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Gallbladder Surgery: My Personal Experience

This is what it was like for me to go through gallbladder surgery.

I Was Diagnosed With Gallstones

I started getting nervous when, along with a tube of soap, I was also given a page-long set of instructions on how to bathe with it.

The soap was an antibacterial rub to kill the germs on my skin and to reduce the chance of infection during my laser surgery. Three weeks earlier, I had been diagnosed with gallstones, and my inflamed gallbladder left little choice but to have it removed.

The day before my surgery, I had a pre-op screening where I was given the soap as well as pre-op instructions and routine testing to make sure I was healthy enough to go through with the surgery. I learned that I would use the soap twice; once that evening and once in the morning before reporting to the hospital. I couldn't use the soap on my face because it could cause damage to my eyesight or hearing. I also had to wear clean clothes after showering, and I couldn't use lotion or deodorant.

In addition, I couldn't eat or drink anything past midnight, and I couldn’t wear colored fingernail polish. My Dad explained that this was because they monitor my fingers to see if they are turning blue during the surgery, or as he put it, “to see if you’re dead yet.” I've been staying with my parents through this deal. After the surgery, I knew I wouldn't be able to take care of myself (let alone my cat) and my parents are willing to help out. Anyone going through this surgery will have to have someone to look after them for at least a week. As one coworker told me, "Be a baby." If you try too much too soon, you can rip out your stitches and cause your recovery time to be longer.

Every time I went through a round of questions, I was asked if I had a living will or Power of Attorney. This, of course, did not make me nervous at all.

After passing all the tests and signing all the forms, I was told to be at the hospital at 6 a.m. the next day.

Since I had to get up early to take my complicated shower, I wanted to go to bed at 8 p.m., but at 7:38 I got a call from the hospital's billing department to tell me my out-of-pocket payments for the surgery would be $3,000. Without insurance, I would have had to pay $14,000, which is more than a year's salary for me right now. I tried to put the money out of my head as I went to sleep.

My abdomen, after surgery

This is what my incisions looked like a few days after having my gallbladder removed.

This is what my incisions looked like a few days after having my gallbladder removed.

Day of the Surgery

I showered, then my parents brought me to the hospital at 6 a.m. I probably looked kind of ratty. in my sloppy ponytail, by baby-blue sweater and Barney-purple slacks that were too big for me. After the three gallstone attacks in February, I had lost 12 pounds.

After checking in, I left my parents in the waiting room while an aid led me to the surgery prep area, where I took off my clothes to don an even more fashionable paper hospital gown. The nurse arrived and hooked up a blow-dryer looking hose to my gown to blow heated air into the gown and keep me warm.

The nurse also started my I.V. and told me that she had gone through this procedure herself. I asked, "How long was it before you could eat real food?" She responded, "A couple of hours after I got home. I was starving." My own stomach was growling at me because of my missed breakfast, but somehow I doubted that I could eat within a few hours of surgery.

After being prepped, the staff said they would let one of my parents stay with me until it was time to go to the operating room. My mother stayed with me first, then after 30 minutes, she switched out with my father. During all this, I got a new group of tests: blood pressure (137/76--yikes), glucose and oxygen levels. Staff also asked if I had any tattoos or body piercings, and told me to remove any jewelry.

The doctor checked in with me, then the two anesthesiologists came by. They asked if I had any caps or bridges or dentures that might interfere with the anesthesia.

At some point, the word "catheter" was used, but I tried to block that out of my mind.

Around 7:30 a.m. a nurse told me it was time to go. I was wheeled into the operating room, and the anesthesiologist asked me if I had picked out a dream for the surgery. When I said, "no," he told me I should think about going to the beach.

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One nurse shouted out, "If you're going to the beach, I want to go with you," Then, the anesthesiologists told me to start counting backwards from ten. I remember getting to six....

I woke up in the recovery area around 9:45. My memories here are much more sketchy. I was very disoriented, I kept running my hand over my face, though I don't know why. My abdomen was in pain in several places, and dimly remembering that I was waking up from a surgery and since I was in pain, that should mean that the surgery was over. I remember the new nurse asking me if I wanted more pain medication, which I asked for. I was also dimly aware of a blood pressure cuff on my right arm, and two cuffs on my lower legs that were pressurizing out of synch, probably to prevent blood clots in my legs.

After a while, my parents were brought in, and my mother said "Well, what are we going to do with the rest of the day. You’ve wasted half of it already. Let’s go shopping." She was kidding, of course, but I was too out of it to play along.

It was about 10:30 a.m. when I was released. The surgery itself was an hour or less. I spent almost 2 hours trying to wake up from it. Then, I was wheeled out to the car in a wheelchair, and my parents took me home to finish my recovery.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Athena on February 23, 2020:

Ugh, I lost about 40 lbs before my gallbladder removal surgery! No one knew exactly what was wrong with me and my primary care provider was useless. It was a kindly ER doc that finally did an ultrasound that showed sludge in my gallbladder who contacted a surgeon who said it needed to come out. Unfortunately my surgery wasn't until a week later. I woke up from the surgery in SO MUCH PAIN! It hurt so badly, like I didn't even have any pain medication in my system. They gave me another 2 doses before I left so I could endure the 1 hours drive home from the hospital. I'm a week out from the surgery now and I'm feeling better overall. I'm able to eat food again whereas before surgery I was down to eating only applesauce. I'm still having some issues with reflux and indigestion/gassiness though and I really hope it is all due to the gallbladder! It still hurts where I have incisions and then inside underneath them as well. My stomach is not nearly as upset anymore but I also still can't eat a lot of foods.

Amber on December 29, 2018:

I had emergency surgery to remove mine 6 years ago (went by ambulance due to severe gallbladder attack). They said mine was inflamed & infected (1 of my stones was the size of a large gum ball & it was lodged in my bile duct, hence all the pain!). Recovery sucked (painful), but I can tell you from experience that a gallbladder attack IS worse than natural childbirth! I was completely fine as far as being able to eat whatever I wanted (except every once in awhile I would have a very uncomfortable pressure near my liver, probably from eating greasy food). However, my bad cholesterol (LDL) levels have climbed significantly since having it removed (I believe it is related!) & I’ve started having digestive issues this past year. I’ve cut out dairy, bad carbs & fatty foods. I’ve gained a ton of weight this last year too. I’m going to try fiber pills & Super Enzymes to bear the digestive issues (seem to be working so far). Hope this is all useful info to some of you!

Beth Gardynik on August 09, 2018:

My gallbladder surgery looked nothing like this. I was so bruised i could barely walk. 2 days later at home recouping i started throwing up black sludgey stuff went back to the docs and come to find out my intestines were trying to push through my naval so again had to have another surgery. I was badly bruised sick to my stomach and diarrhea. Has this happen to anyone else?

Nancy Rodgers on January 19, 2018:

I had my gallblader removed in 1993. No one told me nothing. Your liver is raw, because it did cover your gallbladder, it has to scab over just like a sore would. Dont move around too much because the scab will break open &hurt. I could not wear a bra, let alone pants. So I stayed at home, it hurt too much to get dressed. After my surgery, I had a blister to pop up on my belly button site. It busted. I had all the same symthoms. So I was sent to Jackson to get the remaining stones removed by a scope. Yes if they dont get all of the fragments it does minic it like you have not had the surgery.

CAbbott1946 on November 13, 2017:

I had my gallbladder removed 9 years ago, and my life hasn't been the same since. I have had nothing by digestive issues from the day it was removed. Don't let any doctor tell you that you don't need a gallbladder. There are natural remedies for getting rid of gallstones, but first get an ultrasound to find out how large the stones are first. If they are really large, it probably isn't wise to do a liver cleanse and flush them out because if they are large they could get stuck in the bile duct, and then you'd be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. However, knowing what I know now, I would have gone ahead and done the liver flush and taken my chances. When you don't have your gallbladder you can't digest fatty foods at all. When you eat fatty foods, they will go right through you. I will regret having my gallbladder out until the day I die. The surgery and recovery is not bad at all, it's the years that follow that are miserable.

Reilly Roxanne on November 26, 2016:

I just had my gallbladder removed 7 days ago. Did great the first 5 days the went to the ER for horrible pain. New drugs and I am healing again. All I can say is watch what you eat and take it easy. Fluid where my gull bladder was ..was the problem. Two days have past and I am felling fine. Hope it keeps up!

Alma on December 07, 2014:

I had surgery 5 days ago, my bandage came off and it doesn't hurt. My guess is that the c section I had earlier this year is my saving grace because my tummy is still numb.

Jackie on August 16, 2014:

I just had this surgery 4 days ago and I'm still in pain hopefully it goes away soon. I had this problem for 2 years but decided to finally have the surgery, I just want to let you guys know of a home remedy that works really good in case you can't have surgery. Drink one teaspoon of olive oil with lemon every morning before eating anything and you can eat anything you want during the day. I did the surgery because I got tired of doing this everyday and was scare to get an attack. Ps hope it helps

Christine on July 18, 2014:

Hello I just had my gallbladder taken out 2 day's ago I feel horrible the pain can be overwhelming right now I can't sleep to much pain I have pain medication but it seems like it's not helping it just makes me droussy any suggestions would be well appreciated and some advice thank you so much.

elaine roberts on April 18, 2014:

Had my gall bladder out 7 days ago. Still loads of pain. Horrendous experience!

Jesse on January 15, 2014:

Had my gall bladder removed two days ago. Bit of pain when I want to sit up or lay down, I need a bit of help. Much more pain in my shoulders from the gas (they fill you up with CO2 so they can see better), it keeps coming and going and moving and is driving me insane! Other than that, I am surprised how quickly I am improving.

just me on January 08, 2014:

I guess its just me? I had the surgery three weeks ago. .. everything was pretty routine as everyone else stated but I had a tremendous amount of scar tissue surrounding my gallbladder so for me the story is a little different. .. I have been in pain this entire time. .. and I had stitches and they are healing extremely slowly two of the four are still open I clean them regularly and the tape took over two weeks to come off of two the other two just came off this week and again I am still having a lot of pain not taking anything but Aleve. I have a hard time sitting up from the laying down position I still can't lay on my right side ... ugh I hate this I am in worse shape now than I was before! :-(

unnecessary surgeries on December 14, 2013:

I had gall stone surgery and really did not have gall stones I found out when I asked for my stones; Most gall stone surgery today are just make money unfortunately for us victims. I feel taken advantage of because I went into er and they fooled me;

Kelsi on December 11, 2013:

Im about to have the surgery done tomorrow or the next day and I'm super nervous. I just hope everything will go over smoothly. I have enjoyed everyone's comments on here. So thanks for posting them. Plus now I know what I have to look forward to. You all have been very helpful.

Mo on October 08, 2013:

I had my gall bladder removed two years ago and have been sick ever since

Jenni Goss on April 17, 2013:

I just had my gallbladder removed yesterday, and I feel like I was worked over in my abdomen lol. They also said that while I was out I threw up so my throat is tore up and I have a fat lip. I am feeling better on day two, but it's hard to eat when I have swollen tonsils and a fat lip, but I have eaten some foods and so far all is well. The worst pains I have are my throat, my back and some of my incisions. My pain meds suck as well so fun fun. I really did enjoy learning about others experiences and thank everyone who shared.

Frank Carlson on January 21, 2013:

I had my gallbladder out 2 weeks ago and other than some discomfort and some burning pain, not a problem. I have been eating just about everything and even started to work out with weights again (heavy) without any pain or discomfort other than what I decribed earlier. I feel for some of you that is going through constant pain but as for me it's the best thing I've done since my attacks!!!

Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on November 28, 2012:

There is a hub, natural cure for gallstones which I am going to read as I don't fancy this Op!

Ron on August 02, 2012:

There are natural cleansing options out there if you cannot afford surgery. That being said, it is best to take that thing out of there. I have great insurance so it was a no brained for me.

alejandra cornejo on June 12, 2012:

i need this surgery but i dont have the means to pay for this surgery so idk what to do or how long i can be before its get unberrable. if any one can give me on what i can do i woud gladly appreciate it.

Vanessa on May 16, 2012:

I just had mine out today I'm still eworried that I won't heal eight or something any tips

MissMe on March 02, 2012:

I know its late posting but thought I would share my story...I suffered from gallstones for almost 2 years before getting a call to get it removed.Everything I ate,would send me into a gallbladder attack,from water to a cracker,I couldn't eat anything.I never even lost one single pound,shocking if you ask been 3 weeks since my gallbladder has been out,I feel great,I can eat whatever I please.I still have a lot of heartburn and gas.I would rather go through natural childbirth then go through another gallbladder attack...jus saying:-)

Nina F. on December 29, 2011:

I had mine removed on my 10th birthday, so around two and a half years ago.

Even though my stomach didn't REALLY hurt, i enjoyed complaining to my mom that it did. She didn't believe me, but after a while i lost fifteen pounds. The average ten year old weighs around 70-80 lbs, and regularly i weighed about 65. So i weighed 50 lbs. She took me to the hospital, and they saw that my appendix was BARELY inflamed and freaked out and sent me, in an ambulance (which was AWESOME!), to a children's hospital to have it removed. Right when i was about to get anesthesia, the surgeon said he wouldn't do the surgery.

I got sent home, and after a few month I started losing weight again. My mom took my to the ER one night and I stayed for a few days. During that time, they thought i had kidney failure, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cysts, constipations (which resulted in multiple enemas), and various other cancers. A tiny asian woman came in one day and did an ultra sound. She saw sludge in my gallbladder. After many painful cat-scans an heightus-scans, i got my gallbladder removed. I hadn't eaten in weeks, but a few hours after my surgery, i was craving a greasy burrito from taco bell. I left that day, and felt little pain except the tape on my scars ripping hairs off of my stomach and occasional gas pain. A few days later, I was back in school, welcomed by my friends and teachers.

So yeah... =p

kristin on October 14, 2011:

i just had surgery to have my gall bladder taken out and its only day three and my glue is starting to flake and try to come off what do you think i should do?

Kristi on January 19, 2011:

I am 43 and I had my Gallbladder removed yesterday. It sounds exactly like your story except my husband was with me and I didn't have to use any special soap. Oh, and I didn't get the fancy warm air tube gown...just a plain old "tie in the back" kind that exposed everything. Anyway, I hope you are doing well! I am in more pain than I was to begin with but I know it will soon go away and things will be great - most of mine is just the gas from the surgery itself. As for eating - I have been starving since I got home but everyone that I have talked to has said to avoid the greasy, fried and fatty foods - you can now easily gain weight without a Gallbladder. You all may want to being so young but I just lost 32lbs last year and was on my way to losing another 30 to be at my healthy goal weight of 135lbs so I don't want to take any changes.

Best of luck to everyone and in the future to everyone that runs across this page!

Diane Hooper on December 27, 2010:

Dear I'm 13,

Hun, you had GALL stones..not "gold" stones. Not being snarky just saying if you had something bad enough to have surgery it's a good opportunity to learn to spell the name of your ailment.

I'm having this surgery in two days. Yikes! A little bit nervous but, I'll be quite happy to have it over with.

CR on June 19, 2010:

What's a good gift for someone that's just had gallbladder surgery? What do you want?

pickeyvikki on April 27, 2010:

i just had my goldbladder out last week.

im 13 and had a couple of gold stones.

i had to stay over night witched sucked ! ahha

but anyways. then gave me some gigle juice and i felt loopy and was laufing at everything. so i reallly wasn't nervous anymore lol.but now my krazy glue is coming off so i just rip it off but the one on my bellllybutton is still on there. the cuts are barley noticeable so that's goood ! sorry for my speilling [;

renee on November 01, 2009:

hug hug hug hug

angie on September 25, 2009:

i like to comment you sound like you had a nice out come... did you ever get black and blkue marks from the sites??? i look somone had beaten me up... i never rember having a lapscop like that, i know thew gall bladder different..

compare to a cyst... i wonder...

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