I feel healthier than ever as I type this. But two weeks ago I was in the worst discomfort of my life and couldn’t figure out why until I eventually drove myself to the nearest urgent care and ultimately had a cholecystectomy — my gallbladder was removed.
This was major surgery, the first (and hopefully last) of my life. What I thought was severe heartburn that would pass was in fact pain from gallstones and a nasty infection surrounding my gallbladder. It never dawned on me that I could have a serious medical issue but in hindsight I had experienced similar abdominal discomfort on 4 or 5 occasions over the course of 18 months or so. It typically lasted less than two hours and I would simply lay down and breathe through it. I was naïve and assumed I had a much lower tolerance for pain than I actually do.
I thought I was taking ace care of myself — I was (and am) in the best shape of my life. I hadn’t even had a cold or flu in years and apparently didn’t even remember what it felt like to have a fever. But I did have a fever and an extremely high white blood cell count as my body fought to contain a nasty infection.
I learned a lot over the past two weeks. Here’s how it all played out…
Precursory Attack –> Normality –> Bedridden
I woke up with a start Wednesday morning. It was 4:30 on Halloween and I felt a sharp pain in my gut. A housemate had just recovered from a stomach virus that was highly contagious and I thought… uh oh. I rolled over repeatedly but couldn’t sleep until the pain subsided a couple hours later. I worked from home fearing the symptoms would return, not wanting to get my colleagues sick and laughing at myself for suddenly being all hypochondriatic. It passed.
I went on with my life and returned to the office after a good night’s sleep followed by some networking event, more sleep, Friday work, yoga and drinking with friends. On Saturday we moved our office and then I went to the USC vs. Oregon game (thanks Clint). I got home around 9:30 and watched a movie. But by 11, the pain returned with a vengeance. I couldn’t watch the end of the movie and tossed and turned until I found a position that wasn’t too uncomfortable. I drank a ton of water.
I barely slept Saturday night and Sunday I felt sick and tired enough to not be able pay attention to football on the TV. I just wanted to sleep until the discomfort — whatever it was — passed. I found that I could lay with minimal discomfort on my left side and snoozed in 15-minute increments. I’d rotate from my bed to a couch to the hardwood floor in an effort to stave off the discomfort. My stomach was distended. By Sunday night I couldn’t stand up straight and my housemates asked if I should go the emergency room. “If this continues in the morning I’ll go to urgent care,” I snapped, imagining that nothing could be a worse idea than the ER on a Sunday night. I drank more water. I ate Tums, Pepto Bismol and Pepcid AC. I took a warm bath and washed my face — it would be Wednesday afternoon before I’d bathe again.
I woke Monday at 7 to move my car so it wouldn’t get towed (street cleaning) and found that I could barely walk without pain. My path was laid out before me — it was time to seek help but urgent care didn’t open until 9 so I lay back down and dozed off, searching for the nearest urgent care facilities on my phone. I could lay on my back and feel virtually no discomfort.
I drove to the nearest walk-in urgent care. Access Medical Group, adjacent to Marina Del Rey Hospital about two miles away, was covered by my “catastrophic” PPO plan and several doctors were listed. I didn’t realize it at the time but in retrospect I was quite feverish. I breathed carefully and slowly, awkwardly and uncomfortably walked from the parking lot to the first door labeled “urgent care.” The doctor, Jonathan Rand, wouldn’t see anyone until 10. I asked the receptionist if any other doctors were available sooner but not feeling up to walking door-to-door I resolved to await my fate w/ Dr. Rand — after all, waiting is to be expected with urgent care. I could slouch in the chair in the waiting room and semi-doze off without feeling much discomfort. Finally, the doctor saw me. I told him my symptoms and suggested that maybe I had some sort of intestinal blockage. After an old-school x-ray revealed “stuff” — what appeared as a light cloudiness — in my intestine he agreed. He’d need to admit me to the hospital and insert a tube down my throat to try to “loosen things up.”
It seemed a most vague and presumptuous diagnosis but at that point I was just happy to begin the process of treatment and healing, whatever that entailed. I felt ready to “enter the system” so to speak. Rand let me lay on the examining table while I waited for a room to open up for me at the hospital. Perfect — just in time to take a 10:30 conference call. I consider myself a lucky motherfucker and this call also came with impeccable timing — a secret project I was working on was postponed and just like that an impending deadline was wiped out. Perfect timing. I asked Rand if I’d have better luck getting admitted to Cedars Sinai or elsewhere and he said that anywhere else I’d need to be admitted via the ER. I asked if I’d be in for a while and he ensured me that I’d be locked up for at least a few days. I started getting skeptical about Rand and his seemingly fatalistic presumptions. I was moved back to the waiting room and finally around noon was told to walk across to Marina Del Rey Hospital and admit myself.
At this point I still had no idea that I had a fever, not to mention a serious infection attacking my innards. By the time I was leaning on the receptionist desk at Marina Del Rey Hospital I half-expected them to slip a wheelchair under me. But it doesn’t work like that. At least not until you hand over your insurance card and fill out a bunch of paperwork.
It was 12:30 p.m. I sat back down and waited. I called my dear friend Krupali, a radiation oncologist (and occasional hero, for feedback and advice. Cedars was said to be much better with billing and she knew many surgeons there. I said I’d consider relocating if it came to major surgery. A wheelchair came and took me to my room (incidentally, this seemed to be the only wheelchair at MDR Hospital with footrests). I changed into a hospital robe and laid down in the surprisingly comfortable bed. I felt no discomfort or pain laying on my back with my head slightly elevated. A nurse (finally) took my temperature and I was surprised to learn that I had a low-grade fever.
I texted my roommate and coworkers to let them know I had been admitted. My roommate was kind enough to rush over with the my necessities — tablet, charging devices and the New Yorker (thanks Free)! I called my parents and told them I was in the hospital. I gave them a quick recap and promised I’d keep them apprised.
I wasn’t convinced that this bowel obstruction intubation thing was necessary — if it doesn’t do the trick, surgery would be necessary. Why not rule out other diagnoses first? Fortunately, after a couple hours, I was visited by a surgeon. After I told him my symptoms — especially that I had a 1-2 year history of gallstone symptoms, he ordered more tests. Blood was drawn. A nurse unsuccessfully tried to insert an intravenous prick into my left arm and gave up.
As soon as the surgeon explained his rationale I was completely at ease. Whether I had appendicitis or a gallbladder issue, he performed these procedures multiple times weekly and specialized in laparoscopic surgery. Huge relief.
He gave me his card, I texted the details to my parents knowing they’d run it by my uncle, an endocrinologist for due diligence (more or less a Google search). Dr. Daniel R. Marcus was well-qualified. Most importantly I trusted him.
I was sent for a CT scan. The tech administered a sort of enema of dyes meant to illuminate my appendix and intestines for the scan. By this point, nothing really bothered me more than the discomfort and pain I felt from being turned on my side. I was wheeled back to my room and it wasn’t long before I could sense things being expedited. My white blood cell count came in at 27,000 per mcL (normal is between 5-10,000). An ultrasound confirmed the presence of gallstones as well as inflammation and necrosis of the gallbladder. I had a gallbladder infection and required emergency surgery. I returned to the room and a different nurse successfully found a vein for the IV through which fluids, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication entered my bloodstream.
It was 3 p.m. I had a major health issue but the best treatment for a gallbladder infection is removal. As we learned in seventh grade science class, the gallbladder creates bile to help process fat as food travels from the liver to the intestine. But it’s not a vital organ and in fact, in my case, it seems to be completely unnecessary. Moreover, thanks to the magic of modern technology, laparoscopic surgery, which while common has only been typical since the early 90’s, requires just four micro-incisions, allowing for a quick recovery (recovery for open stomach surgery can last 4-6 weeks). I told my parents I’d be going into surgery. They said they wanted to fly out to be with me. I did not push back. “You need to have an advocate at your side,” my mom said and I knew she was right. I gave Dr. Marcus my mom’s mobile number and asked him to call when I was out of surgery.
I was wheeled into the pre-operating room and signed off on a cholecystectomy. It was 3:30. I was in a total zen state, knowing I had done everything I could and that — should the procedure go as planned — I’d immediately be better. An assistant asked whether I was supposed to get an NG tube as apparently was still indicated on my chart. “No. I believe that’s been updated,” I responded. I joked with the anesthesiologist about liking my cocktails strong. “Then you’ll enjoy,” he said as he administered some anti-nausea drug to the mix.
Warning: infected guts are gross but if you want to see two photos of my gallbladder and its surrounds during surgery click here.
It was 7 o’clock. The first thing I remember asking when I came to was whether or not the laparoscopic technique was successful. I knew enough from witnessing others’ recovers to know how dramatic a difference minimally-invasive surgery made on recovery time. I was relieved. Then, back in my room, I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder — I’d imagine it was a result of my positioning during surgery. They administered a small dose of dilaudid via IV and gave me a pillow to elevate my arm. That was the only pain I felt after surgery (I declined all subsequent intravenous painkillers as I had not gone to the bathroom since Saturday and did not want to further constipate the newly revamped plumbing).
It was a long but overall successful Monday.
The nurses on duty checked on me every half hour or so. I slept pretty well between regular status checks (heart rate, temperature). My parents showed up at 10:30 p.m. I was still out of it from the anesthesia but I felt fine. The took the keys to my car and went to a nearby hotel.
At around 5 a.m. the nurse took me for my first walk since surgery. I walked like an old man for the first day or so… with my hands supporting my still distended gut (it had been pumped full of air for the surgery). It was a little uncomfortable using my abdominal muscles to pull myself up but otherwise it felt great to be on my feet, even if it was still difficult to stand up straight.
It was Election Day and for the first time in as long as I can remember I wouldn’t be voting. I ate some of what they called breakfast — it resembled small pancakes and eggs. It felt good to remember what hunger felt like. I was still receiving antibiotics and fluids via IV. I took a few more walks around the hospital wing throughout the day, each longer than the other. My walking was a little labored but not necessarily slowed, My gut felt a little tender and it felt as if my innards were jiggling. I eventually found a way to “sneak outside” and get fresh air via the cafeteria. The patio was meshed in as if it were a penitentiary but I am definitely one to break rules in the name of fresh air.
Another man was moved into my room. I was initially annoyed by this but was fascinated by his story. A commercial airline pilot, he was pulled from his flight from LAX to Mexico City to get his stomachache checked out and next thing he knew he was in my room recovering from an appendectomy. Dr. Marcus loved bragging about his most impactful appendectomy of the year — The L.A. Kings’ Brad Richardson had an emergency appendectomy before Round 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs only to recover and return 6 days later and score a crucial goal in the decisive game against the Canucks.
My mind was blown by how incrementally fast my recovery was going. The incisions were so small that there was never any pain and while I was lacking for energy, I found that the walking was really helping me get my strength back.
I didn’t want to spend another night in the hospital but I couldn’t be released until it was certain that I was no longer infected. On Tuesday my white blood cell count had dropped by more than half to 13,000, it seemed I was healing and that the surgery had eradicated the gallbladder and the surrounding infected areas. My dear friend and business partner Kyra visited and it made my day. My parents stuck around as well, helping me get the nurses’ attention since the call button was broken and most of them seemed relatively uninterested to begin with. Dr. Marcus said I’d be discharged by noon the next day.
We watched the election results come in. I took one last walk around the ward with my parents (three laps this time!) and immediately after they left Ohio was called for Obama and another four years was sealed. I stayed up for a while catching up with email and some work but soon drifted off into sleep. It was much harder sleeping with someone else in the room — more nurse interruptions and occasional snoring. I woke up early and watched Obama’s acceptance speech on my Nexus 7 tablet. I texted my parents to enjoy themselves and take their time as the morning rolled on and I awaited a visit from the doctor. Nathan dropped by and visited with us, a definite high point of the week. Blood was drawn early but the doctor didn’t come around until 11 or so with the results and order to get me the hell outta there. My white blood cell count was at 6,000. My temperature was below normal. I felt great and looked forward to going home.
My gut was still so sensitive on the ride home that it felt uncomfortable riding over speed bumps. I knew that this discomfort too would subside almost immediately as my innards settled in a newly aligned formation. It was 2 p.m. Wednesday, we picked up sandwiches and smoothies at Windward Farms and ate in my backyard.
My parents, heroes that they are, picked up groceries and bottled water for me before I got them a cab to the airport. Back in my bed, it almost felt as if I could *feel* my breath reach newly exposed parts of my gut as it would deepen. I napped hard for an hour and woke to take a walk around the neighborhood. I got some work done and went to bed early — I was ecstatic that not only was I feeling better but the issue — the organ! — was eradicated completely. I would never have that painful discomfort again.
Thursday I felt great. Worked from home without a nap and squeezed in a 2-mile walk around the canals. I’m a machine, I thought — it was hard to believe I felt 95 percent as good as new just 3 days after major surgery. Friday I returned to the office and broke up the day by participating on a panel at Silicon Beach Fest. That evening I had my first post-op beers and later saw The Afghan Whigs (thanks Mark)!
I’ve been extremely fired up and grateful since my surgery two weeks ago. I now consider myself back to 110% and can run and everything as I normally could. I’m looking forward to sharing Thanksgiving with my family in Chicago and stuffing my face just like every other year. As for you my friends and, really anyone crazy/bored enough to have read this far, let’s do lunch or drinks soon — on me!
73 Replies to “Living Without a Gallbladder”
Hi Andy, I am in full panic mode because I’m having my gallbladder out in two days. I had the er experience, but felt fine after a day or two and really haven’t had symptoms since. It’s been two months and I feel fine, but my ultrasound two weeks ago showed I have 3 gallstones so I feel like a ticking time-bomb. My biggest fear is that I’ll have bowel control issues when it’s gone. Are you still ok after 4 years, or have you had any problems? Thanks, this has been a little reassuring and I have put down the phone (I almost dialed the number to cancel!)
Had I not found this blog, I would’ve cancelled my surgery as I said above – that’s how close a call it was. It’s been a hellish two weeks – HELLISH – and at one point my doc said they didn’t even find any stones in my gallbladder at the time of surgery (not anywhere, for that matter). If you are trying to make your own decision and you feel fine like I did, my advice is DON’T DO IT. I wish to God that I made that call. After two week I am not back to normal life, I spent 4 days in hospital and have a drain sticking out of my side because I had “ducts of Luschka”. Google that one, and good luck.
I removed my gallbladder on monday the 1st february 2016 after severe stomach and abdominal pains. I now feel much better however my concern is what to eat from now on to avoid complications.
Great blog Anthony! I just had the surgery a week ago and I feel better than ever! I had to fly home a miserable 11 hr flight in a middle seat to get my surgery after being diagnosed abroad.
Glad to see you’re back on the road, Whitney. Enjoy your travels!
I find your article inspiring and reassuring. I am in my early thirties and had to go through the knife, wondering if my life would be normal again.
I think you will live better than a normal life. I had my GB remove over a year ago, Andy Sternberg help a lot, it was comforting to own I wasn’t alone. I workout, study jiujitsu, live a health life, and remember dont put any barriers in your journey, if there is a will there IS a way
Thanks for this post! It’s really helpful especially for people like me who will be undertaking the same procedure in a few days.
As for me, Thursday, I had a very terrible stomach ache that is continuous, and it won’t go no matter what over-the-counter drug I take. I also wasn’t able to pass bowels at this stage so initial diagnosis was acute indigestion. Then Saturday came when, for some reason, the continuous pain grew down and was replaced by a severe pain in the upper right abdomen that is so sharp, it’s as if somebody is stabbing me. The pain prevents me (till now as of writing) from laughing, coughing, sneezing, and burping. I had ultrasound just this morning so I now know for sure (which I strongly think already yesterday) that I have gall stones–three stones, with the largest at around 1.8cm diagonally.
The weird thing about this experience is I personally developed step-by-step procedures of doing usual motion (like standing from a chair, or from the ground; or lying down in bed, or on the grass perhaps) with minimal pain since I had a few days living with the pain. I don’t really feel nauseous or whatever, which is a relief. I’ve got an infected gall though so I hope I can have my surgeon remove it by tomorrow or Wednesday.
I tell my friends that since I have three stones, I could give the other two to them as a souvenir item. Haha! Or maybe I’ll have the gall dried up, put it in a tiny charm bag, and keep it around–as a personal reminder to be mindful of my diet. You see, I love fatty foods and chips. Whenever I get to a buffet, I make sure that I get the value of my money back in terms of food quantity, I really am inspired now to warn others of the possible effects of such recklessness.
Now, I’m hoping the operation goes well. I’m scared of the needle for the IV though, more than for the operation, haha.
I am so glad that I found your story. I had my surgery on Wednesday and resting comfortably on Sunday evening. My story is a bit interesting as prior to this emergency procedure I had neurological surgery approximately 4 weeks prior. Post brain surgery I started to experience episodes of severe abdominal pain under my rib cage…right side. These episodes exclusively came in the evening and started at what I believed was heart burn. The pain doubled in intensity and lasted 4-7 hours and eventually went away. Since I had a previous surgery prior I thought that it was just super sixed heartburn caused by my recent procedure.
Went to my primary about this and he gave me some Prilosec and the number for a GI consult. The pain did not occur again and I didn’t think it was necessary to go and thought that the Prilosec was working. Anyway…the other night it happened again and the pain once again doubled every hour, and after downing every heartburn remedy my wife said “we are going to emergency”. By the time we got there the pain was so intense that I actually started crying and begged them to help. After what seemed to be hours..all the tests and x-rays came back. When the surgeon came into my room in emergency and said we know what is wrong and now we will give you something for the pain it was one of the happiest days of my life. I was ready for them to take me to surgery immediately just to stop the pain.
They performed the procedure and 3 days later I actually feel not to bad….Sore from the surgery, stomach a bit upset, and a little tired, but nothing that would hold me back from my desk work.
Having been rushed in for emergency surgery I had little to prepare for…my only issue now is what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat…can I drink a beer, can I have a slice of pizza ? If I eat something I shouldn’t am I going to be sick and vomit or have explosive bowel movement. Especially with my brain surgery and my hormonal issues it is another level of the unknown for me .
I appreciate everyone telling their story and knowing that there are those with similar issues
Thank you for this wonderful diary, Mr. Sternberg. I am a healthy, athletic, 43-year-old male and I am currently agonizing over the decision to have my GB removed. I have suffered a total of 3 attacks, two in January of 2014, and one in January of this year. It was during this past January’s ultrasound that a 15mm gallstone was discovered. My blood work continues to be excellent, including numbers indicating good liver function.
Overall, this feels like a no-win decision for me. On the one hand, I have a time bomb inside of me that could go off without any warning. On the other hand, the surgery has the very real potential to cause more problems than the once-per-year attacks I’m experiencing. I almost wish my GB was giving me more frequent problems, which would make this decision a clear no-brainer.
My surgery is scheduled for April 7th, and I continue to struggle with this decision. My mind is changing seemingly from moment to moment. I really wish removal wasn’t the only option that my primary doc, gastro doc and surgeon are willing to entertain given the particulars of my case.
Stories like yours are very helpful for me in overcoming my fears. I have also talked to numerous personal acquaintances who have had the GB’s removed, and they have all gotten on with their lives and seem very happy that they had it done.
Sounds like you’re making the right decision, Pete. What I thought was an attack (or a blockage or something) turned out being a bad infection and I’m lucky my GB was removed before the infection spread. So better safe than sorry. Good luck and rest easy!
Hello again, Andy. Just a little update. I am now one week post-op and my recovery has gone way better than I could have hoped for. My incision pain is gone and my internal pain has dissipated to almost unnoticeable. Although I’m taking it slow and light, eating and digestion have been surprisingly uneventful. I’m hoping this trend continues and I can get back to the gym and the roller rink very soon. Thanks again for the wonderful diary!
Hi Andy,I am glad for the internet and being able to source information. I was reading about life without GB. and came across your story. Your story is just about a carbon copy of my life with these attacks. It never dawned on me it was gallstones. like you I live a very healthy life with organic food and plenty of exercise. albeit I am 66 i am very fit as I have a heart murmer (valve) and thought I need to be fit if ever the need for a heart operation. I never thought I would be having a gallbladder removal!! I am in NZ and the same long wait for Registrar or Doctor became unbearably wearing. But I ended up in hospital after a diligent doctor at urgent after hours surgery got blood tests done, thinking I may have had a heart attack, as she said women present in different ways than men for heart attacks. but that feeling of pushing up into the diaphragm worried her and so in the end it turns out to be gallstones!! so off for the op and so pleased I have medical insurance as good as the public system is here I wont need to wait for another attack and can get it done sooner than later(approx 4-5 weeks public) . So once again thankyou so much for putting my mind at rest.I hope anyone reading this takes note and dont leave it as we did , go and get checked out asap.
Dear…Mr. stenberg i am glad that i have found your article living without a gallbladder. Your story are just amazing. My mom just recently have her gallbladder remove. ..i am just concerns about her well being later on since she 66yrs of age. Do you feel any different since your surgery and how your is your daily diet. what kinds of foods do you stay away from?
I found your article very helpful and reassuring.
I found out yesterday that I have to have my gall bladder removed in 6 days on Dec. 1st, 2014. I have been having bad episodes of heartburn, nausea, and vomiting off and on for around three years now. I do not have gall stones so the doctors have had a lot of problems diagnosing my problem. I had an ultrasound of my gall bladder and found out I have a gall bladder polyp that is blocking my gall bladder. I am hoping this will be fixed through the laparoscope but since I have had previous colon issues which included having to have part of my colon removed I have a lot of scar tissue and adhesions so the doctor says he will TRY to do the lap but I may wake up from surgery with a full 7 to 8 inch long incision. Either way I am looking forward to some form of relief. I also have really severe episodes of having to rush to the bathroom while I am eating or soon there after which is very painful. My abdomen will bloat to where I “look” like I am nine months pregnant. I am a fifty year old female that had a hysterectomy 11 years ago so I know that is not possible.
I do have a few questions that I would like to ask you….
Did you have bathroom attacks before your surgery and was it better after you had your GB removed?
Did you have abdominal bloating before your surgery and if yes is it better now?
It has gotten so bad now to where I can not eat any thing without getting one of more of the following symptoms which are bloating, severe diarrhea, pain behind the right side ribs, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, belching, and weakness. Did you have any or all of these? I am really hopeful that I can get back to a normal life because it is hard to live with these issues daily.
Thank you for your story, after two years it is still being helpful to others like me. 😀
I hope your procedure went well and that you are recovering comfortably! I am still feeling great two years after the operation. Active as ever and not needing to alter my diet much. To answer your questions, yes “bathroom attacks” did and occasionally still do happen. Usually tied to eating something that I’m sensitive to such as dairy. But it’s manageable as long as I know where the closest bathroom is. I did have some bloating immediately before the surgery and it has not recurred since. Thanks for your comment and best wishes!
I just had my GB removed without thinking. The one thing I’m curious about is that do you need to go to the bathroom after every meal? Also, when I eat fried/ spicy food will I get an immediate diarrhea? Does it really make a noticeable affect?
Yeah, Well Lucky for you it turned out okay. I went in one day with chest pain. they removed my gale bladder. and every since then i have NOT shitted the same. On many occassions i shit liquid. IF it is a little hard then at the end all you hear is bubbles like when pushing at the end of using the restroom. ITs horrible. – I want to know where all the byle is going in my body??
hmmm — i didnt even know i was getting it removed it happened so freaking fast.
I really had no idea what a gale bladder was until after the surgery..
WHAT ABOUT PPL that cant afford to buy healthy low fat stuff.. I have a budget and in that budget i have to feed a family of 3 ….. and not on yogurt and fiber bars either…
Thanks alot for the damn surgery…
It’s becoming Tuesday now and I had my GB yanked on Friday after going to the ER early Thursday morning because I couldn’t decide if I had the worst case of heartburn ever or a heart attack of some sort. Turned out to be somewhere in between. Talking to a doctor later, I found out that they figured my GB had been conspiring against me for up to 2 years and had only been noticed about a week prior.
Heartburn? I didn’t know what heartburn was! I tend to eat better foods, but I indulge from time to time as well. Then I got it one night at about 4 am and couldn’t go back to sleep for a few hours. It was embarrassing to think that heartburn might have kept me from working the next day, I’m sure an employer would have had a fit. The next time was the one that put me down.
I’m still recovering, shuffling around a bit. Still feel bloated and not as bendy as I’m used to being, but I can tell I’ll be fine in a day or two and most of the painkillers are out of my brain.
I sure could have stood to read this while I was in the emergency room, freaking out about the first major surgery of my life (other than that one they gave me right after I was born).
(My cat is a little confused why I won’t let her rest on my belly, though.)
Hi Andy – It’s been some time since you wrote this it appears – I’d like to see how you are – I have to go through the surgery and I’m REAL nervous.
Hi Diana, it’s OK to be nervous. I’m still in great shape — even better — than a year and a half ago. Just back from the gym and I’m drinking a beer. 🙂 Good luck with the procedure!
Thanks for the Article Andy, last month i had a severe pain in my abdomen, it was so severe that i was rolling on the floor for almost 30 minutes, my cousin took me to the hospital where they diagnosed me, Gall stones about 16 of ’em, the experience was horrible, the Doctors suggested Gall bladder removal after 6 weeks, i’m 34 years old and had never been admitted to the hospital ever prior to the pancreatic arrest i had, i had the liver, lung, pan crease inflammation and infection which subsided in 6 days while i was getting treated in the icu, i was scared of the surgery, no one likes its body pierced by any metal tool, your article made me feel good and now i’m ready for the surgery, would be having it on 20th of this month, just 1 question i have for you…
did you face any Digestion issues since you were operated?
because you know i can’t live without non-vegetarian food, Doctors told me i’ll be living a normal life even without the gall bladder without a heavy diet, but some articles say i’ll have to follow certain diets, like eating at regular intervals, eating low fat food, if i don’t eat for a long time i’ll be having acidity issues, your experiences would be helpful…
Hi Zubair, it’s different for everyone of course and I’m sure the doctors advice is out of an abundance of caution. Personally, I resumed eating normally within a day or so of being discharged from hospital. This includes eating meat and the occasional beer (or three or four). I had already been eating a generally healthy diet before my surgery — the surgeon actually told me that my gallbladder had likely not been operating normally for several months in fact. I rarely have digestion problems now but when I do it’s typically after indulging in an excess of dairy/cheese or fatty meats. My advice in such experimental situations is to just make sure you know where the nearest toilet is. Again, results of living without a gallbladder can vary for each individual but I find that by merely being conscious of what I put into body and exercising regularly I can eat and drink whatever and whenever I like with no noticeable digestion issues. Good luck with the surgery!
I’m really glad I found this post of yours, Andy! It’s very encouraging and inspiring. I’ll also be undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy tomorrow. I’m quite anxious what’s life gonna be without a gallbladder and you just changed my perspective. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story. I’m more optimistic now and looking forward to a healthier and more active life after surgery. Cheers!
Dindo – this makes me happy. It’s been a year and a half since my surgery and I still stand by everything in this post and can confirm that I’m more active now than at any time in my life. And I still enjoy all kinds of good food (and beer). Best of luck with the procedure!
Hi Andy. Just read your post and it has me feeling relieved. I’m going in tomorrow to have my gall bladder removed and was nervous and on the fence about having it done. But I decided I can no longer live with the seemingly more frequent and debilitating attacks any longer. Can’t leave the house any more in fear of an attack while I’m out and about. Are you still as happy now as you were in the beginning? I’ve heard some stories that had me reconsidering my decision to have it removed. I’m nervous about the long term but more nervous to continue living with the attacks. Thanks so much for your post.
Thank you for sharing, looks like same surgery is in my very near future. I feel less anxious about it now.
Best of luck, Elizabeth… Happy to hear you’re on the road to better health and glad this post could provide a bit of relief!
I had the same thing happen to me this year. First surgery ever as well and hope the last one as well. Now I have questions have you changed your diet or found out you cant eat certain things. I am still struggling a little bit with that. Any little input would help. thanks Angela
Hi Angela. Glad to hear you had a successful surgery. I didn’t make any major changes to my diet. I’m just more conscious of what I consume — not much cheese, not much super-fatty food. For example I’ll typically get a turkey burger w/o cheese instead of a cheeseburger. But there’s nothing that I used to eat that I absolutely don’t eat anymore.
thank you Andy. I have noticed that too with cheese and sometimes even bread. I started doing green smoothies in the morning they seem to help even when I get an upset stomach. thank you for the reply
Hello Angela I wish could help you, you know when my GB was removed I though I couldn’t go back to my normal life because I’m Ultra Trail runner. However, after 1 month I’ll try to run gradualy then after 3 months complete recovery, I eat whatever I like but with extra careful. I would suggest you must engage to any sports
such as running, swimming ect. as long as you must avoid to carry heavy things.
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ANDY- Thank you for paying it forward, to those of us who had to choose the best way to solve a problem is to eliminate it – option. Same story as yours, (wbc was 29,000, and during surgery doc discovered gang green had already set in, my white blood cells had provided a tissue around my infected GB to protect the surrounding body parts). -doc said 5 days later, GB could have ruptured – spreading gang green to the rest of my organs, i may not have made it…or it would have been a much more difficult surgery……
I had always been as healthy as a roach, you could not stop me, had the occasional flues, but muscled through them in a few days, and back on the saddle. But this feeling was different, just lower back pain, some stomach and vomiting, blood shoot eyes, then on the 5th day under the right rib pain. I finally realized there was something very serious, as was getting ready for work – the boss lady – my wife ordered me to the doc, she drove me. I hate hospitals
After they admitted me, and waiting for surgery, I was trying to medical-google my way out of this cut and gut option, and keep all the body parts God gave me, my father in-law told me I had two options he was going to use his buck knife and do it himself or the doc was going to do it, my whole family agreed, and I relented to my first and last surgery.
I had NO idea a GB infection could be so sever, I have been relating my experience to all my friends and family and hope more awareness can be communicated, as this blind sighted me and almost left my two beautiful kids and my wife of 20 years behind.
I am in recovery now here in Tomball Texas Medical center, should be released into the wild tomorrow to start my new GB free life, I had been reading a bunch of restrictive advise about what to or not eat, then came across ANDYs awesome story and awesome GB-free attitude.
I will join you my brother into the bright future of freedom, and hope all of us can inspire on another to thrive in this wonderful thing called life.
Bernabe Saldana Jr. / Texas
Thanks for the story. My father has recently passed away at 60 due to multiple organ failure after a gallbladder infection. He had the symptoms you described in your story, but apparently didn’t get picked up soon enough. I keep thinking maybe if he had had the surgery, he would still be here. Or even the antibiotics..very stupid. Highlight the seriousness of gallstones. He was feeling fine up to 2 weeks before he passed. It’s lucky you had the right and quite prompt treatment.
thanks for sharing your story too, Anthony. With all those surgeries behind you, this should be a breeze. Here’s to a healthy future!
ANDY! thanks so much for your story I feel so much better, For over a year now I been getting the runarounds with the GI I was seeing. Next Friday I’m slated to get mine GB removed and just like everybody in the comment section, I research about flushing, management, and finally living without one. Your story inspired me and added much relief too. I had a freak accident and had to resection my sigmoid colon and repair my bladder, appendix removed much earlier, just unreal between surgeries, rotator cuff repairs on both shoulders, nose surgery to remove a polyp, plus all the injuries from the military, oh man! Andy Tanks for your story, man, I’, 50 and I would like to live another fifty, life is good, thanks Andy peace
Glad to hear your recovery is going well Irwin and thanks for the reply! It may seem incomprehensible but as you’ve likely heard, the health insurance industry is a freaking scandal in the U.S. It took at least six months for me to settle all of my claims. Long story short, I had to file a complaint against my [now former] insurance provider, Aetna, with the state of California so they would cover all aspects of the procedure as emergency surgery (initially they would not as I was admitted via urgent care and not the ER). I’ve spent a little over $3,000 out of pocket which is a bit more than my deductible. Enjoy the rest of your Canadian summer!
I had my gallbladder out back in 2004, with really no symptoms prior to eating a sandwich and suddenly feeling intense amounts of pain, relieved in great part by staying on my hands and knees.
After being admitted at the hospital, they were having a lot of trouble figuring out what it was, and I couldn’t have pain meds until they knew. Finally, the doc said “Well, let me try something.” He pressed slightly on my stomach, and *lightly* tapped on my back.
You’d think someone was murdering me, the way I was screaming 🙂 I think that was the most pain I’ve ever felt before, and he apologized before saying “Yep, your gallbladder needs to come out.”
I was admitted that night, had the surgery the next morning (they made 2 small incisions and basically sucked it out using a machine.) I went home later that day, and with pain meds, was back to normal within about a week.
I’ve learned what I can and can’t eat and at what times (I still don’t have the healthiest diet, but without a gallbladder, food passes through quicker than it normally would, especially fatty or greasy foods.) So moderation is still pretty key.
I was curious you had a pain on your left side that could easily be mistaken for indigestion? I’ve had this pain off and on after I have eaten. Speaking of eating, if you’re ever in Chicago I’d love to have lunch!!!! Your story was great and I too have had that kind of surgery on my knee and also recovered quickly. Amazing isn’t it? So happy you’re doing great now, makes me feel better about facing my issue with my doctor. Thanks for sharing :))
Well this article has certainly helped us, especially me a lot with relief. Whew! I can sleep a little better now at night. But not much since my wife is continually tossing and turning not getting much sleep other than 30 mins at a time. My wife has been suffering from this problem for over three weeks. Tomorrow its to the DR’s office for a prescheduled visit and to tell you the truth, with no mean intentions, I hope they admit her the same day for surgery (she has developed jaundice). Since I’m at a loss on how to make her pain go away. I really feel at a loss unable to help her and relieve her pain. And besides I can’t cook worth crapola, but I can do a mean BBQ. Our humidity is way to high to be outside BBQ’ing and I cant turn on a sprinkler type of mist to keep cool since we are on water restrictions. Tks mucho /Mikey
In my case, things worsened until I finally got to the doctor but only improved after the surgery (after a few days of recovery). So stay positive! Best of luck to you two.
This was really informative!im only 22 so I hope I can hang onto my gall bladder a little longer but it’s nice to know that it isn’t as horrific as some stories I’ve read!
Love from Ireland x
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am three weeks removed from having my gallbladder taken out by laproscopic surgery. Your story has helped lessen my discomfort.
A gall stone the size of a hen’s egg was discovered inside the gall bladder sac. My symptoms were a distended abdomen and staggering uncontrollable cold chills and shaking. I was rushed to the ER inside a Dodge Van with the heater on high to help quell my chills as my wife the driver was perspiring profusely from the heat.
I thank God and the entire medical staff and medicine for my continuing recovery. Again, I thank you.
Andy … thanks for your write up. I found it through the same Google search everyone else seems to have done.
In my case I apparently had friendly, peaceful gall stones for some time that became very angry stones 10 or so days ago the night after I had the colonoscopy that my primary care physician finally talked me into. While that went well and found nothing serious, five hours later I felt like I’d been stabbed through the RH side of my abdomen with a nasty spear and left hanging on a wall. Friends rushed me into the ER where the docs worked fast as they thought that they’d perforated something during the earlier procedure. When they found nothing, they jammed me full of “good drugs” and sent me home.
In the following 7 days I had two more episodes, the last of which involved an ambulance ride. That was right after they had diagnosed the angry stones. Since I don’t appear to have an infection, they did not go for the immediate surgery option but released me with a directive to meet the surgeons.
That was a day or so ago and the surgery is now scheduled for next Tuesday – just my luck to have a long weekend in the way. In the meantime, I get to live on fruit and water with a constant nagging irritation that threatens to erupt into pain at any moment.
While I don’t like the idea of surgery, the pain is very motivating towards getting it done. Your story, and the comments of those who replied, is tremendously reassuring. Thanks to everyone for providing such great context and detail.
Thanks for sharing, Rob. I hope you make it through the weekend smoothly, sucks that you’ll have to forgo BBQ but by the end of the week you should be good as new. It was my first-ever (and hopefully only) surgery but the recovery was swift and the trade-off of a couple days of discomfort for a lifetime of relief is a no brainer 😉
My god!!! You could have been writing about my situation literally word for word. My symptoms appearing approx 12 months ago and like you i dismissed initially as a stomach bug. Then i was all good until xmas 2012 when i had really excrutiating pains including vomiting and fevers with shivering. All blood tests came back clear apart from an elevated white blood count. and i was diagnosed as having possibly high stomach acid and prescribed Nexium. All symptoms cleared up and i was resigned to swallowing pills for the rest of my life…….That was until 4 weeks ago when my insides attacked me with a vengeance, hospitalised me with a heart rate of 150 and extremely low blood pressure. My liver was infected and i had sludge in my gall bladder. After numerous fluids and antibiotics via IV I had an ERCP on the Thursday to clear it up was quickly followed by my gall bladder removal the very next day!! It has now been 3 weeks since surgery and the discomfort is very minimal and i can live in comfort knowing that i will never have another “episode”, which is how i used to not so fondly refer to them as.
Not sure if you still get on this, but how long was the hospital stay. I to have a ERCP an GB removal scheduled
two nights. they needed to make sure the white blood cell count was back to normal (I had a GB infection) and that the pipes were running normally.
Andy, thanks for sharing your story. Like a few others I arrived at your blog after searching for Living Without a Gall Bladder.
Our stories are quite similar. At 42, I’m in pretty good health, eat well and play regular sport. After thinking I had a stomach bug and trying to “gut it out” for a few days I ended up in the emergency ward at our local hospital, which led to eventual surgery. I had my gall bladder out a week ago (I still have the staples in!). I’m feeling fine and so far I’ve had no trouble with digestion at all, although I suspect as you did that my GB had packed it in long ago. Tracking back, I can recall 4 or 5 “food poisoning” episodes over the past 10 years that were likely gall bladder attacks in hindsight. That’s a particular sort of pain I hope I never have to experience again.
Anyway, best of health to you and thanks again for sharing your story.
Thanks for sharing. Found your story while researching living without your gallbladder.
Less than 2 weeks ago I was told by my surgeon that I would need to have my gb out and soon. I was diagnosed 2 yrs ago with a poor function gb (<10% function) through a Hida scan (family history of gb problems – father has stones and sister had a poor function gb that was also diseased). I was experiencing lots of burning/stabbing pain just below right rib, pain to right shoulder, shortness of breath and nausea. At the time doctor advised that it was up to me whether my gb was to come out – he recommended that it should. I asked what I could do to manage the pain. He advised that watch my fat intake ie low fat diet steering away from spicy and acidic foods.
Now 2yrs later I’ve had to have it out as everything I ate and drank, even water, would cause pain episodes. I went to hospital on 7/5/2013. All went well – sore where the 4 small incisions are – especially in the belly button area. I’m somewhat apprehensive about my diet now that gb has been removed. I think I have read and heard too many stories about what you can no longer eat and what the effects are if you do.
I have been putting off my gall bladder removal for the last 15 years. I was raising my grand daughter and was waiting for her to become an adult…and I am a big chicken.
I got pneumonia and went to the ER and also knowing I was having gall bladder issues. The ER doc told me I had pneumonia but just by looking at me he knew I didn’t have gall bladder problems. I followed up with my primary care doc who sent me for an ultra sound. Yep, I had gall stones. I knew that the stones just don’t disappear. I was scheduled for surgery on April 25th but I just wasn’t sure I would go through with it but I was tired of feeling nauseated and not being able to sleep on my right side. I also did some internet research and found out that the gall bladder could affect the lungs, liver and pancreas so I went to surgery. I was taken in at 8:20 am and was released at 10:30 am – yep, two hours later. I was lucky and didn’t need a drain. I had the staples removed May 3rd, and wow that felt really good.
I will be 70 years old in June and you know the older you are the worse things could be. When my Dr. came in to my room prior to surgery he asked me if I said my prayers – I replied yes, and I am saying the 23rd Psalm now and he said let’s pray together.
We said a prayer and then he left the room and I was taken to get the meds to be put to sleep.
Everyone was so amazed at the quickness and how well I have done.
Not bad for an old lady but God surely blessed me with a great surgeon.
Thank you Dr. Damon Brantley – you truly are wonderful and your hands are moved by God.
God’s Blessings to all those who are going through health issues.
thanks for sharing your story, Barbara 🙂
My story seems exactly as yours Andy. From going to the ER on Sunday night all the way to the end. I did the Surgery about a month ago and I am feeling much better. My question to you Andy is what food are you eating after the surgery. Do you eat spicy food. What did the doctor told you what not eat and drink. Many thanks for sharing your story. Rgds, Asefaw Sengal Toronto, Canada
glad to hear you’ve recovered well Asetaw. It’s likely that my gallbladder failed long before I had the surgery so I didn’t change my diet much at all. I still eat moderately spicy foods sometimes and drink whatever I want to. I try to eat healthy but if I do eat something excessively greasy or with too much cheese I’ll occasionally get indigestion…. but it’s no big deal.
Thanks for the great story. I’m actuealy sitting on my recovery bed hooked up to an IV, just had my Gallbladder taken out earler today. I’m from CT (25/M) and had to get surgery on a trip to Myrtle Beach. Last place I wanted to end up on this trip. Came down to renovate a beach condo my father just bought.
I woke up around 1 AM of April 5th with a pain in my upper right abbdomin. When I couldnt get back to sleep I did some research on Google and came up with a few ideas, with gall bladder stones seeming like the one to fit best. Over the hours the pain was getting worse, by 6 AM I just couldnt stand it anymore and knew this probably goimng to stop. I woke up my Father and within the hour we got going to the ER. I had to wait till about 1 P.M. because of the amount of people already here. The pain was so bad I was feeling faint and was tearing up. Luckely when i finaly got an open bed i was able to get Doxycyclen and that was better then a brick of gold at that point. So I got laparoscopic surgery everything went really well. and now I’m spending one more night in the hospital and will hopefully be able to go home, or back to the beach condo tomorrow.
Thanks for sharing Brian. Glad to hear it went smoothly once you were admitted.
What a great outcome you have had! I just had my ultrasound this morning and got the results and am being referred to a surgeon. I was told my gb is full of stones. Although it sucks to have to have surgery, it’s great to know the cause of the severe pain that I have dealt with for years. (it would only happen a couple of times a year so I never said anything to the doc, hens why it has taken years) Glad to hear you are still able to enjoy libations as I would not want to completely give those up 😉 Take care!
Thanks for the note Janice! Glad to hear that your pain is from nothing worse than gallstones. Good luck with your surgery!
Thanks very much Andy for relaying your gall bladder removal journey. As I type I am in bed, coping with the discomfort you describe (after googling everrything related to gbs, I finally googled bg removal). This is the 4th such episode- not horribly painful but enough to make me scale way back from a normal day of activity. I’ve been to the doc and am waiting for test results (blood & ultrasound). At first I was loathe to consider removing the *!$#GB . I feel oddly attached to my internal organs! I am in that low percentage of people having gb issues BECAUSE of a low fat (and righteous) diet. Too much bile builds up in the GB with no fats to process. Thus, stones and inflamation. Grrrrr. Thanks so much! Your account makes me feel much better today 🙂
I’m glad you’re feeling better Ann. We can’t possibly be more attached to our internal organs than they are to us. Based solely on your comment (I have no medical expertise) and diet it sounds like your GB does little more than take up space AND provide occasional discomfort. To which I say: “liberate yourself!” 🙂
I had this procedure done in May 2012. I’ve come across your story as I search for ‘living without a gallbladder’ as I have been feeling rather uncomfortable again. I’ve been told our diet needs changing to a very low fat one ( funny that, given I have eaten healthy most of my life and don’t drink). And fearing the fact that stones seems to grow in other organs once you don’t have a gallbladder… I would be interested to read if you have change your diet or if you have felt any discomfort in the next few months.
Ana, it’s been almost 4 months and the only discomfort I experience is that one of the scars from the surgery occasionally itches. I haven’t drastically altered my diet either, although I typically avoid cheese and fried foods I have by no means abandoned either completely. I hope you feel better!
Thanks for the good read! My brother in law just went thru the same thing early this morning. This comforts me while we wait for him to call.
That’s a super sucky experience, Andy. Sorry you had to go through it. But the write up is a good read, anyway.
I personally would almost rather die than go to the emergency room on sunday night.
ha! kinda what I was thinking. In the end this barely fazed me. Modern tech + medicine can be pretty mindblowing when the best treatment is removal.
the human body is so resilient good to read a happy ending
oh my god. i’m so glad you’re ok. thanks for sharing your story, A.
Wow… lunch on you? I’m so glad I read this through to the end. Let me know when you’re in Dallas. 🙂
I am two weeks post-op for cholecystectomy and my gall bladder surgery parallels yours. I am totally amazed, awestruck, to the point of incomprehension as to how you were treated at urgent care, triage, diagnosis, admission, choice of hospital and that whole process. I was immediately put comfortably under observation while tests were run. A few hours later a diagnosis was confirmed. A surgeon was summoned, the ER booked, and blammo! a severely infected and stone-filled bladder was in the…wherever they put such things. But, I live in Canuckistan where my health is looked after.