calling all gallbladders

Ok friends.  Several regular visitors to this blog have had gallbladder disease.  I need your input.  Tell me about your early symptoms.  I know that’s not always easy, since those of us with chronic health issues tend to blow off, minimize, or otherwise downplay (and ignore) new and subtle symptoms.  So if you can’t recall the super early stages, I understand.  I know what an attack of acute gallbladder pain looks like.  I’m not so sure about the grinding day to day of smoldering or building gallbladder disease.  And I’d like to because I’d like to know how hard to push on looking into this nausea and upper abdominal pain that is becoming a daily thing.

My ECBF (ex cohabitating boyfriend) had gallstones that got him all screwed up for a bit.  They presented themselves loudly shortly after a Halloween party one year.  We had eaten loads of nummy things that night, including stuffed mushrooms, which could quite accurately be described as mushroom coated fat balls (butter and I believe the stuffing had sausage in it).  He woke up in the middle of the night with horrible abdominal pain, power-puking several times, diaphoretic, and just plain ol’sick as a dog.  We thought maybe he had food poisoning at first, but the pain was so intense and a puking type 1 diabetic is a bad thing, so I took him to the ED.  Pancreatitis, said the labwork.  He was admitted to Ye Olde New England Outback Memorial Hospitale for a week while the Olde Timey Gastroenterologist did some tests, including a HIDA scan.  While the doc was competent enough to order it, he was not competent enough to interpret it.  The results were “within normal limits” and so the Olde Timey doc ruled out gallbladder and called it diabetic gastroparesis.  Big surprise, an MRI a month later confirmed that the ECBF had gallstones.  Reflecting on the months leading up to the pancreatitis, ECBF did have symptoms.  He’d feel sick, need to lay down, usually after he’d been over at the family’s house (eating bad things).  We only put that together after the fact.  And while ECBF certainly complained about his state in the interim, it was hard to get a sense of timing of symptoms since he was treating his gut and gallbladder so badly during that whole period.  He continued to eat food that seemed to trigger or worsen his symptoms – often at the urging of his evil family.  It was like watching an afterschool special, where the schoolyard “bad kids” were his parents and uncles and instead of trying to get him to smoke a cigarette, they were trying to get him to eat bacon cheeseburgers and wash them down with a few shots of whiskey.  Basically, they were a family with a family-wide eating disorder on top of family-wide alcoholism.  DEEEEElightful people.  So against that backdrop, it was hard to tell what the bare bones symptoms of ECBF’s gallbladder ailment were.  You know?  I mean, it’s like you have a rash on your arm that has some nice specific characteristics, but then you take flame thrower to it and then you go to the dermatologist and say “hey what’s causing this rash on my arm?”

So I’m asking you.  I know at least two of you have had gallbladder disease, Mo and Ana…and probably others, forgive me if I’ve forgotten.  If you don’t mind, let me know what it feels like in a person who is not filling their guts full of badness.  What’s it like when you’re doing the best you can to take care of yourself but still have this happening anyhow.  For me, whatever is going on, it’s daily nausea that reaches crazy levels and that somewhat strangely seems relieved by eating.  It comes back/starts up again within about an hour of eating, building up to the crazy bad again.  The pain is sharp and very much in the upper abdomen, so upper that it feels like I should call it my “lower chest”.  I suppose it’s properly “epigastric”.