Ken Larsen's Health Blog # 2


This blog documents my January 12-14, 2016 gallbladder problem and removal.


After staying up late to publish my weekly backgammon club newsletter and watching the final minutes of the Clemson-Alabama football game, I went to bed at around 1 AM on Tuesday, January 12th.  My abdomen soon began hurting.  At 2:40 AM I vomited.  Over the next couple of hours I vomited three more times.  I had no fever, so I ruled out the flu.  I suspected that I either had an appendicitis problem or a food poisoning problem.  I was wrong on both counts.


At 9:15 AM I got neighbor Sonny Turner to drive me to UNC's Emergency room.  Subsequent CT and ultrasound exams revealed that I had a few gallstones and one of them was moving around and occasionally blocking a duct. 


I stayed overnight, and my gallbladder was removed laparoscopically (cholecystectomy) by Dr. Elizabeth Dreesen and her team sometime between 12:15 PM and 3:10 PM on Wednesday, January 13th.  I was under general anesthesia during the operation, but I sustained no aftereffects from the anesthesia.


I stayed another night, and they discharged me around 10:30 AM on Thursday January 14th.  I haven't needed any pain meds since late on the day of the operation.  I only took those to help me sleep.  Lastly, they gave me a flu shot.


The surgery had no complications, and all my lab results were excellent.  Months of gym exercise (which included lots of ab crunches) and running helped prepare me for the surgery, although that wasn't the intent of my exercise program.  Unfortunately, they told me that I should not resume gym exercise until six weeks have passed.  That is sure to drive me crazy.  I'm addicted to exercise.


A pathology report on the gallbladder should be ready by Friday, January 22nd.


I asked my doctors and nurses to review the two PET scans that Dr. Bhisham Chera had taken in June and September of 2015 (see my health blog #1).  If they showed no gallbladder stones, then that would indicate that some change in my eating and exercise caused the gallstones.  I've been eating lots of ice cream and smoothies to regain weight lost by my radiation treatment.  However, I was told that CT and PET scans don't pick up stones.  Ultrasounds are best for that.


Sleep is hard to get at a hospital.  During the second night of my stay I was awaken seven times:  blood pressure taken twice, blood drawn once, heparin shot given, stool softener pill plus two other interruptions.


My blood pressure readings were all over the place.  On my first day the upper number was in the 160s.  After the surgery the number got as low as 99/55.  Shortly before being discharged it was 110/78 ... which is normal for me.  Last year I learned that blood pressure should be taken by first having the patient sit up with both feet flat on the ground and remain still for three minutes.  That was not done for any of my hospital readings.  All were taken while I was lying down, and there was no wait time.  They put the sleeve around my upper arm and began pumping.


Other than these sleep and blood pressure issues, my stay at UNC hospital went very smoothly.  I was treated super well, courteously, and efficiently.  I highly recommend them.


My friend Lynne Trussell drove me home at around 11 AM on Thursday, January 14th.


(Friday January 15, 2015) At 4:15 PM I had my first bowel movement since early Tuesday morning.  It was diarrhea-like.  As result of this, I won't be taking any more stool softener.  I took a Senokot-S tablet late last night.


(Saturday, January 16, 2016) At 9:30 AM I had my second bowel movement, and at 7 PM I had my third.  Both were normal.  I had my first shower since Wednesday morning (pre-surgery).  It felt great.  My abdomen has 4 small incisions.  I have no pain at all.  In the evening I went swing dancing and had no problems.  I stayed for almost three hours and did a lot dancing.  I slept well and awoke feeling fine.


(Sunday, January 17) In putting away papers I finally read my discharge papers.  There was a prescription for pain medicine.  I never had it filled and didn't need it.  It said that it would be normal for me to experience diarrhea for one week.  By day 3 my bowel movements were back to normal.  The papers said that I had been given an incentive spirometry (breathing machine) to help strengthen my breathing and that I should use it several times throughout the day as I recover from the surgery.  That whole paragraph should not have been included as I have been breathing normally from the minute I awoke from surgery. 


(Monday, February 8) Pathology report used the terms "necrosis" and "gangrenous" to describe the condition of the gallbladder that they removed from me.  That was alarming, but it's out.

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