Gallbladder Removal Surgery

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When I found out that I needed to have gallbladder removal surgery, I didn’t know anyone that had gone through this to talk to. I scoured the internet to see if anyone had shared their stories from start to finish. I didn’t find much so I wanted to put this together to share my experience starting from the first gallbladder attack to now living with one less organ.


outpatient gallbladder removal surgery

How It Started

It was New Years Eve 2018 and I went out for a barbecue lunch with some friends. If you live in Austin, you know the barbecue here is second to none so we went all out and got the Texas Trinity of ribs, brisket, and sausage. It was moist, meaty, and delicious. However, after that meal I felt bloated and my stomach gurgled for the rest of the day.

The next morning I woke up with an achy back and figured I probably just slept in a weird position. As the day went on the pain became stronger and more apparent in my abdominal region. At this point it felt like cramps but like the worst cramps I’ve ever had in my life. It was like someone kicked me in the stomach and twisted my insides. The pain was so strong that I could not function. I was curled up in a ball on my bed with all the lights off, in silence. Nothing helped. It was the weekend so I figured I would try to sleep it off and go to my doctor on Monday if the pain continued.

I woke up Monday morning feeling perfectly normal like nothing ever happened. Fast forward to Wednesday, I woke up at 4AM with that same initial achy back pain except this time it was worse. As time passed the pain similarly moved to my abdomen. I couldn’t go back to sleep so naturally I WebMD’d all my symptoms and started palpating my stomach. The pain was the strongest in the upper right quadrant.

The Diagnosis

I made a doctors appointment that day. Straightaway my doctor said “it’s your gallbladder” and scheduled me for an ultrasound to confirm. The ultrasound showed that I had sludgy bile and multiple immobile gallstones. The two episodes of pain I had were gallbladder attacks. My doctor recommended gallbladder removal surgery (cholecystectomy) because it’s minimally invasive, a common procedure, and prevents future attacks or rupture. She also informed me that surgery was not necessary but I would be more susceptible to unpredictable repeat attacks and/or rupture.

I didn’t know anyone who had gone through this that I could talk to so I went home and did a lot of searching through Google and Reddit. I wanted to read other people’s experiences with gallbladder attacks and surgery. Ultimately I knew I never wanted to experience that pain again so I chose surgery. My gallbladder removal surgery was two weeks away from the date of diagnosis. During this time, I didn’t have any more attacks but my stomach felt sensitive and extremely bloated. I put myself on a pretty strict low-fat/low-spice diet per my doctor’s recommendation. I ate lean meats, veggies, and drank lots of golden milk, which I really believed helped to soothe my stomach.


RELATED RECIPES:
Golden Milk Latte
Golden Milk Paste

The Surgery

The gallbladder removal surgery was laparoscopic, minimally invasive, and an outpatient procedure. I did have to go under anesthesia and was put on a ventilator. I was asleep the entire time and didn’t feel a thing. The surgeon made four half inch incisions in my stomach to place the scope and remove the gallbladder. Everything went smoothly and I even got a photo of my gallbladder and its contents as a souvenir. Apparently I had a lot of stones for someone my age. I was in and out within a few hours. My fiancé drove me home, I took some pain meds, and slept for most of the day.

The Recovery

The first two days after surgery were the worse. I was extremely sore and my throat was scratchy from the ventilator. A natural reaction would be to cough but that caused immense pain to my stomach. It was just an endless cycle of discomfort. Additionally, it was difficult to go from standing to sitting to laying down so I was pretty dependent on my fiancé. After those two days I was able to move by myself although it was still difficult. After one week I was able to walk slowly and return to work. Around the two week mark was when I began to feel normal again.

Life without a Gallbladder

As I am writing this, I have been without my gallbladder for roughly a year and a half. In the short term I had to be careful with spicy and fatty foods. I slowly integrated them back into my diet so my body could learn how to digest foods without a gallbladder. In the long term I essentially have irritable bowel syndrome and a lot of times have to go to the bathroom within minutes of eating. Certain foods trigger it more than others such as those with high fat or spice content like pizza. This is a common side effect. For some it goes away for others it doesn’t. Mine hasn’t gone away yet but my doctor gave me options to manage it: diet or medication.

The FODMAP diet has been shown to be pretty helpful for those with IBS. Personally, I find it too restrictive and difficult to commit to 100%. In terms of medication, my doctor prescribed low dose amitriptyline that can be taken once a day regularly or as needed. I prefer natural remedies whenever possible so I do not take the medication on a regular basis. The only time I use the medication is when I am traveling since finding a bathroom is not always reliable. Overall I am still able to eat whatever I want to eat, do whatever I want to do, but I also got to go when I got to go. I also have visible scars from the incision but they’re pretty small and I think they’re kind of cool!

more info about gallbladder removal surgery

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14 thoughts on “Gallbladder Removal Surgery”

  • Your story is so inspiring thank you for sharing for someone who has never had a surgery in their life and now possibly may need a gallbladder surgery I can take a deep breathe and rest a bit more easy getting a glimpse of what to expect

    • Sorry for the late response, I took a little break from the blog but I’m so glad you’ve found this helpful! It’s been almost 2 years since my surgery and 100% would choose to do it again. Life without a gallbladder has been the same since writing this post. Wishing you all the best whether or not you got the surgery!

  • Thank you for sharing your story! I also have gallstones and considering surgery but I’m terrified. I never had surgery before and I’m afraid of how my life is going to change after it. Reading your story has given me a little comfort. Thankyou for this.

    • No problem, I definitely have been in your shoes! I’m almost 2 years post-surgery now and although I still have IBS, I don’t have excruciating gallbladder pain which is a huge win in my book! Best of luck if you do decide to get surgery and hope you feel better soon!

  • Thank you so much for your post. I am in a hospital bed at this very moment, recovering from an emergency gallbladder removal surgery. It’s nice to hear stories from people who have been there. 😊

    • thank you so much gir this..I’ve been diagnosed with gallbladder full of stones an sludge..I’ve been having pain. In my stomach an noth right an left side..reading this gives me ease.

      • Hi Lisa – I’m glad you found the root of your issue but sorry you’re in pain. Hope you’re able to find a solution that works for you and that you feel better soon!

  • Omg!!! This is exactly what happened to me except when I was going to the drs for pain they kept telling me I had gerd! After I changed my diet and took medications to help with gerd and still got the attacks iknew it was something else and the drs wouldn’t listen until I ended up in the ER twice and it wasn’t until the second Er visit that they finally did blood tests and ultrasound and found that I had a Crap ton of gallstones and were extremely inflamed!! I had emergency surgery yesterday and on my second day of recovery and going thru everything you did! I hope this gets so much better and your story made me feel better because I experienced everything you did to a T!

  • Hello there,
    First night home from emergency surgery and now looking up everything I can since I have some energy. Today has been awful! I wish I had the hospital bed, because getting up is such a killer movement!! 2 things – possible IBS in the future?? And wondering if greasy foods like a burger or pizza possible and you just have to as accept the consequences? Thanks great info.

    • Hi Barbara! The first few days are a bit rough, but it will get better! I recommend introducing fats back into your diet slowly immediately after surgery so your body can get used to it. In the longer term, I personally still experience IBS that is more triggered by greasy foods. But because I don’t feel any pain, I still eat those foods and just accept the consequences. However some people don’t experience this at all or it is just a temporary side affect. Best of luck with your recovery!

  • Hi I’m planning to have surgery on Wednesday and I’ve been reading patients gaining weight 6 months after surgery. Have you noticed any weight gain or extra belly fat? I’m so worried my job depends on my body and I don’t want to loose all my hard work.

    • Hi Brianna, I personally did not experience any weight gain that was out of the norm for me. Wish you the best of luck with surgery and a smooth recovery!

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