The gall…

Last year I posted about my first ever experience spending a night in the hospital []. Initial diagnosis was that I had an H. Pylori infection. Which was true, confirmed by endoscopic examination. But… 10 days later and we’ll into taking all my drugs I woke up at five in the morning in a hotel in Jakarta —I was on a business trip— with the same crazy agonizing pain in my lower chest and even in my back. I struggled through it for hours hoping it would go away, drifting in and out of sleep till close to noon. At that point I gave up and managed to pack my shit, checked myself out of the hotel and get to the airport where I took the next available flight back to Singapore. Luckily these flights run every hour or so and they are used to business travelers changing to the next available one when they finish early.

As a side note: with all the scanners and health checks, in place even before COVID19 in this part of the world, no one questioned a guy who looked like death warmed over, sweating and pale, wincing in pain at either the Jakarta or Singapore airports… anyway.

When I landed I went straight to the hospital and checked in. After a long discussion with the doctor who was treating me, going back over the entire history of issues starting in January and describing the pain again he asked about the back pain. Was it present in the other attacks? Yea I think so. After that he suggested that I might be having gall stones and based on that he requested a specialist to take over.

The specialist was fairly certain it was gallstones after an interview and a few hours later it was confirmed by an ultrasound. Ultrasounds are much, much, much more pleasant than endoscopic examinations. Someone sliding a plastic thing like a tennis ball covered in lubricant over you is weird but not so much unpleasant, even if the lube is cold. Endoscopic examinations on the other hand is… well, read the other post [] for my thoughts on that. But the ultrasound worked, diagnosis: gallstones, treatment: cut them out. So the doctor explained the surgery:

In summary, it’s a laparoscopic procedure, meaning they poke a few holes in you and use instruments on sticks to look around and cut shit up. Then they pull said shit out of one of the holes. Basically surgery by chopstick through a button hole. There is always a small chance they can’t complete the procedure via laparoscopy and will still have to make a big hole so they can get in their and work better. 

And now, a second aside: doctors handwriting is really another language they learn to speak in med school. Why do you think it takes them so long? As evidence I posted the doctors explanation to Facebook to see if anyone could guess what it was. Answers ranged from the location of the lost ark of the covenant to, oddly, Vladimir Putin’s notes (I have a wide variety of friends…), to a lost page from the Necronomicon or Voynich Manuscript. A few observant people did note that the words liver and gallbladder are there and so guessed it was something to do with anatomy. But the winner was my uncle, a surgeon himself, who was spot on:

It sounds like he’s making it up, but no, I checked: Pancreaticoduodenectomy [] and Cholecystectomy []. I did not, in fact, need a Pancreaticoduodenectomy but I was going to have a Cholecystectomy. So, yea, anyway enough five dollar words: I had to have my gallbladder removed. Unfortunately, before I could have my gallbladder removed, I had to finish my H. Pylori treatment which would take another month. So surgery was scheduled for September.

Luckily I had no more painful issues after that and I arrived for surgery early on a Monday in mid-September for a quick three day stay. After all the checkin and prep they put me under and…

I woke up in the early evening back in my room with tubes running into me and way more bandages than a few small holes would justify. A bit later the doctor came to explain to me that he was not able to remove the gallstones laparoscopically and had to cut me open. Apparently my gallbladder was in fairly bad shape so he was not able to separate it for the liver using he tools-on-sticks.

Long story short, I spent a full week in the hospital on good drugs but still in crazy pain every time I moved or, especially, when in coughed which I was told to do regularly to ensure I didn’t develop pneumonia. Though the doctor did say I had a very high pain threshold as I was able to get up and walk after only a day and usually it took people two days due to the pain. Maybe he was just encouraging me.

In any case I made a full recovery, even going on holiday on schedule in November though I was not able to do any heavy lifting of luggage so the kids had to help, and we packed light. This did not prevent us from doing over 150km of walking around Amsterdam. And I’ve had no problems since. I have an 8 inch scare across my upper stomach like some sort of war wound and I got to keep the gallstones. Yea! Souvenirs: