Lately I’ve felt compelled to share my story. As this just happens to be the anniversary of my surgery, I suppose it’s appropriate! I original had the whoooooole story on here but decided that most people don’t really want to read through all of that. If you are for some reason interested in all of that, let me know and I’ll share!
The year was 2012. If you’ve read my post about IBS, you might remember some of these details, so bare with me here. I feel a little bit more background is appropriate here. Towards the beginning of the year, I got food poisoning. To this day I still cringe at the thought of hummus, and I find it funny that a couple years later, that brand was recalled for listeria. Anyway. I quickly recovered, but after that I had something weird pop up.
I started getting this random abdominal pain. It would last for a day or two and then go away. This was usually accompanied by digestive problems. (I’ve covered this in my IBS post, so I’ll spare you the detail in this one.) This would happen every couple months. I would get this pain, hurt for a couple days, and then it would go away. Every time it popped up, I would think “I should go to the doctor, because this is more than just a tummy ache.” but then it would go away so I would forget about it until the next bout.
Well this went off and on through the year. Then came one of the most stressful days of my life. I had a huge math test that I didn’t feel ready for and a huge presentation for a project that was basically the equivalent of my final. It was no wonder I woke up hurting that day. I made it through the day and then dealt with the pain. After all, it would only be around a couple days, right?
Try over a week.
About a week after this pain started, I got to enjoy a stomach bug I picked up from the kids. I kind of hoped that the bug would kind of cleanse whatever was going on with my body, but no such luck. When the bug was gone, I still hurt. Finally I had enough. On a Friday night I decided that if I wasn’t feeling better in the morning, I would go to urgent care.
Saturday morning I woke up feeling fantastic. Great! Well, that lasted a couple hours. Then the pain came back, this time more intensely and on the right side. To urgent care I went. We lived in Canyon, TX, a small town just south of Amarillo. It was maybe a 20 minute drive to urgent care, and by the time I got there, I felt okay. I briefly considered just turning around and going home. intuition told me to stay.
They did a blood test and they could see I did have some sort of infection. I laid down on the crinkly white paper and let the nurse poke my tummy. All I felt was a slight tickle as she moved around. Then she poked on the right side, and, oh man… I kind of flopped up a bit because it hurt so bad!! Imagine having a big bruise in a sensitive area, and someone just sits there and pokes it.That’s how it felt.
Well, they couldn’t tell for sure, but they were pretty sure it was my appendix. they told me I had to go to the hospital to get a CT scan to know for sure. Sigh. Okay. they gave the me results to my blood work so maybe I could get in a little faster. The urgent care I went to was affiliated with the hospital, so I kind of hoped it would be faster. Now that i got poked, I didn’t know how I couldn’t feel the pain before. I was starving, so I picked up something to eat on the way home. I needed to pack a bag, because I just knew by this point it was appendicitis and I would have to have surgery. That ended up being my last meal for a couple of days.
My husband dropped me off at the hospital around 4:30 that afternoon. I got my vitals checked, handed them the paperwork with my test results, and sat in the waiting room.
Sitting in hard plastic chairs when you have a throbbing appendix is one of the worst things I can imagine doing to a person.
I couldn’t eat or drink. Nothing was good on TV. The waiting room was loud and hectic. And this was only the beginning of one of the longest nights of my life.
A Night in the ER
Unfortunately, my previous tests did nothing. Once I finally got into a room to be checked (around 10:30 that night) I had to have another round of blood test. Once those were finally processed, the doctor ordered the CT. I got to drink the fun drink. If I wasn’t so thirsty, it would’ve been more nasty, but by that point, I was so ready for anything to drink.
If you haven’t ever spent the night in a ER, let me tell you, it’s a whole different world. As this was a Saturday night, there were things going on that probably were common on weekend nights. As a writer, lets just say I have some fun inspiration.
I got the scan done, and yes, my appendix was very swollen, so I was scheduled for surgery in the morning. This was maybe around 2:30 am? They said they were getting a real room ready for me and it wouldn’t take too long. I think they forgot about me. I didn’t get moved up until around 7 am right before shift change.
I wasn’t exactly sure when I was going in the OR because the surgeon had to do another surgery first, but I was next in line. I just new it would probably be late morning/early afternoon. I didn’t really care at that point. I just wanted this thing out of me, and I was looking forward to being put under so I could finally sleep!
I was finally brought down to the OR right around noon. I was nervous and scared because hey, I was about to be cut open. It didn’t help that the people bringing me there and getting me prepped were talking about some test they had coming up. Wait. I was going to have students cutting me open?!?!? Ah!! Whatever. Sleep. I just want some sleep. I got moved onto the cold, hard table, and waited for the knock out stuff.
The anesthesiologist called it my “pain margarita” and I thought that was kind of funny. At the same time, I had this brief thought that if I died during surgery, the last words I would remember hearing were “pain margarita”. Huh. I did the count down and was out.
When the surgeon first met with me, he explained what was going to happen. First, they were going to try to do a laparoscopic surgery. They were going to make a few tiny incisions and put a camera in there to check things out. If my appendix hadn’t ruptured, they were going to be able to just take it out that way, and I would have a fairly quick recovery. If it had ruptured, well, they would have to make a larger incision and take it out that way. It was going to be a longer, harder recovery. Oh. Okay. Let’s do the first one.
Turns out my appendix did rupture. It ruptured so bad that it also ruptured part of my colon, so they had to take out a piece of my colon too. Oh. Ouch. looks like I’m going to be here in the hospital for a while.
Oh, did I mention this was finals week? Yeah. So, on top of the stress of just having surgery and being away from my family, I had to worry about finals. I e-mailed my professors to let them know what was going on, and they were fantastic. since I wasn’t sure when I was going to be home, we decided if I could take my finals that week, great. If not, I would have to take an incomplete and take them later. I wanted to just get them over with, so I was really hoping I could take them that week. One of my finals was online, so I just took it there in the hospital. I tried studying for my other finals because they were going to be hard, but I just couldn’t do it. The pain meds made it hard to concentrate. I love reading, but I couldn’t even read for more than a few minutes. Thank goodness for YouTube.
I really hoped that after the surgery I would be able to eat and drink, but no. They had to make sure everything was working right. I guess when your appendix ruptures, they have to clean out your cavity. The moving the intestines around kind of freezes them and stopped them from working, so they had to kind of reset. The doctor told me I would know they were working when I farted. Ok. That was probably the one time in my life where I proudly announced the deed when it was done.
Okay, I’m going to try and speed through now, because I’m sure you’re getting bored with this. First I was put on an all liquid diet. I got to chow down on broth, jello, and a Popsicle. Every meal. Until I finally got out on Thursday.
To help keep me healthy, they put these massaging things on my legs so I wouldn’t develop blood clots. They got me up and moving pretty quick too, both to prevent clots and to help me get my strength back quicker. A few times a day I had to breathe into this little tube and try to get a thing up to a certain height. They did this to keep my lungs strong so I wouldn’t get pneumonia.
When I got out of the hospital, I was allowed to eat very very soft foods like yogurt, ice cream, etc. After a few days I was allowed to slowly add in more solid stuff.
I had staples holding my stomach together (which is kind of a scary thought) so I couldn’t take a bath until I got them out a few weeks later. That wasn’t really a problem, but some days, standing up in the shower was a little much just because I was tired and hurting. When I finally got them out, I felt free! It hurt a little, but it was totally worth it.
One of the hardest things about recovery was sleeping. Understandably, I was in pain, and that made it hard to sleep. But I could only sleep on my back during this time. I tend to sleep on my side, but if I was on my side, everything either squished the hurting parts or pulled. Stomach was definitely not an option. This wouldn’t have been so bad, but after a little while, I just felt like I needed to pop my back. But I couldn’t because anything I did hurt my side. After a few weeks I got to the point where I could kind of prop a pillow under my side to help give some support.
Recovery took longer than I expected. I figured after a couple weeks I’d be back to normal. No. Christmas shopping was hard that year because too long on my feet and I would get tired. It was a couple months before I felt well enough to start running again, and even then I could only got maybe 1/2 a mile before I hurt. It was a few months before I felt like I was back to full strength. Of course, I did have massive surgery. I’m sure if my appendix didn’t explode and try to kill me, I would’ve been better much sooner.
Main points here
- I didn’t have the typical symptoms. I’ve read about several other people that say the same thing. The only thing wrong is the pain. No fever, nausea, etc. This can make it a little difficult to know if you have it or not, so I’ll say this: The pain typically starts in the upper middle abdominal area and then moves to the right side. One thing most people say, and that I experienced, is that if you put pressure on the sore spot, it will hurt when you remove the pressure. That poke the nurse gave me? It hurt when she poked me, but it hurt way worse when she let go. That’s why it felt much better to lie on my stomach, it put some pressure on my appendix.
- Don’t be embarrassed by any unsavory bodily functions that may happen. Nurses are trained to deal with this. I’m sure it’s no fun for them, but they expect it.
- Speaking of bodily functions, if you wear your own clothes, you might want to wear old clothes you don’t care about. Umm, lets just say that sometimes you don’t have full control of everything, so messes happen.
- Even if you have the smaller incisions and you get out of the hospital quickly, you still had major surgery. A part of your body was removed. Take time to recover!
4 years later
And here we are today! The only long term problem I really worry about now is scar tissue. Now and then when my IBS is really bad, it really really hurts that spot where my appendix and colon was taken out. That always kind of freaks me out. But I haven’t had any other problems with it, so for now, I’m going to enjoy life!
Hopefully this helps someone out there. If you wanna chat about your experience, hit me up! Comment below and let me hear about you!