Senior Veteran (female)
Join Date: May 2004
Re: nervous about gallbladder surgery
Okay, no being nervous allowed! (Well, maybe a little...) I had my gallbladder out in April of this year. I also had ankle surgery in March of the year before. And for the record, I would rather have ten gallbladder surgeries than just one ankle surgery!
Also, you may get in sooner than you think, depending on how bad the surgeon thinks your situation is. I saw the surgeon on a Friday, I think. He wanted to take it out I think like the next day or something. I had a professional meeting to attend and present at the next week, so I was going to be out of town Monday through Wednesday. I got back Wed night and he had me in surgery Thursday. I was in a lot of pain, though. But he gave me some nice pills to take while I was waiting for the surgery. :-)
So my surgery was scheduled for 1:00 Thursday. I had to be there at 11. So I slept in, then did some errands and stuff to keep myself busy. Then I took a shower and headed to the hospital. Leave your jewelry at home, as well as your wallet. Just take your insurance cards (and if you have asthma, take your inhalers). Then there's the check-in process, where you fill out papers and stuff. Then I went upstairs and waited for the nurse. She took me back to the pre-op area into a little room where they talk to you to make sure you know what's being done, any meds you are on, etc. Then they weigh you, take your temperature, pulse, blood pressure... Then they give you a chance to change into a very attractive gown and some really sexy socks. They also give you a hat, but you don't have to put that on right away.
Then you lay down (or sit up, if you prefer) on a bed and they give you a blanket and you see about twenty people. Actually, you see the nurse, the anesthesiologist, and the surgeon. But they just keep stopping by so it seems like a lot. The nurse starts the IV (if you offer you pain medication before they put in the IV, skip it... the IV is just one poke, but if you take the pain meds they inject you like 4 times with a smaller needle and I think it actually hurts more). The anesthesiologist talks to you about medications, pain relief, and any concerns. And the surgeon stops by to chat too.
I was feeling kind of nauseated at this point (and also hungry!), so the anesthesiologist gave me some anti-nausea meds through the IV. I also told her I was afraid of being nauseated when I woke up, so she said that she would make sure to give me more when I left the OR. I also told her about pain meds, since morphine doesn't have any effect on me, so that I wouldn't be in too much pain when I woke up.
They do have to intubate you when you have gallbladder surgery, which means that they put a tube down your throat and hook you up to a breathing machine. But they do that after you go to sleep, and they take it out before you wake up. I had a very slight sore throat the day after, but nothing like the sore throat I had after my endoscopy, if you've had one of those. The reason they have to do that is because when they do the surgery they fill your abdomen with gas and that combined with the anesthesia makes it very hard for your body to breathe on its own. Plus, it gives them the ability to control your breathing so you don't take a breath just as the surgeon is trying to make a very delicate cut!
I also told the anesthesiologist that I was nervous, so she came back and gave me something "to calm me down." I have figured out that it was versed, because I remember feeling it hit me and got kind of loopy feeling, and then I don't remember anything at all until waking up in the recovery room. Now, when I had my ankle surgery they didn't give me anything like that in pre-op, so I remember getting rolled into the OR then scooting over from the one bed to the other, then they didn't even tell me when they put the meds in, I just woke up in the recovery room.
So you wake up in the recovery room, and there's either a nurse right there or they will show up very quickly. You'll have a mask over your mouth blowing oxygen at you, which they take off once you wake up. Then you ask some stupid questions, like "what time is it?" or "is it over?". (By the way, it was 3ish... meaning that the time from going into surgery to being fully coherent in recovery was about 2 hours, but the surgery only lasted 45 minutes). I asked for some ice chips, then the nurse checked out my incisions. Then she had me sit up and move over to a big rolling chair, and she took me over to another area where they brought my mom in to see me. When I had my ankle surgery, they didn't move me like that, just brought my mom back in the first area where I woke up.
They typically give you something to drink and eat (I got cranberry juice and graham crackers) and if you eat that and feel pretty good, they let you go home.
You will be in pain when you wake up, and will probably ask for one or two shots of pain meds through the IV before you leave. What you should do once you are awake and not in tons of pain, is ask for the pill form of the medication. Then sit around and wait until that kicks in before going home. With my ankle surgery I got two shots of demerol through the IV and then went home, and before we could even get the prescriptions filled, the pain was out of control. With the gallbladder, I got one shot through the IV, then took the pills, then while I was waiting for those to kick in I got one more shot, so I was never in too much pain.
Then they take the IV out and you get dressed and go home. I was home on the couch by 5:00. Be sure to take some loose-fitting shorts or pants with a loose elastic waist. You probably won't be putting on a bra to go home, either.
My incisions were done with dissolving stitches and then painted over with this super-glue type stuff, so I didn't even have any bandages. You generally end up with four 1/4-1/2 inch incisions. One in the bellybutton, two on the right side below the ribs, and one in the middle just below the breastbone.
I spent the next few days on the couch, but you also need to get up and go for short walks a few times a day. Start off eating low-fat foods and things that are pretty bland. Take your time introducing fats back into your diet. It took me about a month to be able to eat whatever I wanted without feeling sick. I was back in classes on a limited basis 4 days after surgery. A week and a half later I was back to all of my normal activities, and a month afterwards I had no more pain at all. You will be in pain the first few days, but if you keep up with the pain meds you will be okay. The other problem I had was incision tenderness. I couldn't wear jeans because they hit my bellybutton, and I couldn't wear a bra because it hit the midline incision. So I wore sweatpants and I got some snug camisoles to wear under my shirts.
So that's all there is to it. Plan on taking at least a week off of work and plan on being fairly miserable for the first few days. But it's not a bad surgery, if you're going to have to have surgery.