My Easter Appendectomy

by - Monday, May 06, 2019

On Easter, I had an emergency appendectomy.

I had started experiencing horrible stomach pain around 10 p.m. Saturday evening. I was hoping it was just from eating too much at our early Easter celebration and that the pain would pass in the morning.

The last photo of me while I still had an appendix.

But at 2 a.m. I still hadn't been able to fall asleep, and Dr. Google had diagnosed me with appendicitis. I woke up my mom because I was a little freaked out and in a ton of pain.

We thought about leaving for the ER right at the moment, but I also was also still thinking/hoping that the pain could be a really bad case of indigestion. I decided I wanted to wait until the morning to see if I was feeling any better.

I must have dozed off at some point because I remember waking up at 5 a.m. still in a ton of pain. I tossed and turned for a bit, debating what to do. But then eventually I walked downstairs and told my dad I needed to go the hospital.

I was definitely not just having bad indigestion.

For a variety of reasons, the biggest one being that I wanted to make sure my insurance would cover whatever ended up happening, I wanted to go to a hospital in the DC area. So even though I was back home in PA, my mom drove me down to DC.

The first hour and half of that car ride was miserable. I was in so much pain and I was also just kind of emotionally a mess. I was freaked out and hurting and worried about what was happening inside of me.

I was really glad my mom was with me.

By hour two, oddly enough, some of the pain had started to fade. I was able to catch my breath a bit, and started to wonder if maybe I just had the world's worst stomachache. Truly, the pain dissipated so much that I was questioning whether or not I should even bother going to the hospital.

Ultimately I decided to go, considering I made my mom drive my car all the way down to DC for no reason other than that.

We checked in to the ER, and I think I waited about 45 minutes to an hour before I was called back for my vitals, blood work and a quick exam by the physician's assistant on duty.


Bless the poor man who had to do my blood work. I explained that needles make me pass out and that I should be laying down to avoid that. Unfortunately there was no where for me to lay down in his little blood-drawing room. He did his best to keep me talking, but when I saw him leaving the IV line in my arm, I was not a happy camper and I peppered him with questions about why he had to leave that in my arm, how long it would be there and wasn't there some other option.

He was a good sport and jokingly told me he couldn't tell me how long it would be in, but that he promised it would come out before I left the hospital.

Unfortunately that was when I got super woozy and started seeing stars, and he got someone to quickly show me to a bed so I could lie down. I spent a lot of time hanging out in that bed waiting with my mom for the lab results to come back.

But bad news for me -- one of the vials of blood was messed up so they needed to take more! Luckily the ER nurse was able to get it out of the IV line, so she didn't have to stick me again.

After a couple of hours of waiting the results were back and they showed an elevated white blood cell count. That indicated I had some sort of an infection.

The ER doctor wanted to send me for a CT scan to determine whether or not I had appendicitis. After a bunch of back and worth with my insurance company to get the CT scan approved (the U.S. medical system is crap), we finally maybe had conditional approval.

I got to drink this massive concoction of cranberry juice and contrast dye so that the CT scan would light up my appendix.


I sucked it down as quickly as I could, and honestly the cranberry juice did a decent job of masking the taste of the dye.

After waiting another two hours, I was wheeled off for the scan. They injected me with even more dye (at this point, I was starting to be grateful for that IV line...), took some pictures and sent me back to the ER to wait for the results.

After maybe another hour the ER doctor came back and gave me the news, I needed my appendix out, ASAP. He was sending the surgeon to see me and in the meantime, the ER nurse was going to start prepping me for surgery.

That meant I had the pleasure of getting another IV line stuck in my other arm -- at least I was laying down for this one. I got to change in to a fancy surgery gown and fill out some paperwork.

I also cried -- a lot. I've never had surgery before and even though I knew there was a chance that could be how things ended up, I had been really hoping that wasn't going to be the outcome. As someone who is completely petrified of needles, the thought of being knocked out and cut open was not sitting well with me.

Both my surgeon and anesthesiologist were wonderfully friendly and kind. They explained what was going to happen, let me ask a million questions, and did their best to put me at ease about the whole thing.

By the time they wheeled me in to the operating room, they'd already started administering one of the medicines that would knock me out. I don't know what it was but it made me feel very relaxed, which is what the doctors said would happen.

The last thing I remember before waking up in the recovery room, was the doctor putting an oxygen mask over my mouth and nose and telling me to take some deep breaths. I took two, and then the next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room and it was 9:20 p.m.

The surgery lasted less than 20 minutes. The surgeon told my mom it went incredibly well and very fast. But that my appendix had started to leak nastiness in to my abdomen. That meant that while I was in the hospital, I was on a steady flow of drip antibiotics, and when I went home I had to take some pretty strong pills to help kill off any remaining bacteria and prevent further infections.

I was eventually wheeled off to my own room for the night where I was cared for by the kindest and most helpful nurse I've ever met. I was obviously still very loopy, but she took her time explaining things to me and my mom. She consistently made sure I had a ton of water -- I was sucking down everything in the cup so quickly that she eventually just filled a pitcher and stuck a straw in it. And she made sure that I had the right amount of pain medication.

Moving at all for me was incredibly painful. Even though I had laparoscopic surgery, I still had three small incisions through my abdominal muscles. I never realized just how much those muscles are involved in every little movement until every little movement hurt. I couldn't twist, sit up, stand up, lie back down, or walk without a ton of pain.

I managed to sleep a little bit that first night in the hospital in between visits from my nurse. But I was pretty much up for good by her 5 a.m. visit. She asked if I needed more painkillers at that time and I said no. In hindsight that was dumb because at 6 a.m. when she came back my pain had kicked up a whole bunch.

Hospital breakfast.

After some successful bathroom trips, I was instructed to walk up and down the hallways in the hospital to keep blood circulating to my legs. The surgical PA stopped by to see me in the morning and seemed happy with how I was doing. The surgeon stopped by a little bit later on, and told me I'd be discharged after lunch.

Initially I was nervous about going home since I had such wonderful help and care while in the hospital, but by the time we were finally discharged at 3:30 p.m. I was so ready to get out of the hospital and get home.

My fiance drove me home and my mom ran to CVS to fill my prescriptions. I then proceeded to spend the next several days doing nothing but laying on the sofa trying my hardest not to use my abs. By day three or four, I was able to stop taking the opioid painkillers and could manage the pain on just prescription strength ibuprofen.

My mom stayed with us through Wednesday, and by Thursday, I could at least get from laying to sitting to standing on my own. And in keeping with the nurses' directions to keep walking in little bits, I'd successfully walked around my block twice with my mom.

This is my new appendix courtesy of my friends

I'm now two weeks post-surgery and I'm in much better shape than I was that first week. There are still movements and motions that hurt. I can't stretch my arms over my head without feeling a painful pulling through my abs. I can't lift heavy things, and I get extremely fatigued easily.

At my follow-up appointment the surgeon said the fatigue could last up to two months, but because I'm young and in good shape, he guessed it would probably only be a month to six weeks for me. He told me at the three week mark, I could start to resume some physical activity, if I feel up to it. I'm hoping I will. And he said that by six weeks my incisions should be completely healed and almost not noticeable. That's basically just in time for my wedding and our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic.

And so, that's where things are. I'm down an organ, recovery was rough in the beginning, but is going OK now, and I'm looking forward to being able to resume regular activity soon.

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  1. Wow, you really made it a long time before having your first surgery! It is a pretty scary process if you're scared of needles and haven't been through it before. I had a robotic laparoscopic surgery last year and was surprised how little scarring was left. Situational fears and recovery time aside, you can now focus on remembering that you came through a traumatic situation with a new outlook and gained perspective on life. You're stronger than you thought you were!

  2. So glad you're ok and on the mend!