I was apparently a lot sicker than I realized.

After discovering 12 days ago that I had gallstones, I spent a lot of time reading about possible treatments, but I slowly became convinced the emergency room doctor had been right. I needed surgery to remove my sickened gallbladder.

I was in enough discomfort — and eventually full-scale pain — that I didn’t work much last week. By Saturday morning, the worst pain of my life was back — and it was even worse this time.

I returned to the emergency room at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham Saturday morning. By that evening, I was admitted to the hospital with plans to get me go home late Sunday if surgery went well that morning. The official diagnosis was acute cholecystitis.

To spare you the long details, I’ll just say that things didn’t go well.

I didn’t know anything was amiss until the surgeon finally came to talk with me Sunday afternoon.

“You gave me a very difficult morning,” he said, half jokingly and half accusingly.

The surgeon told me that my gallbladder had been so “diseased” and infected that it tried to fall apart as he worked on it. He said I was lucky that the organ hadn’t ruptured. That apparently could have killed me given the shape my gallbladder was in.

Given the trauma of the surgery and the anesthesia involved in the longer surgery, I had to stay another night.

By Sunday night, there was another problem. I couldn’t urinate — and my bladder was full and painful. A catheter was the only solution. (It’s one I hope to never face again.) Although it did the job of draining me, it was horribly painful going in, very uncomfortable to have attached to my body at all times — and then even more painful coming out.

There were other issues Monday night, but they were relatively minor. I watched Alabama’s dramatic comeback win over Georgia in the National College Football Championship game with far less enthusiasm than I’d have had if I’d been home.

By late Tuesday afternoon, I was discharged and sent home with pain meds and an antibiotic. I’ll return to see the surgeon at his office in a week.

Did I make a mistake when I waited nine days to return to the hospital? Maybe. There’s no way to be certain. The doctors there would definitely say it was a mistake. I know now that I could have killed myself by waiting. Maybe I’ll never know for sure, but I was far more confident facing surgery after I had educated myself than I was when I faced the decision the first time.

For me, waiting a bit longer was the right thing to do.

One more thing I’ll mention is that it frequently pays to treat your nurses and other caregivers with great appreciation. Even if this isn’t your natural inclination — as it is mine — you would be amazed how much extra some of them will do for you if they feel appreciated. Every single person who I encountered on this visit was excellent. They all genuinely seemed to care about their patients, so I can’t tell you know much I appreciated them.

I’m still not back to normal and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to return to work. It’s been an ordeal and it seems as though additional issues could still arise. But I’m glad to have it over with.

For many months now, I’ve been suffering from exhaustion and other issues which were eventually diagnosed as thyroid-related. (I’m on a generic version of Synthroid now.)

It turns the hypothyroidism which was diagnosed was only one of two major issues which have been bringing me down. Maybe we’ve reached the real root of the way I’ve been feeling. Maybe I can finally get back to my old self.