Thursday, August 26, 2010

Appendicitis

Well, the title gives away the big surprise of this blog post to all my faithful readers (all 2 of you), but so be it.

It still came as a surprise to me. My wife this past weekend has been suffering from the flu, so it came as no surprise on Tuesday morning that I was feeling somewhat queasy in my stomach. Nevertheless, I wasn't "too bad" at that point, so I got up and went to work. As the day progressed, my stomach pains continued to increase in intensity. I left work slightly early (for other reasons) and went home. At that point, I was still queasy in the stomach, but I wouldn't say I was feeling nauseous in that I had no need to actually vomit.

Well, that night, I was feeling pretty bad, but went over to a scouting Court of Honor that I needed to attend. Before it even got started, though, I knew I was in bad enough shape that I should go home. So, I helped get things set up there, then left to come home.

Upon my arrival, I was still not feeling too hot, and my stomach pains continued to increase. I felt cold and clammy, and so I took the opportunity to go get in the hot bathtub. At about this same time, I asked my wife to go to the store to buy me some Pepto-Bismol, as I was feeling severe pains in my stomach area. She left, and the pains in my stomach continued to get worse.

I was so uncomfortable that even the hot bath was not helping, so I got out and headed to the computer. I remembered that my brother had had his appendix taken out and that it was a close call for him, so I've always been somewhat on the lookout for symptoms like what he had. I typed "appendicitis" into my search engine and found a list of symptoms, which seemed to match what I was experiencing pretty well.

I got dressed into some loose fitting clothes and started pacing, the intensity of the pain getting more severe. My youngest son was already asleep, my daughter was on her way, and my oldest was reading, so as soon as my wife returned to the store, I clambered into the van and told her we had to go to the hospital right now. She was a little unhappy about leaving the kids, but I knew things were not right with me, and that I had no little stomach flu.

Eventually, my wife called a wonderful neighbor of ours to go stay with our kids for the night. I knew it must have been terribly uncomfortable, but I am so very grateful for that kind woman's service.

As it was, we arrived at the E.R. at about 8:45. I was doubled over in pain, pale, sweaty, and clammy. Even so, they made us wait. And wait. And wait. For over 5 hours, we waited there before I was finally admitted. The entire time I spent rocking back and forth, trying to manage the pain. They wouldn't even consider giving me anything for the pain because I hadn't been seen by a doctor.

As it turns out, apparently on the night of the full moon everybody likes to get into auto accidents. From our perspective in the waiting room, which is separate from the ambulance entrance, we could not see all the traffic of people being wheeled in, bloodied, beaten, and bruised from other tragic events. From our perspective, looking around at the others in the waiting area, I was the only one in obvious severe pain, and even other people in the waiting area couldn't understand why they were waiting to admit me. One kind fellow, who eventually tired of the waiting and left, even offered to let me go in when they called his name. I hope he ultimately got the help he needed.

As it was, my wife and I went through multiple scenarios. I may have been admitted earlier had we called 911 arrived by ambulance. We may have been able to get in had we gone to a more-distant, but usually better managed, hospital. Several people around us joked that I needed to pass out, vomit all over the floor, or clutch my left arm and proclaim I was having heart problems. I wasn't very amused, but I appreciated the sentiment.

So it was that I pulled a chair over and placed it adjacent to another one. I crawled into it, curled into a ball, and tried to sleep. Several times I think my body just shut down, even with all the noise. There were kids crying, loud televisions (playing Animal Planet's "Monster Animals Unhooked"), and otherwise grumpy people (aggravated by their equally long -- and sometimes longer -- wait). Even with all this, I managed to sleep.

My wife, bless her, was a real trooper. She managed to keep her emotions in check. I know how she felt -- helpless. I always felt the same way when she had our babies. As it was, when the triage nurse asked me how I felt, I remembered my good wife's pains of childbirth, and told her it was an unfair question. Clearly it was not equivalent, but I ranked it as the most intense pain I had ever felt, which was a true assessment.

Well, after what felt like days, I finally managed to get admitted. They brought me in, put me on a bed, and very quickly gave me a morphine shot and something to manage nausea. All the medicines I was given, it seemed, started with the letter "z". Zoltron, Zeratul, ... something. Anyway, the morphine kicked in right away and I felt much better. The nurse was fantastic and was able to put the IV line in on the first attempt. She had a wonderful bedside manner, which was very refreshing after the stonewalling we had in the waiting room.

It wasn't too long until I was in having a C.T. scan. And not too much later that the doctor came in and indicated that yes, indeed, I did need to have my appendix removed. At this point, he could've said I was growing a third arm in my lower intestine. I didn't care, I just wanted whatever it was to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Well, I fell asleep several times for the next several hours, and my surgery was scheduled for 6 am. I was a little surprised they could do it that quickly, and at that early hour, but all the doctors and nurses seemed surprised by my surprise. It's the shift they were working, and it was all in a "days" work. They put a line in and I passed out quickly -- it wasn't really hard as I was exhausted anyway from the night of pain.

I woke up unaware of where I was and remember rubbing my head a lot trying to clear the fogginess in my mind. That didn't really work, but I eventually came to well enough to remember where I was and why I was there. I just stayed put, though, and they eventually took me to a room where I would stay for the balance of the day.

My wife had stayed long enough to talk to the doctor after the surgery, then ran home to relieve our good neighbor and friend. She stayed home the balance of the day, dealing with life with children. She later reported that the doctor told her that the surgery went very well, largely to the fact that I am fit (which made me feel really good -- losing all that weight has again helped me out in life). He was able to do the appendectomy laparoscopically, meaning that they made three tiny incisions, and used little cameras and knives to chop out the offending organ. Indeed, I have only three sets of bandaids on my belly right now, none of which are on the right side of my belly where the appendix is located, which surprised me.

All morning long, I pretty much slept. It was fitful sleep, though, as the doctors and nurses kept coming in to check on me and my room-mate, a teenager who had suffered from a major bicycle accident and was recovering from some internal injuries, had his monitors keep beeping. It seemed he was calling the nurse ever five minutes to ask for some painkillers. I was way better off than him.

In any case, it was a weird day. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Twice I woke up and had unexpected people in the room. My good friend and new bishop showed in the morning on his way to work, and my good friend and home teacher showed up in the afternoon on his way home from work. Both visited for while, and it was wonderful having them there. The latter actually left his iPad with me and I was able to watch Iron Man.

Later that morning, I spoke with the nurse, who told me that I could be released anytime I wanted to be. This surprised me, as I was sure they were going to insist on me staying a few days. When she told me this, though, I had a new mission in life, and that was to get home where I would be far more comfortable. After some consulting with my wife, we conspired to get me out at around 5 pm, and I ended up arriving at my house at 6 pm. So, 12 hours from surgery to home. Wow, you gotta love modern medicine. The nurse said she had never seen anybody go home that quickly after an appendectomy. I was honored, but just wanted to go home.

A few difficulties I still am suffering from:

* Breathing deeply still hurts.
* Eating and drinking causes me to have trouble breathing, and especially causes trouble for me when laying down.
* Laying down hurts when I lay on my right side. I can lay on my left, and sometimes on my back, but definitely NOT on my right side.
* Urinating comes in fits and spurts, and still slightly hurts.
* I still haven't had a bowel movement, and that prospect makes me a little nervous.

Once I got home, my good friend and home teachee and one of the counselors in the Elders Quorum presidency came over and gave me a very nice blessing. I was just glad to have them there. All of these good men I appreciate and respect, and I am grateful for them.

One of the sisters who visit teaches my wife brought us some dinner, too, which we all enjoyed. I can eat pretty much anything, but my appetite is still pretty small.

I was afraid to try to lay down last night, but with the pain killers that the doctor prescribed, which I am faithfully taking ever 4 hours, I was able to lay down (on my left) and slept through the night without too much difficulty. I'm pretty tired now, though, and think I'll go take a nap. With all my guts jostled around, apparently putting everything back into place is hard work.

I'm grateful for lots of things right now. Grateful to be "fit" enough that recovery looks to be fairly straightforward. Grateful for a wife and kids who are understanding and can take care of themselves while I'm working through this. Grateful that I have a good job that is not at risk because of this and where I have sick time available and patient co-workers who will make progress even in my absence. Grateful for my good friends and neighbors, especially those in my ward, who are kind and generous and have checked in to see if there's anything they could do for us. Grateful that my appendix didn't actually burst, and that this was largely a preventative measure. Grateful that we have modern medicine that makes this largely preventative measure possible, and drugs to make the recovery bearable. And that's just the short list.

Through all of this, I managed to escape the hospital without having to give a urine sample. Can't recall ever accompanying anybody to the hospital for an admissible illness or injury where that wasn't required ...

2 comments:

Courtney said...

I'm glad to hear that things went well and you are on the road to recovery. It sounds like you guys have a great support system there -especially the neighbor who came over at the last minute.

Ash and Brent said...

Wow! Glad everything worked out.

Here's to a quick recovery.

And...you have at least three readers - Court, me and Brent. :)

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