In person and on social media, I affectionately refer to it as “the gallbladder situation.” The TL;DR is that my gallbladder was wrongfully terminated, so the rest of my digestive organs have gone on strike.
In November 2017, I took a road trip with my partner, Tony, from Virginia to our home state of Oklahoma to visit family. Right before we were going to be going back home, my best friend, Anna, texted me to say they had a stomach bug. Given that Anna and I had spent the entire previous week together, slept in a bed together, and shared each other’s food, I was worried. Tony and I had over 20 hours in the car ahead of us for the drive back to Virginia, and I paid attention to every little twinge, ache, and chill in my body. Saturday went by with no issues. On Sunday, I wasn’t as lucky.
I threw up six minutes away from our apartment. Tony didn’t even have time to stop and pull over. I hurled into a Target bag in the back seat while we were smack-dab in the middle of a six-lane highway (peak millennial). I was sick for three days after that with what we figured was food poisoning because my friend had it too.
One year later, I am still sick and will likely be sick until I’m… just not sick anymore.
But two weeks later, again on a Sunday, the exact same symptoms returned. Tony drove me to the only open urgent care in Arlington, but without radiological imaging, the physician assistant couldn’t give me a diagnosis. He warned me though: “I want your threshold for going to the ER to be very low. If the pain gets any worse,” he paused and looked at me directly, “gets any worse, you need to go to the emergency room.”
Two hours later, I checked into the emergency room. After an ultrasound and CT scan, the ER doctor came back with an answer to why I was having such severe abdominal pain: gallstones. With an abnormally high white blood cell count, I needed emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder.
Relieved that I had an answer to my stomach woes, I muttered to Tony: “Could be worse.”
“I’m an ER physician. It could definitely be worse,” the doctor quipped.
The surgery itself went well; a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, while still major surgery, is relatively simple. I emerged with four incisions: three diagonally down the right side of my abdomen below my ribcage and another under my belly button.
That was Dec. 11, 2017. One year later, I am still sick and will likely be sick until I’m… just not sick anymore.