Gallbladder Removal: 3 Things I Wish I had Known

gallbladder removal

At the beginning of October, I had surgery for gallbladder removal. I had been having issues with it on-and-off for eight years. Eventually, it had gotten to the stage that I couldn’t eat anything without being in pain and medications weren’t helping. It had also started to cause issues with other areas of my health, so it was time for surgery.

I had never had surgery before of any kind. I had never even had stitches! So I was really nervous and probably didn’t do enough research ahead of it. In my mind, it was best not to know, rather than spend even more time worrying about something which was necessary.

I am now just over two weeks post-surgery and mostly back to normal. It has given me time to reflect on the experience and think of the things I wish I had known ahead of time.

The anaesthetic will leave you feeling exhausted for days!

I probably should have expected this, but the after-effects of the anaesthetic really surprised me. Gallbladder removal can only be done under general anaesthetic, so this is what I had. The process of going to sleep and waking up was fine, but I was completely exhausted for 3-4 days post-surgery. The naps were lovely, but I was expecting to feel a bit more awake than I did.

Gallbladder removal isn’t minor surgery

I had a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (key-hole gallbladder removal). In my mind, that meant that as I would only have small wounds I would be feeling back to normal within a couple of days. Naively, I hadn’t even planned to take any time off work. The operation was scheduled for a Friday and I genuinely thought that I would be back at my laptop on the Monday. The reality is that although the incisions are small, there is a lot of other things which go on internally. There is internal bruising and stitching which can’t be seen on the surface. Gallbladder removal isn’t minor surgery and you need to let your body have plenty of time to recover.

You won’t necessarily be back to normal within a week

When I had my surgery consultation, I was told that I would be back on my feet and feeling normal within a week. This isn’t true. While my energy levels have now recovered and I am not needing painkillers anymore, I am definitely not “back to normal”. I am not allowed to carry anything heavier than about 9 pounds (4kg) until 4-6 weeks post-surgery, I have been advised not to sleep on my right side until 4 weeks post-surgery and I still feel sore if I do too much.

I know that some people might feel like they are back to normal sooner, so it’s not impossible. But, having spoken to others who have been through the same procedure I know I’m not alone.

It’s not all bad though

While there have definitely been negatives, I don’t regret having the surgery. It was definitely the right decision.

Before I was discharged my surgeon told me that my gallbladder hadn’t been working at all for quite some time. I had a gallstone which was so large it had completely blocked the duct and prevented bile from going in or out. At some point, it would have potentially burst or left me with a nasty infection. I was lucky that it hadn’t caused more issues already.

One of the best things about having my gallbladder removed has been the ability to eat my favourite foods again. In the weeks leading up to the op, even soup had left me in agony. So it’s nice to be able to enjoy food without pain.

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