About Me

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I'm a mom, a wife, a best friend. Sick with CFIDS/ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia since 1975 as a result of a nasty flu while still in grad school, it wasn't until the late '80's that I received a diagnosis. Until that flu I'd never really been ill before. With each year I get progressively worse and add to the bucket load of symptoms I'm living with. I've been blessed with an incredible family and best friend who've stayed with me through my struggles as we continue to find a way out of this monstrous illness and its complications. We've tried seemingly every approach to find my way back to health. Often I think our best weapon in this undesirable and unasked-for adventure has been laughter.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Comment & Answer: Gallbladder & Thyroid

The countdown is on for Christmas Eve: in days gone by....

In the comments section I was asked a question regarding what sort of thyroid problem I had, as well as a remark about the gallbladder and gallstones. I thought I'd address my answer as a post, given the complexity of the issues, especially when chronic illnesses such as "our" CFIDS/ME/CFS and fibromyalgia are thrown into the mix.  Furthermore, my answer was delayed more than the usual (sorry!) because my neuro-transmitters were again on strike.  I also wanted to check my medical info with a source.  So here we go!
After an initial gallbladder or gallstone attack and ER run in awful pain has been endured and experienced (why we can't experience things like a concert instead of ER visits is way beyond my comprehension) your doctor will normally send you on to the next step, the ultrasound:
  • to further ascertain if you do indeed have stones
  • to get an idea of how large they are
  • to see if they pose a threat to the all-important bile ducts
  • and "other considerations."
After that report comes in, depending on what was found during the ultrasound, the next step is the HIDA scan. This test is important because it will tell you if your gallbladder is functioning properly.  In other words, is your gallbladder working at 80% capacity, at 50% capacity, at 20% capacity?

After all the tests are done, a decision then needs to be made as to what to do with the stones and gallbladder.

So to get to what the reader who had a "bag full" of stones wanted to know or was commenting on, here's the rub:

The gallbladder may be healthy and functioning but because of the stones, it may well be having trouble contracting back to its normal size after a meal because the stones are there, taking up space and can irritate the interior of the gallbladder.  On the other hand, the gallbladder could be "shot," working at a barely functioning rate because of a host of problems.  That's why the HIDA scan is needed.

In my situation, my scan showed that my gallbladder was working at only 20% efficiency and that was two years ago.  Medically speaking, I should have had the surgery then.  However - and this is the BIGGEST "however" a woman can EVER make - my daughter's life was in danger and we almost lost her on more than a few occasions.  Our lives completely revolved around her for almost two years, and that included her two adult brothers caring and giving up weeks of their lives to help with the support needed during hospitalizations.  I was by her bedside 24/7 with each hospitalization, with a 20-minute break for shower, etc, once I got too mangy.  We, her family and her many doctors, all fought hard to keep her alive, a long and complicated story that reads less like fact and more like fiction.

The last thing I needed was to be out of commission for three weeks because we never knew when she'd suddenly need to be rushed to the ER locally or to the "major medical center" hours away by ambulance.  Now, what’s wrong with that sentence I just wrote?

Idiot Irene! (I just addressed myself here, not any other Irene!)  A gallbladder operation puts you out of commission for much more than three weeks!

All in all, before going home, my surgeon gave me three separate, serious, in-depth talks on how incapacitating a gallbladder operation is.  That is, I couldn't climb any stairs for a week, one flight allowed after a week, and so forth.   I wasn't to pick up anything heavier than 8 lbs at most and on and on and on. Furthermore, I got hand-outs galore explaining this problem, that anatomy, that procedure, everything but the proverbial kitchen sink.  Sheesh!

My surgeon even gave me recovery statistics for gallbladder surgery which said that after:
  • 3 weeks, there is 20% recovery
  • 6 weeks, 50% recovery
  • 3 months, 80% recovery
  • Greater than 4 months, 100% healed.
And yet, I still left the hospital thinking that what I'd gone through was no more serious than a hysterectomy, appendectomy or tonsillectomy.   It took a reader (thank you Melissa) warning me in no uncertain terms how serious gallbladder surgery is, especially when you throw in all the complications of CFIDS/ME/CFS and/or fibro.  That, in turn, led me to discuss the situation with my rheumatologist, who frankly almost lost it when he realized how vast the disconnect was, that I really was NOT "getting it"!

I was about to say that I finally "got it" but just realized that yesterday the painter/wallpaper hanger got here for what will be a two to three week job (stress, anyone?) and since we've known each other for 30 years but hadn't spoken in about four, we had a lot of catching up to do, then me climbing up and down stairs numerous times and that combined with Tuesday's adventures....   Well it's all put the kabosh on me and I wish someone could simply give me some anesthesia and wake me up in about a month - or two....

As to the thyroid: I developed hypothyroidism, diagnosed only a month before the emergency gallbladder surgery.  Now THAT I really had a problem adjusting to and wrote a few posts addressing this as well. I think a lot of people are really tired about hearing THOSE complaints on this blog!  (You can put thyroid or gallbladder into the search box and find more than you'll ever want to hear from me!)

Last night as hubby was getting ready to go to sleep, I suddenly said, "oh no, I forgot about the infections in my two big toes!" as I was thinking about everything I'd been through physically in the past almost 12 months alone.  One of the toes actually had to be lanced because my body wasn't responding to antibiotics.  Now that was an uncomfortable mess!

However, hubby said, "don't forget the cellulitis!"   Oh yeah!  (Or is it "Oh no!"?)  I HAD forgotten about it.   After sitting at the computer one evening when hubs was out of town, I got involved in an alumni Facebook page "cyber-pajama party" where a bunch us were suddenly into "remember when...."  The session really lasted no more than four hours and yet within 24 hours I somehow managed to develop a nasty case of cellulitis of my lower legs just from sitting at the computer for that long.  (Thank you, whomever, for the invention of the iPad!)  Luckily, antibiotics took care of that problem rather quickly.  But cellulitis?  Really????

Honestly, half the junk that happens to me doesn't even register.   Last week I fell down in the bathroom and laid there for four hours, not able to move. (It was actually quite pleasant lying there, taking in the new bathroom, the crazy Irene says!)  It only registered because the next day I had a huge sore spot on my thigh and was puzzled because there was no visible bruise there.  A few hours later I happened to scratch my head as I thought about something and THAT spot was sore, feeling like I should have had a goose egg there, but there was no swelling.  THAT'S when I remembered the fall and lying there for four hours.

Looking back now, a few days later, in 20/20 hindsight, I have to say, AM I NUTS????  Answer: YES!!!!   But in my defense I have to say that this DD is the absolute pits!

And so on that cheerful and nutty note, as always, I hope everyone is doing as well as can be, only better. Ciao and paka!


  1. Thanks for the post - I have never heard of a HIDA scan till now.

    1. I'm so very glad that I could be of help! xx

  2. Hi Irene
    I just had an ultrasound today for liver pancreas and gallbladder and kidney. My enzymes are high. my gut instinct tells me that its the GB. just recoverying from the pain in that area from the wand. Heating pad again. My fear is if I need surgery how will my recovery go with fibro? People at work say having this surgery is nothing.But for me it will mean more pain than a normal person has to go thru. Having to have a stress test b4 surgery scares me because I havent exercised in 2yrs. Fearful of the pain of that too.Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Jacque!
      First, your co-workers shouldn't be giving out medical advice. Neither should I, for that matter. I do suggest that you have a huge in-depth discussion with your physician. I, along with a reader on this blog, had the GB surgery as you obviously have read, and it was the reader who made me realize how serious GB surgery is. It's NOT like getting your tonsils out or even a hysterectomy, both surgeries I've had in the past. However, it isn't the worst thing I've been through by a long shot! Wishing you much luck. At this point it can be anything, so try to stay calm. Please keep in touch. xx

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