As many of you know, I’ve spent the last several weeks battling an exploded, nasty appendicitis attack. I came to a slew of emails and messages (for which I am grateful) asking, “What the hell happened??” so I decided to write about it. (Ranking second only to “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” photos, but you asked.)
I’d been having stomach pains the week prior to the Big Event, but none of my self-diagnoses turned out to be the problem. (Never trust Wikipedia with your health care.) Hubs wanted me to go to the ER, but seriously? Who goes to the ER for stomach flu? So we waited for my internal storm to pass. It didn’t.
Four days later, I woke up doubled over, with intense, debilitating pain that had me on my knees. Hubs scooped me out of bed, stuffed me into the front seat of his truck, and tore down to the hospital ER. The doc determined quickly that it was probably appendicitis, and the next thing I knew, I was being wheeled down the hall for the first of four CT scans. Well, crap.
The doc told us that the scan revealed a severely burst and pissed off appendix, and because I delayed coming in, it had gotten septic and run rampant throughout my abdomen. They needed to go in right away, and they were going to “try” (try??) to get it out, but it was such a mess, they weren’t sure if that was possible. Yeah. because that’s what you want to hear while the anesthesiologist is masking you up.
Five and a half hours later, I’m dopey-stupid and sleepy in Recovery, while Doc talked to Hubs. I heard snippets like “dangerous and difficult surgery,” “if you’d waited one more day day, she wouldn’t have made it,” and “not out of the woods yet.” I. Don’t. Think. So. I am woman. I am strong. I am healthy. Stand back and see how its done. After a week, dazzled with my ability to bounce back so quickly, they said I could go home and finish recuperating. We packed up my jammies, my new purple walker, half a dozen prescriptions, a list of exercises, and left with high hopes.
Then things got real.
I was not getting better. I was getting worse. The pain and frustration of being bedridden had me in tears all day long. Hubs refused to leave my side, staying home to help me sit, stand, or put on a clean t-shirt. Nothing was working. He cooked all my favorite meals, but my appetite was nonexistent, and I was rapidly dropping weight, leaving me with zero energy to do anything.
After two weeks of trying everything he could think of, Hubs announced that we were going back to the ER, and it was not an option. An hour later, I was strapped to an ambulance gurney with two 22-year-old pups I’d never met, going to Portland for specialists who were trained to “perform surgery at this level. ” Okay, now I was freaking.
At the ER at Portland, another CT scan showed a raging infection throughout my abdomen that was life-threatening. My weight had dropped from 120 to 99 pounds. (I looked disturbingly like a hairless cat.) Hubs was beside himself because they kept referring to him as my “next of kin.” I’ve never been so scared in my life.
This is the time you start sleeping with one eye open. I just knew that if I ever actually fell asleep, I’d never wake up.
Good news: Back upstairs to a second ER, the docs found what we all hope will be the magic bullet. Bad news: No going home to recuperate for you, Missy. They released me to an in-patient nursing care facility for the next two weeks. Fourteen long days of rest, interspersed with daily physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and of course, the requisite horse-pill antibiotics that that would cure a bull moose of pneumonia. As for sleep? You’d sleep better on a cot in the middle of a Las Vegas casino. The constant carts, with their squeaky wheels, going back and forth down the halls, the chatty night aides standing outside your door arguing about their job descriptions and who has to clean up old lady Zelda’s unfortunate bout of gastrointestinal distress, and my personal favorite, the med aide who comes into your room at 3 a.m. with pills for everybody, and turns on the lights. But time went by and finally, I was cleared to leave.
Now I’m home, with another two weeks of therapies, drugs, and lots of sleep (I’m learning to love naps). I’m also on a once-in-a-lifetime weight gain program. I’m positively giddy about all those yummy, fattening things I didn’t eat before because they’re…well, too fattening. I told Hubs to go to the store, go up and down every aisle, and whenever he saw something he knows I like, but rarely eat due to the ridiculous calories, put that in the cart. It almost makes it all worthwhile. (Don’t judge…I’m shallow.)
In other good news, my seemingly endless hours in the hospital and nursing facility (docs call it “Extreme Boredom Therapy”) weren’t wasted. The writer in me looked at everything going on with “I’ve got to write about that.” A few truisms about hospital stays:
- Know how to find your happy place. We teach our toddlers how to “self-soothe.” But do you know how to do it? You need to be able to calm yourself down, because even your most devoted family and friends will eventually get tired of your whining.
- Take whatever wins you can get. Walked the complete hallway that morning? Ate your entire dinner? Finally peed? Yay you!
- Ask for help. My roommate was an elderly woman who had several medical issues, but she “didn’t want to bother anybody.” So she’d lie in her bed, moaning, in pain. I kept telling her, “Push the white button. The call button. Push the damn button.” She got it. By day three, the staff wanted to have me shot.
- If there are 200 people working at the facility, 198 of them will see your junk. And neither of you will care. (Hubs has never seen me pee. Not once in 18 years. Now he’s a black belt in pee pans, and can change out a bed pan in 10 seconds flat. Yet, the romance lives on.)
- It’s okay to be scared. You’d be an idiot not to be. When docs start tossing around phrases like “You should have died,” and “You’re on our Miracle Wall where we show photos of patients who beat the odds,” it’s natural and normal to freak the hell out.
- When the doc says “This might be a little uncomfortable,” ask for a shot of Patron and a piece of leather to bite down on, because it’s going to send you screaming for your mama.
- There’s always somebody worse off than you. Go help them. Sometimes we forget that the world doesn’t revolve around us. (Bahahahaha.) Helping someone else is great for getting out of your own head and gaining some perspective.
- Never, ever give up.