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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