My Gallbladder. A Journey.

So the blog has been quiet for a long damned time, and I do apologize for that, but I had two or three fairly significant things happen back to back to back that made leaving my hidey hole un-possible.  The first was a noxious case of strep that turned into the cold from Hell.  It took me out of commission for over a week and a half and made me queen of the mucus, which wasn’t much fun.  As I’ve gotten the cold out of my system, maybe I won’t catch the next round of plague.  Bright side?  PLEASE?

The next was second pass revisions, which weren’t nearly as intensive as the first, but I still had to trim about 10,000 words worth of fat off of MARY to pound her into shape.  And RIGHT as I was about to finish that?  My gallbladder sent me to the hospital.  Oh, gallbladder.  You so silly.

It was about six in the morning when I woke up in bed, a stabbing pain throbbing under my right rib.  It felt like I had a muscle spasm except it wouldn’t stop peaking.  I kept moving around thinking if I just flopped this way or that, the pain would recede and I could go back to sleep.  Except it was a lie.  It didn’t matter which way I flailed, the pain would not stop.  I started to pant like I couldn’t get air, which was strange because it wasn’t in my lungs, but where the pain was hampered my breathing.  And wheezing so much?  Makes you nauseous.  So now imagine Dave waking up to see me fleeing from the bathroom floor, to the couch, to the kitchen, panting and retching and trying to get comfortable but incapable.

Off to the ER we went, hi-ho, hi-ho.

The drive from the house to the hospital sucked because the only thing you want to do when this particular pain happens is MOVE.  You have this niggling sensation that maybe if you move just right, it’ll stop.  It doesn’t, but your body thinks it will so being confined inside a car is a frown-maker.  At least when we got to Brockton Hospital we lucked out; it was 7:30 Sunday morning and I figured the ER would still be full of the Saturday night moron brigade, but no, it was empty, and we got in fairly fast.  When they found me a hospital bed, they shoved me on an anti-nausea medicine and a drip of morphine to take the pain away.  I felt fine after that, but they had me on the good stuff.  You could have severed my feet and I would have thanked you for it.

After a bunch of blood work, a pee test, and a sonogram, they determined that I had a gallstone that had lodged itself in the duct of the gallbladder.  At SOME POINT during my flailing, the gall stone fell back into the vile pit from whence it came which meant the stabbing pain was over and I was left with this bruised feeling the size of a golf ball.  The doctor sent a surgeon down to talk to me and wanted to evict my gallbladder then and there (I affectionately called my gallstone Edith at this juncture, by the by) but I held them off thinking I’d get my edit for Disney done and THEN have the surgery.  Because the pain was over so I was fine for now, right?

Well, SORT OF RIGHT.  They sent me home and told me to schedule the surgery, which I did for the week Dave was out of work on vaca because apparently, I needed a man servant after the procedure.  Two weeks from ER stint to Edith eviction.  Not so bad.  Only it was a little, because what I didn’t realize post-gallstone is that your body sort of hates you forever.  I didn’t have pain anymore, but I had killer fatigue and constant nausea.  Eating?  Had become the worst thing ever because my stomach would roil.  I constantly tasted vomit in my mouth despite numerous tooth brushings per day.  Any food not bland sent me into a hate-spiral and I’d shrink back into bed.

Needless to say, I think the post-ER stint was worse than the actual pain of the gallstone, and that’s saying something.

So Monday the 16th marked my surgery and I was pretty much freaking out the entire weekend before.  I’ve been under anesthesia before for an upper GI but this time they’d be doing lapriscopy and that meant they’d cut me in four places and they’d be vacuuming out my soul (er, Edith) and FREAKY.  I managed to hold it together, but not without a lot of pre-surgery panic despite six billion people I know telling me that this was an easy-peasy procedure.  In hindsight, it did vaguely resemble the McDonald’s version of surgery.

  • 7:00  Check into the hospital.
  • 7:30  Put into room, put on johnny of shame, meet six billion people who are part of your surgery team.  You will never remember their names.  There will be a quiz.  It will suck.
  • 8:00  Lady from the anesthesia department shows up.  All she has to do is fit my arm with my IV and she spends twenty minutes tapping my arm and shaking her head.  She manages to UTTERLY TERRIFY ME because she’s acting like I have no veins when I’ve never had an issue before.  Everyone else in this little hospital corridor has family talking to them pre-cut, but not me on account of this woman panicking that I have no viable veins for my IV.  She calls in another doctor who stabs me once, in a minute, gets the catheter in, and we’re done.  Anesthesia lady, while very nice, has eaten up all my “see Dave before they suck out my innards” time and I resent her forever.  Dave comes in for one last “LATER” and they wheel me off.
  • 8:15 Forty blankets and I’m wheeled under the big, hovering light thing in the surgery room.  They pull out my hair from under my head to put on my cap.  Two nurses spend a full minute admiring my pretty long locks and touching them. (WHY DO STRANGERS INSIST ON TOUCHING MY HAIR ALL THE TIME)  They then stick a net on my head, send me under, and BAM.  Out.
  • 10:00 They wake me up.  The problem is, unlike other people who have dreams of cupcakes and unicorns, Hillary has had a FULL-THROTTLE nightmare while under anesthesia and she wakes up in a panic.  But I can’t kick my legs or arms because drugs and I’m spazzing.  The nurses start spazzing, too, because they don’t know what’s wrong with me as I attempt to kung-fu chop my nightmare creatures while under drugs.  Once they got me fully awake and my tongue worked again, I was able to explain, but for a few minutes they were fairly sure I was possessed.  And for a few minutes?  I had the incredibly unpleasant sensation of FEAR combined with chemical paralysis.  Fodder for a book some day, I swear.
  • 10:15 Ice chips because my throat is dry and scratched from them forcing the breathing tube down into my lungs.  And then all the popsicles because they offered and nothing sounded more delicious.  My mid-section hurt but less like someone had stabbed me and more like an army of angry midgets had kicked me to death.  It felt bruised.  Very bruised.  I got into a car accident once and it reminded me of THAT – the impact of midsection with the steering wheel.
  • 10:30 Dave comes in.  They tell me that I am done, that I have four incisions (one through the bellybutton, three beneath the right boob) and that I’m free to go once I accomplish two very important things:  pee and eat toast.  I do both.  I feel I am a champion.
  • 12:00 We’re home and I go immediately to bed, armed with percocet.   I’m not allowed to lift anything.  The pain is bearable on the meds though my bellybutton feels FUNNY (like it’s trying to explode from the inside out) and I’m stooped over like an old person.  Walking is okay, sitting is okay, getting up and getting down is REALLY UNPLEASANT. Sleep is best.  Let’s sleep.  And only eat when we have to.

And honestly, post surgery, I’ve been in a holding pattern of that last bullet.  I’m tired and I rest a lot but it’s bearable discomfort and it gets more bearable by the day.  I need less and less pain meds – I may be off of them by tomorrow, to be frank.  The bellybutton “exploding guts” sensation is still there on occasion and I’m not such a fan of that, but it’s lessening, too.  I don’t really have pain when I get up or down now, either, though two things will still make me see Jesus:  hiccups and laughing.  I’m not allowed to do either as it forces pressure on the incisions from inside.  So as long as I’m humorless, it’s cool.  Dave turning on that Louis CK special the other night was a bad plan.

I think he was trying to kill me.

He hasn’t denied it yet.

Problem, that.

Anyway, I am (for all intents and purposes) back and finishing my edits on MARY.  I’m also a good portion of my way through the short story I’m doing for Solaris and after that, I’m off to write a black comedy before tackling MARY 2.  It’ll be a busy new year with lots of interesting things to say!  I hope.  I think.  Until then?  Happy holidays!

– Hillary and her once-but-no-longer-friend Edith

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