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Gallstones – a brief history

Because I have not yet added much to the ‘Other’ section of my blog, I thought I would write a small piece regarding my personal experience with gallstones. If you don’t already know, gallstones are small stones, usually made of cholesterol, that form in the gallbladder. I didn’t know that. I guess I didn’t even know what a gallbladder was, or what it did. All I know was that I was not well. Not well at all.

The symptoms

I started getting sick. I mean –sicky sick; spewing up regularly for no obvious reason. Not nice. But I didn’t worry. I figured, “this will pass”. So, time passed, and so did most of what I ate; back out the way it came. Yuk. And the pain; it was intense. Shortly after eating, suddenly I would feel it coming on. It was agony. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t even sit. I spent hours walking in circles around my small house crying in pain. Eventually, I went to the doctor. I left with some antacid tablets and no answers. The sickness continued.

I went back to the doctor several times, and on each occasion was fobbed off with tablets and incorrect diagnosis. Eventually, I did the thing that no one should ever do – I researched my condition online. This is normally a bad idea – you type in your symptoms and from the list of possible causes that are presented – decide that you must be suffering with some hideous, life threatening disease. Of course, normally you just have a cold or something simple, but the mind works in strange ways and it is easy to imagine the worst.

Diagnosis

In this instance, however, my suspicion proved correct. I went back to the doctor again and told him that I thought I had gallstones. I will never forget the response that I received. My doctor actually said that my suggestion “was what a first year medical student would have diagnosed”. I was astounded, and wondered why, therefore, he himself had not thought of this on my previous visits. Still, he agreed that this might be the case, and sent me for some ultrasound tests. Gallstone were confirmed and so, finally, began the long road back to health.

By the time my operation was due to take place, I had lost over four stone in weight due to the inability to keep my food down. This, actually, was a good thing – I was advised that if I have been four stone heavier, they would not have performed the operation until I reduced my weight.

The operation is called a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and is done via keyhole surgery and a micro video camera. Still – it is possible that they would need to cut you wide open if they experience difficulties during the procedure. This is something that you are warned about before you sign the paperwork, and you wouldn’t know how it went until you woke up afterwards. Slightly nerve wracking!

So I was happy when I came around to discover just three or four small incision marks, not a massive cut right up my middle.

Recovery

Recovery from the operation was not too bad. By far the worst thing, and something that I was not aware of prior to the day, was that they had cut right through my belly button. I am squirming writing this, as the memory is not pleasant, and the staples that they used to seal me up hurt like hell. But after a couple of weeks, these came out and things started to improve.

In fact, the improvement was amazing. Suddenly, I could eat! I could eat anything I wanted, and it felt great! It felt like they had given me my life back.

Side Effects

There are, however, some down sides. As with many medical procedures there are side effects other than the desired outcome. One of those, for me anyway, is diarrhea. I guess that because the bile that the gallbladder used to regulate is now constantly flowing, it acts as a laxative. Unpleasant, yes, but this is a small price to pay when compared to the benefits.

So, to anyone suffering with similar symptoms, and needing to undergo this procedure – from my own personal experience I can highly recommend it.

Nigel Beckett

19/04/19

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