Pippy's Journey

Gall Bladder…ATTACK!!!

So the past 10 days have been interesting to say the least. In my last post, I wrote about how great the 2nd trimester has been so far and how at my last doctor appointment, my doctor told me, “You’re going to have an uneventful pregnancy! Do you hear me!?” I didn’t listen very well.

On Friday, January 10, Timmy and I rented movies and got some yummy snacks and settled in for a lovely evening at home on the couch. A few hours later, I was in some serious pain like I’d never felt before. I chalked it up to indigestion. Note to self, no more Fritos and bean dip for me. I munched on a few Tums and prayed the pain would go away.

Saturday morning I awoke with more of the same, but definitely not to the same extent. I got some housework done, munched on some more Tums and did some yoga. Halfway through my day, things started getting worse. By the time Timmy got off work, I was calling every 20 minutes asking where he was, did he talk to the pharmacist, was he bringing me medicine. At this point, it hurt to breathe. Walking was almost impossible and no position or home remedy I tried made any difference. I even went as far as to take a shot of the apple cider vinegar, and not the good stuff…the cheap Walmart brand stuff. Yuck!

Again, I chalked it up to continued indigestion or maybe the position of the baby. Sunday we stayed home from church and I took my time preparing for friends to come for dinner, all the while still in some serious pain. I didn’t feel bad enough to cancel, but I definitely wasn’t up to going all out on dinner. Our friends came and we enjoyed a nice evening chatting and eating. I thought  things were getting better. Maybe the Zantac helped! Nope. About 30 minutes after dinner, I was again in pain. Talking, breathing, moving, everything seemed to exacerbate the pain. Not even sleep helped at this point.

Monday I went to work. I called my doctor who referred me to a GI specialist. I made it through the day, but by the time I got in the car to leave I was ready to just die. I picked Timmy up from work and told him he needed to drive because even turning to check my blind spot was excruciating. My sweet husband flew through town trying to get us home. I told him, “Honey, I appreciate that you’re trying to get me home quickly, but you’re killing me on these turns. You’ve got to slow down!” By the time we made it home, I was near tears. I got in a HOT shower, hoping that would help relax my muscles and relieve the pain some. I prayed, “Lord, please take this pain away. Reach inside me and pull out whatever is hurting me.” Again, the shower gave zero relief. We decided it was time to head to the Urgent Care Center when I became physically ill.

Fortunately, there is a 24-hour clinic just down the street from us. The doctor there was very nice. He agreed with me (and Google) that I was most likely having gall bladder pain. He sent us straight to the hospital ER for an ultrasound and blood work. He didn’t even charge us! Thank you Lord! I had read on the Internet (they can’t put anything on the Internet that’s not true) that it is common for pregnant women to experience gall bladder symptoms. This is likely due to the fact that digestion slows down during pregnancy, which can cause your gall bladder to not process fats as quickly, leading to stones. Made sense to me since I’d recently had that Fritos Bean Dip, arguably not the healthiest option. Also according to my extensive Internet research (mostly consisting of Google and well-known pregnancy sites), most women are given pain meds and their gall bladder issues are dealt with after the baby is born. Only about 12% of women need to have gall bladder surgery while pregnant.

I continued to pray for the pain to go away. That was my biggest concern at that point. Just give me some relief! I was still at the point where every little bump and turn in the car hurt, breathing was difficult, every position was uncomfortable and I had never felt anything like this before. Miraculously, as we turned into the ER parking lot, my pain left. We got out of the car and I told Tim, “I’m not in pain.” We checked into the ER about 8:30 pm and knew we were in for a long wait. We joked about the doctor telling us the baby was just pushing on my insides or my indigestion was finally relieved. I told him I believed God had taken the pain away because we were going to have to wait so long. There is no way I would have done well feeling the way I had earlier in the evening.

We were finally called back a little after 1 am. They got my vitals and all the normal stuff. They set up an IV so I could be hydrated and in case they decided I needed to be admitted. Then I was finally able to go back for my ultrasound. The hospital ultrasound tech was very friendly and very talkative. She made mostly small talk until about halfway through the scan.

“Have you had any pain medicine?”

“No,” I replied.

She looked at me and kind of scoffed. “Really? You haven’t had any pain medicine?”

“No,” I said again.

“And you’re not in any pain right now?”

I was a little confused. “Well, no, but I was in excruciating pain all weekend.”

She got quiet and looked back at her screen. “Hmmm. Do you have a really high pain tolerance?”

Okay, lady, now you’re worrying me. “I don’t know,” I said, “why does it look like there are gallstones?”

She quickly replied, “Oh I’m not allowed to discuss findings because I’m not a doctor.”

“Well then shut the bleep up!! You’re freaking me out!” That’s what I wanted to say, but instead I just kept quiet.

She returned me to my room and told Tim, “It was a good scan!” Timmy got a relieved look on his face and said to me, “That’s great! So it’s probably nothing serious.”

Not so fast dear. “I don’t know what’s going on, but apparently I should be in a whole lot more pain right now.”

A little bit later the ER doctor came in to discuss my results. She explained that I did have gallstones and that some of the stones had leaked from the gall bladder into the biliary duct, causing an obstruction which was causing my liver and pancreas to be inflamed. She said they were admitting me for an MRI and a consult with the general surgeon and that most likely, my gall bladder would be removed. This was about 4 am Tuesday morning.

By 5:30 am I was admitted to a room, Timmy was snoring on the plastic foldout couch, and we were waiting for me to go get an MRI. This was supposed to be a stat MRI, but unfortunately the ER didn’t get the order put in. I wasn’t overly concerned because I still wasn’t having any pain. Thank God! At 11 am I was headed down for the MRI. I was nervous about this because I’m a bit claustrophic. It wasn’t bad at all though. I kept my eyes closed the whole time and pretended I was in a chilly tanning bed. It seemed to work for me.

An hour or so later, the general surgeon came to my room with my results. The good news was there were no stones in the biliary duct. Thank you Lord! This meant they wouldn’t need to do endoscopic surgery (removal of the stones through a tube going down my throat) in addition to the laparoscopic cholecystectomy (removal of the gall bladder through four small incisions as opposed to one big one). The bad news though was that not only did I have gallstones, but my gall bladder was also very infected. He said I’d be heading to surgery in the hour.

12%. 12%! But let’s look at one big “pro” to needing an emergency lap chole while pregnant. The timing was perfect. The safest time to do surgery on a pregnant woman (again, according to my vast Google research and the word of my doctor) is between 18-20 weeks. This is because the baby is still small and the uterus is still low. This gives the doctor a great advantage to be able to work in the upper abdominal region without as much risk to the baby. At this point in my pregnancy, I was 18 weeks, 4 days. Perfect timing. Thank you Lord!

So they discussed the typical risks to surgery with me and the added risk of being pregnant and the risk to the baby. The scariest thing they told us was because I was only 18 weeks along, if anything happened with the baby, there would be nothing they could do. He could not survive outside the womb at that early stage. We took a deep breath and trusted that God had put us in capable hands. And we were. One of my friends recognized my surgeon as one of the dads at her kids’ Bible group (Awana). I don’t necessarily believe his personal religious beliefs make him any better of a doctor, but it sure did put me at ease. He even prayed with us before the surgery. It was another way we felt God was in control of the situation and that everything would be okay.

We headed down to the OR. I kissed my hubby and headed back for surgery. The staff at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands is amazing. They were all so friendly and helpful. They made us feel completely comfortable and confident that Liam and I were in good hands. The last thing I remember was my very funny anesthesiologist telling me “Okay, you’re gonna go to sleep now,” while classic rock played over the speakers in the OR.

When I woke up, just 30 minutes later, the very first thing I heard, before voices, beeps or anything, was Liam’s heartbeat. I can’t begin to tell you what an amazing sound that was, even in a drug-induced stupor. I heard his strong, beautiful heartbeat thumping away over the Doppler ultrasound. I couldn’t speak and I could barely open my eyes, but I did manage a thumbs up. He did so well! And so did I. The surgery was flawless and I am now sans gall bladder.

I was discharged 24 hours after surgery and the rest of the story is just joy! No more pain! I didn’t even take the narcotic pain meds they offered me. I stuck to Tylenol for the first two days and haven’t even had that since. I’ve been stuck at home recouping, which is harder mentally than physically. I’m so ready to get back to my regular routine, but I have to remind myself that not only is my body recovering from surgery, it is simultaneously growing a human being. My body is in double overtime.

So, the last week was the complete opposite of uneventful, but now my goal is to have the most boring pregnancy ever for the next 144 days. Wish me luck! 

3 thoughts on “Gall Bladder…ATTACK!!!

  1. Our God is amazing! Some will say you were lucky or that it just works the way sometimes. I say God is in control, His timing is perfect and we are blessed.

  2. Your anesthesiologist WAS funny! Do you remember him saying, “Ok, I watched the YouTube video this morning, so I feel really confident that I know what I’m doing”? I was sitting there thinking, if he can make jokes at a time like this, everything’s going to be okay. 🙂

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