I’ve always been a hypochondriac.
I assume the worst. I always think my body is trying to kill me.
I also have CPD (Chronic Panic Disorder), which adds a lovely layer to the whole situation.
So, imagine my personal triumph when I woke up Saturday morning in blinding pain and later found out that I was in fact very sick.
Go me! But, ughhh, now I’m losing an organ.
Let me start from the beginning.
I woke up Saturday morning at 8am with a bad stomachache in my upper abdomen. It almost felt like really bad heartburn and felt better when I pressed on it. I tried to sleep it off, but around 11am, the pain was all over. I couldn’t take a deep breath without stabbing pain going through my body.
I sat in bed, my hands shaking, assuming I was just having a bad stomachache or maybe some gas, something simple. After sitting with Jimmy for half an hour, though,I realized it was not going away. It was getting worse.
I slowly got dressed and got in my car to drive over to the local walk-in clinic.
I insisted I go alone, despite Jimmy’s protests. This is part of my anxiety. I have crippling fear of embarrassing myself or being out of control. If I was going to throw up or double over in pain, I wanted to do it alone.
The clinic had an hour wait. I knew I couldn’t wait that long>
I drove to a nearby hospital I googled on my phone. I had to park a block away and shove open their revolving door that wasn’t working. The woman in reception was just chatting away on the phone. I felt like I was maybe going to scream or faint, but, being the “good person” I am, I waited.
“Hi, can you direct me to the Emergency Room?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t have an ER anymore.”
You can’t make this shit up.
I slowly walked back to my car, sat down, and cried.
By this point, I was pretty sure something was wrong with my appendix. The lower right side of my stomach was on fire.
Okay, let’s keep going.
I drove myself to the nearest hospital WITH A FUCKING ER and parked in the Emergency Room lot. I made it to the ER waiting room and noticed I wasn’t breathing well. I kept telling the admitting staff I was having a hard time breathing, and they were kind enough to get me through pretty quickly. I noticed at this point that I wasn’t really aware of what they were saying to me. My BP was 175/something high and my heart rate was 120.
They put me in a room in the corner of the ER and got me set up to an IV right away. My breathing started to get better (I know now it was mostly anxiety, but it helped me get in quickly). The ER nurse assessed my pain and gave me Zofram, which is for nausea. I wasn’t too nauseous, but I accepted it. I refused the morphine though. Within about 20 minutes, I noticed that the pain in my upper abdomen disappeared. I could breathe. My pulse and BP went down quite a bit.
At this point, I assumed I did just have terrible gas or inflammation.
They took blood and told me that they’d have the results in about 30 minutes. I just needed to relax until then.
Man, the ER is intense.
My room was near the hallway where people were being rushed past, and I could see all these injured and scared people. I felt so bad, especially since my pain was better now.
There was a man down the hall who sounded drunk and was yelling in between throwing up. I called him “drunk angry puking guy”.
Jimmy was on his way now. I asked him to bring headphones so I could drown out the noise.
The ER doctor came in and chatted with me. He felt my stomach and told me I was going upstairs to get an ultrasound to rule out my gallbladder and kidneys. He had an inclination that it was my appendix, though.
Really? My hypochondriac tendencies were right? That’s scary.
The ultrasound tech was so kind. I felt pretty good at this point, all things considered. I was hungry and very thirsty, and I just wanted to know what was wrong. She rubbed warm jelly on my belly while I made very nervous small talk.
“So how long have you worked here?”
“Aww, do you get to see pregnant women and see the babies?”
“This is a nice room. I could relax in here.”
To her credit, she answered all of my questions. She ruled out my gallbladder and said I’d need a CT scan for my appendix.
“Although,” she said, “You’re skinny. I can probably see your appendix pretty easily.”
She pushed down and I yelped. I’ve never yelped before.
“Okay, that might answer that,” she said kindly and apologized as she did it again. She called in a doctor, who looked and said the same thing.
“Oh, wow, I didn’t really expect that! So do they do a round of antibiotics, or-”
“No, they have to remove it.”
OH CRAP SURGERY
They wheeled me back down to the ER, where Jimmy was patiently waiting for me in my makeshift room. He brought my stuffed bunnies, my book, and my headphones.
I told him I would likely need surgery, and he told me he wouldn’t leave until I was on my way to the operating room.
The ER doctor said I didn’t need a CT scan after all (despite me having to drink half of the Tang-esque drink needed for the scan. It was gross, and Jimmy and I couldn’t stop laughing at the whole situation. There’s always humor!)
I would be having surgery in a few hours.
They wheeled me out of my ER room so someone else could have it and left me in the hallway. They then put me in what I can only describe as a storage room and said I’d be getting a room upstairs very shortly. I watched Antiques Roadshow and texted my mom. I didn’t want her to come all the way out yet, especially if I was just going to go straight to surgery.
I can’t overemphasize how awesome the hospital staff was. When they took me upstairs, the nurse/orderly who was pushing my bed ran down a ramp with me so I could throw my arms up and yell “whee!”
They started me on some antibiotics and said I’d still be a few hours away from surgery. For some reason, I wasn’t anxious at all. I had my husband, a nice hospital room (NO ROOMMATES), and Sister Act was on TV. I think the idea of surgery hadn’t fully sunk in yet.
I was so thirsty, but I couldn’t have any water or ice chips. My lips were insanely chapped, but I didn’t have any chapstick. These are the problems I was concerned with.
Around 7pm (although time was going pretty quickly for me, as I was more relaxed at this point and pretty exhausted), my transport guy said we were off to surgery. I suddenly lost feeling in my hands and broke out in a sweat. I started to cry a little as Jimmy gave me a big kiss and said he’d be waiting for me as soon as I was done. I didn’t have my glasses on, so everything was a bit blurry as I was rolled off to the recovery room of the OR.
I was shaking. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt a little embarrassed, to be honest.
I will never forget the OR nurse who took care of me. She was in her mid-late 50s with kind eyes and a very sweet, soothing voice. She introduced herself as “Dr. Feelgood” with a smile (not her name, but it made me giggle), and she pulled out some petroleum from her fanny pack and rubbed it on my lips. I was so incredibly grateful for her. She had an assistant who was closer to my age who was just as kind.
They kept me calm and collected while we waited for the surgeon. They told me he had a bunch of tattoos and was really awesome. Indeed he was. He talked to me for a while about comic books and sci-fi video games.
They wheeled me down the hallway and talked me through everything I would go through. The surgeon said the surgery wouldn’t take longer than about 15 minutes(!!), and I would wake up from anesthesia right back with my nurses in the recovery room.
I was terrified of the anesthesia and the possible side effects. “Dr. Feelgood” put a patch behind my ear that she said would help eliminate any potential dizziness or nausea.
They took me to the operating room, which was smaller than I expected. I carefully rolled onto the operating table as they gently strapped my arms down.
“Oh, why do you do that?” I asked.
“Just to make sure-”
I don’t remember anything after that. At all. I’m kind of fascinated that I just went under that quickly.
I woke up coughing (damn my lingering cold!), slightly unconvinced I’d actually had the surgery. I didn’t feel woozy or dizzy or nauseous. I felt like I did when I was in preschool and we’d have naptime.
The nurses checked my vitals and held me in recovery for an hour to make sure I was okay. I remember feeling guilty on the way to surgery because there was a woman next to me who’d been waiting and was going after me. The younger nurse laughed at me and said “Only women would feel guilty about getting major surgery before someone else!” I had to giggle at that. When I woke up, she was on her way to surgery, which made me feel much better.
My heart rate was pretty high, and I willed myself to calm down so I could get back to my room quicker. By the time they took me back down, it was almost 10pm. I’d been able to call my mom and Jimmy in the recovery room, so they knew I was okay. I didn’t even experience any pain until they had me stand up from the OR bed and walk to my regular hospital bed.
It felt like someone had punched me in the gut and sewn all my skin tight. owowow.
Jimmy left not too long after, because I was ready to sleep.
I have to say, despite maybe getting two hours of sleep Saturday night/Sunday morning, I wasn’t very nervous about being in the hospital alone. I was able to get up to use the bathroom (with the help of the night nurses), and when I slept, I slept hard.
The worst part was when I woke up around 2am, drenched in sweat. I was wearing my hospital gown and underwear, and I felt like I’d been swimming. The spongy pillows and bed were drenched, and I felt really uncomfortable. I buzzed the nurses and asked if I could sit in a chair for a while to cool down. I had a fever of 100.4, which isn’t bad, but it was definitely affecting me. I took off my gown and put on my bra and sweatpants, brushed my teeth, and washed my face with cool water. I sat up and read my book, watching Zoolander, until about 4am. I went back to sleep for about an hour or so and was up for the rest of the morning.
They discharged me around 10:30 Sunday morning. I felt so bad, because I had to call Jimmy and wake him up to come meet me at the hospital. I wouldn’t have had to if he hadn’t taken my shoes home with him 🙂
I got home and passed out for about 4 hours. When I woke up, my shoulder was in crippling pain, I mean, worse pain than my stomach.
Fun fact: If you have laparoscopic surgery, they pump your body full of gas in order to inflate your stomach for easier access. That gas doesn’t just leave your body in the obvious way; it goes up through your spinal cord and can cause immense pain in your shoulder and neck. Sounds like science fiction, but it’s completely true.
Sunday night, I didn’t want to eat much. I felt woozy/dizzy and lightheaded. I took the patch off from behind my ear and just tried to take deep breaths and drink ice water.
Yesterday was fine, more or less. I wasn’t woozy, but I was really jittery. I felt like I’d had a dozen coffees. Again, I was able to keep myself calm and just breathe in and out, knowing that everything I felt was normal. I emailed my surgeon (I love that I can do that instead of calling and leaving a voicemail), and he said I sound like I’m doing very well.
So here I am, sans appendix, feeling insanely proud of how well I’m handling this. If I’d had to have this done two years ago, I may not have even gone to the hospital to begin with and could have been in a very dangerous situation.
Before my surgery, in the OR, I quietly spoke to Grammy.
“If you can just help me get through this, I know I can handle the rest.”
The woman had over 38 surgeries in her life, many of them life-saving and had a very long recovery time. I took deep breaths and channeled her as I let my body do the rest.
So thank you, Grammy. You did help me.
Thank you, Jimmy. You were there to laugh with me.
Thank you, Mom. You checked up on me every hour, almost to the point of being obnoxious. 🙂
Thank you, friends and family. You sent me happy thoughts.