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Archive for May 7th, 2012

[Note to readers: this is a LONG post.  Unless you are interested in non-specific lower rib pain, Gall Stones or Gall Bladder removal, or you really like my writing, you can probably skip this post.  —  KMAB]
 

Friday (4 May 2012), I had my Gall Bladder removed.  I’ve been having pain in my right side for almost a year.  Initially, I thought it was either an injury (while lifting weights) or kidney stones.  I have a history of kidney stones (particularly on my right side).  I stopped working out for several weeks and also had my trip to Liverpool last summer and hoped it would heal.  Instead, the pain grew progressively worse.  There were several times when I felt as if I were being crushed in a vise.
 

I went to my GP, who directed me to a sports doctor.  He gave me some exercises.  I tried them for several weeks and the immediate pain from the injury seemed to go away, but a related pain seemed to increase in severity and area.  When I was lifting, I was doing a seated military press – basically lifting weights directly from the shoulder to a locked arm position.  The initial pain was quite sharp and incapacitating.  It felt like I had torn a muscle or ligament.  It was constant, but not always severe.  It was severe when I flexed a certain way or moved side-to-side. 
 

After a few days, the pain seemed to move from just a small spot (like a red-hot poker in the back) to a more generalized constricting (crushing) feeling from that spot, along my lower two right ribs, all the way around to the front sternum.  Gradually, even sitting and lying down became painful.  The pain also morphed from just my ribs to almost feeling like I had a fist or a softball under my ribs.
 

To make a longer story shorter, back to my GP who referred me to a kidney specialist.  The kidney doctor gave me a ultra-sound and a CT scan.  The results were negative for kidney stones, but positive for gall stones, so he referred me to an internal surgeon.  The gall stone specialist said I have seven stones (about the size of gum-balls) and they are too large to pass, so they and the gall bladder will have to come out.  He said think about it, it’s not an emergency, but it will have to be done.  I asked about alternatives and he said there were none he would recommend.  I asked about pills to shrink the stones.  He replied they take 6 months to 2 years to work, they are not guaranteed to work then and when you stop the pills, the stones reform.  The treatment was very popular in the early ’90’s, but has fallen out of favor.  I asked about non-surgical procedures and he said there is no science behind them.  I asked about diet modification and he said I’m about 20 years too late for that.  So, surgery was my only option. 
 

I should like to mention the doctor said because the immediate cause of the pain was an injury, it was very possible removing the gall bladder would not eliminate the pain – but it still needed to be done.  I felt this bit of honesty was very reassuring and greatly increased my trust in him.
 

This was back in January.
 

Needless to say, I did NOT want any parts cut out of me so I turned to the internet.  I found some general information about folks with similar types of pain.  There was not much hope from these.  I found “homeopathic” ways to help pass gall stones.  I tried them, (but not full bore) and they didn’t work.  There were an equal number of medical doctor sites stating these procedures did not work and were potentially dangerous.  Obviously, both sides have a vested interest in getting you to believe their side.  In the end, my half-hearted attempts did not work and I did not feel like risking my health going all out.  
 

It seems most of the homeopathic methods focus on softening the stones with apples (whole and juice) and then forcing passage by using a combination of epsom salts (to promote gall bladder contraction), lemon juice concentrate (acid to dissolve the stones) and olive oil (to ease gall stone passage).  The basic process is to eat apples for a week (or drink large amounts of apple juice), then on the night of the “procedure” you mix a small amount of salts with lemon juice (8oz) and olive oil (8oz) – mix thoroughly and then drink as quickly as you can (without gagging it all back up).  If you’ve ever tried to “drink” olive oil, you know this is not an easy task.  Theoretically, this gives you the runs and over-night you crap out all the stones (and what ever else is in you).
 

I was okay with the apples, salts and lemon juice, but I couldn’t stomach (pun intended) a one to one mix of oil.  My mixture was about 8 to 1.  Needless to say, it was still horrible AND it didn’t work. 
 

Interestingly, I did find one relief, but it was transitory and I’m sure it was equally unhealthy (to olive oil) in the long term.  This was a 2/3rds to 1/3rd mixture of Coke and lemon concentrate.  Basically, pour 4oz of lemon in with 8oz of Coke, stir and drink.  This did seem to relieve the immediate pain.  Whether or not it dissolved the stones (or shrunk them) I can’t say.  In any case, I had to drink the mixture three times a day for consistent relief and the pain would return within two days of stopping.  I put the effect down to the combination of acid in both fluids and to the carbonation – which was probably somehow easing my indigestion.
 

Anyway, nobody seriously thinks drinking a couple liters of Coke each day is the way to a healthy life, so I was back to going under the knife.
 

I reported to the hospital at 5:00am.  I had pre-op at 6:00am.  At 7:15am, I met the nurses, the anesthesiologist, and my surgeon.  Around 11:30am, I woke up.  A little groggy, but not in much pain from the procedure and most importantly – NO PAIN in my back, under my ribs!!!   It’s amazing how good you can feel when you are suddenly without pain! 
 

I got out of bed, went to the bathroom and then came back to bed and did a little jig for my wife.  NO PAIN!!
 

Hil smiled and said to take it easy.
 

If you’re passing urine without blood or pain – they send you home.  I was on my way home shortly after noon.
 

Now, what they don’t tell you (I guess because it’s different for everyone): the immediate reaction is you “have” to pee every 10 minutes, even when you don’t HAVE to.  By that I mean, there seems to be a lot of pressure on your (regular) bladder and you feel like you’re full and have to go right now, even when you don’t.  This is a royal inconvenience because you’re stomach doesn’t really hurt until you start having to get up and down (mostly to go).  Fortunately, this condition also passed (okay, another intended pun) by about 7 pm the first day.
 

I stuck to ice water, jello and chicken noodle soup the first day.  As strange as it sounds, I was fairly mobile the first day.  Just before bed, I went to the kitchen and had myself an apple.  The only other issue I had the first day was an incredibly sore throat.  I guess they stuff a tube down your throat to help you breathe during the operation.  Anyway, make sure you have some throat lozenges cause otherwise you won’t want to talk or swallow.  As it was, I didn’t want to for most of the day.
 

Day two is when the stomach pain starts to kick in.  Contrary to general instructions, I had my usual scrambled eggs and toast with decaf for breakfast.  It really feels like you were asked to do about 1,000 sit-ups / crunches the day before.  Your stomach is aching from the groin to the solar plexus and on the side where the other incisions are (were).  Thank God for pain pills!!  Like I always say, “Better living through chemistry!
 

I was feeling generally uncomfortable, but continued to drink water to stay hydrated.  Along about noon, Mr. Apple came back for a return visit and everything else when out the other end.  The good news was I felt MUCH better… 
 

So, of course I look on-line and what does it say: “Don’t eat apples or citrus fruit after this procedure.”  Live and learn…
 

Sunday, is better again.  The pain in my stomach muscles is starting to ease.  Food isn’t really causing any issues, but I’m still mostly on chicken noodle soup.  I did go crazy and have some chicken breast (no skin) for dinner. 
 

The main thing in getting better is sleep and take your pain pills before you really need them.  On Friday, I took one as soon as Hil got the prescription, one later in the afternoon/evening and then two before bed.  On Saturday, one in the morning, one afternoon, one in the evening and two before bed.  On Sunday, I took two in the afternoon and none before bed.  Today, I’m feeling better again and haven’t taken any.
 

Last night, I tried sleeping on my side for a while.  The was quite an interesting sensation.  I think it’s partly from having things move around inside you and partly from eating less food than normal for a couple of days.  Anyway, I had to move around awhile to find a comfortable place to put my right arm (because of the incisions on that side).
 

So, that’s pretty much it for now.  Tomorrow, I’m going to try to watch a few DVDs and I’ve got my cardiologist at 3:45, so I’ll actually be out and about.  Beyond that, I’ve got some books to review.  Still, I keep telling myself: “Slowly, slowly…
 

Oh, and before I forget…  Kudos to the wonderful staff, nurses and doctors at Mount Diablo Medical Center!!  Once again, you’ve done a great job!!

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Meanwhile I’m spending as many hours every day as my mind allows following the tracks of whatever it is running this Universe, or this phenomenon we think is reality, sniffing down trails of obscure facts and barking up trees of complex math puzzlements.  Gaining new understanding daily, unwinding the warp and weave.
 

—  “Old Jules”
[The writer  at one of the blogs I follow: http://sofarfromheaven.com/2012/04/17/fans-compromises-and-drowning-in-over-my-head-math/  —  KMAB]
 

 

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