South Dakota, Gallstones and the Badlands National Park

Before I go into the details….I just want to let y’all know I am fine.

I have gallstones. I assume I have had them for awhile but they usually only bother me while I am pregnant. I had a gallbladder attack almost a year ago in September of 2014. I spent the night in the hospital when I was around 20 weeks pregnant with Zelda. The first time I went to the ER, the doctor thought I had a weird stomach virus and gave me some pain meds and fluids, because I was so dehydrated and sent me home. It was a few months later I would find out from an ultrasound that it was actually gallbladder stones clogging my gallbladder neck and not some random stomach bug.

My doctor told me to not eat fatty foods and that when I was 6 weeks post baby, I could schedule surgery to have my gallbladder removed. That was it….eat non-fatty foods and we will cut it out once you have your baby. Never went into exactly what was causing the stones, my lifestyle choices, food or how I was feeling. Just here is some pain meds and we will cut it out. I love modern medicine but c’mon.

In the United States, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of adults have gallstone disease. About a million new cases are diagnosed each year, and some 800,000 operations are performed to treat gallstones, making gallstone disease the most common gastrointestinal disorder requiring hospitalization. The medical cost of gallstones in the United States is estimated to be about $5 billion yearly. The primary therapy for gallstones that are causing pain, inflammation, or infection is removal of the gallbladder.

I am glad I was pregnant when I had my first attack because it gave me time to research more and more about the subject. I spent the next several months trying to figure out how to change my diet and the things I could eat. I finally found a chiropractor, thanks to my midwives, who sat down and really listened to my problems. My diet was so restrictive that I was eating no fats. I was scared to eat anything that might set off another gallbladder attack.

With chiropractic care, supplements, healthier diet and extreme lifestyle change I was able to keep the pain at bay.

So now the Bad part.

We set off to explore the Badlands. I had heard of the rugged beauty and was excited to see and learn about the fossil beds and geological deposits that make the Badlands. Plus, what is in the name, that we call Badlands.

Badlands National Park is located in the White River Badlands and was called mako sica (mako, land and sica, bad) by the Sioux Indians. The term badlands generally refers to an area that is difficult to travel through primarily because of the rugged terrain and lack of water.

It was like being on a whole different planet, I can only imagine what early settlers must have thought when they came upon this area of the world.

After making a few stops and getting out to walk around the Badlands, we decided to grab some Indian Fried Tacos. Bad choice. Really Bad Choice. 

It took me maybe 15 minutes to understand that my gallbladder was not going to be able to process this fat.   I drank as much water as I could find and we started to head back to the RV that was 69 miles away.  I stopped at a rest stop to use the restroom. I told Derek that if I didn’t come out of the restroom in 15 mins to come get me. I got sick at the rest stop and after I could get back up, I ran to the truck and told Derek I had to go to the ER now. I was too far past the point of the medicine working, and it was still an hour away at the RV. I was having a full blown gallbladder attack. You can’t breathe, you have a sharp pain in her right side under you breast  and my back was hurting so bad I couldn’t sit back in the truck. I have had two babies with no epidurals. I can handle pain. But this pain hurts so bad, I think I am going to pass out. People say gallbladder attacks are similar in pain as a heart attack.

Derek drove 95 MPHs down the road to get me to the ER. I am sure we looked like crazy people, he has his flashers on and honked at anyone who stayed in the left lane too long. 

What seemed like forever, we finally got to an ER and had to wait in the ER for another 20 mins. I didn’t know this at the time, but unless you are dying, you have to wait in line. The people in front of me was a woman with a fever, another man that said he had some rough sex and was afraid something happened, a man with a broken foot(he dropped his motorcycle on his foot, last day of Sturgis) and a child that was coughing. 

I was admitted and all I could think about is I am probably going to need surgery and how I was going to feed Zelda. Doctor came in and spoke to me and said he ordered blood work,  a sonogram and some synthetic morphine.  Once he had all that information we could talk about what was going to need to happen next. I was expecting my gallbladder to be infected and dieseased. Which means I would have to be prepped for surgery immediately.  

The ER doctor came in and said my blood work looked great. No infections and my liver enzymes were normal. In the sonogram they did see gallstones but my gallbladder looked healthy. I was released with information to find a surgeon when I get back to Austin to have my gallbladder removed. 

Thankfully we are traveling with friends. These friends took both girls back to their RV. Heidi was able to keep Zelda occupied with cucumbers, white rice and applesauce.  

Coincidentally enough, these are the same friends we were with the first time I had a gallbladder attack, while eating lasagna at their RV in Austin. To them I say thank you and I am forever grateful. I felt very guilt for putting myself in that situation and than the fact that I couldn’t feed Zelda for 6-12 hours afterwards from the pain meds was a hard reality.  That first night after the attack was rough and I was still in a ton of pain. 
So I am back to my super restrictive diet and supplements. 

Which sucks, because we are on our way to Kansas City to spend a few weeks with my best friend Laura. Usually there is lots of wine, coffee and eating out in our visits. 

My plan is to eat really well, take the supplements and when we get back to Austin, start to see the chiropractor again. I still think I need my gallbladder and am not ready to cut it out. Just yet.