I have been ill for over two years now at this initial writing. I was misdiagnosed until I finally found a doctor who would listen to me. However, even after given the diagnosis of gallstones, there was still so much information that was not given to me. Through trial and error, a hasty ER trip, and hours spent researching, I finally found the information my doctor never thought to give.
I spent two years in some pain every now and then, and the inability to eat even the simplest foods. Bananas, untoasted bread, and any red sauce gave me heartburn that would last for hours. The pains were in my lower stomach, back, and shoulder blades, but would come and go. My doctor blamed it on everything from my high blood pressure (which was under control) to my being overweight. Therefore, I continued to suffer through it.
I tried losing weight, but no matter how healthy I was eating, or how little my portions were, no weight was coming off. In fact, the opposite was true. My stomach was becoming larger, and it was getting harder. My bowel movements were going from every few days, to unable to have one, or I was stuck in a constant diarrhea. Yet I continued to suffer through. Until I began having pain so bad I could not walk, I could not eat, and I was vomiting for so many hours I began bleeding in my throat. I called my doctor, but she never returned my calls for three weeks. I finally walked in to the medical office and demanded a new doctor. I was in the middle of one of my pain bouts, so there were tears running down my face, my nose was swollen, and they could barely hear me because my throat was swollen and I had no voice.
Luckily, I was given a new doctor. The first thing she did was give me a shot of pain medication so we could talk. After just 30 minutes, she informed me I had GERD. She then told me she was sure I had gallstones as well and I was suffering through gallstone attacks. She sent me immediately for an ultrasound on my gallbladder and three days later, I had my official diagnosis of gallstones. I had so many questions, and was given no answers. She gave me a referral to a general surgeon and I was given a pre-op appointment for October 21, 2013.
But wait a minute, what happens before my surgery? What surgery? Gallstone attacks? I was so frustrated that everyone from my doctor to the general surgeon nurse just assumed I knew anything about what they were talking about, including the surgery. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing in the meantime, other than taking three additional medications that were prescribed for me. I did not even know what they were for. So I started researching. First, I talked to my pharmacist. He let me know that the medications were a stool softener, a pill to settle my heartburn, and one for the nausea when the pain hits from the gallstone attacks.
Next, I began learning what gallstones were and why they attacked. Gallstones are basically a hardened form of digestive fluid that forms in your gallbladder. They can be as small as a grain of sand, or as large as a golf ball. You can have one gallstone or many of them. Not everyone who has gallstones will ever show symptoms. If you are one of those lucky people, you can keep your gallbladder. If you are like me, once you have two attacks, you need to have the gallbladder removed.
I then researched GERD and I was very disappointed in what I learned. There is no one specific diet for those who have GERD. GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It means that your stomach acid, and sometimes bile, flows back into your esophagus and mouth. It is the severe form of acid reflux in other words. Some foods affect it, while others do not. However, each person who has GERD is different, and so are the foods they can have. Only those who suffer from it can create a trial and error diet.
So I took the medications; and I continued to have pain. Massive pain that started in the stomach, worked its way around the lower back, and moved up into the shoulder blades. Pain that had me lying on the floor crying. Pain that lasted anywhere from an hour to seven hours. No one warned me of that. No one at any time said, “Your gallstone attacks can last five hours or so.” I wish someone had told me. I went through this for another week and a half. Until the night I suffered through a 17-hour gallstone attack. My vomiting had been going on for just as long, and I could not hold any fluids down. The pain was excruciating and no amount of Tylenol would make it back off. I finally had my best friend call the ER. The minute they heard I had gallstones, they told me to hurry up and get there.
I went through two bags of saline for dehydration, four rounds of nausea medication in the IV, and two rounds of massive pain medication as well. The lovely ER doctor told me the most. Unfortunately, my skin was not yellow, and neither were my eyes, which meant I did not qualify for emergency gallbladder surgery. He did tell me about the foods allowed and those I could not eat. Chicken broth, white rice, saltines, toasted bread, and Jell-O became my basic diet. I drink water, one cup of coffee, and clear flat soda. That is my diet until my surgery. As a Hungarian who cooks quite often, this is a horrible diet to be on. He mentioned a few other items, which I tried. Bananas were a big no; I could feel the gallstone attack coming on within 30 minutes of finishing one. He also prescribed me a stronger nausea medication and pain medication. The very minute I feel a gallstone attack coming on, I am supposed to pop two of those pain pills and lay down.
Speaking of laying down, you cannot when you have GERD and gallstones. My doctor did not tell me this, and neither did the surgeon’s nurse. Again, the ER doctor informed me. You have to lay with your head six inches above your stomach. This is to help prevent the stomach acid and bile from coming back up.
I still have the gallstone attacks as I wait for my surgery. However, they are nowhere near as painful. I eat my chicken broth and saltines, while I sip on my water and clear soda. I do not overdo any movement, I take my medication, and I wait. I write this not as a medical paper, but as a fellow sufferer who wants others to have those small bits of information I did not. If your pain is lasting longer than 5 hours, call your doctor or get to the ER. If your skin begins to yellow, or the whites of your eyes have a yellowish-tint, get to the emergency room as fast as you can. If you think you may suffer from gallstones – go see your doctor and ask for an ultrasound. If they ignore you, go to a different doctor. Keep a record of the foods you eat that affect you the worst and the ones that do not affect you at all. This can be a very big help when talking with your doctor to get a diagnosis. Not all those who have gallstones will have GERD, and not all who have GERD will have gallstones. However, the two very commonly go hand in hand.