Our gallbladder is a four-inch, pear-shaped organ, positioned under our liver in the upper-right section of our abdomen. It stores bile which helps break down fat from food in our intestine. Humans can live without a gallbladder, just like how one will still be OK without an appendix. But the moment these organs start having problems, it can be very painful and yes, life-threatening. My husband had his gallbladder removed in 2016. There were no symptoms, he suddenly just had a fever, feeling nauseous and there was a sharp pain in his stomach. We were just shocked to find out that he needed surgery (laparoscopic cholecystectomy) asap when he arrived in the emergency room.
Pain Started in 2018
My husband’s experience could have happened to me if I didn’t have a check-up in 2018. June that year, I felt a sharp pain in the whole part of my stomach. I can’t really tell which part specifically because it felt like I had some air moving around my belly. That was the time I had the first glimpse of my gallstone measuring 2.1 cm. The doctor recommended surgery because it was already big and the medicine won’t work for its size.
I ignored Doctor’s advice, I just decided to exercise more and change my diet. But in September that year, I had another attack and I took another test. Crazy me right? I already knew I needed surgery but still decided to see again the gallstone through check-ups and ultrasound, like what was I waiting, a miracle??? Well, unfortunately, the stone was still there, measuring 2.34 cm. That time, I still said no to surgery and went to more serious lifestyle changes.
A Single Gallstone Attack in 2019
Everything went well, I was feeling healthy and all, then 1 year after my last checkup, I had another gallstone attack in September 2019. It’s been a year so I decided to have another check-up and ultrasound. My gallstone that year already measured 2.9 cm. I finally decided to undergo surgery but… my HMO Maxicare can only cover Php15,000 for it which is a very small amount, I needed around Php150,000 for the whole process. It could have been the perfect time because my parents were here in Cebu City for my mother’s checkup, they volunteered to watch over me in the hospital. Despite their offer as well as some financial help, I still said NO, because I wasn’t that ready.
Decided to delay again the surgery
For the 3rd time, I again decided to delay the surgery and continued eating healthily. My plan was to save money and be ready emotionally and mentally, and schedule the surgery in June 2020, while the kids are on vacation. And then guess what??? Pandemic hit us all!!! Who would want to go to any hospitals when everyone was so scared of the new Coronavirus?
But healthy eating and more fibre intake had really helped me a lot. For 18 months, I had no gallbladder attack and I was also able to control my blood pressure. The only food which ruined my effort was a cheeseburger I ate sometime in March 2021. Unlike my previous gallbladder attacks, that latest one was very painful like I couldn’t breathe. It lasted for around 30 minutes but my stomach was no longer feeling normal after that day. Whatever I ate, I always felt discomforts, sometimes there were sharp pains left and right, tolerable but worrisome. That’s the time we finally decided to proceed with the surgery because I knew how scary it can be once it gets serious.
Gallbladder Surgery Preparation
Last April 29, 2021, I met my new Internal Medicine Doctor Jenny Limquiaco, M.D. at Chong Hua Medical Arts. My friend told me about her being so kind and who explains clearly to her patients. I’m glad I scheduled an appointment with her. Looking back to that day, I am thankful that everything ran so smooth and her straightforward attitude made me feel ready. Here’s the list she gave with all the tests needed for OR clearance:
After getting all the results, I went back to her on May 3, 2021, and there, we discussed the possible date of surgery as well as the expenses. She asked for my preferred surgeon and I chose the one who operated on my husband in 2016 – Dr. Henry Chua. He’s one of the best in Cebu City when it comes to laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
She contacted him and that same day, Dr. Chua gave a date, we all agreed to have the surgery done on May 6, 2021. They say the best time to have the gallstone/gallbladder removed is when you’re feeling healthy. No complications mean faster recovery and lesser expenses. Dr. Jenny gave me instructions for the admission including the Swab Test request which is now a requirement when one gets admitted to hospitals. The next day, I had my swab test done which I blogged here.
Day of Hospital Admission
I got my swab test result on the morning of May 5, 2021, and at that time also, Maxicare called me that they will cover up to Php 130,000!!! It was such a blessing, we already prepared resources just in case it can’t be covered but at the last minute, God has again answered one of the many prayers I ask from him.
Since everything’s ready, I got admitted to Cebu Doctors Hospital in the afternoon. I actually reserved a room 2 days ahead even though the hospital wasn’t that busy. Dr. Jenny specified Direct-to-room admission in her order so when I arrived in the hospital at around 4:00 PM, there was no need for me to go to the Emergency Room, the staff guided me to my room and we’re settled around 5:00 PM. To be honest I felt like going on a staycation that day. In the evening, I met the assigned resident doctors as well as Dr. Chua. He checked my belly button because this is where the equipment will be inserted for the laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedure. And from there, we found out that I also had an umbilical hernia (crazy that I had it when I was born and not causing issues). He said that he will also repair my hernia after taking out the gallbladder. I was then given medicines to prepare me for the surgery at 8:00 AM the next day.
The Day of my Gallbladder Surgery and Recovery
I wasn’t able to sleep properly the night before my surgery, not because I was feeling nervous but because of mild diarrhea. Well, I can’t complain because I needed to have that laxative to clear my intestines, to make sure everything I ate would come out.
I was taken from my room at 7:30 AM and was brought to the operating room. I made sure to be aware of what’s happening to me because, well, it was my first time in the operating room and I was imagining for that moment since 2018. I just couldn’t believe I was finally lying on the operating room bed, talking to the nurses who were also busy preparing the equipment. In one way or another, talking to them made me feel relaxed. The only thing that made me a little nervous was when one staff told me about my blood pressure, my numbers were a little above normal. Anyway, the anesthesiologist was there (I forgot the doctor’s name) and Dr. Chua arrived minutes after. I remember he was beside me checking something and told me they’re ready to start the surgery. That’s the last thing I can recall of, next thing I know, only the nurses were left, calling for my name and they brought me to the recovery room.
That moment, I remember saying to myself “Thank GOD, it’s done.” But the feeling of relief was replaced with agony for the whole time I was in the recovery room. I felt pain in my stomach, in my back, I couldn’t breathe properly and I think I asked for a pain reliever twice from the nurse. It was after 2 hours that I finally felt settled and I was brought back to my room around 1:00 PM.
The discomforts and pain lasted for 24 hours. They’re not from the wounds actually. The pain was because of the carbon dioxide needed to inflate my stomach so the doctors can see clearly while doing the surgery. During the first few hours, I also felt nauseous. I tried really hard not to vomit because of the pain I was already feeling in my stomach. I could say that moment was like the time I was hospitalized while pregnant with Louise.
Anyway, that was my experience on Day 1 and 2 after my surgery. During these 2 days, aside from eating solid foods (as long as not oily), I was also told to sit and walk (with assistance) every now and then. These were to help me pass out the air from my stomach, and to help me breathe properly again (trust me, it was painful to breathe heavily, I couldn’t even talk properly because of my hoarse voice).
Day 3 came and I was already feeling much better. I met with the doctors for the final checking and discharge instructions, Doc Jenny even showed me the photo of my gallstone. Look how big it was, insane right???
Anyway, on that day, I was able to walk on my own while my husband processed the billing. Thanks to Maxicare, we only paid Php 5,222.25 (the total bill was Php 135,222.25 kaya thankful sobra!!!). We waited only less than 1 hour for the discharge procedure to be completed, and here I was, ready to go out!!!
To be honest, I still can’t believe how everything went so well, it was indeed better than what I have imagined. Aside from God, and families and friends who prayed for me, I’m also very thankful to my husband who was there with me the whole time. He even treated me to a “Mother’s Day” date right after getting discharged from the hospital.
If you have gallstones and are considering undergoing surgery, hope this article has given you a clear idea of the process. If you have questions, feel free to message me on my Instagram https://www.instagram.com/hannah_iway/ as I am more active there. Be safe everyone!