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Life without a gallbladder

Roy Lumbe @lumbe_roy

Three years ago, before he had his gallbladder removed, Kimani Kiarie had been suffering from huge pressure beneath his right chest-bone that wouldn’t go away.

The mystery pains in his stomach surfaced every time he ate anything high in fat, creamy or spicy, and then progressed to whenever he ate anything at all. Even the healthiest of foods.

“I would take a few bites before putting down the spoon and announce, ‘I don’t feel good’,” he recounts.

Kiarie, who is a master of ceremonies in Nakuru says he had no clue his gallbladder was the cause of all his troubles.

“I had no clue that my gallbladder was the problem, I regret not seeking specialist help, maybe I would be healed,” he says.

Kiarie remembers when the episodes started in February 2002. Sharp pains often accompanied by nausea concentrated on the upper right quadrant of his abdomen and extended to the back between his shoulder blades.


And for 13 years, his severe recurrent abdominal pains were attributed to a host of ailments.

Specialists he visited informed him that he was suffering from ulcers, a condition that affects the intestines and the stomach and drugs and painkillers would be prescribed.

Another doctor he visited at Nakuru Level Five hospital had concluded the problem was constipation and gave him a diet to follow, along with a recommendation to avoid wheat in case he had sensitivity to gluten.

Although constipation stopped, the pain, which was sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea and chills, did not stop. Avoiding gluten didn’t seem to make a difference.

In 2015, while in town running his errands, he got another attack and decided to go to a nearby clinic for painkillers and the doctor who attended to him realised he had the same symptoms as his own father.

The doctor told him he might have gallstones and referred him for an ultrasound of the gallbladder at St Mary’s Mission Hospital in Nakuru.

The ultrasound confirmed the diagnosis, and he was advised that removal of the gall bladder was the only reliable treatment.

Prior to his operation, Kiarie pressed the doctors with hard questions whether removal of the gallbladder would affect his health or even cause death.

He recalls consulting with his wife Ann Kimani on whether to go through with the process, saying he had never heard of any person having their body organ removed.

    My life after the surgery

After lengthy deliberations and still suffering from acute pains, Kiarie agreed to have his gallbladder removed. To his surprise, he was well, healthy and painfree, something he describes as a good feeling. But his relief was short-lived. He was barred from taking fatty foods such as fried foods, meat and overindulging on an empty stomach, since he has no bile to work on the fats.

Back at his neighborhood in Maili Sita, Bahati, Nakuru county, locals were hesitant to believe that a person can survive without a gallbladder.

He was branded a liar with some even approaching his wife to inquire if indeed her husband’s organ was removed. It was strange to them.

Dr Jackson Ngecha from Better Health Clinics says one can survive without a gallbladder. He says the only purpose of the organ is storage. “Many people have survived without the gallbladder, but they must observe a specific diet and avoid fatty foods,” he says.

Ngecha says you may need to have your gallbladder removed if you have gallstones or if your gallbladder is damaged or becomes inflamed, also known as cholecystitis.

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