IT HAPPENED TO ME: My Internal Organs Keep Trying to Kill Me

When I put “organ donor” on my license, I didn’t think my body had the gall to lose an organ every two years.
Publish date:
April 28, 2015
health, surgery, medical emergencies, Gallbladder

Attention reader: Before you read any further, this is the unexpected sequel to It Happened To Me: My Appendix Tried to Kill Me…Twice. Similar to The Dark Knight, this story can be understood without seeing the first, though it might still be worth taking a look for your own interest and schadenfreude.

Obscure health issues always seem to make an appearance on a normal day. Just like your typical episode of I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, where Mary is reading bible passages to the old ladies at the senior home when she starts crowning. In my case, I wasn’t pregnant of course, but I was bloated after just eating an enormous breakfast at some generic Jersey diner.

As anyone would after a satisfying meal, I decided to lie down and take a nap. I slept for a good half hour before I rolled over and felt a sudden, sharp pain in the center of my chest above my ribcage. It was like someone forcing his or her fist right there and not stopping. It got to the point where I could hardly breathe, so I stood up to try to catch my breath and even walked around a bit to see if I could relieve the pain. Nothing.

After my past health experiences, a multitude of doctors told me never to mess around with pain since apparently I have a high pain threshold, like two years ago when I didn’t realize what felt like constipation was actually my insides dying. This time with heartburn, I decided I shouldn’t mess around and I needed to go to a doctor. Even though he or she would surely tell me, “Kelly, you ate a pile of eggs and hash browns at 7 A.M. and then took a nap. What did you expect?”

The doctor I saw didn’t say that, but after I gave him the lowdown on the symptoms he looked me up and down and said, “I think you’re having a gallbladder attack.”

And then he rushed out of the room.

What’s a gallbladder attack? What’s a gallbladder? Where are you going? I had only really heard the word, “gallbladder,” when someone would converse with me about useless organs (it happens more often than you think). Something about stones may have been involved too?

He came back in to tell me to go have my blood drawn in another room and he would make me an appointment with the office’s gastrointestinal doctor the next day.

“How bad is your shortness of breath?” he asked.

“I don’t know… I mean it’s just like really bad heartburn.”

“Well if it gets worse, please go to the ER.”

It had been two years since I had heard any mention of a hospital from a doctor. I wasn’t exactly eager to go back after my extended stay there previously. I made the decision to just wait and see what the GI doctor said.

I showed up to my appointment the next day fifteen minutes early and still had to wait over an hour to see this guy. On the surface, this was good because, you know, he must be in high demand if he’s got this many patients. I had to keep reassuring myself because doctors’ office waiting rooms are one of the most depressing places to be. I saw a cop come in to handle a situation where a man was causing a scene over his co-pay, a very old woman was taken out on a stretcher to an ambulance, and another woman with emphysema talked out loud to no one in particular, all in the span of an hour.

Finally the GI guy called me in and brought me to a tiny room barely larger than Harry Potter’s cupboard. He asked me what was wrong and I told him my symptoms and how I was having shortness of breath.

“That’s no good!” he said with a goofy smile on his face.

No, no it is not. Are you going to tell me what’s wrong with me, or are you just going to make this even more uncomfortable?

“Where do you work?” he asked.

“I work in news.”

“Well Kelly, I’m going to send you straight to the ER because of your breathing issues.”

“What if nothing’s wrong?”

“What if something is wrong? I don’t want to end up on the news tonight because you died!”

He laughed to himself as he led me out of the room. He scribbled some ancient runes on his prescription pad and told me to hand it to someone at the hospital when I got to the ER.

After multiple tests at the ER and trying to explain my medical history to fifty medical professionals (“Yes I’m serious, my appendix tried to kill me twice, look at my records”), it was confirmed that my issues were indeed from my gallbladder and it had to go. Even better, the surgeon who had taken out my appendix the second time was going to be doing the procedure. The best part was that we were planning the surgery. It wasn’t some scary last minute life or death situation.

Until it was.

I went in for my surgery a few days later as scheduled. The surgeon said that he could do the surgery laparoscopically, meaning he would make small incisions to get it out. This didn’t really matter to me because my stomach already had heavy scarring similar to John Hurt’s midsection after Alien.

According to my surgeon, since the gallbladder was far enough away from where my appendix trauma was, there wouldn’t be any adhesions, or internal scar tissue, to cause issues either. The whole procedure would most likely be an in-and-out deal.

“Hi there, yes I’d like one gallbladder removal and a large fries. Thank you.”

After the surgery, I woke up in a hospital room surrounded by familiar faces. My family stared down at me and nurses that I remembered from my last stay were trying to take my blood pressure.

“That’s too low,” I remember my mom saying.

“The machine’s probably broken,” someone said, and they ran to get another one.

While this was all happening I was out of it and not saying much. I stared around the room as different people rushed in.

“She must be internally bleeding.”

“She’d be dead if she were older.”

“She’s so pale.”

“I haven’t been outside much,” I said.

Back to the operating room I went. Afterwards we found out that I was internally bleeding because of complications with all my adhesions. They underestimated just how bad the scarring was from my previous surgeries. The surgeon clamped whatever the leak was and that was that.

I then had to stay in the ICU for three and a half days. I needed two blood transfusions and my body had an allergic reaction to the foreign blood. My mom joked, “Maybe that blood belonged to someone with a dog. Haha!”

I also broke an eleven-year streak of no vomiting, which was heartbreaking for me, as an emetophobe, and the nurse on duty who had to clean it up.

The rest of the week was spent on the recovery floor. I caught up with employees who still remembered me after two years, and I kept trying to convince people to let me eat and go home. I mentioned earlier how doctors’ offices are depressing, but hospitals are even worse. In the ICU or in recovery, I am guaranteed to be at least forty years younger than someone already there. And if you’re in the ICU, it’s very likely someone is dying next door.

Now, all is fine. I was released, I’m back at work, back to my Netflix queue, and feeling relatively normal again. I can’t help but think this all started with something as silly as heartburn, and if I hadn’t had severe medical trauma before, I’m not sure I would have gone to the doctor or the hospital.

I recently saw my surgeon for a follow-up and he thanked me for giving him yet another exciting case.

“It’s a pleasure doing business with you.”

I told him I would see him again in two years for my spleen or kidneys. Place your bets.