7 Things I’ve Learned from Having Surgery

Last week I had surgery to remove my stone filled gallbladder which was periodically torturing me. Here are a few of my hard won insights:

1.  Don’t take your cell phone into pre-op or your 14 year-old son, for whom you’ve spent ages arranging rides and facilitating every possible contingency, might text you that he “needs a ride NOW” while said ride is also texting that your son is no where to be found. Go under anesthesia wondering if there is such thing as a “teen-ectomy.”

2. Don’t feel sorry for yourself if you don’t have a spouse to wait with you at the hospital. Due to his travel schedule this month, mine couldn’t be there. Instead I had two awesome girlfriends by my side and they rocked. They asked every conceivable question, got surgery moved up an hour, scared off an iffy anesthesiologist, and basically went all Mama Bear on my behalf. And when the medical staff asked me FOUR different times what my weight was (seriously, read the frickin’ chart you skinny freaks and leave me alone).  I know my gals were thinking complimentary thoughts like, “Boy that hospital gown suits you!” while keeping absolutely silent.

3. Downton Abbey really is delightful. I’ve had lots of time while recuperating to get my Period Drama on, and as good as your Dorrits and Cranfords and Gables are, they feel a bit stale compared to fast paced and dishy Downton.  And while all BBC dramas have an outspoken rich widow, Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess is hands down the most hysterical, and that is NOT the Percocet talking. My favorite line of hers? “Don’t be defeatist dear, it’s very middle class.” Also, my mother said that getting an inside look at the servants was very enlightening considering that, genealogically speaking, those are our people. You could do a lot worst than Mrs. Padmore as a progenitor.

4. Charity Never Faileth. Now I’m not saying that the RS is perfect or that it always comes thru for every sister, but it’s a pretty amazing service machine. My visiting teachers have arranged meals and checked up on me in meaningful ways. Ward members drove my boys to seminary and carted the girls around. Just knowing I had back up helped me sleep better (and so did the Benadryl that my anesthesiologist Visiting Teachee recommended I take). I’ve felt unbelievably loved and am looking forward to the next time I hear of someone who needs a meal or some help. The best way to pay it back is to pay it forward.

5. Surgery yielded me not only yummy meals, lovely flowers and new pajamas, but poetry. This “Ode to a Gall Bladder” was texted to me by my girlfriend Parry on the eve of my surgery:

Dear Stony Old Bag-
You’re a useless old hag.
I’m sick of your sass.You’re a pain in my ass.
You’re a pain in the neck to me.
Hence the cholecystectomy.
So tonight as I begin my fast.
I bid you adieu at last.
And if things turn out as I suspect,
We’ll be reunited when we resurrect.

6. Your kids will be worried about you. For a little while.  Then they will be so excited about the variety and amount of sugary juices in the fridge that your welfare takes a back seat. And your 14 year-old will actually approach you with his friends in tow and ask if you have any “cool scars” to show them. Which you will not showcase because your stomach is now Franken-belly and they would then the scarred.

7. Moms who hate to travel and haven’t visited in over a year will drop everything, battle layovers at O’Hare, and become your slave, magically refilling your sippy cup of cranberry juice while you sleep fitfully. She will fight the urge to properly fold your already folded laundry and watch hours of movies and TV and pretend to believe you when you say you have already locked the front door. But secretly she will check it anyway because she believes the drugs make me loopy. Which they haven’t. At least I don’t think so. I better go check the door.

So am I recommending you all go out and get your gallbladder laparoscopically yanked through your belly button? Hardly. But the next time life gives you a flat tire and forces you off the road for a bit; take a minute to notice the scenery. And remember, help is on the way.





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16 Responses

  1. spunky says:

    Beautiful, Heather. Your ward sounds awesome. Hope you are feeling 100% soon.

  2. Ziff says:

    I’m glad to hear you’ve gotten so much support, Heather. What I learned when I had my gall bladder removed (years ago) was that it’s not a good idea to have friends visit you while you’re recovering if said friends are very funny people. My friends had me in stitches, but it really hurt to laugh! It was agonizing, but I still appreciated their visiting me.

    • Amelia says:

      I can’t count how many times I scolded Paul while I was laughing for inducing that laughter while I was recovering from surgery last month. Laughter was lovely but so painful…

    • Michelle says:

      That was my first thought when she said gall bladder. It hurt so much to laugh!

  3. Emily U says:

    That poem is the best! You have really great friends.

    • Mike says:

      Agreed. I have to say I’m impressed by anyone who tries to slip “cholecystectomy” into a poem, and make it rhyme.

  4. EmilyCC says:

    And, don’t forget that as a member of the -ectomy club you are exempt from all unpleasant chores because you can’t take out the garbage if you don’t have a gallbladder!

    Get well soon, friend!

  5. Amelia says:

    So glad you got such wonderful support–it’s how things should be.

  6. Kirsten says:

    I’m glad you are surrounded by such awesome souls! As you convalesce, remember that you deserve to be pampered and treated like the queen you are. I’m sending you positive vibes from the hinterlands…

  7. wendyl says:

    I loved reading this! It made me smile! Especially the “ode to my gallbladder”

    Oh, and I also remember with my c-sections how painful it was to laugh–or have to sneeze–oh the agony! 😉

    Get well and speedy recovery!!

  8. Rachel says:

    Sorry to be gross, but has anyone told you about what sometimes happens after the surgery? Your body has to learn to digest differently, and for some people, that means an instantaneous need to relieve the bowels.
    If I were your VT, I’d be telling you this, giving you a heads up, just in case, ’cause I’m nice like that. 🙂

    • Rachel says:

      Oh, I should have added that everyone I’ve ever talked to about it says that it took about six months to settle. That was true for me.

    • Heather says:

      Rachel–thanks for the heads up (or should that be bottoms up). The doctors paint such a rosy picture of recovery but I would love some advice. Six months you say? Oy.

  9. Erin says:

    For me, I learned never to tell my little children that “mommy has rocks inside her that the doctors need to take out.” Children are quite literal and mine carefully avoided stepping on rocks for way too long.

  10. Diane says:

    I have been seriously ill for the past few months and I haven’t had help from anyone. But, I’m use to that, I wouldn’t know what to do if someone hovered over me.

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