• Colleen McCubbin

the bitter root

I started collecting plush organ stuffies in 2019. The first was a cute purple gallbladder, to represent the one I had lost.

I started feeling uncomfortable on Sunday, October 27, 2018--kind of a vague back pain. We were doing a final clean-up on our old house so renters could move in on Tuesday the 30th. I mentioned my discomfort to my husband who cheered me on: "Push through the pain, baby!" (He was not helpful like your daughter!) So I moved big hunks of wood and scrap metal and a bike or two (or three?) -- among other things.


The next day I test drove a car, picked up a sleep machine to do a home test for sleep apnea, took the test car to Kevin's work, and started feeling nauseous. Thought I was just hungry, so Kevin rustled some almonds and an orange. Didn't help. Made it worse. Returned the car and told the sales guy, "I don't feel good." He agreed: "You don't look so good." Oh dear.


I drove across the street to a parking lot, called a friend to complain, and she offered to take me to emergency. Over three hours in a very crowded waiting room. I was in so much pain that I laid on the floor. I didn't even care. Fortunately, another friend had come to stay with me and she knew about the hospital's heated blankets, so she kept me as comfortable as possible while we waited ... and waited ... and waited.


Kevin came to spell her off and eventually we saw an emergency doctor who did a simple ultrasound. Sure enough: big gallstone blocking the exit to the liver. Even Kevin could discern it.


They didn't have any beds available. Since we just live 5 minutes away, they sent me home, reasoning I would be more comfortable there. I slept on the couch with a cat and the dog keeping watch. Back to the hospital at 8:00 am for a real ultrasound, which confirmed the urgency of my situation. An orderly drove me in a wheelchair from radiology, across the expanses of the hospital, back to emergency where I had to be triaged again and formally admitted. The room was nearly empty this time. He parked me and left without a word to anyone. Being in a stupor, it awhile to realize that nobody knew I existed, so I weakly called out for help, which eventually came. Then Kevin arrived.


It's mostly a blur, but I got a room fairly quickly and Kevin kept me company all day. They planned surgery for the evening. My mother-in-law arrived in the afternoon with coffee for Kevin and entertained herself with deciphering and watching the surgery schedule. She likes that sort of thing.

This was my first major surgery, so my first experience with anesthesia. Waking up, I tried to make conversation with the nurse beside me. She was friendly. I complimented her for her patience. Did she smirk? I tried to read a magazine. Hopeless. After awhile, Kevin came in and took this delightful photo. I was trying so hard to focus!


During the six weeks off work to recover from this invasion, I pondered the parallels between the state of my soul and my gallbladder. The gallbladder was gangrenous. Necrotic. It was dying and it was plugged. If it had burst, that could have been a deadly mess.


The gallbladder collects and disburses bile. Bile can cause a bitter taste in the mouth. Some people would suggest that physical bitterness is a symptom of emotional or spiritual bitterness. It didn't take long for me to make the connection and to recognize that I had been harbouring bitterness for a long time. Years. While I love my husband, the early years of our marriage had some unique challenges, and I had let frustrations fester to the point of bitterness. It was managed--stuffed--and most people wouldn't know, but I believe it showed up in needing an emergency gallbladder surgery. It also showed up in sleep apnea. (That diagnosis was postponed by this crisis. The sleep clinic let Kevin return the test machine late without charge!)


I admitted my need to repent, to turn around. I needed spiritual and emotional surgery to release bitterness from my my heart, mind, and soul before they became too plugged and poisonous. As my body rested and healed, I submitted my whole self to resting and healing.


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