All the excitement started exactly one week ago today. A couple of hours after I got home from choir practice, my lower right abdomen suddenly started hurting. While there were some sharp pains, the overall effect was more one of major pressure. When I stood, I could barely walk to the bathroom or to bed. I assumed it was just something I'd eaten not sitting well; on rare occasions I have had similar pain, though it has never lasted more than a few hours. The pain did not go away, though, and my back and shoulders started suddenly hurting as well, making me feel both like I had just carried an elephant across the room and like my bladder and side were going to explode at any given moment. Naturally, my mind started skittering across the possibilities--appendicitis, impacted bowl, hernia, gastritis, indigestion, etc. Nothing really seemed to fit 100% though and, while uncomfortable, it had into a vague aching sensation rather than a stabbing one so I figured I'd just wait it out and see what happened. Sleeping was difficult, because any pressure on my lower stomach, especially the right side, was extremely uncomfortable.
Now I know what you're all thinking. That screams appendicitis--and so it does. Believe me, that was the thought I kept going back to again and again, even though I seemed to have few of the other symptoms. All throughout Thursday the discomfort continued as mostly a dull ache, but didn't worsen so I didn't take it very seriously. I'm the sort of person who can ignore all sorts of dull physical pain. Once I had an abcessed tooth and didn't even know it, for example. The dentist was freaked. Anyway, I also had a consistent, low-grade fever of maybe 100℉, but considering I'd had that for most of the two weeks before from my cold, it didn't seem a big deal either. The main thing was that I never had any of the nausea or vomiting normally associated with appendicitis. In fact, I had a Five Guys cheeseburger for dinner Thursday night. Hardly a typical meal for someone "sick."
|"I'll have an Intestinal Blockage with a side of fries to go..."|
Friday morning the pressure was still there, so I thought I should probably get it double-checked "just in case." These three words were to become my mantra for the next two days. Last week I had finally gotten around to making an appointment for today with a new primary care doctor since I was almost out of my blood pressure meds. I started out by calling that office to see if I could be squeezed in early to have my stomach checked out. While I waited for a callback I took a quick shower, which actually made my stomach feel better. I was only half dressed when the phone rang, so I climbed into the bed to stay warm while I answered. I was told that I couldn't see the new doctor because they "are only open till noon on Fridays" and because I wasn't an established patient yet. I had only been "approved" to become one. Whatever. I rolled over in a snit and promptly fell asleep for another 3 hours. When I awoke, I was still feeling a bit better though the pressure hadn't completely left, so I decided to wait another day. I didn't eat much on Friday because I kept feeling bloated and full. I also continued to have a temperature between 100℉ and 101℉, which I also continued largely to ignore.
I woke up around 4 am on Saturday morning with the chills and my teeth chattering a little. Since the chills weren't the worst I've ever had, I just put on an extra shirt and snuggled into the covers. Eventually I got back to sleep. I awoke again at 7, sweaty, and went to take my temperature. This time it was 102℉. Hmmm. Okay, that's a little less common. It rarely goes past 101 unless something is legitimately going on. I checked to see what time the minor med here opened (9 am) and texted my choir director to say I wouldn't be at the extra practice Saturday morning. Then I went back to sleep again. I should also point out at that, because Mother Nature hates my guts, she also gave me a little present first thing Saturday morning--because I just really needed one more special surprise on top of a Mysteriously Painful Gut (MPG).
It was a little after 11 am by the time I was up and dressed and moving enough to go the the minor med. The hubs was still in bed so I drove myself, which was probably a bad idea. I was still very anxious about what was going on, and I could not get the idea of appendicitis out of my head. In fact, when I woke up with the sweats it had been because I was dreaming about finding two swollen lumps on my right side. Why two I'll never know--apparently my fevers can't count. When I showered that morning, I deliberately shaved--"just in case." I have no idea why I was so concerned about whether or not doctors would be looking at my hairy legs and pits instead of my gut, but I shaved just the same. I also made sure I put up my daily post for NaBloPoMo early, put on one of those front-hook sports bras (easier to fasten post-op) and then I selected some sweatpants with a relatively soft waistband. Just in case. There I was, dreading surgery more than anything else since it was right before my daughter came home for Thanksgiving and I still had tons of junk to finish, and yet I was subconsciously preparing for it. Go figure.
When I got to the minor med (my first time there since we moved), I noticed signs in the windows that said "No food or drinks in the waiting room except water." I was curious, then, why there was a big honking Coke machine in the vestibule just outside the waiting room. Sure enough, every single selection was for water. Seriously? Why not just put in a big Dasani machine, then? Torturing people with a big red neon "Coke" sign is cruel and unusual punishment, in my opinion. That's just cold. Anyway, I went in, walked up to the receptionist, and told her I hadn't been there before. I foolishly assumed she would take this to mean I needed the requisite paperwork to get started. Instead, she looked at me blankly and asked, "So, did you want to see a doctor?" Well, DUH. "No, I'm sorry, I had nothing better to do on a Saturday than come to a random doctor's office and hang out quaffing water while I watch the UGA game on the big TV overhead..." Of course I want to see a doctor, you moron.
When all was said and done, I was not in the minor med very long. I liked the doctor there, though. He asked all the relevant questions, raised eyebrows at a couple of answers (I like messing with doctors--shows whether or not they have a sense of humor), then had me lie back so he could check my abdomen. He decided he was concerned that I had a fever and "rebound pain," even though "the mere mention of food should have you barfing in my face" and it wasn't. I told him that I had been hoping it was just gas and that a laxative would take care of business. He told me, "Sure, you could try that, but if it's your appendix you'd just blow it out on the pot." Thanks so much for that image, dude. Obviously he was pretty sure I had appendicitis, because he told me I would have to go to the ER to get a CT scan to confirm it since "an ultrasound won't work on you." At least that's the closest he (or anyone else during the whole thing) came to ragging me about being overweight. I can live with that.
Upon hearing this joyous news, I uttered a very bad word. It sounded a lot like "cluck." The doctor immediately responded "I know, right?" I like this guy. He suggested I go to St. Mary's Hospital because he figured it would be dead during the UGA home game, provided I got there within the hour. Afterwards, I went out to my car, sat in the parking lot, and cried for a good 10 minutes before pulling myself together enough to drive. Before I left, I texted the hubs that I was going to the ER. The response? "Ok. I'm going to get my hair cut." WTF, dude? So off I drove to the ER--still alone.
When I arrived the ER was indeed dead, at least for a while. I got checked in and was given a bracelet with a UPC on it. Every time a nurse came near me, she read my arm with the portable bar code reader and make me confirm my name and date of birth. I asked one of the nurses once how much I cost when the barcode beeped. She just looked confused. Clearly, hospitals are not in the business of FUN. Next, I was taken to a holding tank where I was given a gown to put on and allocated a bed. You gotta love those gowns. Nice and breezy, am I right? At least the nurse let me keep my underpants on. She then sucked out 4 vials of blood and left me sitting there till the doctor came by. While waiting I got to listen to several people come in, including someone hacking germs next to me and talking about vomiting. Across the way was a hysterical woman having breathing problems and screaming at the top of her lungs (with what breath, I wondered) during an apparent panic attack; she also talked about vomiting. In both cases, the other patients sounded like they were close enough to be in my lap. While I felt bad for them, their proximity wasn't exactly doing much to assuage my own fears, particularly since I'm pretty sure the fabric curtains separating us weren't exactly impervious to germs. The nurse later told me that the ER actually gets worse as the home games progress because by the time halftime rolls around people are already drunk off their asses and running into or falling off things. I spent roughly an hour this way, waiting alone in my bed while crying in paranoia (with a side of hormonally-enhanced fear), kept company only by a box of the world's worst tissues, designed to dissolve upon contact with anything resembling a liquid, and my cell phone.
|Herding people through the hospital at checkout speed.|
Eventually my wayward husband showed up--a whole ten minutes before the ER doctor. I was examined for approximately 2 minutes then informed yes, I would need a scan. Well, duh, dude. Why did you think I was here? The nurse brought me some lovely berry-flavored contrast--4 cups worth--to suck down over the next two hours. Yum. That's some good eating right there. Haven't had a crumb of food since yesterday afternoon, but now I get to spend the next 12 hours belching up berry-flavored chalk? Yuuuuum. That stuff was NASTY. During that time, I also got to toddle off to the bathroom, holding a sheet over my gaping gown, to provide a urine sample. I'll bet it smelled berry-flavored. In the meantime, I spent most of my time ruminating on the patterns in the holding tank door to keep from getting bored or more upset.
|Chalky Magnesium. It's what's for supper.|
|It's a Doorscharch test--what do YOU see??|
Two of the slowest.hours.ever later I was wheeled off to be scanned, but not before being forced to chug one last cup of berry cocktail and having some other form of contrast injected into my IV port. I was returned to the holding tank and told the results could take up to an hour. Yippee. By this time it was already around 7-8 pm, and I'd arrived at the ER around 1 pm. Spectacular. Mercifully, the results came in after only 20 minutes. The doctor told me that yes, indeedy, it was the dreaded appendicitis. I repeated my very bad word, only more loudly. The doctor responded, "That's what I said!" Okay, I like him too. (And yes, there may have been other words involved. In fact, I employed quite the string of "F" words when expressing my opinion on the upscoming surgery to my online posse.) I was still upset but I told him that if surgery had to be done, I'd rather it be done sooner than later. So off he trotted to contact the surgeon and to make arrangements for surgery later that night. Awesome. It seemed unfair that I was the first one in the holding tank and now would be the last one to leave. In fact, as the person before me was leaving, the nurse said "Happy Thanksgiving--come back and see us!" Um, scuzemewhat? You are asking people to have enough problems to require them to return to an Emergency Room? Dude, that's just messed up.
|Sounds about right.|
A short while later I was being wheeled down the hall on a stretcher while doing one last FB update from my phone. The nurse laughed at me and asked if I was addicted because apparently she is too. We stopped in the middle of the hallway next to the waiting room, where she let me finish my update then give my phone to the hubs. In Pre-Op a nurse slapped on my obligatory paper hat, took my blood pressure and then whipped out a funky-vibrator-looking thing which she then quickly ran around the side of my head from forehead to ear. Before I could stutter out the question "What the heck was that??" the nurse told me she had just taken my temperature with a "temporal thermometer" and that it was currently considered the most accurate way to measure a temperature. I gather that only the surgical suite is cool enough to have them; the mere mortals in the rest of the hospital are forced to use boring old ear thermometers. I was then told we'd have to hang out a while because the surgeon was doing the same procedure, a "lappy appy," at the other hospital in town and he had to finish up before coming over to do mine.
|"Temporal rift ahead, Cap'n--ahead Warp Fever 10!"|
After that a big guy walked in (turns out he was the anesthesiologist), looked appraisingly at me and said "Tell me something about yourself." Um, what? Context, please? "Medically, I mean." Okay, whatever, dude. "I apparently have appendicitis. I have high blood pressure. I am not happy to be here. I like long walks on the beach..." Nothing. Dry as a post. Wow. "Open your mouth." I gawped open my mouth. You could clearly see his invisible measuring tapes extend and snap back while he decided what size tube he would need to use on me. I asked if I had to be tubed because I was a singer and it would screw up my throat. The nurse then said "I thought you said you were a writer!" I told her that because I was awesome, I was just that multi-talented. More blinking. Wow, these people take themselves waaaay the heck too seriously in here. The pre-op nurse tried to comfort me by telling me what a great surgeon Dr. Shirley was, and that she'd let him do anything to her. Great. Now not only will I never be able to get "And don't call me Shirley!!" out of my head, I'll also be thinking of Leslie Nielsen having his way with this overly serious nurse. How exactly am I supposed to take seriously a guy with a name like Dr. Shirley who bandies about ridiculous nicknames for surgery like "lappy appy?" Yeah. That's gonna happen.
Because I was still pretty uptight (no doubt the hormones were helping loads) about the surgery, my BP was shooting up to like 157/99. The anesthesiologist opted to give me some weinie valium to help me chill out. At this point he finally said something comforting like "it will all be okay" and patted me on the arm. Any other time, I would likely have found this tremendously condescending; in this instance it was actually a relief because the guy had been so stiff and reactionless previously that it was just nice to see the façade give a little. After waiting a while in pre-op for the surgeon ("Paging Dr. Shirley, paging Dr. Shirley--Surely he's gotten here by now...") to finish at the other hospital, I was next taken to the ER. Dr. Jolly covered my face with a mask start gassing me, and all I can remember is being disappointed that he didn't ask me to count backwards. I also noted that the mask was uncomfortable because he had it too far up and it was poking me in the eyes. Dr. Jolly finally adjusted it down a bit farther and the next thing I remember, I was coming around in Recovery.
Stay tuned for Part II--The One With the Recovery and the Cannibalism