Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bye bye, appendix!

Wednesday started out like any other day. I did have a doctor's appointment in the morning--completely routine--so rather than pack my lunch I decided I would go out. The morning at work was normal, if a little slow. I booked a hotel for my upcoming trip to Atlanta that I'd been planning for myself and my mom. At lunch I went out for Subway since they recently announced the "ANY footlong for $5" promotion. If you know me, you know that I am a sub snob. Jersey Mike's is the only way to go, but lacking that, Quizno's is an unfortunate but acceptable substitute. Subway, however, is so inferior as to be laughable. Most people think I'm crazy, but there are a couple of girls at work who are on the same page as me. When they heard I went to Subway, they stuck a post it on my monitor that said, "Traitor!" It was a good chuckle. Well a couple hours after I'd eaten, my stomach hurt, so I Skyped them, "That Subway is coming back to haunt me," or something like that, and they both said I deserved it, ha ha. The rest of the afternoon I had a stomach ache but I figured it was just indigestion and would go away.

I got home from work and did not feel any better. The pain had migrated and was now mostly in my lower right abdomen...right where the appendix is. I was considering going to urgent care but it was right before 8pm and the ones near me all close at 8. So I looked up the symptoms of appendicitis and decided I should probably go to the ER. I live right down the road from Wake Med North, so I got in the car and went. The whole time I kept thinking to myself that I was probably overreacting and they were going to tell me I have gas and go home. As I got deeper and deeper into the process--questions in triage, sent to a room, put on a hospital gown, get an IV!--I thought gosh, won't I feel dumb when it turns out I just have gas. Then the doctor came in and did an exam and told me my white cell count was 18--it's supposed to be around 10. So that was a sign that my body was fighting something. He said I should get a CT scan. Well now we're talking expensive stuff and I'm thinking it will be such a waste when they tell me I just have gas. At this point I am constantly touching my abdomen to make sure it still hurts because wouldn't it just be perfect if it started to get better on its own and I had gone to all this trouble for nothing.

I decided (with my dad's advice) to do the CT scan with contrast because it had a better chance of picking up my appendix. The appendix is itty bitty, of course, and a CT is just a fancy Xray, which is meant to pick up bone, not tissue. So the contrast would help it stand out. I had to drink 32 oz. of apple juice with tasteless contrast in it. Ninety minutes later I was lying on a very narrow platform going through the middle of a big machine shaped like a circle. They injected more contrast through my IV and it made me feel all hot from head to toe. Weird! It's amazing how fast stuff circulates through your veins. The pictures were taken pretty quickly and it wasn't a big deal. An hour later I got the results: the appendix doesn't look like it has full-on appendicitis, but it's not normal either. Oh, and guess what, we found an ovarian cyst too. So they decided to transfer me to the main Wake Med location on New Bern Ave. about 20 minutes away. Apparently the north campus doesn't do even simple surgeries like an appendectomy. At this point I'm thinking geez, now an ambulance is involved and if this all turns out to be gas I'm going to feel like a major idiot. Yes, at this point I am still thinking I'm being dramatic. I thought for sure they would go to take out the appendix and it would be perfectly normal. But I kept all these doubts to myself and just went along with everything. I hadn't been in the hospital since I was three going on four, and my adult experience was limited to the NBC show ER, and Grey's Anatomy.

The ambulance ride was bumpy in parts, which was painful. I was actually transported with another patient, which surprised me. I didn't know you could fit two people in an ambulance. The old man went in the normal way, through the back, and then I went in on the side and laid perpendicular to him. The EMS guys were very nice. They were big and strong and handsome and even though I only saw them a short time I had a little crush on them. :)

At this point it is 4am Thursday morning--I had checked in around 8:30 pm the night before. A female doctor came to see me and said that they were going to probably just observe me and see where I was the next morning. Perhaps do a repeat CT scan, but if I was feeling better, they would just send me home. Then not more than 30 minutes later, another doctor came in, a male surgeon, and he said they are just going to go in and get my appendix. So ok, I go from observation to "let's rip it out!" in 30 min. Whatever. As far as the ovarian cyst, he said they would have an ob/gyn check it out while they were "in there" to see if it needed to be removed.

I laid in the ER at the new hospital until I was taken to surgery. They kept telling me my room was going to be ready soon, it just needed to be cleaned, but no dice. I managed to sleep from about 5am to 7am, which was good. I signed a consent form for the appendectomy--to be done laparoscopically unless there were complications that required them to open me up. A short time later they came in to amend the consent form to include the ovarian cyst part, and at this point I was told that if there were complications with that, they may have to remove the whole ovary! Okay, this is getting out of hand, people! But I was just rolling with the punches.

Around 8:30 security came in and took all my stuff--phone, book, purse, and most devastatingly, my glasses--and wheeled me up to pre-op. I hated being blind! My parents were on their way but I'd been told my surgery wouldn't be till 9 or 10 so they hadn't arrived yet. In pre-op they put "leg squeezers" on me, which basically do exactly that--squeeze your calves by pumping air into the sleeve and then releasing it--so as to improve circulation and prevent blood clots. I found them delightful and wish I could have taken them home! The anesthesiologist came in and asked me a bunch of questions--many of which I'd answered 100 times already--and was going to put me under but then at the last minute the ob/gyn came over and said he wanted to do an ultrasound to get a better idea of where the cyst was because the CT scan wasn't very clear. The pictures they printed looked exactly like the kind pregnant women get but instead of a fetus, mine showed a big white blob. It looked huge but the doctor said it was only 2cm. And to see the picture, I had to hold it about 2 inches from my nose! Nice.

At this point my parents arrived and I can't even tell you how good it felt when I heard my mom call my name (I was hidden behind curtains). Until this point I had been all alone--entirely by choice, but I didn't realize how alone I'd felt until they got there. When I first went to the ER, I thought about calling them but didn't want to worry them because, of course, it was going to turn out to be just gas. Then when I got the CT scan it was 1 in the morning and I didn't want them to have to drive all that way at such an ungodly hour. But I sure was glad to see them! The anesthesiologist gave me something "to relax me" and I think the last thing I remember is seeing lights in the OR, but it is just a split second memory. I was totally out and didn't wake up until I heard someone say, "You're out of surgery Melissa and it went very well." I was dying to know how bad my appendix was and if I still had my ovary but I just laid there quietly--not in a display of restraint, mind you, more because I was totally out of it!

Eventually I was wheeled into my room and saw my parents. They told me that the doctor had told them it was acute appendicitis and definitely needed to be removed. And no, they didn't have to take my ovary. Yay! I was not only vindicated, but I was also still fertile! I continually denied pain medication because I really wasn't in much pain. From the moment I checked in to the ER until I left, they were constantly asking me to rate my pain on a scale of 1-10 and I kept saying 1 because it wasn't all that bad. Now prior to the appendectomy, if I moved, or pressed my belly, it would go to a 5, but just lying down I was fine. Even after surgery I didn't have any pain meds. My massage therapist tells me I have an incredibly high pain threshold because no one can take the amount of pressure I like, so I guess she's right.

So at this point I think it's about 3 pm maybe when I got back to my room. My mom told me that Taylor and Sy came from work and brought me flowers and a card. That was so sweet and thoughtful!

They also brought word that Kim and Susan would be bringing my laptop by that evening. I was excited to hear this because there's no better way to pass the time than surfing the web! I was delivered a gourmet dinner of chicken broth, jello, and apple juice but I wasn't super hungry anyway. Apparently when they do a laparoscopic surgery they fill your body cavity full of C02...and then don't squeeze it out so when they sew you up you are like a giant balloon. It's oh so comfortable. They said the best way to get the gas to reabsorb is to walk but I wasn't ready for that yet.

I think my parents stayed until like 5 pm. After they left I watched TV and dozed a little until Kim and Susan came, along with Rebekah. They provided some very welcome comic relief. While they were there a nurse came to take my vitals (for the 1,000th time) and the blood pressure machine makes a funny beeping noise when it's done. Kim said I must have won a prize! Susan said it sounded like ski ball so my prize was probably just a string of tickets! It was so nice of them to come by and cheer me up. They stayed over an hour, past visiting hours even, and when they left I watched Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice. The nurse who came by to--you guessed it--take my vitals again said that everyone was watching the same show! After the show was over, I got up and walked the hallway a little bit. I had to drag my IV pole around with me which wasn't such a big deal but it was a pain when you had to go to the bathroom. You take for granted just getting up and going. You also take for granted being able to bend your arm! I was so happy when they took the IV out finally so that I could bend both my arms. You try tying a hospital gown in the back with one arm you can't bend. Ha.

So I slept from about midnight until 6 am, and then went online. I think that's when I posted to Facebook. Breakfast came around 8:30 and I was happy to see I got solid foods: a scrambled egg, grits (hey, this is The South) and a biscuit.

Around 10 they got my discharge papers ready and I got dressed. My pants wouldn't button and zip because I was full of air, but my sweater was long enough to cover it mostly. I called my parents to come pick me up, and after stopping to get my car which was still at the original hospital, I was back at home sweet home by noon. I had some chicken soup for lunch then watched Lost and American Idol, then went upstairs to sleep for about nine hours. I had "dinner" at like 2 am, and went back to bed for another 4 hours. Around 9 I finally took my first shower in 4 days, which felt wonderful. I still haven't taken any pain meds and the only area that hurts is the lowest incision. I have three tiny ones: one by my belly button, one about four inches to the right, and one really low about four inches to the left and below the belly button one. That's the one that hurts when I cough or blow my nose. I have to go in for a follow up appointment in two weeks and should hear before then if the cyst they removed is benign. 90% of this type are so I'm not too worried.

Well, that's the big excitement in my life lately. I'm curious to see how much I will end up having to pay after insurance. I haven't decided if I'm going to postpone Atlanta or not. I'm going to wait and see how I feel on Monday. Today I'm going to the mall to do some walking in hopes of getting rid of some of this bloating. I hope I didn't go into too much boring detail for you, my dear readers. There is so much more I could have added, like how there was a criminal with a police guard in pre-op with me, as well as a Downs syndrome girl. And how the nurses at the first hospital were so incredibly nice and friendly. The second hospital had good nurses too, but they were much busier. And how the slippers they give you as a patient are actually quite comfy, but the blanket on the bed is like a bad hotel towel. Okay, I'm done now.

Oh, except for one thing: I'm never eating Subway again.

1 comment:

  1. hi there!

    I happened to just had my appendix removed just a week ago. I was just browsing blogs to see if i could find anyone who had theirs remove ..well..kinda like comparing notes :P

    guess what..they kinda found a cyst in me too.. but i haven't got that checked yet..will see the gyne.soon.

    Hope ur feeling better already!