Gallstones

Lots of people have gallstones and don't even know about but if you have an attack, trust me you'll know about. It's been three years since my last gallstone attack and my goodness it was bad. The horror of what I went through is still so fresh in my mind as if it was yesterday.
It started late 2010 when I would get these horrendous pains in between my shoulder blades every couple of weeks. The pain was so sharp it would take my breath away. I had no idea what was happening to me I actually thought I was having a heart attack or something but after 20/30 minutes just when I was thinking about going to A & E I would vomit and the pain would ease instantly. I googled it and gallstones kept coming up in the search.

The pain would relate to a gallstone leaving my gallbladder and then going into my bile duct. Then when I vomited the gallstone would come up and that's why the pain went away. I decided to keep a food diary to see what was triggering these attacks but after a month or so they just stopped. It was strange but I was obviously happy so never thought nothing more.

 Then in the summer of 2011 the attacks started again. Every Saturday night I would be sat in A & E and every time they would tell me it sounded like gallstones and they would have to refer me. Then one night I got an attack while putting my pyjamas on. I remember that I felt like I couldn't breathe and the pains were just too much I fell to the floor. Daddy tried to get me to speak but I couldn't I was in that much pain so he rang an ambulance. I don't remember much after that really until I was in the hospital. 

They told me that I would be kept in and seen my a ward doctor the next day. I was in a ward with three other women all suffering from gallstones. All had the same symptoms as me and were all waiting to have their gallbladder removed. I was scheduled for an ERCP.  An ERCP is like a camera down your throat but it has little tools attached so for example if a gallstone is visible they can remove it. I was very nervous about this as I hate anything like this but the procedure wasn't too bad. You are sort of awake for it, sedated and they use something which makes you forget as soon as you are in recovery. 

When I returned to the ward I was sat up and talking then all of a sudden I was in agony. Really in pain. My mum was with me and went to get the nurse. The nurse explained to my mum that an ERCP is a very simple procedure and I shouldn't be in any pain, but I was. I couldn't breathe, I felt again like I was having a heart attack.

The nurse gave me some pain relief but it wasn't enough I needed something stronger which they were very reluctant to give me. I would say I do have a very high pain threshold so I know the fact I was screaming for pain relief meant I was in agony.

She managed to get someone to come and administer morphine by needle. I don't remember much of this but I remember I was discharged either the day after or two. They had found a gallstone in my bile duct and removed it in the ERCP procedure. 

After I got home I wasn't right. I was weak, pale and it just didn't add up. I had only had a simple procedure why was I in pain? I called out the doctor and he took one look at me and asked me had I been the toilet for a number two since I got home... Yes. Was it normal? Well actually no. Not normal, as in the colour but I assumed because they can use dye during an ERCP this was normal. 
He told me to go to A & E immediately. I had only left the day before and now I was back. 
A & E were not happy the way I looked and decided to check my blood count. They thought I was bleeding internally and I was. During the ERCP they had cut me and I had lost almost three quarters of my blood and needed an immediate blood transfusion. I was quickly sent to a ward for the transfusion to begin. The staff were in total shock as in all the years they had worked there this had never happened but they had TWO of us on the ward both bleeding internally from a simple ERCP. I was next to an elderly lady who nearly died. 

Once I had my blood transfusion I was put on the waiting list to have my gallbladder out but in the meantime they kept telling me I had an infection also I would have to wait for it to clear then I would be operated on. They kept me in and I had blood tests almost every day.

Over the days I was feeling worse and worse and I started to smell. Everyone else said they couldn't smell it but I could. It was like an infection smell and I was always very hot and sweaty. I would walk the shower every day but it got to the point were I couldn't walk upright I was bent over. I kept telling the nurses and they assured me that I would be having the surgery soon but the days passed and nothing. 

It got to a Wednesday and I had been in almost two months in total and I had had enough. Something wasn't right I couldn't walk, sit, lie and I was constantly on morphine so I was totally out of it. The doctor came round to see me and I explained everything. I needed seeing to ASAP something was not right. He sent me for a CT scan. I hadn't even got back to the ward after the scan when I found out I was moving wards, I was told to pack my bags as I was moving ASAP. I was confused but I packed up and off I went to another ward. 

A head surgeon was waiting for me when I arrived. He told me that my gallbladder was extremely infected and enlarged and could burst at any moment so I wouldn't be able to have it removed by keyhole as I needed it done now but the full surgery.

I was in shock. Everyone else had there's removed by keyhole so why was it mine was to be the full surgery with the huge scar? He explained that there was No time to wait, If it burst all the infection would then leak throughout by body and blood stream.

The only good thing really was I didn't have time to worry or be scared because it would be done there and then. Daddy waited for me in the ward while I was down in theatre for almost five hours. He was so worried but the nurses kept telling him I was okay.

After the surgery I was so sore and couldn't move very far. It hurt to move, talk, breathe. I had huge staples across by body and a huge cut. The first time I saw it, it looked like something from a horror movie. 

I had to have plenty of rest and when I was allowed home I was looked after by daddy and big J. 
I was so nervous getting the staples out but it didn't hurt. 

I was in hospital for over two months for something as simple as gallstones. I never gave up and I always persisted when I thought something wasn't right and if I hadn't I might not have been here to write this. I always say you know yourself better than anyone so if in doubt, speak out because we may not all be doctors and nurses but we know if something feels wrong. 

9 comments

  1. How awful Michelle! My mum is suffering from gallstones at the moment, she is fine for weeks then has an attack where she feels sick.

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    1. Aww Mellissa I hope she is okay. It is so awful when you are having an attack. I wouldn't wish the pain in anyone.

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  2. Oh my goodness! You have been through the mill. Thank you for sharing your story to help others who may experience similar. Hopefully now all these troubles are behind you for good, and you can lead a normal life again. Tx

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    1. Yep, three years ago and I haven't had any pains like that again.

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  3. How awful for you, I had no idea gallstones could cause such complications! I suffered from a gallstone attack a few years ago and without a doubt the pain was as bad (if not worse) as childbirth! Thankfully I recovered and didn't need the surgery but I don't think I'll ever forget that pain.

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    1. So glad you didn't need surgery. I hope you don't have another attack in the future

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  4. Hi Michelle, I have been suffering with right shoulder and arm pain since the birth of my 3rd son 16 months ago. The attacks would be so severe that I couldn't move. Last week I was sedated and had an endoscopic ultrasound of my gall bladder and today finally had confirmation that I have gall sludge and a stone so am being put forward to have my gall bladder out. Fingers crossed I don't have a bad attack before it's out!!! I'm glad that it is all sorted for you now. Have you had to change your diet post op as I have heard you can't tollerate fats as easily???

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    1. Hi Jeni, gallstones are actually common during pregnancy and after and I think that's where mine came from too. The pain is unbearable isn't it. I'm glad they have found a stone, I know that sounds strange but it means your pains will be over soon once you have your gallbladder removed. Once I had my surgery and I was home I had a nurse come out to me who herself had her gallbladder removed. She talked to me about her diet afterwards and said it can be hard to get used to but it's all trial and error. Basically eat the food and see the consequences eg are you running the toilet straight after. I did this for a while working out what I could and couldn't eat. Macdonalds and KFC are a big no no for me and other foods high in fats. If I do eat them I have to take a buscopan

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    2. You can buy buscopan over the counter and it does help with stomach cramps. I hope you don't suffer anymore attacks before your surgery. Do let me know how you get on xxxx

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