The day I drove myself to the hospital…

Gallbladder Surgery

Gallbladder Surgery

Working in healthcare and alternative health I’ve always firmly believed in listening to your body. I had been experiencing a gradual increase in abdominal pain for over a week that ended up peeking at an intensity of 9/10 – during my drive home with Alivia. I gasped at every red light and choked back tears trying to ask Alivia to please play quietly to herself while I tried to reach her dad – she didn’t have any way of understanding what was going on and I didn’t want to scare her. In that moment, knowing that I it was getting worse I made the decision to drive – just to drive myself straight to the ER.

Mid-highway stretch I reached her dad and told him I was heading straight to the hospital. It’s abnormal for me to go to the doctor for nothing – let alone the hospital so he was immediately worried. I asked him to meet me there to grab Alivia since I didn’t know how long I would be waiting in triage.

Turns out – I wouldn’t be waiting long. Once I made it through the check-in process at Burnaby General Hospital I was met with a flurry of tests – admission asking me to confirm information to make sure that I was of sound mind (thanks guys!), triage making me pee in cups and give up my temperature multiple times before bumping me to a Level 2. At this point I was so delirious with pain that I sat in the waiting room, staring at my shoes and gasping for air. My fingers tingled, my vision blurred and I cried. Oh, how I cried. I was so scared by myself but so thankful for those in the waiting room that checked on me, and even one lady who came to sit next to me to make sure if I fell over, she’d catch me. She was awesome.

I don’t know how long I waited, but it wasn’t long.. no one went in ahead of me and when they came to collect me I almost passed out walking to the door. Every time I tried to take a deep breath it felt like someone was sitting on my rib cage and stabbing me with a knife – the next nurses were equally incredible and dosed me with some Ativan to help slow down my breathing and to relax me a bit.

I was frustrated for a brief moment with our health care system, immediately we try to send people home without testing – I knew before I even went to emergency that this was not muscular related. I had myself checked at work and told them this as soon as they tried to tell me “you know muscle pain sometimes causes this..”. I told them they needed to do an ultrasound. This was not muscular, and I was not okay.

I apologized for Dr. Googling and stood my ground that both of my bosses recommended an ultrasound – thankfully they took me seriously. By this time Ry had shown up kid-free to be with me and I pretty much checked out from all the pain medication they had me on.

I remember being sent home, there was no one available to do an ultrasound that night, I would need to go home (with drugs) and come back in the morning. I remember Ry driving home like it was Fast & The Furious with eye tracers and everything. I puked on my lawn (twice), and passed out.

I was so grateful for friends that stepped up to care for Alivia while I was completely out of it. Ry was able to come with me and stay with me while I waited in a little white room with an awesome male nurse with a unique accent. He was what kept me grounded, making me laugh with sneaking me the “good” drugs even though I wasn’t admitted yet.

My ultrasound went exactly as planned. The tech spent a lot of time “measuring” something in my belly, I could tell the results weren’t good when she helped me up and told me to go right back to fast track. In a flurry of nurses and doctors, I was told I my gallbladder needed to come out and NOW. Cue panic! I was warned, I could go home.. but I would be back, and next time it would be considered elective (or from what I remember) and I would likely be put on medication and a wait list. One look at my ultrasound reading I had stones measuring 1.25cm and multiples of them as well as thickening of the gallbladder wall and blockage, we opted to just go right with the surgery.  I was put on an emergency surgery list and told it would be out within 72 hours… then 45 minutes later the surgeon came back to tell us he was taking it out tonight.

I remember briefly waking up in recovery, and then again in my room. My pain was gone. The rib pain, not being able to breath, the back pain… everything was gone. I had been ignoring this pain and medicating with analgesics for months thinking it was back pain – and it was all gone. I had pain from the surgery obviously, but everything else was gone.

I am grateful. I am so so grateful to the amazing staff at the hospital. For everyone who held my hand and told me everything would be okay. I was grateful to everyone who kept me in drugs so I wouldn’t feel the pain before the surgery. I’m grateful to the surgery staff that asked me about Alivia and warned me about everything in the kindest way possible. I am eternally grateful for the wonderful nurses I  had during my recovery.

Mostly, I’m grateful to be home and no longer in pain.

Moral of my story? YOU know your body, when something is wrong don’t ignore it.

Don’t try to explain it away and get on with a busy life. I’ve been so humbled by having to just lie in bed for days. My email is a mess, I’m behind on work both at home and at the office and I won’t be back at work for at least a week. Though none of this matters, because I’m home – and I’m on the mend.

So if you’re waiting for me to get back to you, I ask that you please be patient. I’m checking emails as I can, but juggling a toddler and recovery has proven to be a challenge. I promise I’ll get back to you.

Tara Jensen
Tara is a parenting influencer based on the West Coast. With her full time career in health care, she focuses on green living, healthy family choices and encouraging families to live a fabulously frugal lifestyle. She lives on coffee, cuddles and post-its, generally in that order. When she isn’t working, she can be found outdoors exploring beautiful British Columbia with her family.