I woke up feeling terrible last monday, and by midnight I was on a bed in the ER. Spent the next few days in the hospital: had surgery on wednesday, got released on thursday. Since then I've been resting about the house, and have been recovering quickly. It was my first "real" surgery. (I've had other surgical procedures, but they aren't the sort that doctors mean when they ask if you've "had any surgeries".) Before saying what I had done, I'd like to make a point about social awareness.
Do you recognize these symptoms?
- sharp shooting pain in the chest, possibly extending to shoulders and neck/throat, lightheadedness/dizziness, shortness of breath.
- dark urine, yellowing skin/eyes, nausea/vomiting, difficulty concentrating, sleepiness.
- urinating often, increased thirst/hunger, blurry vision, abrasions heal slowly, tingling/pain/numbness in hands/feet.
- dull pain in the pit of your stomach, possibly extending to back or right shoulder, possibly increasing after eating fatty foots, doesn't abate in different positions, fever and chills.
This day and age I'd expect any moderately educated person to recognize the first three immediately: heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes (type 2). Both heart disease and diabetes have had powerful ad campaigns to increase awareness. Liver disease hasn't had that advantage, but the symptoms of jaundice are mentioned in the side-effect reports of most medications, and they're pretty memorable to boot. The last one I never would have recognized until it happened to me. And, frankly, the ER doctors had a hell of a time figuring out what it might be based only on my symptoms. I felt feverish at the time, though my temperature was normal. This was the first out-and-out attack, so I couldn't talk about how often it happened nor say whether it got worse after eating fatty foods. Knowing all the symptoms now, I can look back and see that this has been a long time coming; but at the moment all I could tell the docs was: intense dull pain in the pit of my stomach, doesn't get better or worse when changing position.
These are the symptoms of gallbladder disease. Women are more than twice as likely as men to get it. Women on hormone replacement therapy are more likely to get it. Many women are hit with it during the end of pregnancy— so many so that nurses remark on the number of cholecystectomy patients with one-week old babies. There's something about estrogen (or fluctuations thereof) that doesn't play nicely with the gallbladder. So I mention this for all the women, especially trans women, in the audience. Of course, none of this is to say that there aren't plenty of men who suffer from the same. Prior to going to the ER I'd heard almost nothing about gallbladder disease, other than knowing that gallstones were a thing. But in the scarce week since then I've lost track of how many women have told me about their cholecystectomies. With how common it is, I think this is one of those diseases that we as a society should be able to recognize— like diabetes, heart attacks, and jaundice.
So yeah, I'm down an organ now. There aren't too many side effects of having your gallbladder removed (compared to removing other organs), though it does mean I'll have to watch my diet. I've been doing that anyways, now it's just different things to look for. I'll have to put the high-protein low-carb diet on hold for a couple months, since I need to reduce fat intake until my body gets used to the new me. Also worth noting: apparently losing weight quickly (as with the 30-pounds I dropped last fall) can increase the risk of gallstones. So if you're dropping weight, you should be sure to monitor things and try to flush/cleanse your gallbladder.
That's it for now. Goodnight and good health.