Author Archives: Richard Leonard

About Richard Leonard

A writer of fiction, software, magazine articles, websites, blogs, tweets and sadly, cheques.

Go Home, Gall Bladder. You’re Stoned!

I’ve never thought of the gall bladder as one of those A-List organs. You know, like the brain, heart, lungs, stomach. In my mind it’s always been an extra. Something that just sits in the background, providing support, but doesn’t have a big role and never breaks down or causes problems. Until it actually does break down.

It happened to me about five weeks ago. I woke up in the middle of the night with a somewhat painful belly. It wasn’t extreme pain but it was a really weird sort of uncomfortable just below the ribcage. I guess around the diaphragm area. I sat it out for about an hour hoping it would go away. It didn’t. Because it was a very unfamiliar feeling, nothing like indigestion or gastro, I thought about driving myself to hospital. But on the balance of pain versus discomfort, the latter tipped its side so I thought hospital would be overkill and I’d be laughed out of triage.

It was a weeknight, so triage was totally vacant and the whole ER almost so. No Saturday night drunks, no weekend sports injuries, no daytime elderly falls. It’s that sort of town. The triage nurse had nothing better to do than write down my description of symptoms while I emptied my dinner into a plastic bag.

The doc on duty was pretty cluey. i think he knew what was coming. He gave me a bed and some painkillers and arranged an ultrasound of the abdomen for first thing in the morning. It found two gall stones and thickened, apparently irritated, gall bladder wall.

Gall Bladder Diagram

The Gall Bladder sits below the liver and stores bile for when it’s needed to break down greasy foods. Galls stones can interfere with the movement of bile.

Okay, what does the gall bladder do? Basically it acts as a storage bag for the bile constantly produced by the liver, to help break down greasy and fatty food. The gallbladder sucks up and stores excess bile while you’re not eating and releases it when the stomach calls out “Incoming!”. Gallstones are basically crystallised bile. I like the term “crystallised bile” but a slightly more official nomenclature is “concretion of bile components”. Nah, doesn’t sound as cool as crystallised bile, does it?

Right, so what harm does a gallstone pose? Well, not a lot if they are just floating freely in the gallbladder as most of them do. But if one gets stuck in the neck of the gallbladder, where the bile passes in and out, pain results. Worse still is when a stone manages to find its way out of the gall bladder and lodges in the bile duct, blocking all bile transport from the liver to the intestines, agony results.

The stones have to go.

Now, I don’t know how to read the noisy mess that is an ultrasound image and didn’t see any mention of size in the ultrasound report, only that there were two gallstones, and an irritated gallbladder wall. Long story short, they can’t dissolve them, they can’t blast ’em to bits, so the whole gall bladder has to come out. Easier than anything and we can live without them, apparently.

Last Monday (3 Aug) was G Day. Immediately before the op, the surgeon came to see me for a last minute Q & A session. It was only then I thought I’d ask about the size of the stones. One was 16x19mm and the other was more spherical at 19x19mm. Quite large! Now I think I can see one of them on the ultrasound.

Gall stone

I suspect that flying saucer shaped thing in the middle is one of my gall stones, probably the one in the neck of the gall bladder.

So what’s involved? I remember going in to theatre, getting on the table, having the IV prepared, then… nothing… until I woke about two hours later in my room to see my family walking in, stay for about 30 seconds and leave again. Is coming out of anaesthesia like that for everyone? Apparently they stayed for nearly an hour and I was talking to them the whole time. I should have made them video the visit.

What about the wounds? It was keyhole surgery so there were four of them. The main one was a nice 30mm gash from the belly button downwards. This presumably was where the majority of tools were inserted and the only conceivable point from which 2 x 19mm gallstones could possibly have been extracted. It’s also the most painful wound that remains 8 days later. There were two other 10mm horizontal cuts, one dead centre below the sternum, the other below and to the right of that. These two I’m guessing were for the cinematic equipment, you know, camera, light, clapper board… so the surgeons can see what they’re doing behind my fat-thickened belly. A fourth hole further around to my right side was a fluid drain and still had a tube in place post-op.

Try to get some sleep, they said, after my family left. Yeah, with the blood-pressure monitor kicking in every 30 minutes until midnight. Easy. I managed to sleep from just after midnight to about 5:30 am when the nurse woke me to pee. She actually asked me if I’d gone to pee yet! During the night, unassisted with an IV still attached to my left hand and a drain bag hanging off my right side. Not likely. After sorting out the logistics of getting my peripherals to the loo with me, there was no drama in that department.

What about pain relief? They had me on Endone and paracetamol and kept asking if I needed more. I stupidly said no. I was home before lunch time and still felt no need for more Endone. I could feel pain but it was bearable. I’m not a huge fan of masking pain. It usually means something. It’s a good messenger. The second day home I took some Endone. And on the third day. None since.

Bandages and healing of wounds? Yeah. On day 5 I could remove the bandages. Two looked okay, two did not. Local GP said keep an eye on the drain hole wound as it’s still weeping fluid. In another week it should be healed properly. If not, come back in.

Any residual pain should gradually disappear and I can progressively move from light to heavier duties over the next few weeks, too.

We’ll see how the next few days pans out.

The Elusive Aurora Australis

I’ve always been a bit of a science nut. Astronomy in particular. Growing up in Melbourne Australia I knew I wasn’t close enough to the south pole to ever see the Aurora Australis. For it to be visible at our latitude was a rarity not worth chasing. And even if it were visible, the city lights to would drown out the view. I never had hope of seeing it. Continue reading

What is a Grammar Nerd?

G’day all!

It’s been a long time between posts and I might be a little late to this party, but I’ve been given a tip-off regarding a study done by Grammarly of their fans to find out what constitutes a Grammar Nerd.

The following info-graphic describes what they found and makes interesting reading. I had hoped there were more grammar nerds in Australia but, alas, no. Continue reading

Clementine Ford is Correct, But…

It’s even simpler than that.

But that could be because my mind is simpler than hers!

This all started with nude pictures of women being stolen from secure online accounts and put up on public Revenge Porn websites for all to see. Some of the photos were actually submitted by vengeful ex’s without the consent of the women pictured. Australian morning TV program Sunrise victim-blamed the women by suggesting it’s their own fault for posting nude pictures online. Somehow they were asking for trouble. “When will they learn?” they asked. Continue reading

My Repair Frenzy

I’ve always told myself I’m no good with physical work. I seem better at and enjoy working more with “soft” things, theoretical things. I write software for a living and fiction as a hobby, play with digital photography and graphics a lot, and just discovered Blender for 3D modelling. All of this involves using a computer. Give me something real and physical to do and that’s when I also become very proficient at procrastinating because it usually ends in failure. Continue reading

A New Tax System: Summary

If you’re still with me you might be familiar with my last few posts describing my idea of a simplified tax system. Basically, we tax transactions of money in exchange for goods and services, between two tax paying entities . The tax consists of two components: Continue reading

A New tax System: Problems and Pitfalls

Despite all the brilliant-ness of this tax system, it has some shortcomings. Here I will try to cover all the problems I can think of before anyone else points them out!

The Rich are not singled out

One is that there is still argument that the rate at which the rich pay tax should be higher than for lower income people. This system does not address that except by allowing for a higher D-Factor on transactions favoured by the rich. Continue reading