surgery).
I had three IV bags of fluids, three different antibiotics, IV paracetamol and Oramorph liquid.
I had an ultrasound, and they thought I had about five stones. But you can see a blockage on the ultrasound and that’s what they thought was causing the infection which wasn’t really shifting even if the symptoms were.
I had an MRI on the Friday. Or I was going to. I’ve had two MRIs before, but on my ankle and my knee. I’ve never been in head first before. And they strapped me in and as soon as I was in I had a panic attack and had to come back out. I blame a few things, I hadn’t slept much the night before as my neighbour had spent most of the night looking around the ward for her son. They had messed my regular medication up so I’m missed a dose of sertraline. And I just plain wasn’t ready for it to be so small and tight.
So no MRI, I’m stuck in hospital all weekend. My sister worked Sunday so came to see me again on her break, and my mum and stepdad came to see me too but no buses so no wife and son. I did facebook them though.
Plus over the weekend, the second cannula started to leak and it was placed in the one good vein I have once I was rehydrated. The nurse had to put it in my forearm. On the underside. It was the only place and that was her second attempt. I still have a bruise from her first attempt and bruises from some of the other attempts.
On Monday the surgeons came around and talked about the MRI thinking I hadn’t had one yet. They were talking about sending me home and treating me as out-patient and operating after I’d had an MRI whenever that would be. The van with the MRI (the hospital was having a new one put in) wasn’t there on Monday so I couldn’t have one that day.
Except I didn’t really want to go home just to end up back in hospital again if I had a relapse.
The only other option was to operate and look for the blockage while they did so. They would inject some dye and do an x-ray of the bile duct. I agreed cause I just wanted to get it over and done with. Except I’d had breakfast at eight so I had to wait until after one to have surgery. I didn’t care, I just wanted it sorted so I could go home.
The surgeon, a Dr Rafeel, came back a while later and talked me through the procedures, with diagrams. He told me about the risks (my weight not being an issue) and that it would be keyhole surgery and take one to two hours. I let my wife and my sister know, signed the consent form and watched TNG until they came to get me.
I wasn’t scared.
Mostly I was hungry. I laughed and joked with the anaesthetists. Told one off after he failed to put a cannula in (he needed a bigger line) and then asked him to dinner cause I was hungry (I didn’t think my wife would mind).
They wheeled me into the theatre, hooked me up to machines, and then the ceiling started moving.
I remember saying “Now I’m scared,” and one of the anaesthetists holding my hand, before waking up in the recovery room in agony three hours later full of staples. I vaguely remember them wheeling me back to the ward and student nurse talking to me about how the surgery went really well. She helped me call my wife and held the phone so I could call my wife and tell her I was okay, I think the student nurse Laura spoke to her to explain some stuff. Apparently I messaged my sister and she asked me if I was ‘high as fuck’.
I definitely was.
But I was also in a lot of pain and nothing helped. I also had a drain in because my gall bladder was gangrenous.
It was hard to sit up, and I wasn’t allowed to walk to the toilet (or at all) until the next day. So I had to use a commode. I couldn’t manage to bedpan and to be honest, the pain made peeing difficult in general but I was drinking a lot of water because my throat was sore from being intubated. Something else I had expected.
The next morning I had lost my voice entirely and was communicating with the nurses and healthcare staff via the notes app on my phone. Mostly I had questions about the surgery because what Laura had told me the night before hadn’t really gone due to the pain and the drugs.
My Necrotic Gall Bladder
I also spoke to the surgeon later on and got some more information from him about what they had found inside me.
His first words to me were “you’re full of surprises,” followed by, “you’re very tough.”
My gall bladder was necrotic. What was supposed to be keyhole surgery became open surgery because of that. The blockage was gone but it hadn’t been in the bile duct but from the tube leading from my gall bladder. The pressure had built up, stopped the blood flow and basically my gall bladder had died. My blood work had improved a lot though, they wanted to send me home remember but when they got inside me they found gangrene and stones rather than an actual semi-functioning organ.
One of the stones was about an inch long and needed crushing before he could remove it or he was going to open me up further. (my main incision is already over an inch long). The drain was to remove any lingering gross stuff (but there was none) and the surgery had taken longer because he’d gone very slowly and worked carefully to get everything out and cleaned.
He thinks I’ve had the stones for five or six years. There is more to be said about the idea that I had no symptoms.
I spent another two days in hospital with the drain in but I was taken off the IV antibiotics and finally got all the damn cannulas out of me (so relieved, they were hurting). The drain came out as soon as the doctor said I could go home on Wednesday afternoon and I had been dreading it. I was convinced it was going to be really painful, but kinda hoping it was would be quick because in my head it was short tube.
Nooooo, it was a long ass tube. A very long tube. And it hurt when he cut the stitches away but mostly it was just weird. He popped a dressing on, I packed my stuff and got a taxi home. The surgeon had turned up at visiting time so my wife and son were there with me, so we could all go home together.
I’ve spent the past two weeks resting and trying to sleep through the pain. It took ten days for the shoulder pain to pass. Part of the procedure involves blowing carbon dioxide into your body to blow you up (his exact words) to give them room to work. This gas then moves up your body and into your shoulder. It was actually the worst part of the pain when I got home. I couldn’t lie on my side, and it hurt to lie on my back. But I’m so glad to be back in my own bed.
I still have healing to do, I get tired easily and I can’t lift anything for another a couple of weeks. I was back to putting Snappy to bed through after a couple of days which helped us all I think. Getting back into our routine. He’s been really understanding about mummy bathing him instead (can’t lift him out or bend over for too long) and that he can’t sleep in our bed at the moment cause I can’t risk him kicking me or mummy (she’s twenty weeks pregnant). He’s very interested in my incisions and loves to tell everyone I had gangrene.
I got my staples out last week, the incisions are healing well, it’s just my insides now.
My sick note runs out on Thursday. I don’t know if I’m going back to work. My boss wants me to talk to my GP, and probably do a phased return (half days or something). I’m really lucky, she’s a pain in the arse sometimes, cause you know, she’s my boss but she’s also a great boss. She’s been really supportive through this, and with my mental health issues and well, I want to get back to work. I have things to do, I miss my work pals. Though I saw Sam at the weekend as we took Snappy to her daughter’s birthday party (they used to be in the same dance class before we started working together).
I feel really lucky. Really, fucking lucky.
I mean, I was walking around with a dead gall bladder. If I had gone home and waited for the MRI, then waited while they check the results, then waited for them to schedule surgery…who know what could’ve happened. At one point while I was in the hospital, before surgery, I was crying over the idea that I might never see my little boy grow up or my baby being born. That my wife would have to do this alone. I’m so happy I pushed ahead with the surgery, instead of waiting for the MRI (which I could only 80% guarantee I could’ve managed, depending on how much diazepam they gave me).
There is more to be said on the idea that I had no symptoms (and I’ve talked about it already on my instagram)and I have a whole night of old lady madness to tell you about.
Anyway, I am home, I am healing and things will get back to normal. Better than normal I hope. But fucking hell what a way to start 2020.