Gallbladder and Grilled Cheese

I realize I have been M.I.A. since early December. But, I promise I have a good reason. My body decided it was time to, yet again, reject a non-vital organ. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone under the knife to remove incompetent organs. In 2006, I had to have an emergency appendectomy four days after leaving home for my freshman year at the University of Missouri. It also happened to be the last day of Recruitment when I passed out in the middle of Greek Town and had to be carried to a golf cart by some fraternity bystanders. In the summer of 2008, I had to have my tonsils removed after spending the previous Christmas Eve in the ER due to Mono and suffering through seven episodes of strep the following semester.

Now that I think about it, if I was following the pattern I was due for another episode back in 2010. However, I held off until four weeks ago. It started with chest pain. Severe, stabbing, debilitating chest pain attacks to be exact. They evolved into shooting pain in my chest, throughout my back and my arm. Yes, my left arm. My thought process: I’m 24. I can’t have a heart attack. Well, maybe I’m that one person who DOES have a heart attack at 24 and then becomes one of those rare case studies and will someday be a story line on Grey’s Anatomy. After consulting with my primary physician, two separate ER visits, two EKGs, a chest X-ray, three rounds of blood work, an Echocardiogram, a chest CT, an abdominal CT, an abdominal ultrasound and finally a gallbladder scan, the doctors determined that my gallbladder was only functioning at 17% and needed to be removed. To which I wanted to say “Good job, Sherlock. My aunt only diagnosed me with that three days ago.”

This was at 3 pm on a Thursday and I was immediately scheduled for surgery the next morning at 9:30 am. I think my mom and Patrick were much more concerned than I was about the procedure. When you’ve done this twice before you learn to just sit back and give into the Morphine. My sweet husband didn’t leave my side until I went into surgery. He slept on the floor the first night in the hospital and in an only slightly more comfortable recliner the second night. He went home when I went into surgery, showered, changed and was back before I was in recovery. What a guy.

Although I was heavily medicated on numerous types of narcotics throughout the entire process, I do have a few favorite memories from the experience:

1. The fourth doctor I saw told me he thought it was probably a pulled muscle. I’ll show you a pulled muscle, mister.

2. An ER nurse asked if I was in the medical field because I clearly and concisely explained my symptoms and knew how to pronounce key terms. This isn’t my first rodeo, lady.

3. My conversation with the nurse when I first woke up from surgery.

Nurse: How are you feeling?

Me: Ok. In pain.

Nurse: Ok. I’ll give you more pain meds. You handle narcotics really well.

Me: Um….thanks?

4. My mom going all Mama Bear on a nurse that wasn’t meeting expectations during our first few hours in the ER (the second ER visit). Watch out for that one. Mess with her cubs and the claws come out. Treat her cubs nicely and she will send you thank you notes and give you glowing reviews on the medical version of Yelp. I’m looking at you Nurse Jason. She’s the newly self-elected President of your fan club. 

5. My post-op meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup from St. Luke’s South cafeteria. Actually, I had that exact meal twice the day of my surgery (lunch and dinner). For some reason, it was the only meal that sounded appetizing. And it came highly recommended by the hospital staff.

I would put recovery from gallbladder surgery somewhere between appendectomy recovery and tonsillectomy recovery. Nothing is worse than the inside of your throat healing. But it isn’t just your abdomen that needs to heal like an appendectomy. Your gallbladder actually does play a role in digestion. It isn’t completely useless. And my doctors warned me that some foods wouldn’t sit well with me at first. It would take a while for my body to get used to eating certain meals. So far, Mexican food has made the list of foods that don’t work. However, much to my relief, Winstead’s chocolate shakes are playing nice. P continued to be my hero when I was trapped at home in my bed for a week and bought me a supply of Campbell’s family-size chicken noodle soup and tomato soup, along with Saltines, chocolate shakes and deli meat. He made sure we had more than enough supplies for my bland diet. So much, in fact, that we still have three family-size cans of soup in our cabinet.

It has been 2 weeks and 6 days since my surgery. I had my post-op follow-up appointment with my surgeon today. It lasted all of 90 seconds.

Surgeon: How are you feeling?

Me: Good.

Surgeon: Are you eating normally?

Me: For the most part.

Surgeon: (question about something to do with the bathroom that I’m not going to write here)

Me: (answer to question about the bathroom that I’m not going to write here)

Surgeon: Ok. Let’s take a look at the incision scars. (Looks at the scars). Ok. Everything looks great. Let us know if you have any problems.

To celebrate passing with flying colors, I decided to make P dinner since he served me so selflessly the past few weeks. And in honor of the occasion, I decided to make grilled sandwiches and tomato soup, as it was my favorite meal during recovery. Did I mention we have three family-size cans left? I took Patrick’s sandwich order and prepared for battle with my arch nemesis that is the kitchen.

Patrick’s sandwich: Bread, rotisserie seasoned chicken breast slices, two slices of American cheese, and Sriracha sauce.

My sandwich: Bread, rotisserie seasoned chicken breast slices, two slices of American cheese, Dijon mustard, and pickles. I’m going through a pickle phase. No, I’m not pregnant. The four pregnancy tests they did in the hospital confirmed that.

I’m actually pretty good at making grilled sandwiches. I have a very specific process.

1. Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. Then put the butter sides together and set on the plate – final product should be two pieces of bread stacked with the butter sides on the inside. This keeps the buttered bread from getting stuck to the plate and ripping when you try to remove it.
2. Spread your desired condiment on the piece of bread.
3. Place the first piece of cheese (your melty item) on that piece of bread.
4. Place your meat and any other non-melty items on the sandwich.
5. Place your second piece of cheese on top of all of it.
6. Take the bottom piece of bread in the stack of two and put the non-buttery side on the very top of your sandwich.
7. Put in the skillet and grill to perfection.

The cheese is the most important ingredient. Strategically placing the two pieces of melty-goodness allows for your entire sandwich to meld together and become one. I’m very serious about my sandwich making process.

image (5)

The other part of my meal required dumping the can of Campbell’s family-size tomato soup in the saucepan and stirring until heated. I stirred clockwise, counter-clockwise, in a figure-eight, then I stirred the soup really fast to make waves. Then I stopped because I splattered tomato soup all over the stove. After that, I just stuck with slow, clockwise stirring.

image (4)I don’t know if you are at all like me, but I have a problem with timing all the different meal components to be finished at the same time. I’m an excellent multi-tasker in real life. However, in the kitchen I have a one-track mind. So, I have a trick I use that I learned from my step-dad. It’s called “The Bowl Trick”. Original, I know. He didn’t name it. I did. Take this meal for example, I place the finished sandwich on the plate and then covered it with a bowl to trap the heat and keep it warm. Yes, I know. We are geniuses.

When I told P dinner was ready, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. I cooked my man dinner. And a decent dinner at that. Not one that came out of a box with instructions to lift one corner and heat for 3.5 minutes.

We sat down to eat and he seemed to be enjoying the meal. About three spoonfuls into his soup he says:

P: This soup is really rich and creamy.

Me: Thanks, babe!

P: Hmmm. Did you put the water in it?

Me: What water?

P: The can of water you mix in with the soup when you are heating it up on the stove.

Me: You don’t add water.

P: Yes, you do.

Me: (blank stare, followed by digging the can out of the trash to read that yes, you do need to a full can of water.)

P: (uncontrollable laughter, followed by finishing his entire bowl of waterless soup)

I was wondering why when I went to ladle out the soup it only filled two bowls. My inner thoughts: Only two bowls? I thought this was family-size. I guess it’s for a small family?

No, I just can’t even make canned soup correctly. I ended up offering to clean tonight given my souptastrophy. At least the sandwich was good? Non-vital organs may come and go, but it seems my inability to cook will remain.

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One thought on “Gallbladder and Grilled Cheese

  1. Libs, Love your blog. You had me rolling when you had to get the can out of the trash to check on adding water! And wondering, “only 2 bowls? Thought this was family size”? Also, loved your description of how you stirred your soup! I can so see you doing that, and then spilling some when you got a little carried away! Love you and Love your writing! Keep it up dear!

    Love, Trish

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