My Appendectomy

By Deane Barker tags: me, health-care

I had lunch yesterday about noon. Somewhere around 2 p.m., I started to get intense abdominal pain – it was a burning/pressure-type pain high in my abdomen, just under my sternum.

Eight hours later, I was on an operating table getting my appendix removed.

About ten hours after that, I sit here, in my recliner in my own bedroom, writing about it.

The pain caused me to leave work early. It felt exactly like the pain I had when my gallbladder ruptured 12 years prior. I spent six days in the hospital for that.

I had planned to drive home and lay down, but the pain got more intense on the way home, so I drove right past my house and to the Acute Care clinic down the street. They took blood, urine, and X-rays. Additionally, they gave me a shot of Torodol (an anti-inflammatory), which took all the pain away, just like it had 12 years before with my gallbladder.

Everything came back normal, except the blood test. My white blood cell count was elevated. So, the doctor said, given the positive response to Torodol and the white cell count, he knew there was something going on, but they couldn’t diagnose it at the clinic. He sent me to the ER for a CT scan.

I drove myself to Sanford Hospital. They did the CT, and they noticed the appendix right away. They called a surgeon down to take a look. He felt that the appendix did look big, but I had no other consistent symptoms of appendicitis – no fever, no pain in the lower right quadrant, etc. My pain was in the wrong spot, and I just wasn’t systemically sick, like I would be if I was incubating a raging infection.

Later, I got some pain in the correct spot. The Torodol had been masking the pain there, it turned out. When the dosage started to wear off, the surgeon pressed on my lower right abdominal quadrant and I about jumped off the table.

At this point, the doctor told me he wanted to operate. I was a little concerned, because I was being counseled by a surgeon to have surgery. I feared that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And up until my pain moved to the right spot, the surgeon and his assistant were fairly conflicted about the problem, so it didn’t seem like a slam dunk to me. All I could think about was that I had to be Chicago for a critical meeting in a week.

It took them about 15 minutes of debate and horror stories to talk me into it.

Things started happening quickly. The nurse gave me a shot of Phentynal through an IV, which got me stoned out of my mind in about 10 seconds. I called Annie to tell her – she was about to leave the house and come down, but with two girls sleeping and Alec on his way home from a church missions trip that night, I told her not to worry about it. Stay with the girls. I sent a text to my business partner, just in case things went bad enough to keep me out of the office. Sending the text was hard – the room was spinning, by this point.

They collected me from the ER on a bed, and things got really fuzzy from there. I remember going up to the Sanford Surgical Tower. I remember the operating room, and me asking someone to pray with me. One of the people in the OR crouched down by my ear and said a prayer for me – I remember him asking for “steady hands.”

Then I woke up in recovery.

Coming out from a general anesthetic is a nightmare. I tend to get nauseous, so they give me Zophran and Compazine, which just makes the drowsiness worse. It was about 1:00 a.m. at this point, and I was fading in and out.

I heard Annie’s voice. I asked about the girls and Alec, and she told me the one of our babysitters from the across the street was staying at the house while the girls slept. I reminded her that I told her not to come down. She smiled and said, softly, “You’re not the boss of me.” Annie was apparently there for four hours. I remember about 30 seconds of it.

I don’t remember going to my room, but I remember drifting in and out. Hospitals are ridiculous places to try and sleep. I had a blood pressure cuff that kept inflating every five minutes, and I had other cuffs on my lower legs that would inflate randomly to apparently stave off blood clots.

By 5 a.m., I was clear-headed and awake for good. I managed to get out of bed and sit on the couch in my room. I looked at the damage – they had shaved me bare all the way up to my chest, and I had three incisions about one centimeter long each – one inside my belly-button, one about an inch below, and another about an inch below that. There were no stitches – they had super-glued me shut. I had no pain whatsoever.

I had a breakfast of oatmeal, toast, and yogurt – as bland as possible. The hospital had Lodgenet (those TV systems you find in hotels), so I watched two movies: “Yes Man” (funny, but about as deep as a rain puddle) and “Quantum of Solace” (for the fourth time). During this time, the nurses were in and out with completely random requests, it seems: Blood pressure one minute, blood sample the next, then a respiratory test that someone forgot to tell someone else about, etc.

The physicians assistant I saw the night before came by late in the morning and told me I could go home. She said they made the right call – my appendix was inflamed and would have burst within a few days. (The surgeon had told Annie the same thing while I was in recovery, eight hours prior.) She claimed I was all fixed, and I just needed to drop by their office in two weeks for a quick checkup to make sure everything healed fine.

I got dressed, had the IV removed, signed some papers, and walked out the same way I came in – through the ER and to the parking lot. I got in my car and drove home.

When I got home, the girls had just just woken up. Isabella didn’t even know anything had happened – I had to explain it to her and show her the scars.

The whole thing was surreal. Modern medicine has come a long way. I can’t lift anything heavy for two weeks, and my diet has to be “bland and mushy” for a few days, but that’s it. I had invasive surgery less than 12 hours ago, and you wouldn’t know it unless you read this blog post.

This is item #85 in a sequence of 113 items.

You can use your left/right arrow keys to navigate