In a Mexican household, you get to eat all kinds of good and unhealthy food. My mom is the type of person to cook all of your traditional Mexican dishes: pozole, tamales, tacos, fish tacos, tostadas and the list goes on and on. 

As someone who loves to eat, you know sometimes it comes with consequences, especially if you don’t take care of yourself or keep a close eye on your health. Last November, I had intense pain in my right abdomen, so intense that I had to go to the emergency room. 

The feeling I felt was like a sudden, sharp pain that only became more intense as it went on. I almost felt like someone was squeezing me so hard that I wanted to cry. And perhaps I did.

The Emergency Room

At the emergency room, the healthcare workers asked me all types of questions, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. It wasn’t until they did an ultrasound that they found a stone in my gallbladder. You have no idea how shocked I was to learn that. I’ve never had any health issues in my life. 

Being at the hospital for hours is the worst.

The pain and waiting

The pain I was feeling that day is called a gallbladder attack, according to the ER doctor at Kern Medical Hospital. Having a gallstone puts you at risk of having gallbladder attacks suddenly, which is exactly what I was diagnosed with.

Gallstones are lumps of solid material that form in your gallbladder. They are also called cholelithiasis. They are made when the digestive juice called bile turns hard and stone-like. 

Basically, the gallbladder is a small sac under the liver that stores and releases bile. Bile is a fluid made in the liver that helps the body digest fat. The gallstones can cause the gallbladder to spasm and if they block the duct out of the gallbladder, they can cause pain and even an infection.

According to my doctor, a number of things increase the risk of having gallstones, such as being female, being severely overweight, being older, losing or gaining weight quickly, eating a high-calorie diet, being pregnant, having hormone therapy and having diabetes. It was also very interesting to learn that Mexican Americans are at higher risk, which includes me as well.

Mexican Americans have issues

Mexican Americans have an elevated risk of gallstones. “Their increased rates may be due to genetic admixture with Native Americans, who have an extremely high prevalence of cholelithiasis. Native Americans are believed to have almost exclusively cholesterol stones, whereas only 73% of non-Hispanics are reported to have such stones,” according to the National Library of Medicine.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about getting rid of a gallbladder attack. Here are a few suggestions given by my doctor: bed rest, drinking only clear liquids and avoiding fatty foods in our diet. Fatty foods make the gallbladder contract and may cause increased pain. Also, try to avoid full-fat dairy, fried foods and fatty meats.

What usually works for me since I’ve had this issue for a while now is taking  ibuprofen and having something warm in my abdomen. It won’t make the pain go away, but it usually relieves some of it.

Since this was an ongoing issue, I had started the process of seeing a surgeon, but my insurance was taking so long to approve that I eventually backed out of having surgery. I totally freaked out and thought I could somehow get better, but that wasn’t the case.

Time for surgery

This disease was only getting worse for me. Taking ibuprofen no longer relieved any of the pain for me. I would wake up in the middle of the night in so much pain, crying and sitting next to the toilet because I would make myself throw up to relieve some of the pain, which is not good at all. 

It got to the point where I had to go to the ER again this month because I couldn’t tolerate the pain. There could have been more visits to the ER, but I tried to avoid them as much as I could. This ER visit was probably the worst. They had given me morphine to cope with the pain but my body reacted badly to it and the pain doubled. I remember being in tears and asking the nurses for help because I felt like I was dying. I immediately called my partner and asked him to be by my side. 

The pain had shifted from my right abdomen to the middle of my stomach. It might sound a bit dramatic, but it felt like someone had tried to pull an organ out of me. It was really nice to have my partner by my side because even though I was in pain, he is probably the only person who can make me smile even during tough times. With that ER experience alone, I had had enough, and I knew what I needed to do next, which was to see a surgeon to get a gallbladder removal. 

My partner, my son’s father, helped in so many ways.

My partner had to drop off Levi at grandmas, so that he can be with me at the hospital.

Normally, when I have gallbladder attacks, the pain usually lasts about six hours, and those are probably the worst hours of my life. According to my doctor, if you’re having any pain that lasts longer than six hours, nausea and vomiting, a swollen belly or a fever, please seek medical help.

After seeing my surgeon this morning, he gave me the news that I was not looking forward to hearing. I was hoping they would only remove the stone from my gallbladder, but unfortunately, it’s going to be both. After my C-section experience, it’s terrifying to think about having surgery again. Aside from that, it’s also frightening to know that surgery is only 12 days away. The only thing I can do from this point on is to hope for the best.

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Amairani Hernandez is a native of Los Angeles and a graduate of the California State University of Los Angeles with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She is a staff multimedia journalist, who focuses on...