Friday, May 13, 2016

Emergency Appendectomy

Who would have thought that at age 51, emergency appendectomy would become a part of my vocabulary; my been-there-done-that?  I've read the stats, and this usually happens to kids between the ages of 10-19.  Seriously. 

One Sunday evening, about three weeks ago, I went to bed feeling a bit bloated and with some discomfort in my diaphragm.  I chalked it up to indigestion - we did have fried fish for dinner, after all (granted, it was fried in tallow, which is healthy and has never bothered me before).  I woke up in the night feeling nauseated, and due to mild vomiting, called in sick to work on Monday, seemingly with the stomach bug.  I wasn't terribly uncomfortable, but couldn't hold anything down.  I took a nap that evening, and when I woke, I had the most bizarre, searing pain in my lower right abdomen.  I'd never felt anything like it.  It was debilitating.

I braved through it overnight, but woke Tuesday morning crying out to God, "WHAT IS THIS?!"  The pain rivaled that of childbirth, but the contractions of childbirth ebbs and flows, peaks and then offers a reprieve.  This did not.  I was double over and it brought tears to my eyes.  I knew I had to see someone (not my norm...).

I saw my PCP, and he was not able to diagnose me.  My symptoms were atypical.  There was a possibility I had kidney stones (but could urinate without pain), there was a possibility I had appendicitis (but my symptoms did not add up, including being feverless), so doc drew blood and told me to check back with him on Thursday. (!!) Thankfully, he also provided me with pain meds. So, thereafter, I slept for 20+ hours a day - a welcome reprieve from the discomfort.

I went back to my PCP on Thursday morning and, before providing me any details, he advised me I'd be having surgery that day. What?!  Yes, my white blood count was 20,000+ and there was little doubt I had acute appendicitis, though, he scheduled me for a CT Scan to confirm.  I headed straight over to the hospital for the scan, then back to his office for the results.  Sure enough, surgery was in my immediate future.  The problem, however, was there was not a bed to be had in the entire Upper Valley (he checked all three hospitals) so suggested that I head over to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and check into the emergency room, advising that the surgery team needed to check me (he had forewarned them).  They'd have no choice but to admit me.

So, by 6:30 that evening (72 hours after the first symptoms), I was in an emergency room bed, being prepped for an emergency appendectomy.  The kind surgeons (fabulous bedside manner from all of them, despite the reputation of surgeons), informed me that their goal was to perform the appendectomy laparoscopically, but that based on my very "angry appendix," they may find I need to have a traditional incision, and it could even be as bad as having to have a stoma.  Fortunately, angry or not, my appendix was able to be removed laparoscopically.  Phew.

It went well.  And tiny laparoscopic incisions were successful.  Those tiny incisions healed swiftly and gave me no pain.  I was surprised, however, how much my insides still hurt following surgery.  Like a small war had been waged on my intestines. 

Just as my nurse was advising that I'd been discharged, my heart rate spiked to 130.  Oh, for goodness' sake.  I was merely sitting in bed discussing discharge details with my nurse.  I felt no different, yet they ordered blood work, an EKG, a CT Scan.  Everything came back normal, and while my heart rate was still elevated, all tests came back normal. I was discharged 5 hours later than expected; they wanted to keep me overnight for observation but, uh uh... I had to, wanted to, go home.  Plus, I felt fine.  Still no explanation why that happened.

There have been no episodes since (to my knowledge... really, I had no idea there was one to begin with).  And I've just been slowly healing and gaining strength.  I was provided a two-week medical leave, which I, surprisingly, needed every bit of.

While home-bound, I've realized how much I enjoy bird-watching.  I can kill hours observing the diversity of colorful birds visiting the feeders, as they strategically deal with the chipmunks and squirrels.  It's an intriguing dynamic.  Rain or shine, the birds come to feed.  I love it.

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