I had a gall bladder removal and hernia repair at Maroondah Hospital in 2024. 

I was diagnosed with stomach cramping through my local GP and after some ultrasounds and x-rays. It was discovered at this time that I had a gall bladder problem. Furthermore, I was admitted [to the hospital] because I have stage 3 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and was experiencing an exacerbation event.  Because of the coughing, I developed a hernia on top of gall bladder.

Then COVID hit. It was a long wait. My COPD was increasingly getting worse. Originally when I got a surgical date, it was for April-May 2023, but we had to cancel because I needed to meet with the Blackburn Surgical High Risk Clinic. This was to discuss how we were going to [proceed] to surgery.

After we met with them, it was discussed with myself, the doctors, nurses, anesthetist and team that my lungs weren’t strong enough for the operation. I then completed an eight-week pulmonary rehabilitation course at Eastern Health Yarra Ranges (Lilydale). I then went back to Blackburn Surgical High Risk Clinic. Following this, I met with the anesthetist and surgeon at Box Hill Hospital.

It was decided after some walking tests that I was well enough to proceed to surgery at Maroondah Hospital. The team were very good in telling me exactly what was going to happen – for instance, that there was an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed booked for me after the surgery. On the day, I went from surgical ward straight to ICU and stayed there until 6pm the following night. After this, I went to a ward and home following day.

The week leading up to surgery I was quite anxious. The team had explained to me there were a lot of risks associated with the operation. The surgical nurse sent me many messages of encouragement which was lovely. The communication with the surgical nurse was spot on. I couldn’t fault her. If she couldn’t get me by phone, she could get me via text or email. In all forms, she was spot on with it. She also put me in touch with someone else when she went on leave.

I was told both my sons could come with me, right up until when they wheeled me through the operating doors, which was lovely. I had lost my husband 16 months ago, so it was important to me to have my kids with me right up until surgery. They let my two boys stay with me at all times. I’ve had some issues before where the team previously had not communicated with my family about my whereabouts. For this surgery, the team rung the boys the minute I came out of surgery, and when I went to ICU, and informed them when they could come in.

In the operating room, the team told me every single step of what they were doing and described all the equipment. They were not negligent – they filled me in on everything, which was nice. They told me to tell them when I was uncomfortable or in pain. I haven’t had surgery in 30 years, and it has changed a lot – particularly when it comes to communication, cleanliness and empathy. The surgeon even offered to show me a photo of the gall bladder afterwards. I wasn’t expecting this but loved it. 

There were two nurses in the ICU who were absolutely beautiful. I also could not fault them. I was anxious about getting out of bed because I didn’t know what pain I would be in. I will be 60 years old this year, and have worked in aged care, so to have someone shower me was a different experience! There was a young girl who helped me shower, and she did so with the utmost decency and dignity. The young gentleman who also looked after me also showed me great decency by prioritizing my privacy when using the commode.

I got a phone call from the surgeon a week after the operation, and it gave me an opportunity to raise issues. He was very good with me over the phone.

 It was really important that the team told me exactly what was going to happen, and they provided this. Also, empathy is very important to me, as I was in a fragile state. Lastly, I would say family is important as part of the surgical experience. The team said they would call my sons and communicate what was happening, which is exactly what they did. The team also answered all their questions that they had over the phone. I don’t know who rang after my surgery but my sons were very impressed with them. Even before the operation, the doctor accommodated a Zoom meeting with my son who couldn’t come physically. We were able to freely talk about the concerns and risks they had around the breathing tube used in surgery. I was glad my son could be included.

Do you have any advice for any future patients awaiting surgery?

The biggest thing is if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t think that what you’re asking is silly. Ask about everything.