Surgery was a galling experience

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 8, 2003

Editor’s note: Graphic details throughout may be offensive to some readers.

By Rebecca Hill

I have been struggling about the topic of my column this week. I have had little inspiration, as I have been home recovering from gall bladder surgery. My publisher asked if I was going to write about my surgery, but I wondered what interest you might have in all that ails me.

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Well – since nothing else has been going in my life for the last two weeks, (except watching re-runs of the Golden Girls on Lifetime six times a day, trying to figure out

&uot;who done it&uot; on Matlock, and popping a Percocet every few hours – your stuck reading about the surgery.

To start, if you have never had a gall bladder attack let me be the first to tell you what a miserable experience it is. It is much like having a heart attack, and after three or four hours into the pain and despair, death would be a welcome change. The pain is in the upper chest and radiates up the back and neck. It can be quite excruciating. However, for me, the pain was a &uot;cake walk&uot; compared to the nausea and vomiting that was soon to follow. Not only is the nausea and vomiting just flat out disgusting, it is something one has little control over. Imagine a sick infant with projectile vomit (easily stretching from one end of the room to the other), this pales in comparison to a severe gall bladder attack.

Anyhow, the diagnosis of gall bladder disease is pretty simple. One trip to the hospital for an ultrasound and it’s a known certainly. Well, at least for the radiology tech. Getting the results of your test, well that’s another story. A week passed before I got my results, and I thought sure I would die right on my living room floor before I even knew what was wrong with me. I seriously considered getting incredibly drunk or loopy on Nyquil just to lessen my awareness of what was happening to me. However, responsibility and sanity prevailed so I did neither of the above.

Finally, after much waiting, I got my results: gall stones. Well, once you have gallstones there are only a few ways to deal with them. One, suck up the pain and move on (and risk further complication and full-out gall bladder disease) which I had. Two, have surgery, or three, give yourself a gallbladder cleansing and hope for the best. I can tell ya, this girl was not about to consider a cleansing and tolerating the nausea for even another moment was not an option. So, the only answer: surgery. Besides, practitioners of modern medicine all agree, surgery is the best option.

I went in for surgery last Tuesday. I was scheduled to go under at 3:30 p.m. – but since there was a change in the schedule they were ready for me at 1 p.m. It worked out great because I was prepped by three different nurses and had little time to be nervous or apprehensive. I had experienced surgery several times before, (so I knew just what to expect) but the thought of kissing my husband goodbye for the last time, never talking to my parents or seeing my little &uot;Munchie&uot; Hunter again, always made me nervous. Besides, the when the nurse asks you if you have a living will – death tends to cross one’s mind.

I was a little taken aback when I was told to go in the bathroom and give my self an abdominal surgical scrub with a funky Brillo pad thing, but I did it and was on my way.

I had a few nurses try to kill me with some iodine (to which I am deathly allergic), but other than that it was smooth sailing. I had a great surgeon, Dr. Paul S. Hogg with Commonwealth Surgical Associates. I got the &uot;411&uot; on him before going to surgery and he had an excellent reputation, so I knew I was in good hands.

Aside from throwing up some blood after surgery, and a little bit of pain (that was nothing compared to getting the IV), I was home by 8 p.m.

Not bad if you ask me! I had a new purple bathrobe, a bottle of Percocet, and 100 re-runs of the Golden Girls awaiting me at home to aid me in my recovery.

My type &uot;A&uot; personality will not allow for idle downtime, so sitting in bed for a week was not acceptable for me. I was up and moving on day two. Day three was the worst (it always is). At that point, all the &uot;good stuff&uot; from the hospital has worn off and the numbing euphoria anesthesia brings, has long since waned. The surgery was really not at all painful. I barely used half the drugs prescribed to help with pain. Again, the worst part is dealing with the continued nausea and vomiting. Once the gall bladder is removed, the body &uot;freaks out&uot; and says, &uot;Oh my, what in the heck did you do with my gall bladder?&uot; After a short time, however, I am told the side effects of this goes away, and I can eat normally again and will not have the pain and discomfort I am now feeling. I am still waiting, so I will have to let you know if it happens.

In the meantime, I am still nauseated and can eat absolutely nothing that does not cause me trouble. I am seriously considering buying stock in Zesta, as they are the saltine cracker of choice and the mainstay of my diet. I have lost 14 pounds in three weeks and am told not to worry, as I will gain it back once my body adjusts to eating again. Jeeez… you think there would be a silver lining to this drama and I would get to keep the 14 pounds off for having to endure the pain. Oh well – par for the course, I guess.

My brother is convinced that doctors and lawyers are crooks. I am pretty sure he is right on the second part, but I am working hard to convince him otherwise about the doctors. I have had two really great medical experiences in a row – so I am feeling a little better about the skill and expertise of the medical profession these days.

Now, insurance companies – that may be another story altogether. I’ll let you know my thoughts on that once I get my bill from the hospital.

Rebecca Hill is the advertising director and a regular columnist for the News-Herald.