You Only Had One Job Body

There was ONE thing I never wanted to experience in Japan; there was only one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said it or how many people I have said it to. I was DESPERATELY EMPHATIC about it. Some of you will know since I’m sure I told you!

I did not want to have surgery.

Now, please don’t think I have a low esteem of the Japanese health care system, because that would be untrue. I have a high regard for their kindness, gentleness, education, and any number of other things especially the government’s control over the pricing of procedures. Those are not what frightened me.

I didn’t want to be alone and unsure.

I had experienced a few attacks of what I thought was severe heartburn. (Once in America before I even came to Japan!) My most recent attack had lasted longer than any other and occurred whilst my brother Glenn came to visit me in March. He took such good care of me too. Thank you Glenn, you’ll never know how sorry and happy I felt to have you there with me.

Sadly, we had to forego a day of Tokyo exploration because of how sick I was. Vomiting all night and then barely able to make myself get up out of bed even two days later. I went to the doctor who told me I had gastritis, but even after finishing all my medications while I was in Okinawa (the Hawaii of Japan if you will), I still did not feel well. Brandi and Andrew were convinced I was having gallbladder issues. I was hesitant to followup on the sickness though.

By sheer calm logic, Jennifer convinced me to go to a Tokyo doctor for a blood test at the least since I still didn’t feel well. I think I might have forgotten what feeling well felt like. I hadn’t gone to school at all that week; I was feeling weak and slightly stupid for feeling weak.

In the end I was referred to a University hospital to have my gallbladder check again and most likely removed.

After going to the second hospital where I encountered the hunky Dr. Haruki, I was finally given the choice of surgery or antibiotics without eating for three or four days. (As for the latter…are you kidding me? I’d rather have surgery than not eat for so many days, let’s be serious here.) I wanted so much for my mother to be there and help me make the decision, but she was out of my reach by some six thousand miles and fourteen hours. I chose the surgery with a heavy heart.

I cried.

It was such a lonely sort of decision. Nao, one of my manager’s assists there as a translator, sat beside me and patted my back trying to make me laugh or at least smile. I was really thankful for her help and gentleness. I swallowed my fears and tears in order to undergo explanations about the surgery, anesthesia, and receive and IV. I hate IVs….seriously, worst part of being sick ever.

I was walked into the OR within two hours of deciding. With my glasses removed and my translator forced to wait on the other side of the swinging OR doors, I felt ridiculously vulnerable. Then, in the fuzzy distance, I saw a tall wiry gentleman walk into the ante area. He moved confidently toward me, knelt down and greeted me easily in fluent though accented English. “Hey, how are you?!” Dr. Thomas was from Holland and I could tell he viewed medicine and patients in a way that felt familiar to me.

God is truly good. I know not all my readers believe in God, but for me, that moment of ease, hope and security was a sweet, loving reminder that He was looking out for me. In my steadily controlled fear, God reached out to me and let me know it would be just fine, even if it hadn’t been.

In the end, after climbing up on the OR table, joking, and laughing with the licensed crowd I could see huddled and furiously though confidently working around me, I woke up only to a moment or two of struggling to escape when they removed the intubation tube and then a groggy waking of Nao asking me if I was okay. Everything turned out fine, as fine as surgery can be of course. Hooked up to an IV and an oxygen mask wasn’t my favorite setup, but I was pretty drugged up so I didn’t mind. Nao left me to sleep after keeping vigil for over five hours awaiting my release from the OR. She took very good care of me and I feel that there is a debt I’ll never be able to repay or express to her. Thanks so very much Nao.

The removal of my gallbladder ended up revealing that, to the doctor’s and my own surprise, there were actually twelve gallbladder stones made up of cholesterol rumbling around in my three times too large internal organ. I had previously remembered to ask them for my stones, which I can provide upon request if you’d ever like to see them. I’m proud of those buggers considering how hard my poor gallbladder worked to kill me with them.

The cause of all the trouble.

The cause of all the trouble.


Most importantly, my surgery remained laparoscopic, meaning they only made four small incisions to remove everything and didn’t cut me all the way open. This will keep my recovery time down by two to four weeks. I have less scaring and a lower chance of infection. Not to mention I’ll look oodles better in my bikini with fewer scars.

Gallbladder Stones 025


I stayed in the hospital for four days to receive more antibiotics as my white blood cell count was a bit high. I spent most of my time flirting shamelessly with my cute doctors and making at least one of my nurses laugh louder than I’d heard any of them speak since I’d walked into the hospital. I walked around my unit and enjoyed a lovely view of Tokyo Tower from the lobby of my floor. Other than the heat, it was not a horrendous place to spend four days.

Gallbladder Stones 019

Can you hear me now?

My first visitor was Jennifer. I thought I’d been doing pretty good even as she walked up behind my curtain, but the moment it was moved to the side and I saw her, tears dribbled down my cheeks without my permission. Jennifer said I handled it pretty well, but the comfort of seeing a face I could reach out and touch was a feeling I can’t even describe. I had been on the phone with both my mom and Brandi in the wee hours of Friday morning (I had surgery around 6:30pm Thursday), but I think I had needed that warmth of a familiar person’s touch too.

I was actually told later by the doctor that if I had waited much longer there would have been a lot of tissue death. He called it good timing.......

I was actually told later by the doctor that if I had waited much longer there would have been a lot of tissue death. He called it good timing…….

Talitha and Angela also came to see me as well as Mr. Moro who is working on getting me a refund for all my hospital bills. Another huge blessing. Mrs. Nagaishi picked me up from the hospital and got me home on Monday; it’s a two hour drive from the town I live in to my hospital, but there was no way I could have taken the train.

Those two huge ones man...

Those two huge ones man…

A week later I had my staples removed and I’m definitely on the road to a full recovery. It is truly amazing how everyday I feel a bit better than I did before.

So, as Mitzi jokingly put it, there will always be a piece of me here in Japan.

Thank you to everyone who prayed for me, visited, cooked, traveled, drove, filled out paperwork, thought of, and called me during this time. It has made this difficult experience much easier to bear. I won’t soon forget it.

6 thoughts on “You Only Had One Job Body

  1. Erica–I’m so sorry you had to endure this so far away! And I’m glad they took such good care of you there! Love you.

  2. I am glad you are doing better now! And hunky guys always seem to make bad situations a little better.

    I can’t believe how big those gallstones are! Wow! No wonder you were in such pain. I think it you should polish them up and make them into a freaky little necklace or bracelet. 😉

  3. You are so strong. I was wondering what happened. I’m glad you’re all right! I also dread having any sort of serious medical work done here in Japan. It’s terrifying, but it seems that you got through it okay. 😉 Take it easy!

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