G is for Gallstones #AtoZChallenge

Hey, I'm a couple days behind on the A to Z Challenge, so I'm doing three posts today.

I wanted to post about gallstones for the letter G.

As you probably know by now, I had an emergency gallbladder removal AND a blocked bile duct (blocked by a gallstone) surgery last month.

Lots of folks don't know that there are two kinds of gallstones that are produced by the human body.

The first type are the most common kind: cholesterol gallstones. Not to get graphic, but I'm gonna! Cholesterol gallstones, as you might imagine, are yellow. Of course, you can't see them, since they're inside your body! But if the surgeon removes these, he or she will see that they're yellow. They consist of cholesterol that is not dissolved. Normally, the body processes and dissolves cholesterol. There are other things in cholesterol gallstones, but that's too technical to get into here. Cholesterol gallstones are the kind most people get, and usually it's someone whose cholesterol numbers are high, or someone who eats a lot of fatty foods. But not always.

The second type are much less common. This is the kind that I had (well, I had both, but I had an extraordinary number of the second type). These are called pigment gallstones. They are dark brown or black, and they are formed by having too much bilirubin in the body. How does someone get to have too much bilirubin? Sometimes they might have an illness or condition such as cirrhosis of the liver or a bile duct infection. In my case, and this is the most common, I have a red blood cell disorder. My body sees my red blood cells, as foreign invaders, and it "attacks" the red blood cells. The cells burst into hard, fragmented pieces, and these pieces turn into the chemical bilirubin. Too much bilirubin leads the body to form pigment gallstones.

What happened with me, in addition to having all of this going on, was that a gallstone somehow got out of my gallbladder, made its way down into a bile duct, and got stuck. This caused me to become severely jaundiced, and that's what brought me to the hospital.

It was funny, they kept asking me if I was in pain. I said "I was yesterday, but now it's gone." They didn't believe me, and they all took turns pushing on my liver/gallbladder area, really hard!! And I would just sit there and say, "Any more questions? It doesn't hurt." They were baffled. Because my red blood cell disorder is rare in adults, they had never seen anything like this before. Especially in someone who hasn't touched alcohol or drugs in over 30 years!!

Anyway, that's your lesson on the two different kinds of gallstones, with a little WTMI added in for good measure.

I'm not a medical professional or anything like that, but if you have questions about gallstones, feel free to post in the comments!