Recovery & Milestones

Ever since I lost my gallbladder, things have been a little bit different around here.

I spent the first week home from the hospital doing a lot of nothing, eating bits and pieces of high-protein foods, and trying to heal. Week two of recovery was spent at work. I noticed that I hit an energy wall at about 1:00 p.m. every day. Apparently, this can be a side effect of having anesthesia (a first for me) and recovering from surgery (another first). Who knew?! I’ve noticed, though, that I haven’t had ONE headache since the surgery, which makes me think that things have been funky for a while… I’d had near daily headaches for months.

The hardest thing has been not being as active as I had been. I never thought those words would ever be a sentiment I truly felt, but seriously, I feel so lazy. I’m still sore on the inside after I eat, and I’m not supposed to exert myself for another 2 weeks, and I can’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for another 4 weeks. Apparently post-surgical hernias aren’t too pleasant…

In weight loss news, I lost 5.8 pounds in the week before and after surgery, and gained one back in the week after. It was hard to not let the gain get to me, but I was reminded time and time again that my body had been through a trauma, and the week before I’d had days where I’d eaten next to nothing. So, my grand total of weight lost so far is…

drumroll please…

74.1 pounds!!!!! I did hit 75 pounds there for a week, and hopefully I’ll be back there this week.

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I’m a lower weight now than I’ve been since 2003. I feel better than I have in years, even with the surgical recovery.

When I hit my 70 pound mark, I knew I needed to do something for myself that I’d wanted for a while. Originally, I’d said I’d get a tattoo at 50 pounds, but since that happened a) quickly and b) in the dead of winter, I opted to hold off until 70.

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I’m in love with it, and am so pleased with how it turned out. I went to Metamorph Tattoo Studio in Chicago, in the Wicker Park neighborhood, and would recommend Zac to anyone who needs ink done. He was awesome!

In other news, the sun finally showed its face here after months of clouds… so I put on my prescription sunglasses. I noticed how differently they fit my face than before, and in shameless selfie comparison tradition:

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I’m hoping to heal quickly and get back to activity soon, and I’m continuing with transition to food, and eating anywhere from one to three meals/snacks a day. I’m supplementing with Optifast products, and noticing the change in my feelings about food. Sure, it’s great to have a great meal… but I don’t need to stuff myself to the point of pain. One big sushi roll with no rice, and I’m good to go. And now I want sushi. But in all seriousness, I’m still in shock as to how different I feel about eating. I’m not going to eat things that don’t taste good, but I’m also not eating ALL THE THINGS!

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I eat some of the things. In small quantities. And only when I’m hungry. This is an important part of this whole resetting thing. Food is fuel…delicious fuel, but still fuel.

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The Day I Lost an Organ

Monday, March 17 was an ordinary day.

Ok, that’s not true. It was the first day of a new term, so I had an entirely new batch of students in my class, and I’d had a headache for going on four full days. I figured that it was due to the constantly changing weather, the end of the term, the stress of doing grades and my general malaise thanks to this eternally gray and cold winter.

I’d made this delicious Mexican crock pot pork dish which I’d planned on eating atop giant salads for the course of the week. A bit of relaxation had made my head stop hurting, so I made my salad, and decided to go to bed early to hopefully avoid a fifth day of a headache.

Fast forward to 12:30 a.m.

Have you ever wondered what Iron Man feels like? (I swear I’m going somewhere with this) I’m not talking about his cool gadgets or suit or anything, but that whole “messed up heart so there’s a machine cutting through the front of his chest almost through his back” thing? I woke up feeling like that. There was this intense pain in the very center of my chest right under my sternum straight through to my back. I initially thought it was horrendous heartburn, but then next thing I knew I was sweating, exceedingly pale (according to Adam) and throwing up all over the bathroom (sorry for the visual).

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Adam convinced me that I needed to go to the ER. Pain like that wasn’t something to mess around with. Apparently, I’d picked the “perfect” time to go to the ER, as I was the only one there and seen right away. Within two hours, I’d had pain medication, anti-nausea medication, an ultrasound, CT scan, and more pain medication. They’d determined that I had gallstones which were causing gallbladder attacks, which explained the pain, vomiting, and possibly the general feeling of ick I’d had over the last few weeks.

But, because my blood pressure was super-low (I’m talking 76/54 low) they wanted to admit me for observation before I could be assessed for possible surgery. So up to the 6th floor I went, drugged up for pain and finally slept.

At 8 a.m. I was woken up by my wonderful nurse, who explained that before they would make any decisions about the next steps of my care, I would need to get a HIDA scan performed. There was a catch though: the scan couldn’t be performed until I’d been off of all pain medication for 8 hours. This meant that I had to be pain med-free (as well as food and drink free) until 1 p.m.

I don’t do well when I’m hungry. I’ve eaten every 3 hours like clockwork since I started my OptiFast plan… so seriously? 8 hours without food? It was really good that I wasn’t dealing with too many people. 1 p.m. turned into 2:45, and then the test was an hour (in which I was radioactive!) They determined that it would be in my best interest to have my gallbladder (and its stones) removed. After a major panic and lots of tears, I made the decision that I would rather deal with the surgical recovery than EVER have to deal with the pain and discomfort of another gallbladder attack.

Adam went with me into the surgical prep room, and the anesthesiologist explained what she would be giving me and how anesthesia worked since I’d never had it before. I remember being wheeled into the operating room, then next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery. I asked for Adam and my sister, and they were there in a minute.

So now, I’m sans gallbladder. I have four holes in my belly, one of which is in my belly button and is annoying the crap out of me. I’m sore in my muscles too, as if I’ve done about a million crunches. Apparently they had to shove my muscles around in there when they were removing my gallbladder through my belly button.

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The upside of all this is that I know that I won’t have another gallbladder attack, and it’s in my best interest to continue eating a low-fat, low-carb diet to avoid the side effects of not having a gallbladder.
The downside? I had to cancel my trip to Arizona for spring break. I’ll reschedule I’m sure, but I’m still beyond bummed. The surgeon and general physician both suggested that flying might not be in my best interest. At least I’d thought ahead and bought the travel insurance…
What’s interesting is that when I first signed up for my OptiFast program, I signed paperwork acknowledging that gallbladder problems are a possible side effect of rapid weight loss. I was asked if I regret doing the program and losing the weight so quickly. My answer? Absolutely not. I’m relieved that, if this had to happen, it happened now when I’m in the best physical shape I’ve been in years, and not when I was 70 pounds heavier.
I’m on the mend now, and I feel significantly better than I did even 24 hours ago. I’m lucky I have the most understanding principal on the planet who instructed me to stay home for the week (even though I was worried about it) and that spring break is this coming week, so I’ll be up to working once that’s over.
I’m off to rest and recoup… I’ll check in next week!