Mom sacrifices gallbladder for well-deserved R & amp; R

Sometimes moms go to extreme measures to get a little down time for themselves. Aside from the solicited kindness that occurs on special occasions, such as her birthday, anniversary, or Mother’s Day, women feel like they need a good excuse to be spoiled. In fact, recently I figured out how to indulge in almost a full week of pampering without leaving the comfort of my own couch. All it takes is the surgical removal of an organ. Luckily, I can live without my gallbladder.

Even though gallstones are the most common digestive disease in the United States and affect more than 20 million Americans with a million new cases diagnosed each year, many of us are clueless about the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ that sits beneath the liver in the right-upper abdomen. The purpose of the gallbladder is to store bile, which is a digestive agent produced by the liver. The gallbladder is attached to the bile ducts that come from the liver. These ducts carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and intestine where the bile helps digest food.

I’m no doctor, but maybe my gallbladder was overworked and needed early retirement, a condition shared by many moms. In fact, of the approximately one in 10 Americans who suffer from gallbladder disease, females are up to four times as likely as males to develop gallstones due to multiple pregnancies, obesity, rapid weight loss, or heredity. Many pre-menopausal moms like myself have small masses of excessive cholesterol lurking in their bile, and they don’t even know it. Then I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital in the middle of the night because I felt like I was having a heart attack.

For many women, a gallstone attack mimics some symptoms of a heart attack and can include abdominal pain, severe indigestion, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest pain. After being hooked up to wires and equipment in the emergency room, it turns out that my heart is fine, but an ultrasound reveals three gallstones in my gallbladder. Gallstones cause pain when they block the flow of bile.

While I quickly sign the discharge papers, the doctor recommends that I see a surgeon within a few days. Meanwhile, I’m supposed to eliminate fat from my diet. Suddenly, I crave a juicy cheeseburger.

The following week, I schedule an appointment with Dr. Jeffrey Zuke (Zoo-Kee), who specializes in laproscopic cholecystectomy (Ko le sis TEK to me), in which the gallbladder is surgically removed using a high-tech, minimally invasive procedure. Basically, the gallbladder is like a squishy water balloon filled with marbles pulled through a dime-size hole cut inside the bellybutton.

Dr. Zuke says that he removes about 150 gallbladders each year and 95 percent of them are laproscopic, so I know I’m in good hands. Plus, the surgeon is affiliated with the brand new physician-owned St. Louis Surgical Center, an upscale outpatient and overnight medical facility in Creve Coeur that treats patients like guests at a hotel. Not only is the infection rate significantly lower at the modern single-story structure than at a hospital, but the catered cuisine is a lot tastier. Given the choice to go home the same day as surgery or make a reservation for 24 hours of peace and quiet, I don’t hesitate to pack my suitcase with a toothbrush and a new pair of pajamas.

Of course, with pleasure comes pain. After my successful one-hour surgery, I wake up in the recovery room slightly disoriented. When I cough, it feels like a sumo wrestler jumps on my stomach. I feel better once the drugs kick in again, and I’m wheeled to my beautiful private suite with contemporary d écor, hardwood floors, lots of big windows, and flat screen television. I have a cheerful nurse all to myself, practically, and she serves me as much yogurt, animal crackers, and narcotics as I want. She doesn’t seem to mind when I buzz her to use the bathroom and awkwardly dance the tango with my IV tubes. To this day, I still dream about the comfortable mechanical bed that allows me to perfectly balance my head and knees upright with the touch of a button. It takes at least seven pillows and a stack of encyclopedias to try to duplicate this ergonomic design in my own king-size bed.

The morning after surgery, I call my husband at home and tell him that I’m not in a hurry to leave so take his time. Checkout time is noon, and I want to take full advantage of my solitude. I order breakfast in bed — coffee and a giant chocolate muffin. Despite my request, Scott shows up early. Finally, the final hour approaches and I reluctantly dress myself to go home. I leave on my fuzzy socks with rubberized bottoms as a reminder that I’m still worthy of sympathy. I say goodbye to the nurses and tell them that I might be back one day for a facelift.

When I get home, I plop down on the couch with everything I need, including my poodle Luci who curls up in a ball and never leaves my lap. Within easy reach are pillows, blankets, magazines, saltine soda crackers, water bottle, telephones, painkillers, and remote controls. The last time I laid around for more than three days straight and did little more than watch cartoons in my polka dot pajamas was when I had the chicken pox. I was about five years old back then. I’m due for some R &R.

While I continue to recover from gallbladder surgery and regain my strength, I try to take advantage of my so-called vacation time. When I’m tired, I lay down. The kids and I eat mint chocolate chip ice cream while we sit on the couch and watch American Idol and Dancing With The Stars. Plus, I don’t sweat the small stuff. I don’t make my bed. I leave Jack’s dirty socks on the floor because it hurts to bend over. Following doctor’s orders, I avoid lifting anything heavy, like a big pot of spaghetti, a laundry basket full of clothes, or too many grocery bags at one time. I walk around the house with my bloated belly hanging over my sweatpants like I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy.

The best part about laproscopic surgery is that I get a little break from my busy life, and the scars eventually fade. (Thank goodness because bikini season is almost here, and I want to wear my belly ring). Dr. Zuke tells me that I’m almost ready to resume normal activity. Maybe I should get a second opinion.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Currently, she’s enjoying fatty foods in moderation after gallbladder surgery, so please feel free to send any advice to: [email protected] or visit her website at