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Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem

Gallbladder Surgery Tips and Tricks

53 Comments

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Diagram via WebMD.com

Like me, my friend Sara will be soon be walking around without a gallbladder. Since I just had mine removed three weeks ago, I decided to write down a few things for her. She thought I might share my knowledge on cholecystectomy (the surgery) with the world, so here it is. Hopefully it’s helpful to those of you out there who may join our little club in the future. Mine was removed in an emergency situation, so I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, mentally or otherwise. For those of you who have some time to digest the information (pun intended), you might feel more equipped going into it now.

  • They kept me one night after my surgery because I live alone. They needed to make sure I could get around on my own. If you live with others, you’ll probably get to go home that day, if your surgery is early enough. Big plus, in my opinion.
  • You have to go to the pharmacy right after leaving the hospital, unless you can get someone to grab your Rx for you. It’s not a great time to run errands, and I personally think it’s ridiculous. I thought I was going to pass out by the time I was home! You’ll need the pain meds right away probably. If you can get your pharmacy to allow someone to pick it up, do it. Maybe there’s a form to sign or something. But you’ll just want to go straight home.
  • They gave me pills for nausea at home. I think maybe for the first three or four days I had to take maybe one a day. But it wasn’t bad or anything. If you like ginger, maybe have some ginger tea, ginger chews or ginger-ale ready at home if those will help. But the pills do work great too.
  • I had some blood in my urine for about two days following the surgery. That seems to be normal.
  • Very important: You can take a shower about 24 hours after the surgery. Just be careful not to get the bandages wet, so keep your back to the water stream. Which reminds me, move everything within reach. Stretching will be off limits for a while. So, move all your shower stuff to the back of the shower. I even had to move my nightstand closer since I typically reach for my lamp at night.
  • They say it helps to get up and move around as you are able. So I did laundry, emptied the dishwasher, got food or drink, etc, and found ways to be upright and walking. Being upright isn’t very painful.
  • I am not sure if it’s everyone, but my worst immediate pain for two days was my right shoulder. I think it’s how they have to position it during surgery, but it felt like they dislocated it. And the Percocet did nothing for the arm pain. In the hospital they said they couldn’t do anything for it, but once I got home I used Icy Hot patches and they helped a lot. Just have something available in case you need it. The main issue is that I’m right-handed, so I couldn’t use it to help prop myself up. I just had to force my abs to do the work, which is what can be so painful (see previous blog post link). But if you have people at home, they can probably help you sit/get up.
  • Again, not sure if it’s everyone, but they put me under via IV, but kept me under through a throat tube. So when I woke up, my throat hurt for a couple of days. Have soft foods around. I also like these throat drops.
  • I barely had any appetite for a week or more, so maybe have foods around that are comforting and you feel like eating. For me it was soft bread with cheese, bananas, apple sauce, etc. I wish my appetite hadn’t come back—that was actually a perk! 😉  I made chicken and rice thinking it would be plain enough, but the smell made me nauseous (anything with a strong, lingering smell probably) so I didn’t eat it for a week or so. But I also have a sensitive nose.
  • They’ll tell you to eat low sodium. I’ve discovered I kinda eat that way anyway, so I really haven’t had to adjust. And the ONLY thing I craved was Pad Thai, for some strange reason. It’s not low sodium or low fat (the things your gallbladder used to absorb which now happens via liver/stomach), but I ate such small portions each meal that I didn’t have any issues. Many people evidently have diarrhea with the adjustments to their systems, but I’ve not had any issues. Just have some meds on-hand, if needed.
  • My Percocet was only good for about five days. About day three or so, I started spacing out the meds so they’d last longer. But do this only once you can take it. These were supposed to be every six hours, but in the beginning, you feel like you need them every three. So don’t do space them out or drop them until you feel you can. Then switch to Ibuprofen. I was kinda surprised that helped, but it did.
  • I couldn’t lay on the couch for almost two weeks, too low and hard to get up. After a few days, I could sit on it with pillows behind me because it isn’t hard to rise vertically, only horizontally. (So, going to the bathroom wasn’t bad either because it’s vertical.) Then I’d just remove pillows as I could and eventually be able to lay down. So, my bed is high, and I had pillows to help me stay propped up and get out of bed easier. If I’d have known about it at the time, I would’ve ordered a pillow like this or this.)Anything you can do to avoid being horizontal is good! (I stayed propped up for multiple nights because I typically sleep on my stomach and didn’t want to roll over in my sleep. I just watched TV in bed on my iPad. And, of course, slept a lot.
  • I would say I had pain for almost a week, and then it was more soreness, except when I had to use my ab muscles. I didn’t watch comedies or medical dramas. 😉  I made sure to keep taking allergy meds, too, because sneezing and coughing isn’t fun.
  • I could drive about a week later, and when I went back to the doc to get the staples out, I was surprised it didn’t hurt. But I didn’t realize they used staples at first. About a week after surgery, I looked under the badges, and wish I hadn’t! I tried to immediately stick it back on but it didn’t work—I looked like Frankenstein with all the bruising and staples. And then I was nervous about getting them out since I’d never had them. But giving blood was more painful than getting them removed. Finally, a nice surprise.
  • After the staples, they had me keep gauze bandages on the different incisions (three—don’t need at belly button) which you change 1-2 times per day. (I had to buy some, so grab ahead if you can.) I had to wear the main bandage for about a week after. And I kept my back to the shower water stream until my bandages were ready to stay off completely. It just seemed like the water pressure would hurt otherwise, but that was a feeling more than a fact. Do what feels comfortable to you! They told me to leave the little clear Band-aid type things on until they fell off—they’re under the gauze. Two have fallen off now, and it’s about three weeks since the surgery. The main ones should come off in the next couple days, I think.
  • Probably because I have mono as well, but I’m still pretty zapped of energy/tired. A week and a half later I went to work for a few hours on Monday and Tuesday and ran some errands—big mistake. Knocked me on my butt for about three days. So, start small and build. And I hadn’t worn jeans since before the hospital either, so those didn’t feel great at my belly button. And any regular clothes in general. I felt really swollen for several days all over, and a few days later still around my abdomen. But I was on an IV for three days due to this emergency surgery, a kidney infection and waiting to have surgery. Hopefully you won’t be the same. Nonetheless, lounge clothes are your friend. (As sick as I’ve been this year I should have my own line of lounge wear.)
  • I’d say I still have some discomfort from time-to-time around the abdomen but not too bad or too long.

That’s it! I hope this process will be easier for you now!

PS: If you go to the ER with an unknown pain on the upper right side of your abdomen, just do yourself a favor and pack a bag to take with you! Once I was there, I wasn’t allowed to leave.

 

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Author: kristiporter

I’m a creator, leader, writer, Christian, filmie, foodie, abolitionist, environmentalist, daydreamer, traveler and entrepreneur, to name a few. Chief Do-Gooder at www.Signify.Solutions

53 thoughts on “Gallbladder Surgery Tips and Tricks

  1. Thank you for your tips. Wish your friend will be fine now. You offer the detailed information of the Gall Bladder Surgery, which is useful for the other patients, too. Some patients think that this type of gall bladder treatment may be recognized as an easy and simple one. However, there are some things at stake as well.

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  3. I just got my gall bladder out 6 days ago. It was a scheduled surgery. They also fixed a herniated belly button they said that I had while they were there. I went in at 6am and was home by 3 pm. I really needed someone around for the first 24 hours and then after that, could get up and around for little bouts at a time. I would wear out easily though. The best position was to lay reclined in a bed. When I would sit up, it would tend to compress things to much in the gut. Also, the air that you still have trapped makes it uncomfortable to breathe. At night it would hurt to roll over, but by the third day, I quit taking my oxy codone, which I would only take, once every 5 hours or so. At night, as long as I didn’t roll over, there was no pain. I didn’t have any nausea after surgery, which is surprising for me. The first night I ate jello and soup and then after that, I have eaten whatever I wanted. I even had a whole bag of popcorn last night. Nothing sounds good to eat though. My bowels are fine, when they started working again that is. That took about 4 days to get going. I hoped it would relieve some of the gas pressure, but that still comes every day. I started driving 2 days ago and going to short activities. They said I could go back to work in a week, but my work is heavy, and the hernia is more of the concern. I will stay home one more week. The incision site still hurts in the belly button, but the others haven’t hurt since day 2. I have read a lot of people’s stories online and have decided that no one recovery is typical. I think people all have a different tolerance for pain, and our bodies all react differently to procedures. Overall, a better recovery than I had expected.

  4. Thank you for you information I just had mine removed another tip that might be helpful is for the first 72 hours you may feel a discomfort in or around your chest I felt like I was having a heart attack I called my doctor and the nurse informed me that the gases they use during the surgery will take about 72 hours to release fully so that is the pain I was feeling. Also they told me to take the bandages off due to the dark moist environments is where bacteria prefers when I went to get my staples removed the incision were pretty much healed and closed up already

    • Yes, I remember them saying that, but don’t remember experiencing much pressure. Guess that’s another way people differ.

      Thanks for the information. Hope you heal quickly!

  5. I can definitely relate. Yay I’m going through it right now. I invested in body pillows and every pillow you can think of to keep me upright and comfortable. I had stitches but no staples. I had the stitches that dissolve on their own. Coughing SUCKS so yeah pillows do come in handy. Vicodin became my new best friend. I’ve managed to copy the gluten free low fat low sodium menu so that’s been a blessing. I also add Flax seed to everything. That helps with stools. And having a massaging showerhead is HEAVEN!!!! MY surgeon today said I’m exactly where I need to be as far as my recovery and YAY I dropped three lbs!!!!

  6. Great sharing and most all of it is entirely true as I just am a week out from gallbladder surgery. I have a monster load of pillows also and have been sleeping upright, even a week out. I’m eating plain food now, but no spicy things and no fatty foods. My job is heavy too so I’ll be out for three weeks.

  7. The shoulder pain comes from the gas they “blow you up” with during surgery. I found that a hot pad and as much movement as possible helped the pain immensely.

  8. Hi i just had surgry got few question can u sleep any way u want an been having pain kinda up belly not sure what it is.but i had to stay in hoapital.for an night cause my vitals was low so there had hard time moving around but once gor home just seem like the pain was bad it was hard to lay down move around then started moving around more pain slowly going alway but still hurt bad like when i gwr up in morning i have to hold my stumk cUse fells like every thing going to fall out sorry but u know idk if that normal or not but yeah i eat regular foods not so much gressy food but if i did it be dirreua so idk there some of what got to say an ask sorry pain meds working hope u can read it

    • Hi, there. Hope you feel better soon! I slept propped up on my back so it was easier to get up. Anything that made it easier to get up and down was best. I had a lot of pain in my arm for the first week, as well as the abdomen. But every day it got better. Good luck in your recovery!

  9. I had my gallbladder and adhesions from a prior surgery removed 10 days ago. I have good times and not so good times. The hydrocodone I was given is gone and I’m now on ibuprofen. I sit on my couch writing this at 4 in the morning because I went to bed, slept for about two hours and then woke up in pain while moving in my sleep. The worst for me seems to be laying in bed. It’s SO painful to move, roll over, and/or get out of bed. I also have pain in my back .. upper and lower. The upper almost feels like a heartburn. I didn’t think I’d still be in pain this far out, and many I talk to seem surprised that I am. Anyone one have similar experiences to share?

    • Hi, Angie – I’m sorry you’re still having pain. When I was in bed, I had to sleep propped up as much as I can. The laying down to sitting up part was quite painful. And by being propped up, I didn’t move or roll over as much. I didn’t have the upper and lower back pain, but I’m sure recovery is different for everyone. My pain was more minimal 10 days out, but I probably still had some. I’d just check with your doctor along the way to make sure he/she feels like everything is more normal. Hope you get well soon!

      • Thanks Kristi. Anyone have any idea why it’s so difficult to get in and especially, out of bed? For the first time, I slept more than 4 hours in bed last night. But oh the pain when I tried to get up!

  10. Thanks for the tips! Judt had mine out about two days ago. I’m 25 years old and I feel like a grandma. Can’t find a comfy position! The worst part about the whole surgery was the anesthesia. I’m very sensitive to things, and even with the strongest anti nausea meds, I ended up hurling. Felt better after that, but it really hurts your stomach after. If I have to sleep sitting up again I swear my ass is gonna flatten into nothing.

    • Hope you feel better soon! Yes, you do feel old and creaky for a bit. Sleeping sitting up is a short-lived hassle in the long run, so hang in there!

  11. This has really made me feel better! I just got mine removed this morning, or technically, yesterday morning. Haha!

    I’ve been lucky, I think. Haven’t had much nausea with the exception of right after eating some rice when I got home, but I let out a couple of ginormous burps and immediately felt better.

    I find I’m most comfortable sleeping on my right side, but getting up from lying all the way down really does hurt! I just can’t sleep propped up, though – I’ve never really been able to. Luckily, I have plenty of people to help me haul my behind out of bed.

    Despite the pain and discomfort, I’ve felt a little guilty taking the hydrocodone. I can take one to two tablets every four hours, but I just feel like it hasn’t hurt badly enough to warrant it. I’m also afraid that if I don’t experience some pain, I may not take it as easy as I should and accidentally open an incision. I had 1 at 12:15 this afternoon, one at around 6pm, and one near 11:30pm. I have to say, I much prefer this brand of pain to the gallbladder attacks!

    I’ve only eaten some rice with a tiny bit of soy sauce and a small, honey-flavoured Greek yoghurt, but I’ve tried to drink lots of fluids. The yoghurt felt really nice on my sore throat, so I’m glad I got it. May invest in Jell-o and Popsicles.

    I’m told I’m okay to go back to work in about a week, which will probably be fine. However, I will let my boss know to keep me doing the desk portion of our job for a couple of weeks when I get back! I’m kind of a weenie and will milk this, I’m sure. Haha!

    • Wow, glad you are doing so well! You sound like you’re a fast healer, too! Yes, I think the idea with the meds is not to let them lapse, which is when you’d experience a lot more pain. I would say a week to go back is probably fine. Just listen to your body, and see how you feel. I have a desk job so there is no strain there. Just be careful. I was told moving around as soon as possible would help the healing, so I was up doing laundry the day after I got home. Just be aware, and you’ll be fine. Hope you get better fast!

  12. my surgery was completely different. I has to wait 8 years to find a surgeon to take it out because it worked but only a little and I also had 2 small stomach ulcers. after surgery they sent me home with Norco and I didn’t sleep after. they didn’t stitch or staple they glued so I didn’t have any bandages it’s been 4 days and the glue hasn’t come off completely yet but it’s flaking. I had to cough night of surgery so I held a.pillow to my stomach and ended up ripping the glue on my belly button a little and bled a bit but not bad enough to go to er. I didn’t poop for 4 days cause the pain killers backed me up. I stopped taking them and took stool softener and it came right out with little pushing. hiccups hurt a lot! coughing isn’t easy either. o don’t know from personal experience but sneezing sucks worse I hear. it took two days to pass gas. the shoulder pain I had was gas pain heat helped and swatting on the toilet with my feet propped 1ft off the ground helped release.it. I could drive day 4. walking mostly fine a little hunched over and lower back.muscles hurt keep a pillow to.your stomach. I can war anything except milk it makes me run to the bathroom but that was true before surgery too. glue hurts when it comes.off just keep.an.eye for blood. and do not scratch. keep sites clean feel free to email me if you have any questions

    • Hope you feel better very soon!

    • Did anyone have the surgery and then continue to have similar “gallbladder pains” a year later?

      • I have not, but of course, I’m only one person. Sorry to hear it, and hope you feel better soon!

      • It is considered normal to have the same symptoms long periods of time after this surgery, some even continue for years. This may go away over a course of around two to three years and should let up a little along the way, if it gets worse or causes any sever pain see your gastro doctor immediately. Sorry you are experience much pain, hope all ends well eventually

    • So sorry! Hope you feel better very soon!

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  14. Doctors should tell patients what to expect like alot of burping and discomfort being horizontal. This is my 5th day after surgery and I am great except for having less bowel movements than my usual. Not knowing what is normal for the surgery causes anxiety.

  15. Has anyone experienced similar pains in the gallbladder area, after surgery? It’s been a year and the pain I went under for is still there 😦

    • I have not had any further pains. So sorry to hear it. Hope you continue to get better!

    • It is considered normal to have the same symptoms long periods of time after this surgery, some even continue for years. This may go away over a course of around two to three years and should let up a little along the way, if it gets worse or causes any sever pain see your gastro doctor immediately. Sorry you are experience much pain, hope all ends well eventually

  16. I’m not sure if this has been addressed in the comments or not but i wanted to share a little information. The pain in your shoulder was from the gas they used to inflate your stomach. They do it so it is easier to operate. After the surgery it tends to travel upwards and stays for a couple of days till it is absorbed. Meds won’t help this pain. But honestly that was the most painful part for me. The rest was a cake walk, except for the fact that i can’t lay on my side yet. It feels too roomy in there lol.

  17. Us it normal to have a some yellow in your eyes after the surgery? Just wondering maybe getting a little paranoid.

  18. I love these posts and can relate. I had a horrible journey and am still in hospital a week later. I did go home the day after my lap chole and all was good. Like others, i had no idea getting up from a horizontal position would feel so painful. A really deep gut pain too. Hard to describe.
    I was walking around at home. I was active for about 15 mins then i would lie down. Anyway the 4th morning, i woke up to go to the toilet and suddenly i had the most painful abdomen. I was panting, could barely breath. Could just walk hunched over to get out to ambulance. My whole abdomen went completely rigid and it felt like my chest wouldnt move to breath. At ED they rushed me around to do a test and found that i had a huge leak of bile into the peritoneal cavity. So i had chemical peritonitis. Had emergency surgery but they couldnt find the leak. My surgeon is one of the best so it wasnt the medical care. I am still in hospital with a bile drain but none is draining so thats a good sign the leak has self resolved. Surgeon believes a spasm may have caused the liver to squeeze out bile.
    On another note 7 days still no bowel action and i’m in extreme pain all over the abdo. It can take 5 days for bowels to get their mojo back. I have a small tip for others though. Get your bowel in great shape the month before you go in . Eat fibre, go regularly and get stool softeners or whatever you need. I was struggling with this before and now paying the price.

    My tips for others are deep breathing and coughing as tolerated (prevents pneumonia). Having a small lightweight ball like a basketball is good to exercise legs while lying down to prevent DVT. Just roll the ball away and then back with the soles of your feet.

    Oh and the weirdest thing of all. My gallbladder was on the left of my liver not the right. Luckily my surgeon has done thousands and had seen it before but it did complicate it a little. Lots of med surgical students had a look at my pictures then they all saw me again when i went in with the acute abdo.
    Hope this helps someone

  19. Oh i also forgot to mention this. I put my operation off for a few years as i could not find the time to get it done and i wasnt symptomatic very often. My surgeon said the surface cells on my gallbladder were all showing changes. In other words, they were pre cancerous and another 5-6 years would have become gallbladder cancer. If you know you need yours out, just do it. Dont put it off

  20. Just need sum info I just had my gall bladder removed and after over night at hospital and coming home my first day was hard at home, sleeping with lots of pillows upright does help a little but my butt really sore Sun-Times sleep on my left side ..is good also my question is when shower is it good to cover ur stickies when shower.what is good for dryness to ur throat..need info

    • Hi. I was told by my nurses that I could shower anytime, but to not get the stitches wet for a couple of days, two or three if I’m remembering correctly. So I mostly kept my back to the shower head. I kept bandages over it and would just clean and replace them as needed. For your throat, it would be the same as any sore throat, but lots of water, cough drops, etc. Things that usually feel soothing to a sore throat. Hope you feel better soon!

  21. Hi, I had my gall bladder out less then 12 hours ago. So first off pain: I have some pain That stops me in my tracks, normally getting up, laughing, anything that requires extra work from my abdomen. I have just now while righting this experienced my first bit of pain from the lower right incision.I am not taking any pain meds and went to sleep around midnight, just woke up and found I was on my stomach while sleeping which has increased bruising to the belly button area. Appetite and eating: My appetite is increased drastically, I can eat anything I want, I have had a milkshake right after leaving the hospital because it was recommended, I went in to surgery at 12 was out of recovery by 1 and discharged by 2, after tolerating the milkshake I had a spaghetti and chicken with cream of mushroom soups and cheese casserole which I also tolerated well. Since I have snacked a little on pop corn and had some chocolate covered banana slices for dessert. Sleep: I have had no problem sleeping except for discomfort while positioning and have found laying on my right side, where the incisions are, is most comfortable. I am a little chunky in the belly area, huge increase in weight gain after gall bladder stopped working, and so laying on my left hurts my belly button incision from pressure of weight. Incision sites: I have no redness, swelling, bruising, or pain on the lower right incision however I do have redness, swelling, and bruising on the left incision but only a little tenderness, my belly button however is a different story. I have redness, swelling, bruising, and pain from that site and it pulls when I move or strain to much. I am closed up with glue, which I don’t trust, I prefer the old fashion stitch. Working: I go back to work Thursday, 3 days after surgery, and I work at a hotel cleaning and doing front desk as well as laundry, this will be difficult considering I can’t carry over 5lbs and as every women worth her salt knows a big basket of towels, sheets, and comforters is well over 5lbs. I will be cleaning and making beds cautiously to not over stretch or move to suddenly. I have however already gone grocery shopping while they filled my script which I do have on hand in case I need it, better to have it and need it than to need it and not have it. I have also painted 2 wood sign, which is a hobby of mine, and I have been up and down the stairs several times today. Bowel movements and urination: pain wise all is good for urination, I have not had a bowel movement yet but I wasn’t getting my hopes up I am normally pretty constipated on a regular basis thanks to medication, I took a stool softener and I will wait to see, I expect pretty intense pain only because of my history. I have been told several people experience dumping syndrome, or as my dad says “being like a duck”, you eat and immediately have a bowel movement, this is not true for me. As I mentioned in the above section on pain, I have just now as I am writing this experienced my first bit of pain from the lower right incision, not awful but noticeable. I am sure I will eventually at some point today want pain medication but I might try to stick with Alieve first . Gas: I have been burping every so often which has helped but you can still see and feel the gas, it is causing my back to ache but I have back problems anyways and some slight ache in my right shoulder, this too was expected and is not unbearable. This should all be passed in the next day or two. Activity: I will be cleaning out my closet tomorrow and reorganizing, probably also doing another sign and maybe light yard work, we will see. I also really want mac and cheese so I will probable made some or get some since I am not under the influence and I can drive, my reaction times are normal mostly because I am concerned of others safety before mine but I have always been that way.

    • Thanks for your posting about your experience! I hope things continue to progress well for you!

      • I had my surgery on 8/8. It’s now the morning of 8/12. My gallbladder had no stones and I had my first attack back in January that lasted about a week, and again in late June that never completely went away. My HIDA scan showed a 23% function. I decided to get it out sooner rather then later when the symptoms could get worse. After surgery I had shortness of breath from the anethesia and and very sore left and right shoulder. First night I had crazy bad gas pains in my abdomen and shoulder. I could barely walk. That was pretty much all the first day. The second day I had a lot of phelm buildup and pain in my abdomen. I stupidly thought I could get by on just Motrin and my doctor said I needed to keep up on the Vicodin and prescribed me antibiotics for the phelm buildup. That helped with the pain immensely. The worst part is sleeping or lack of sleep. Yesterday I slept 3 hours. It’s impossible to get comfortable. When I lay flat I get gas buildup in my throat and it’s hard to sleep sitting up. I’m a side sleeper but can’t get comfortable. I need ideas!

  22. I slept propped up on two pillows, and that helped. Hope you feel better soon!

  23. Hi! So, I had my gallbladder removed on 8/5 due to having a 4mc gallstone stuck in the neck of the gallbladder. I was doing alright the first few days but on day 4 or 5 I think I developed slight nausea :(. It bothers me so much and stops me from eating at times. My stomach also feels and looks bloated still! I feel very full sometimes and I’m wondering if I do still have gas in there? I heard everyone heals at a different time so maybe it’s longer for me? It’s 12 days today. My appetite is kind of weak as well, and I’ve had bouts of sorry if tmi, diarreah on and off. No solid movement yet just soft or liquid :(. I feel so bad. I just want to feel good. I’m also scared to try ice cream let’s say in case I feel sick. How long did it take for your appetite to come back? I can’t eat much without having to feel full so quickly it’s worrying me. Does this sound normal? 😦

    • Hi, there – So sorry you’re still feeling bad. The best advice I’d give you is just to talk to your doctor. I had a very light appetite and some nausea for about a week, but not past that. I was back to work in a week and a half, I think. Hope you feel better soon!

  24. The shoulder pain is from the gas they have to put in you while you’re under anesthesia. It sucks ass lol. I am 4 days out of surgery, after staying in the hosputal for a full day and night after my surgery and still find it hard to sleep in bed, which is why I am up at 6:30 on a Sunday!

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