the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Matters of the heart, the finale

I am right this second sitting in the waiting room outside the surgery wing at a local hospital. A few minutes ago I watched a resident wheel Jon down the hall toward the room where he would be put under anesthesia to have his gallbladder removed. Did you guys know they won’t let us keep it when it’s out? I asked, because, you know, KEEPSAKE, and the doctor was like THERE ARE LAWS AGAINST THIS BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU.

Prepping for surgery

What kind of people am I? It’s not like I’m going to do something illegal with Jon’s gallbladder, how is that even possible? You can’t smoke it and get high, right? I just want to dehydrate it and pin it to a linen-lined shadow box. And then print out a vintage-looking label that says, “GALLSIES! JUNE 2, 2011”

Hang that piece of handmade artwork in the entryway, and BOOM, I’m an honorary Mormon.

(Wait, I was baptized into the Mormon church which technically means I’m still a Mormon. OH I HOPE MY BISHOP DOESN’T FIND THIS WEBSITE.)

So, yeah. It’s his gallbladder. That’s been the problem this whole time. A few weeks ago he got a hida scan (a nuclear imaging procedure that evaluates the health of one’s gallbladder), only after he demanded it from his doctor who wanted to wave the whole thing off as a sore muscle. I’ll repeat that: A SORE MUSCLE. If sore muscles feel like a heart attack, then I’m having a heart attack in my hamstrings RIGHT NOW THANK GOD I’M ALREADY AT THE HOSPITAL.

Because that’s what Jon’s been feeling like since January. Like he’s having a heart attack, all the time. All day. And it’s taken this long and this many tests and this many hospital bills to figure out the problem, yet, do you know how common this is? Once we found out the diagnosis it’s like every person who has ever had their gallbladder removed has appeared in my life to say, “Oh that! I had MY gallbladder removed and wow! I no longer feel like I’m having a heart attack!”

My uncle! Cami’s mother! The woman next to me on the treadmill! My chiropractor’s secretary! YOU, probably!

And yet, Jon had to beg for the test. And you know what that test showed? That test showed that while normal gallbladders perform some function at the rate of 35 or higher (some technical/medical gibberish for how it’s supposed to work), Jon’s was barely managing a seven. They were like, WHOA! DUDE! I bet you feel like you’re having a heart attack!

(If ever there were a punch-to-the-ballsack deserving moment.)

So, here we are. Gallbladder surgery has apparently come a long way in recent years, meaning they no longer cut open your entire abdomen and gut all your intestines or something like that. Two incisions. Minimally invasive. He’ll recover for a couple of hours here and then I’ll take him home and rub his head and let him watch episode after episode of “Top Gear” and I won’t tell him once that he’s acting like a total baby.


And then maybe he’ll wake up tomorrow or the next day without feeling like he’s dying.

  • jennisdrinking

    2011/06/02 at 11:10 am

    Don’t let him watch anything funny, or at least make him hug a pillow. It hurts to laugh afterward.

    Yes, I had my gallbladder out too. They discovered my gallstones totally by accident, elevated liver enzymes led to an ultrasound and they’re all like “Hey, did you know you have gallstones? You should have those out, if you have an attack you’re gonna feel like you’re dying”. Wouldn’t you know, I had my surgery scheduled and voila!! 3 weeks beforehand, I had an attack and HOLYCRAPMOTHERF***!

    Jon’s in good company. The only thing is afterward, certain foods make you have surprise diarrhea. (Mine is mayo, everyone’s is different).

  • santa barbara

    2011/06/02 at 11:11 am

    Either we are very complicated organisms, or doctors are just guessing most of the time. Or I guess maybe part B is due to part A. Whatever. I still like to complain about it.

  • Hagan Squared

    2011/06/02 at 11:11 am

    Speedy recovery Jon! And thank goodness you were finally able to get it figured out.

  • reneewvu

    2011/06/02 at 11:15 am

    Well hellooo, hot doctor with the folder!!

    Oh, yeah, hope Jon recovers quickly!

  • emilidcam

    2011/06/02 at 11:15 am

    Oh yeah, you’re talking to me.

    I called an ambulance at 11pm after eating a box of granola bars and thinking I was having a heart attack and it was the fault of General Mills.

    And it turned out to be my gallbladder. I called him Golly, and he was hu-uuuuuuge. Seriously, I still have the pictures to show for it.

    Ask the docs to give you pictures. I’m sure you could add them to your Christmas card or frame them. It definitely makes for fun dinner party conversation.

    (Best of luck to Jon. He’ll be in and out of surgery in a jiffy, no doubt.)

  • amandajkr

    2011/06/02 at 11:17 am

    I’ve been following Jon’s story with much interest, since his symptoms sound exactly like what I’ve been going through for about a year now (started when I was seven months pregnant). After tests out the wazoo, turns out it’s a combination of h. pylori infection and gallstones. I am wondering what the hell took them so long to figure this out in Jon’s case. A simple abdominal ultrasound was all that was needed for me. I think a good solid punch to the ballsack is entirely warranted here.

  • HowToBeADad

    2011/06/02 at 11:18 am

    My wife had the same surgery just a couple of months ago. We thought it was indigestion, then acid reflux, then godknowswhat.

    Finally, she went to the emergency room. She said on a scale of stubbing your toe to pregnancy it was an 8 (whoops, there goes the metaphor).

    Watching her get wheeled away was agonizing.

    Bleh. Love that hypochondriac.


  • Truthful Mommy

    2011/06/02 at 11:19 am

    Speedy Recovery and THANK GOD they figured it out!!!

    I’m still dripping urine from the gallsies 2011 remark. (Damn stress incontinence)

    I agree, they deserve a punch to the sack…Thank God It’s Throat Punch Thursday over at my blog. You should def issue a Throat Punch, Junk Punch, Ball Sack injury to the asshats who made the moronic remark:)


  • The Naked Redhead

    2011/06/02 at 11:19 am

    Dude, why you gotta title it like that? I swooped in from Twitter like, “WHO DIED?!?!”

    And now my sick brain is picturing a HUGE linen-lined shadow box labeled “DEADSIES, 2011.”

  • KateH

    2011/06/02 at 11:26 am

    Oh yes. Had mine out when my kid was 15 months old. No lifting heavy objects? WTF? But doooood(c)e! SO worth it. SOOO worth it.

  • holmgren

    2011/06/02 at 11:29 am

    I had to create an account just to comment on this. That’s how fired up gallbladders get me.

    I can’t believe it took them this long to figure it out, and I’m glad Jon is getting treatment. I had my gallbladder out in February and I am a NEW WOMAN now. After a few days of healing, he will probably be shocked at how far he’s come.

    Though I probably can believe it, especially if he had no reference point for it. My mom had hers out, so she spotted my first attack quickly and I always knew. I just waited too long and ended up getting a tiny gallstone stuck in a bile duct which caused a raging infection and spent a week in the hospital getting that fixed before I could have it removed.

    And I’m just saying… this is completely amazing:

    A friend got me one on my first day back to work after surgery. One of the best gifts ever!!

  • Tricia

    2011/06/02 at 11:30 am

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Jon! So glad the culprit has been identified and that it’s NOT a heart problem.

  • MichelleD

    2011/06/02 at 11:31 am

    I can’t believe it took them all those tests to diagnose gallbladder disease.

    I had mine taken out after losing a significant amount of weight. I drove to Maine 2 days later so as not to “waste” my vacation time on surgery.

    I’ve never had a problem with food since.

    Hope Jon has a swift recovery and I’m glad he’ll no longer be in pain.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2011/06/02 at 11:34 am

    My wife had a massive gallbladder attack while we were at the movie theater. We made it out to the lobby before she fell to the floor. I actually had to instruct an usher to call 911.

    According to her, the pain associated with a gallbladder attack is worse than the pain associated with childbirth. I guess now Jon can trump you on that whole giving-birth thing. Maybe. Probably not.

    Very glad you guys finally got some answers. Hope he has a smooth and speedy recovery.

    PS: My wife had to significantly remove fatty foods from her diet post-gallbladder-removal … which she learned by eating a normal, buttery, gravy-y Thanksgiving dinner several weeks after surgery. She subsequently spent 10 or so hours vomiting so hard I though her feet were going to come out of her mouth. Something Jon might want to keep in mind.

  • slappyintheface

    2011/06/02 at 11:38 am

    Isn’t it really sad when we (the non-doctors) have to suggest things to the actual doctors.

    Hoping for a speedy recovery and no massive scars that will scare people at the beach when he wears his Speedo.

  • jenwilson

    2011/06/02 at 11:39 am

    how intensely frustrating! i hope the surgery goes well and that his pain goes away (you know, after the whole recovery bit).

    i’m going through the whole gallbladder bit as well. painful as hell.

  • zeppinfall04

    2011/06/02 at 11:41 am

    Yeah, you’re right me too! April 2, was my “heart attack”, April 19th, the gallbladder came out. Best darn surgery I ever had! That was on a Tuesday, and I went back to work on Thursday. Speedy recovery Jon!

  • kiss-my-kitty

    2011/06/02 at 11:44 am

    Best of luck to Jon! I had my gallbladder out last October, after ten months of random, super-painful attacks that felt like someone had shoved a burning rock into the middle of my abdomen. Unfortunately none of the scans they did showed anything, until one last CT scan done at the end of September showed that my gallbladder was so enlarged it was folded over on itself. I had that sucker out ten days later.

    One thing I will say: out of the three abdominal surgeries I’ve had — c-section, gastric bypass, and gallbladder — the gallbladder recovery was the most painful. God knows why, but it HURT. Make sure you pump Jon full of plenty of painkillers! 🙂

  • carostad

    2011/06/02 at 11:45 am

    I had mine out 10 days postpartum with my son, and let me tell you, I’d go back and have 3 more cesareans before I suffer through gall bladder surgery recovery again. (thankfully, neither is an option anymore…) Maybe mine was complicated by very recent abdominal surgery, but it was baaaad.

    I was up and walking around 12 hours after my cesarean (probably less, but it’s been a few years, so I can’t recall precisely). All the nurses on my floor were amazed with my speedy recovery. I never took anything stronger than an Advil afterwards. I wanted OUT of there.

    But, after the gall bladder surgery? Yikes! A full week of heavy duty painkillers and excruciating pain for at least a week. Mine was done laparascopically, so 4 tiny incisions, then they inflate your gut with CO2.

    Most of my pain was due to the CO2, which formed a bubble internally and rose to my right shoulder a few hours after surgery. I actually felt it rising inside me and had one of those out of body terrors where I thought “This is the moment I am dying. A bubble has formed in my veins and is rising to my brain right now. I’M TOO YOUNG TO DIE!!!!!”

    Fortunately, it’s a normal side effect that they just didn’t warn me about. It was literally the single most terrifying moment of my life. I wish I’d known that was a possiblity.

    Hope Jon recovers quickly! Good luck to you all, and glad it’s almost over with.

  • Kathi BG

    2011/06/02 at 11:47 am

    I am glad they finally got over their cranial rectal impaction and figured out what was going on with Jon. When I had my gall bladder out I got to keep the gall stone that caused all the problems. I made a bead out of it. yes….I am totally wonderfully weird that way

  • trec_lit

    2011/06/02 at 11:49 am

    Glad the problem was *finally* diagnosed! I’m frankly amazed it took so long. I had my first attack in 2006 and while in the ER the doctor was probing my abdomen. As soon as she stuck her fingers under the right side of my rib cage and pushed I screamed and she was able to identify the problem. I had an ultrasound a while later and finally had mine removed in 2007.

    I second the recommendation of a pillow to press to his belly if he has to cough or laugh or sit up. It really helped with the pain. Otherwise you feel like you are going to be disemboweled.

    Best of luck to Jon for a speedy recovery!

  • JWysok

    2011/06/02 at 11:51 am

    Had mine out following the birth of my son. During the pregnancy I had two attacks–each one felt like I was being stabbed through the chest with a knife. It was chalked up to “well, you know, you get some weird pains when you’re pregnant..” Yea, right.

    Anyway, Jon should feel 100% in about a week (I’m a slow healer). And, if he’s like me, won’t have any troubles from now on. I’m so happy they figured it out and he won’t have to suffer!

  • lilennox

    2011/06/02 at 11:53 am

    Now don’t forget your most important job once Jon is home and recovering:

    “Poor little bunny,” with the special head-soothing motion demonstrated in the video.

  • MeMe

    2011/06/02 at 11:59 am

    I wish Jon a speedy recovery and I wish it for you too, one less baby to take care of. 🙂

    Actually I really do hope all goes well and he has a fast and easy recovery.

  • dolphy36

    2011/06/02 at 12:02 pm

    So glad you have the answer and that it is one where it will be “solved” permanently! GB issues are so no fun. My then in-utero son decided he was gonna stomp the living crap out of mine while I was pregnant. Now THAT was a good time. Here’s to a quick recovery and Jon feeling great soon (and you, too!)

  • Crazy Card Lady

    2011/06/02 at 12:05 pm

    It’s good Jon is not spending the night in the hospital. I just spent one night and the bill was $43,000 not including the doctor etc. I don’t even make that much in a year. Thank goodness for health insurance!

    Get well soon Jon!!! It’s a bitch getting older!

  • tokenblogger

    2011/06/02 at 12:12 pm

    Go back and ask for his gall STONES!

    They let me have almost 30 of mine. And they were beautiful. A lovely satin gold color and nearly all the same size. They remind of of fortune cookies.

    I made them in to a bracelet, which I really do wear sometimes!

    It’s my most expensive piece of jewelry — and I made it myself!

  • The Cotton Floozy

    2011/06/02 at 12:14 pm

    Gallbladder surgery is the surgery du jour. Who still has a gallbladder these days? I got mine out five years ago after being misdiagnosed with endometriosis. One needless laparoscopy surgery later, uh, I was still randomly passing out. Finally it took an ER doc to figure it out after I collapsed in the waiting room. #howtocutinline

    Tell Jon to move his shoulders a lot to work out the gas? cramps? Willy Wonka fizzy lifting drinks? that they use during the operation. My shoulders ached liked a mofo afterwards.

  • lauriek

    2011/06/02 at 12:21 pm

    My bet is that strapping young men like Jon don’t have gallbladder problems and the doctor didn’t want to do unnecessary tests. But then again, I’m married to one.

    I hope Jon cruises through his recovery. Thank goodness it was not more serious.

  • ErikaMSN

    2011/06/03 at 9:00 pm

    Well, in defense of the medical establishment, Jon doesn’t exactly fit the profile of the 4 Fs: Fat, Female, Fertile, and Forty.

    My husband (who at the time fit NONE of those criteria) had his out 10 yrs ago, after progressively losing his appetite all that spring. Just be aware, recovery–even from laparascopy–could be difficult. Those brochures they give you showing the woman out for a bike ride 3 days later? Total lie. He was completely miserable for an entire wkd, and I think it was almost a week later that he went back to work.

  • Aalbrecht

    2011/06/03 at 11:34 pm

    Oh God!! I feel for Jon. I think we need to go have drinks and replay our Gallbladder Attacks! I hope Jon is feeling better. The first few days are rough but he will feel better soon. I had mine out in November after multiple attacks. A Dr in the ER told me my pain was all in my head, that I was depressed from just having a baby. Then another time they accused me of being a drug seeker. Pretty amazing medical care we have here in SLC. I also don’t fit into the “4 F’s” for a Gallbladder patient. I have had no post-surgery complications. I can eat and drink anything I want. I hope you are the same. Keep up on those pain pills.

  • Tanya K

    2011/06/02 at 12:23 pm

    Like another commenter above, I too created an account just to comment on this message.

    It took six agonizing months for me to get the correct diagnosis. And, I too had to beg my doctor for an ultrasound. I could have kissed the ultrasound tech when he showed me the gallstones – I was so happy to finally have an answer.

    They caused me so much pain, that I asked to keep my gallstones. I had to go back to the hospital later and sign some forms, but I still have them.

    Wishes for a very speedy recovery to Jon. And, yes, watch out for the shoulder pain after the surgery. But, I felt like a new person about a week after – it was wonderful!

  • lea724

    2011/06/02 at 12:28 pm

    My dad’s a surgeon and he let me watch a handful of his surgeries when I was in high school.

    One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen was a gallbladder removal that he did where the gallbladder was opened up and we could see the stones inside. As @tokenblogger said above, they’re gorgeous. If I ever have to have surgery to remove gallstones, I’m so asking for those suckers as keepsakes.

  • bunB

    2011/06/02 at 12:33 pm

    Man, that doctor IS hot.

  • RuthWells

    2011/06/02 at 12:50 pm

    Holy hell. I am absolutely outraged that it took so long for him to get diagnosed. Damn health care system. Speedy recovery!

  • VeganWeigh

    2011/06/02 at 12:57 pm

    I *also* had to create an account just to comment.

    Because, apparently, I look like one of THOSE PEOPLE.

    Even though I did NOT ask for my gallstones to be placed in a keepsake clear container, that is just what my Dr. did when my gallbladder was removed some 10 years ago. Thankfully, he did not hand me my entire gallbladder or I would’ve vomited on his shoes.

    And, yes, I still have them. The gallstones look like tiny pebbles, and when you shake the container, it sounds just like a baby rattle.

  • ValJean

    2011/06/02 at 12:57 pm

    I hope the recovery is smooth-sailing. How horrible that this had to go on so long. Much love to you both!

  • tiffanyincali

    2011/06/02 at 12:59 pm

    Ouch! Never had a GB attack, so I still have all my pieces. Glad they figured out the problem, and hoping for a quck and painless recovery for all of you.
    I did ask for my tonsils when I had them out a few years ago- same answer.

  • thecakemama

    2011/06/02 at 1:00 pm

    Nodding my head in agreement with nearly everyone else. My husband had pain and just a feeling of something is not right for almost 2 years. His regular doctor said he was depressed and recommended meds. He had stomach pain, they said it was anxiety. He hurt, they blamed anxiety again. We wound up in the ER at 2am one cold January morning because his appendix burst. Yeah, that was fun. Six months later, more pain, agony, depression diagnosis. We googled symptoms and everything pointed back to the lovely gallbladder. We called a specialist in another town and had to specifically ask for the function test. He had zero function. None. Zip. Nada. Thank heavens for Google, that’s all I can say. Surgery scheduled a couple of weeks later and wow, no more pain.

    The same dr. that originally misdiagnosed him also told me that the only way to find a kidney stone was through MRI. We are currently looking for a new “general” doctor that can actually diagnosis problems. It’s not an easy search.

  • girlplease

    2011/06/02 at 1:08 pm

    Best wishes to you both. Tell Jon I know exactly how he feels.

    Three ER trips, one feeling like a heart attack, CT scans, ultrasounds, I’m living on Nexium. No one will give me the HIDA scan, not even the gastro doc.

    So I get it. I hope he feels better. WHY docs won’t listen to patients is beyond me.

    I guess it’s better to run to the hospital, have them see the words “fluoxetine” on your chart and give you the “suuuurrrreee it’s your gallbladder, heart, ulcer,….surrreee it is.”


  • WindyLou

    2011/06/02 at 1:15 pm

    Hey, guess what, my mom just had hers removed.

  • naysway

    2011/06/02 at 1:18 pm

    Oh yes. *raises hand* I was having the dreaded Faulty Gall Bladder Heart Attack last August and September almost daily before I finally found a doctor nice enough to give me a HIDA scan for shits and giggles. They removed my gall bladder by late October. The pain? It is real.

    @Daddy Scratches – Yep. Forget fatty, greasy foods probably forever. Unless you like making sweet mouth-love to a toilet bowl.

  • danashan

    2011/06/02 at 1:20 pm

    I’m 41, thin, and very healthy. I insisted that it was my gall bladder and the doctor said, “Oh no, you would be doubled over in pain right now”. I told her, “I’m not a puss so give me an ultrasound and we’ll just see”. Low and behold, 80% full of stones.
    He will feel great within a week, but fatty foods cause gas lethal to those around you so beware.

  • juliejackson

    2011/06/02 at 1:24 pm

    Yes, me too. Been there. I’m fighting off the urge to share too much information with the internet but, yeah, he’ll be feeling better soon. Glad to hear it!

  • jan001

    2011/06/02 at 1:25 pm

    @ErikaMSN said: Well, in defense of the medical establishment, Jon doesn’t exactly fit the profile of the 4 Fs: Fat, Female, Fertile, and Forty.

    Will you accept Fat, Female, Formerly Fertile, and Fifties? If so, sign me up.

    The timing on this is something else. I’ve had upper GI pain and nausea and sometimes vomiting for, oh, 15 years no. It comes in cycles or waves. Docs keep saying it’s not gall bladder. Everyone else keeps saying it sounds like it. Tomorrow is the first test of many wherein our subject will be poked, prodded, intubated, extubated, and otherwise examined. Let’s watch!

    FWIW, on the food thing, my mom had her GB out when she was in her late 30s. Now in her 80s, the only food that’s ever bothered her since that surgery is over-ripe bananas. o_O

    So glad Jon’s finally getting the help he’s needed for so long. What a wonderful feeling it’s going to be that first day he wakes up and doesn’t feel like he’s dying!!

    {{Hugs to you both}} and {{crotchpunts}} to the docs who dicked around on this.

  • nataliedawn

    2011/06/02 at 1:49 pm

    I’ve been following this blog for probably over 6 years, and I had to make an account to comment on this post.

    I hope that this adds more exposure to the reality that the medical community does not always accurately diagnose or even recognize problems. If you know something is wrong in your body, listen and FIGHT for your doctor to give you whatever test you need. Nowadays, you have to advocate for yourself at times when they want to push you away because a diagnosis is not easy to find.

    My mother has been sick for over 5 years with an undiagnosed condition, and has had to advocate for herself after specialist after specialist has told her “there is nothing wrong”, and to never come back to their practice. It still baffles me that there are some doctors who, if they do not recognize a problem, will not fight for the health of the patient, and instead write them off.

    So happy to hear that you and Jon listened to your instinct that there was something wrong. I hope if someone reads this and has been told that they have a “sore muscle”, that it triggers a desire in them to fight for their health again.

  • EliBailey

    2011/06/02 at 1:52 pm

    I’m sure there are good doctors out there, but as I was reading your post and comments I was thinking about all the trouble my family has had because of doctors who don’t know what they’re doing. One of my brothers suffered for more than a year before doctors figured out he had gallstones. My mother had shortness of breath and other symptoms for six months and her doctor actually told her it was asthma. It wasn’t. She had to have a mild heart attack before finally getting the right tests, and then had a QUINTUPLE bypass. She’s doing well now, thank God. Also, several years ago I had symptoms that clearly pointed to thyroid problems, yet I had to suggest that my doctor check my thyroid levels along with the other blood tests he ordered. Turns out I had Grave’s disease, which causes hyperthyroidism. It took months and multiple tests and exams before I finally got a prescription to treat it.

    My mother likes to remind me that it’s called a doctor’s practice because that’s what they’re doing – practicing. I understand that they can’t know everything, but it seems like gallstones and heart problems should be pretty basic, what with so many people having problems in those areas, right?

    I hope Jon recovers quickly!

  • tallnoe

    2011/06/02 at 1:54 pm

    I’m SO glad you know… Ugh. I hate not knowing.
    I wish Jon an expeditious recovery.

  • AureliaMel

    2011/06/02 at 1:56 pm

    Fortunately, they caught my husband;s gallstones early and they scheduled his gallbladder surgery fairly quickly.

    But like you, we asked if we could keep the gallstones, and unlike your doctor, he said that as long as they weren’t abnormal, we might be able to keep them.

    My husband was SO psyched! That’s all he talked about leading up to the surgery. Well, and accidentally pooping on the operating table, but that’s another story.

    Unfortunately, his gallstones were large and lumped together and, needless to say, abnormal. He didn’t get to keep them afterall, but the surgeon was so thoughtful, that he actually got a camera, took a picture (complete with ruler for comparison), and then printed out two 8×10 photos of the gallstones.

    My husband still has that picture framed in his office.

  • alicia6270

    2011/06/02 at 1:57 pm

    A lot of times they fill the belly with air when they do these types of procedures. If they did this, it will cause pain in his tummy. They say to prop your butt in the air so that it can escape. I had to use gas-x to get mine to go away. That hurt worse than the surgery did. Hope he feels better soon!

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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