Friday, May 4, 2007

What is it with gallbladders?

Supposedly, we're born with at least two body parts we don't need--maybe three. The tonsils and appendix are two, and the gallbladder, while it does serve a purpose, seems to be more of a hassle than anything. Why? Let me elaborate.

My next-door neighbor, whom we'll call Anonymous, is five months pregnant with her second child. Tuesday afternoon, her boyfriend had been missing for several hours. Having gone three months sober, Anonymous was worried that he had begun drinking again. Alas....she was right. I returned home from errands and saw a suitcase outside her door, with a note on top addressed to boyfriend in big, dark letters (with an exclamation point at the end). Well, Anonymous has gallstones. She told me about it a few days ago, told me she's only supposed to eat bland foods until it's safer to do surgery--i.e., until baby arrives. Eat bland food for four months?! Anyway....I suppose the stress of the breakup was too great, and Anonymous went into the hospital that night. Apparently pregnancy hormones make gallstones grow out of control, and if they pass through something called the common bioduct, the baby would die. So the day after she broke up with boyfriend, Anonymous was in surgery, having her gallbladder removed and hoping that baby would be alright. Don't worry! Happy ending (so far). Baby is well. Anonymous is mending. Hopefully the unseen wounds will heal quickly, too.

But that's not all!! Oddly enough, yesterday one of my best friends--who, for the sake of privacy and consistency in this odd entry, we'll call Unknown--called me from the hospital. Guess why? To tell me that she was to have her gallbladder removed.

Oh, and it turns out I was WAAAAYYYYY wrong in grouping the gallbladder with the purpose-unknown appendix and tonsils. It just so happens the gallbladder is pretty darn useful, at least, I guess, until stones turn it to something of an enemy to the body.

For your reading pleasure and information:

Causes and Symptoms of Gallstones

The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped organ located beneath the liver on the right side of the abdomen. The gallbladder's primary functions are to store and concentrate bile, and to secrete bile through small ducts into the small intestine to help digest food. Bile, a fluid produced by the liver, contains water, cholesterol, lipids (fats), bile salts (natural detergents that break up fat), and the bile pigment bilirubin.

What are Gallstones?

Gallstones are hard crystal-like particles that form in the gallbladder from substances in bile. Cholesterol stones are usually white or yellow and account for about 80% of gallstones. The other 20% of gallstones are small dark pigment stones made of bilirubin and calcium salts. Risk factors for pigment stones include cirrhosis, biliary tract infections, and hereditary blood cell disorders like sickle cell anemia.

Gallstones may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. The gallbladder may develop a single large stone or many smaller ones, even several thousand.

1 comment:

Abby Hanson said...

Anna had her gallbladder out shortly after she got married, she had to veg on the couch for a week with a tube sticking out of the incision to help it drain. Lovely. And now I'm VERY curious as to the identity of UNKNOWN.