An empty hospital bed in a dark room, with a light coming from overhead.

Warning: this post may get a little icky, but not bad.

Back around the turn of the century (2002) one day going home from work I started feeling a sharp pain in my abdomen. I was at the store, and there was an ambulance there, and I almost asked them to look at me. But I went home and after a few hours it was gone.

A few weeks later it happened again, at home. Then a few weeks later I was up all night with it. It started happening more frequently and I knew I had to do something.

Then one day near the beginning of August it hurt so bad I was curled in a ball on the dining room floor hitting my head on the floor and screaming. We loaded the girls into the car and headed for the hospital. Ema was 2, Sophia almost 1. Cate coached me on breathing exercises, having learned them so well having babies.

We finally got to the hospital and I sat there for eleventy billion hours before anyone asked if I needed anything. A woman asked me All The Questions for a form, and I nearly passed out. Finally they wheeled me into the ultra-sound room. At this point Cate was having real flashbacks, and rather enjoying seeing me get my belly all lubed up for the check.

Gall Stones

As it turned out, I had gall stones, and my gall bladder would have to come out. I was in agony, and asked when this could happen, and they told me it would be two months. TWO MONTHS. I thought I was going to die right there.

They loaded me up with drugs and gave me a prescription for Tylenol 4 with Codeine. When we went to fill that, the pharmacist said “four? You mean three?” I handed him the script and he said “Wow. I didn’t know they made that”.

I’m glad they did, because I was in pain for pretty much ALL of those two months. The gall bladder tries to do its thing in response to fats, and I was getting to the point there saltines and carrots had too much fat.

The Deed

Two months later I went in. It was about a week before Sophia’s first birthday. They used laparoscopy, so instead of opening me all up they made 4 tiny cuts and put tubes in and did all the work inside. They said my gall bladder was actually almost gone, it was just a little mess of flesh smashed up against my liver. They snipped it off and pulled it out through the hole near my belly button. I got a couple stitches for each incision, they watched me for a while, and said “Ok, go to the bathroom and then you can go!”

So I stepped into the bathroom, assumed the position and… nothing happened. I couldn’t go. I HAD to go, but couldn’t.

I came out and told the nurse and she said “Hmm.. well, we’re not allowed to release you until you go. Why don’t you just hang around the room here for a while and see if you can go in a bit.”

Well, guess who couldn’t tinkle for the rest of the day?

Apparently it’s pretty rare, only about 1% of people have this issue, but physical trauma and shut that system down. By the end of the day I was in agony again, because my bladder was FULL. They gave me a catheter and told me I’d be staying the night, but as soon as I could pee, I could go.

All through the night, I’d sleep for about an hour and then have to go, but couldn’t. They really wanted to flush me out, so my IV was fairly gushing water into my veins. So about once an hour a guy came and gave me a catheter. We got to know each other pretty well. I asked if he could just leave it in, and he said yes, but that means I’d be staying three more days without question. Well, I didn’t want that.

At about 6am I woke and and shuffled to the bathroom again to try. EXCELSIOR! The blessed waters flowed freely. I checked in with my guy, Cate came to get me, and the whole thing was over.


A couple of days later Cate looked at me and said “Do you feel ok?”

I said “Yeah, totally fine, why?”.

“You’re jaundiced.”

Oddly, I couldn’t see it. I called my sister the nurse and she said “Call your doctor”. I called the doc and they said “Come in for blood work”. So away we went.

When you’re actually staying in the hospital, blood work takes an hour or two, and they come right back and tell you the results. If you walk in off the street (like I did), they draw the blood and call you a few days later.

So a few days later we were driving north to my folks for Sophia’s first birthday party. We were about an hour from Grand Rapids when the phone rang.

Them: “Mr. DeRosia?”

Me: “Yes, that’s me”.

Them: “This is the doctor’s office, we have the results of your blood work. How quickly could you get to the hospital?”

Me: “Well, we’re headed up north for a birthday party, could it wait until tomorrow?”

Them: “We’d like to see you as quickly as possible. Right now.”

Me: “…. ok. Like I said, we’re headed up north. It would be good if we could drop the kids at Grandma’s, it might be a couple hours, is that ok?”

Them: “… If that’s what you have to do, but you need to get here as quickly as possible”.

So we called Cate’s folks and arranged to meet in a nearby city and we dropped the girls off and hustled back to Grand Rapids.

The real adventure begins…

I was still feeling totally fine at this point. We parked in the hospital parking lot and walked in. It was a quiet evening, the lady behind the desk said “Can I help you?”.

“Yes, I’m Christopher DeRosia, I was told I need to come in, but I don’t know why. Do I need to be checked in?”

“Ok, well, let me look you up… Oh.”

“We already have a bed for you, could you sit in this wheelchair please?”

And I was hustled away for tests. Cate was able to stay with me for almost everything because we didn’t have the girls. They did some more ultrasound work and told me that the blood work had indicated that I wasn’t getting any insulin. At all. Like my pancreas just checked out.

The ultrasound showed that there was actually a big old gall stone stuck right in the end of the tube where the pancreas connects.

This isn’t unheard of, but pretty rare, about 1% of people get this. Sound familiar? It was my day.

The plan to fix it was to put me under sedation, which is like being unconscious, but they can still communicate with me. Then they’d go in through my mouth with a bunch of equipment, all the way through my system, grab the thing, and pull it out. They said if all went well, it should take about 20 minutes.

The part I don’t remember

This next bit I don’t remember at ALL. Zero. Everything I know I learned from asking. My poor wife waited the 20 minutes. And then another 20. And another. THREE HOURS after I went in they came out looking haggard and said “We don’t know if we got it or not, but we can’t go on with this”.

Apparently I DID NOT LIKE having the tubes down my throat. It gives me the willies just thinking about it when I’m awake, I’m glad my sleeping self stuck up for me. Apparently I fought them tooth and nail the entire time, thrashing, rolling etc. They had multiple people holding me down. They tried and tried to get down there, but called it quits when I got a hand free, grabbed the whole apparatus, and dragged it out of my body.

The doctor said “It’s possible we knocked it loose. We got all the way down there. But the only way to know for sure is to keep you here and watch your levels. You’ll be here three days, and during this time, you won’t be able to put anything into your mouth, because we don’t want to activate the pancreas if there’s still a problem.”

“I can have ice chips, right?”

“No, nothing whatsoever.”


So I laid there in bed for three days. I wasn’t in any pain from my adventures, but laying in bed for three days is surprisingly uncomfortable.

On my second night a poor young chap was my roommate with his first kidney stone. About every 3 hours his IV would run dry and he’d start to hurt. He didn’t know the ropes like I did, so I’d call the nurse and let them know he needed something.

During this time McDonald’s had a new burger out. It was giant, and juicy, and dripping with mustard and catsup, right next to hot crispy fries and an icy cold Coke. The commercial for it was played about every three slots the entire time I was there. Agonizing.

Finally, the end

After three days they did blood work and everything was perfectly normal. Their best guess is they knocked it loose and I was fine. From the time I went into the hospital the first time to the time I came out I lost thirty pounds. Cate said I didn’t look svelte, I looked emaciated. We went directly to a restaurant and I ate a big juicy burger.

Header photo by Frederic Köberl on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “That time I turned yellow…

  1. Oh my dear friend, I’m in agony just reading this. I had no idea that your body has been struggling with so many things and for so long. Both the issues sound like things that in my experience impact mood greatly. On one hand, I hope that your characteristic cheerful optimism means that you’re not having those issues. But on the other hand, I worry that it masks things that your body is still struggling with.

    I know it is callous and unhelpful to tell you to ‘eat right! get healthy!’ when both these issues have been outliers (1%, seriously??). I just hope that you will find your way to a life that feels both comfortable and is kind on your body, both at the same time.

  2. I’m so sorry you had to go through so much pain and trauma, so distressing for you and family. Glad everything ended well. I’ve had to have my gall bladder removed too, but it was caught early on due to a routine test, no pain, nothing at all.

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