Talk Me Down From Terror Over a Routine Surgery, Please
July 22, 2014 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Thanks to marinating myself in others’ bad outcomes, I’m terrified of my gallbladder removal this Monday, a surgery that happens 700,000 times a year. I could use a ton of positive-outcome, no-problem, no-side-effect stories, and/or any good sensible cognitive talk on not letting people’s health forum posts terrify you.

I’ve stacked the deck in my favor as best I can. My health plan let me select a nationally renowned hospital and a highly recommended surgeon who’s done this surgery over a thousand times in the last 12 years. I’ve stockpiled vacation time, I think my workplace is understanding, and I managed to never have a crippling worse-than-childbirth attack (just a medium-bad one in March and bad pokes and cramps since then). (But ultrasounds and CT scans do signify it needs to come out.)

The problem is that I’ve read way too fucking much on this, and my head is completely marinated in every worst-case scenario that could happen that could screw up my life from this point onward. Thank you, misleading vividness, availability heuristic,

Some people who have this surgery have chronic diarrhea for years or for the rest of their lives. That petrifies me. There are other symptoms as well, such as people who seem to start gaining weight after the surgery without a clear reason why (medical science seems not to know why aside from saying that they must be chowing down, which they swear they're not), or stones in the common bile duct, or dyspepsia and nausea that won’t go away.

What feels very untrue is the thought of coming through this with flying colors, having my digestive system adjust in short order, and returning to my life with it completely normal. That’s what I want to have happen, and what’s crazy is that I know that’s the default reaction to this surgery from my understanding! But somehow I’m convinced that I’m going to get stomped by Fate on this. (And I’ve come across some stories of people who inexplicably start having the aforementioned chronic diarrhea months, years or decades after the surgery. That feels a bit like a sword of Damocles over my head … okay, you’re fine NOW, but we can drop the bowling ball whenever we like … )

But added arguments for a good outcome: my surgeon says that of the 1000+ patients he’s had thus far, 85-90% of his patients have no diarrhea, and of that 10-15% who experience it for a few weeks, he’s yet to have one patient who has had diarrhea for more than a few weeks. My mother had hers out at age 26 and in the 40+ years since has never had an issue with any foods (even of the fatty kind); she can’t remember if she had any post-removal issues immediately thereafter. So maybe the genes will help.

It’s very embarrassing to display my anxiety so candidly to you all like this, but frankly, I’ve always considered the aggregate wisdom of Ask Metafilter to be extraordinarily helpful, and so any embarrassment is worth it to get any wisdom, solace or advice you might be willing to offer.
posted by WCityMike to Health & Fitness (52 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm fine, my husband is fine, we have been without our gallbladders for over a decade.

You should be fine too.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:31 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

My best friend had gallbladder surgery a year and change ago. She had an infection so bad the nurse who saw her gallbladder referred to it as "raunchy". She's fine-- no changes in weight, no dietary changes needed to compensate, just a scar and the ability not to be in horrible pain again.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:35 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

My mom had it 30+ years ago. Never had a problem since.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:35 PM on July 22, 2014

I know three people who've had their gallbladders out in the past five years. Every one of them had a perfect surgery and recovery, even the one who has other chronic health problems and usually gets all the weird side-effects from procedures and medications.
posted by telophase at 12:36 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ok, I'm one with lingering side effects. BUT, if you happen to be one of the small percentage with ongoing issues, please know there is a very simple, inexpensive pharmaceutical remedy. I take it every day, takes five seconds, and completely clears up the symptoms. Before insurance discounts, the total cost is about $25 a month. I pay about four bucks a month for it. So even if the worst happens, it's really no big deal and easily treatable.
posted by raisingsand at 12:37 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am a person living without a gallbladder. My surgery was utterly uneventful and my decade since having the surgery has likewise been uneventful. I can eat anything I like and I have absolutely zero side effects.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:37 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry, but mine was a piece of cake. I felt sooo much better afterwards. Only needed pain meds to sleep because I had more muscle soreness than straight up pain. That just made it uncomfortable to use my stomach muscles to turn over in bed, etc. As for the diarrhea, just loose stools for a while but nothing chronic, not where I had to dash for the potty or such. For me, way easier than wisom teeth surgery. Good Luck.
posted by PJMoore at 12:39 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

My Mother, my MIL and one of my best friends all had their removed. It's relatively easy to recover from and everyone has moved on with their lives.

I'm going to tell you about my surgery. First of all, the process is delicious. You sit in a bed pre-surg, and they give you some very nice drugs. Some for nausea, some for anxiety, some are just plain fun. They give you some Versed, and you sort of nod off. Everyone is super nice to you and so pleasant.

You wake up and it's all over. You feel great because MORPHINE! You'll probably stay overnight, or not. And you'll sleep the sleep of the angels. I promise, it's like a freaking spa treatment! It feels GREAT!

Then you recover. You can expect pain to be the same levels as doing too many sit ups. It's there, but so much better than gallbladder attacks.

Is it possible that you'll have to watch fat content after surgery. Yes. Do some people never have a problem after the surgery? Yes.

Go into this with the expectation that it's going to be kind of fun. You'll be catered to and cared for and people will stop by to make sure you're okay. And you will be!

Take care!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:40 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: No need to say "sorry", PJMoore, that's exactly the kind of story I'm looking for.
posted by WCityMike at 12:41 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I could use a ton of positive-outcome, no-problem, no-side-effect stories, and/or any good sensible cognitive talk on not letting people’s health forum posts terrify you.

I don't have experience with gallbladder removal, but I can comment on the second half of this.

Remember: people always want to talk about their bad experiences, but never about their positive ones. People are much more likely to leave a Yelp review after a poor restaurant experience than a good one, and they are more likely to report a bad surgical experience on an online message board than share a good outcome. So bear in mind, as you read these boards, that they don't represent the statistical reality of gallbladder removal surgeries.

Good luck - you will do great!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:41 PM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

My mom had her gallbladder out when she was 7 months pregnant, and there were no complications and everything was fine!
posted by ChuraChura at 12:41 PM on July 22, 2014

My husband had his out a couple years ago. No problems at all!

My mom had hers out a several years ago and also had no problems!

posted by AllieTessKipp at 12:45 PM on July 22, 2014

I had my gallbladder out six years ago when I was 29. It ended up being an open operation because of weird anatomy that meant the surgeon couldn't see to do a laparoscopic operation, but all that meant was a longer hospital stay and recovery. I now totally don't miss my gallbladder or the attacks, and can eat perfectly normally.

Your experience is likely to be much smoother than mine, and mine was really quite OK. I was scared beforehand, too. Good luck!
posted by altolinguistic at 12:46 PM on July 22, 2014

You'll be fine. Sounds you really did your work and have been proactive in preparing for a best-case outcome. It's normal for human beings to be terrified by surgery (some more than others).

In your case, you're also anticipating how your life will change once a lingering health problem is gone. I don't think we necessarily realize the emotional/mental/physical energy we put into working around health issues until they're resolved. Freeing up that energy for something else is a strange sensation indeed.

Best of luck and good vibes.
posted by Occam's Aftershave at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2014

Aw. sweetie. Two things: one, my former father-in-law had his out and was back to wolfing down greasy barbecue within weeks. Two: Mr. Julthumbscrew had surgery twice in four months a few years ago, and I was TERRIFIED each time, despite the fact that both operations were relatively non-risky ones, performed by a guy with over a decade of post-graduate training.

It is normal to be obsessive and worried and fearful ahead of time. It's a time when it helps to Acknowledge It, Then Own It: that is, to accept your emotions as normal/okay, BUT THEN to rein them in (realize that they are not founded in logic/facts/statistics, and that you should not let them necessarily control your actions or your life).
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:53 PM on July 22, 2014

My surgery was uneventful and I have had zero side effects. I have a few scars on my tummy, but no dietary changes have been necessary for me at all. I tell everyone that gallbladders are menaces and they should have them removed at the first hint of trouble.
posted by chiababe at 12:53 PM on July 22, 2014

Something to think about with the "chronic diarrhea appearing after years of being fine!" stories: people are terrible at determining the cause of their own medical problems. What do you want to bet 90% of those people have in the intervening years developed something completely unrelated like IBS or colitis and they just assumed it was caused by the gallbladder removal instead of actually going to their doctor? Not saying this is always the case, but if I believed half the things people on message boards thought were associated with the chronic disease I have and/or would fix it, I'd be spinning in circles trying to keep track.

Also, I have a good friend who had totally uncomplicated gallbladder surgery and she is completely fine.
posted by MsMolly at 12:55 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, my then 76 year old grandmother had hers out 6 months after I did and she recovered more quickly than I did! (But she also wasn't lugging around an infant like I was, so I blame that on the baby.)
posted by chiababe at 12:56 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had my GB out about 8 years ago. The surgery was uneventful--went in in the morning, was home by the time the kids got out of school, and for various reasons we had decided to tell the kids I was "not feeling very well" rather than "mommy just had surgery." I had to put on my brave face for an ouchy hug from my youngest, but recovery was pretty easy. I think I took a couple days off work and was a little slow moving around for a few days, but it was more sore than excruciating and I had lots of percocet left over when all was said and done. I haven't had to make any changes to my typical awful occasionally fat-laden American diet.
posted by drlith at 12:56 PM on July 22, 2014

I had my gallbladder out years ago. Stayed 2 nights because I lived alone & doctors wanted to make sure. My poop is occasionally dark green, which I used to worry about but doctor told me it was just the bile as it's not stored anymore and not to worry so I stopped worrying.

The part, which you haven't mentioned is the farting after surgery as they pump you up with air, and you have to fart it out, it is super embarrassing how interested in your farts doctors & nurses become, but man did I fart out some beauties. Really that was it, my only side effect a day or 2 of farting. I'm going to say fart one more time . .fart.
posted by wwax at 1:03 PM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

My mom had hers out about ten years ago. She feels a lot better, and had no complications or residual issues from the surgery.

I had some surgery a few years ago, surgery that I had wanted to have for years prior to having it done, because I was getting sick and just wanted to feel better. Even though I really wanted the surgery, I was still super anxious beforehand, especially about having general anesthesia. I was convinced terrible things would happen because surgery is scary stuff.

Let me tell you, my experience with general anesthesia was kind of great. They gave me some drugs before wheeling my into the OR, where it was nice and warm. People were talking to me in soft voices and wrapping me up in warm blankets, and I thought to myself "oh wow, i'm on drugs!" Next thing I knew it was over and some nice nurse was petting my head and telling me I had a pretty name.

Anesthesiologists are wonderful people, and gallbladders are jerks. You're going to be just fine!
posted by inertia at 1:06 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had mine out last Monday! Here's a wall of text about my very recent personal experience! I was scared, and also read WAY too much. I am also severely emetophobic, so the anesthesia was really frightening for me. At this point, the worst part was waiting an extra 2 hours in pre-op with no TV and no explanation for the delay. The surgery was pretty fast (an hour, I think) and waking up in post-op really wasn't horrible. I was up and going home about 2 hours after the surgery. I got a HUGE rx for percoset, but I only took them the first day post-op, then I changed to extra strength Tylenol. I had little appetite, but the only nausea I had was from the percoset, and as soon as I stopped that, I was fine. I had one bathroom emergency, but that was because of a stupid decision to make a pile of cherries my first big meal. I have been eating normally for days now. I have not tried a heavy (greasy) meal. On day 6 post-op I went to the gym and walked a mile. Walked 2 yesterday, 1 week post-op. My incisions are tiny. The navel one is tender but the others are not. I fly cross-country in 2 weeks and should be totally fine.
The only thing I'm worrying about at this point is if the surgery was effective for my issue. I did not have stones, just an ejection rate of 14% when it should be above 40%. So my gallbladder did not really work for a long time, and I had chronic pain. I'm just hoping that the removal solves the issues.
Best of luck to you! I KNOW how scary it is. I was there such a short time ago. I can see the proverbial light at the end now, and you will a week from now too!
posted by Cloudberry Sky at 1:09 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had my gall bladder out almost a year ago. I was sent home that evening with Rx for strong plain tylenols and for oxycontin. One of the friends looking after me had had bad experiences with oxycontin after a much more serious surgery some time before, and she went on about this so much that I never touched them. I never had to.

I did get something of a sore throat from the intubation. Friends brought me sherbet and granita and they helped a lot, and it resolved within a day or two. I recommend you have something of the sort handy.

I very rarely partake of cannabis because I don't like smoking, but the day after the surgery I had a couple of tokes, no more, and it helped enormously with a transient bit of pain and nausea I experienced the next morning. I didn't have to repeat it, either.

No side effects, I was eating normal food again within the week and have been fine since. My mother and sister both had the surgery some years before I did and neither of them complained of any lingering issues either.
posted by zadcat at 1:10 PM on July 22, 2014

I know several people who have been through this, and all describe it as one of the best things they ever did. Minimal discomfort, minimal side effects, life-improving in general.

Please do consider what schroedingersgirl says upthread about people with negative experiences being WAY more likely to post their stories! I totally understand being nervous about any procedure, and reading enough about it to get good and freaked out, but everything is very, very likely to turn out fine. Good luck!
posted by jessicapierce at 1:12 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

One more thing to 2nd zadcat: I had a pretty sore throat and funky voice for several days from the intubation. It was more annoying than anything in my abdomen. Hot peppermint tea with honey felt sooooo good.
posted by Cloudberry Sky at 1:13 PM on July 22, 2014

I had mine out a decade ago. I can't even remember now if they kept me overnight, but if they did it was only because I have heart disease and they wanted to monitor me. Surgery went ridiculously smoothly -- the surgeon came out in under 45 minutes, which freaked my mother out because she thought it meant something was wrong. Nope, they were just done and had sent me to recovery. I had surgery on a Thursday and the next Wednesday I was going out to trivia with my friends. Within a couple of weeks I was eating chicken fried steak, and my scars have healed up so well (laparoscopic) I can't even find them.
My sister had hers out about 5 years before that. She actually felt better immediately after the surgery than she had before, because the post-surgical pain was less bad than the low-lying chronic pain from her gallbladder.
posted by katemonster at 1:16 PM on July 22, 2014

I had mine out with no complications except whimpering "I hurt bad I'm gonna die" at the nurse as I came out of sedation and once they discharged me mostly I slept and then stared at the TV in a glassy-eyed Vicodin haze until I was coherent.

I did eventually go off the Vicodin early because the surgical pain was less of a pain (har!) than the vomiting the Vicodin caused.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:16 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I spent a lot of time freaking out about my surgery beforehand, and even went so far as to write a 'farewell' blog post (on a time delay) just in case I died. I was sobbing by the time I crawled onto the operating table. I may have also sorta' threatened my surgeon that my boss (a specialist physician) would be really pissed off if he accidentally killed me during the operation.

(Suffice to say, I think the surgeon was thrilled to finally get me knocked out.)

After, I woke up in the recovery room and told the nurses a rambly story about how people are known to chew Fentanyl patches (this knowledge came to me via my job, not personal experience) and so I declined their offer to slap one on me. I then noted my need to pee, toddled off to the bathroom, and spent far too much time in there laughing over the fact that I couldn't hold up my hospital gown AND pee at the same time because ooooohhhh, I was hiiiiiiigh. I was cranky about my stomach hurting - who knew you used your stomach muscles so much for just, like, sitting around?

(Suffice to say, I think the hospital was thrilled to discharge me to my husband's care.)

I came home, popped whatever meds they gave me, and .. well, I don't remember much beyond that. I spent a good amount of time on the sofa with my laptop and some movies/books/games. I stared into space. I napped. (I deleted the blog post about my sadness to have died in the prime of my life. Ahem.)

By the second or third day I had stopped taking the pain meds because I didn't need them and because I was starting to think I'd never, ever poop again. I started eating normally within a few days.

Fast forward to now and my digestive system is a trillion times happier than it was before - even for totally fatty, greasy, unhealthy foods. I no longer have to beg for mercy when I eat chicken wings. I take a prescription acid reducer because I have reflux and am prone to ulcers, but that didn't get better or worse after the surgery.
posted by VioletU at 1:21 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

good sensible cognitive talk on not letting people’s health forum posts terrify you

Here's the thing about health-forum posts: consider the source.

The VAST, silent majority of people for whom things went well don't go back to that health forum, ever again. It's not like Yelp reviews, where you're so happy and you want to share your joy; it's an event you're glad to put behind you and never reconsider.

People who have time to post are the minority and the exceptions, but you hear more from them because they are sick enough that they are not at work, not out in the world shopping and exercising and enjoying themselves or at the beach or whatever -- so they turn to the internet to connect, and look up why they're not feeling well, and commiserate. It's a very vocal minority. Their pain is very real, but their experience doesn't apply to the majority, regardless of its visibility.

This is advice from my back surgeon, which is a case where not wallowing in the pain is very functional advice, and it globalizes even better to very-routine things like gallbladder removal.
posted by Dashy at 1:24 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is my sister-in-law who had the surgery, not me, but I have heard a lot about her post-surgery physical health. Now, it is going to sound next like I am judging my sister-in-law, but that is only because I am. She has had quite a bit of diarrhea post-surgery, but to my eyes she makes really poor dietary decisions and despite her asking me about elimination diets, she just does not seem to get the concept. So, I would say even though not all post-surgery issues are diet related, that is an avenue to pursue afterwards if you do have experience complications. Also, my sister-in-law had trouble before the surgery and I suspect that may represent a lot of people who have complications - they have a complicated health history.

Oh, and you may not need all that much time away from work, but it is great that you have that set aside, my sister-in-law went back to work right away and it did cause her health setbacks. I hope you find some peace of mind before the surgery.
posted by dawg-proud at 1:31 PM on July 22, 2014

That feels a bit like a sword of Damocles over my head … okay, you’re fine NOW, but we can drop the bowling ball whenever we like …

Sorry bro, but this is quite literally the human condition, whether you have your gallbladder removed or not. I would argue what you have to fear as a longterm side effect of this particular surgery is far milder and less scary than most of the other swords of Damocles that are hanging over your head right now (that nonetheless did not prompt you to post an AskMeFi question).

Having to deal with a health situation in the moment forces us to consider the risks that are actually with us all the time, but it may help to realize that having this surgery does not appreciably change the sum total of bad stuff that could happen to you at any moment. It's a bit like dropping a marble on a scale that already has a tractor trailer on it.

I had a less routine surgery with a similarly small percentage of scary life ruining side effects (that are discussed in painstaking detail on the internet), and I'm fine! Contrastingly, my grandmother needed a routine surgery 20 years ago. She was too afraid and never did it and has suffered the consequences, which are severe, for twenty years. If getting surgery means having the sword of Damocles over your head, avoiding it means reaching up and pulling the sword down on yourself. You are doing the right thing and you will be great.
posted by telegraph at 1:33 PM on July 22, 2014

I had my gallbladder out last year. I was terrified, mostly of the general anaesthesia, but also freaking out because these people wanted to remove one of my internal organs! And WTF I need my internal organs. It went fine though, and I feel exactly the same now as I did before the gallbladder started acting up. I haven't changed my diet at all and still eat delicious fatty things with no side effects. I marvel that my body totally adjusted to life without a gallbladder.

I also have two friends who had their gallbladders removed, and both are perfectly fine, with no side effects. I am certain you will be absolutely fine, and I understand why you are freaking out because any surgery is a scary thing to contemplate. Stop reading any forum posts on the subject, except this one!
posted by Joh at 1:42 PM on July 22, 2014

Did you have digestive problems before your gallbladder went bad?
posted by serena15221 at 1:57 PM on July 22, 2014

I went in to the hospital at 9am for laparoscopic survery, and was out and being driven home by 1pm. I felt absolutely fine at that point, but then spent a couple of days in bed resting up and taking plenty of dihydrocodeine. On the third day I went out and had pizza with my wife and kids. Managed to hobble around the shops a bit too, although I didn't have a lot of energy. The four tiny wounds were pretty much healed within a week (and six months later I couldn't actually find them all when I looked for them). Abdominal aches and pains lasted two weeks at most.

Six weeks after surgery, we moved house; I shifted most of the furniture myself - probably not sensible, but I was fine. And long-term changes in anything, really, except that I can eat what I like. I'm still a bit nervous about curries, although I needn't be.

The one weird side-effect is that I can't take codeine anymore. I used to take a couple when I had a gallbladder 'attack' in the year before I had the surgery, and it really helped. But now if I take it, I get all of the symptoms of an attack, despite not having a gallbladder. Maybe some strange psychosomatic effect. Probably won't happen to you though.
posted by pipeski at 2:01 PM on July 22, 2014

My mom had hers out at sixty with no complications and no big deal.

Maybe you would benefit by cataloguing the number of also horrible things that might happen while driving, walking, shopping, etc., until you're saturated with cringing fear and you just stop worrying about it because your cup runneth over from worrying about the hidden terrors of every day life.

It's a routine surgery, let these answers bring you reassurance that it's routine and nearly everyone comes out of it just fine. Just like somehow all of us got through today. Because here we are.

Also, those people who were statistical outliers -- those people likely shared some characteristics that you do not share with them, therefore you do not need to worry about them.

You might also benefit from a week's worth of Xanax if reading all of these positive outcomes don't give you some solace.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:27 PM on July 22, 2014

My dad has his out shortly before Christmas. He had to have the open surgery because of previous abdominal surgery. He was in the hospital about a week, but he's old with diabetes and kinda poor kidney function.

He's home. Same as always. Eats what he wants. He was glad to get it out.
posted by kathrynm at 2:40 PM on July 22, 2014

I had mine out two and a half years ago.

The surgery was a piece of cake. I went in around 8am and was home on my couch watching Castle by 3. The worst parts were that my back hurt from the OR table, one of my eyes was super dry (have eye drops on hand at home just in case, trust me) and that my uvula felt like it was the size of a baseball. All tolerable and quickly resolved though.

Getting up and sitting down was uncomfortable for a few days. My stomach was really tender and sore. None of this was even on the same planet of pain as an actual gallbladder attack. Not even close. My surgeon thought I would have been fine with alternating acetominophen and ibuprofen but I had some percocet left over from the biliary obstruction that sent me to the hospital in the first place and I needed and used it.

As to long term ill effects...I guess I am a smidge more prone to indigestion now and I have reflux if I eat too close to bedtime. But I couldn't say that was BECAUSE I don't have a gallbladder, especially since it didn't start until over a year after my surgery. I guess my digestive tract might be a wee bit more delicate than before, but hard to say for sure. Certainly nothing life changing or even much beyond mildly irritating on occasion. Really.

What I CAN say for sure is that my gallbladder tried to kill my liver (and gave me the worst pain I have ever experienced as part of that). I need my liver. I don't need my gallbladder. Once your gallbladder turns evil, it must be destroyed. I wouldn't want mine back. Good luck! The odds are enormously in your favor that you will do just fine and never even notice it's gone.
posted by biscotti at 2:42 PM on July 22, 2014

Oh, and if they suggest you need an ERCP before you have the surgery, go for it. It makes it much more likely that they will be able to complete the surgery laparoscopically. But not everyone needs one. I had a stone stuck (the one and only stone I had), so I did.

Feel free to MeMail me if you want more details!
posted by biscotti at 2:46 PM on July 22, 2014

My SO and her dad both had theirs removed. They're 100% fine.
posted by evisceratordeath at 3:09 PM on July 22, 2014

My sister and my girlfriend both have had theirs out, and they are oh so happy the offending organs are gone. Both spent a couple days high on painkillers and sleeping, and (I'm not going to lie) girlfriend ended up with a touch of infection and was on light duty for six weeks (she was working as a jailer, so it just meant she spent 6 weeks working the bond desk instead of wrangling people). But after that, she was fine, my sister was fine, and they're both very glad they had the surgery.

My point is that, even on the small chance that something does happen (like GF's infection), you have good insurance and health care, and they will take care of you. Hang in there!
posted by joycehealy at 4:25 PM on July 22, 2014

This may have already been said, but you do know that the overwhelming majority of people who post to those kinds of forums are the ones who had problems, don't you? The millions of people who have had their gallbladder successfully removed with no post-operative problems are not seeking out places to post problems.

You will be fine.
posted by harrietthespy at 4:31 PM on July 22, 2014

So, no one in my family has a gallbladder. Seriously. Almost everyone in my family has had their gallbladder removed. (My mom to me once: "I can't believe you still have your gallbladder. One kid and you're done.") Several of my friends have had theirs out. Of the 10+ people I know who've had gallbladder removal surgery, none of them have had complications either with the surgery or after. I think I know more adults without a gallbladder than with one. And they're all fine.

Good luck!
posted by Aquifer at 4:48 PM on July 22, 2014

It's fine. I did it last year. You go to sleep and wake up a bit groggy and spaced out. Pop your morphine pills, pee once so they can make sure everything's fine, then get home and enjoy two weeks of watching Archer in bed. That's what I did. You'll probably feel some gas pain and it'll be hard to get in and out of bed for the first day or two, so go easy. I didn't even take the pain pills for more than a day or two.

After my surgery I had a touch of the sensitive tummy, but only for a week or two. Hell, I lost forty pounds as if by magic with no special effort. I don't know why, but it was awesome. So, in short, don't worry about it. Be a big baby and ask people to fluff your pillows and bring you toast and grape juice and enjoy being free of your gallstone pain! I look back on my recovery fondly even. Bit of a vacation!
posted by The Hyacinth Girl at 6:30 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good grief there's so many of us without gallbladders here!! I had mine out in 1987.

I waited FAR too long to get it out, as I was too chicken to agree to surgery until it was inevitable. I agreed to surgery only because the pain was unbearable during the final attack. By the time the surgeon was operating I was a day or so away from peritonitis. I spent a few days in the hospital receiving excellent care, went home to recover. I watched my nutrition like a hawk after that, got myself fit and slender within a few months (fit took longer than slender) and never looked back. It was an excellent turning point in my life.

Having said this, I have had some stomach issues many years later - about four years ago or so I sought care and learned that this was due to sensitivity to certain foods that I was eating far too often. I stopped eating these foods, added a lot more variety to my diet, and the issue resolved itself.

The surgery did me a world of good, and I highly recommend it. Also, surgical techniques have evolved since then, so your scar will be even smaller than mine (mine is minuscule, despite the last-minute trauma of emergency intervention). Good health to you !!
posted by seawallrunner at 7:00 PM on July 22, 2014

I was turning into one of those old folks who spent half their awake time focusing on their digestive system; it was always something - pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhea. Then one night the pain got baaaaad and the CT scan showed I had a gallbladder "full of rocks" the doctor said, and pancreatitis with enzyme levels four tiimes normal (!!! the doctor said). A day in the hospital on whoo-hoo Dilaudid and IV antibiotics for the pancreatitis, gallbladder out the next morning, another night on antibiotics, enzyme levels were down and I went home. My abdomen was a little tender for maybe 5 days, but I only took oxycontin once. I ate gentle stuff for a week, but I also went yard saling 4 days after the surgery.

That was six years ago and I'm DELIGHTED with the fact that I can eat anything without anything getting angry inside at all. Once in awhile I get a flood of bile that gives me a round of diarrhea and once in awhile I get a little constipated, but so does everyone else. I'm really glad my gallbladder and pancreas finally made enough fuss to make me deal with the problem - this is a much nicer way to live.

You'll smile at your pre-surgery anxiety when you sail right through it and after a week of easy exercise and a gentle diet, you'll feel terrific - oh, yes.

Oh - and the nurses and docs can handle your fears and anxiety - it's old hat to them.
posted by aryma at 8:42 PM on July 22, 2014

Both of my sisters had theirs out around 20 and 15 years ago, and neither has experienced anything unpleasant. They both eat and live no differently than they did beforehand (including plenty of sinful restaurant food and the like) and are feeling fine.
posted by mr. digits at 8:13 AM on July 23, 2014

I had mine out a couple of years ago. The worst part about it was that the pain medication afterwards made me extremely nauseous. The nausea went away after 2 days and I felt week for about 2 weeks afterwards. I am fine now and eat whatever I want. After the 2 days of nausea, I went back to my normal diet. The deciding factor in getting the surgery was when a friend asked what I would do if I was on an airplane and had an attack. The idea of being on an airplane and having a gallbladder attack was more horrific than the idea of surgery.
posted by parakeetdog at 4:52 PM on July 23, 2014

My mom had hers out in an emergency surgery and she shrugged off the recovery like it was nothing and she is not what I would call a tough broad. And now, eating bacon doesn't hurt, so, her life is full of win.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:03 AM on July 24, 2014

Response by poster: This isn't meant to be a thread-closer, but I may get busy in these last few days before the surgery, and I didn't want to forget to thank everyone who has added (or will add) their comments and stories. Your comments had just the effect I was hoping with — while I can't say I'm bouncing around with eager joyfulness for the surgery, your stories of successful surgeries with no long-term effects have made me feel much more hopeful than I did previously.
posted by WCityMike at 7:10 AM on July 25, 2014

How are you, WCityMike?
posted by chiababe at 3:59 PM on August 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: A update nine days after surgery, for those kind enough to be of help in this and other threads, as well as for those approaching their own surgery.

I was able to approach the surgery calmly. I didn’t want to do this, but there’s a certain peace you obtain after committing yourself. I reviewed my reasoning for the surgery the Friday beforehand and committed myself to it.

I was kept overnight, which is apparently standard for sleep apneics. A family member was kind enough to visit for the first couple days post-surgery. I was able to walk and did so around the neighborhood a few times daily, to avoid blood clots. I experienced very little shoulder pain and I think that my abdominal muscles must’ve healed up very quickly; within two to three days it did not hurt that much to get out of bed. I returned to work Monday.

As for the feared digestion concern, it is too early to tell, I think, what things will be like long-term. While I’ve been able to eat low-fat foodstuffs without incident, and have found a variety of them quite enjoyable (frozen fruit bars, carved-turkey sandwiches from my local deli, etc.), I’ve had some digestive concerns that suggest I won’t be one of those people whose systems instantly adjust. My hope, though, is that the adjustment period will last only a few weeks, and won’t be months, years or lifelong, although thanks to those who've gone before me, I know there's medication I could take.
posted by WCityMike at 11:27 AM on August 6, 2014

Glad to hear the update, really rooting for you!
posted by dawg-proud at 9:31 PM on August 11, 2014

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