Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Appendectomy, Piece of Cake

Please see my previous 2 posts for the beginning of this story.

I woke up with oxygen in my nose and I was shivering.  Shivering uncontrollably!  The nurse tells me to concentrate on breathing the oxygen.  It's just a side effect of the anesthesia wearing off.

In through my nose, out through my mouth, repeat... Still shaking!

She reassures me it will go away soon and that I shouldn't panic.

As the shivering subsides, I realized that I felt like I really did have an accident down south.  I ask the nurse to check so they roll me over and it's dry.  Faked out again!

At this point it's after 5 AM.  I start worrying about my mom being alone and worried for so long.  I concentrated on my breathing and listened to the nurses talk about their kids in college and how one of them was playing football at Villanova.  They said before the surgery that I wouldn't remember anything that happens for a while after the surgery, so I was concentrating really hard to prove them wrong.

They finally were ready to wheel me over to the recovery ward.  I asked the nurse what position her son plays in football.  She was enthusiastic to share.  They wheeled me into my new room and introduced me to the RN. She took a couple vitals, blood pressure, temperature, etc.

I ask to see my mom and she let me know that someone had already gone to fetch her.  My poor sleepy mom walked in a few minutes later.  I tried to look awake and happy and alive as much as possible with a big smile, "HI MOM!"

Behind my mom, my younger sister appeared.  Hello to you too!  I was happy to see that my sister had come to the hospital to keep my mom company in the surgery waiting room.  They hung out for 15 minutes, until my mom finally felt comfortable that I would survive, and left to go home.  My sister hung out a little longer and I told her about my Dr. House experiences with the CT scan and all that.  As we were talking my adrenaline from the excitement of waking up from surgery and seeing my family began to wear off and I felt a little sleepy.   My sister headed home and I sipped on some ice water contemplating if I would actually be able to fall asleep.

My nurse had given me a cup of ice and a cup of ice water.  Going into surgery I had been starving, but right now all I wanted was the cool liquid to numb my throat from the pain of having a breath tube in during surgery. I kept adjusting the ice pack they gave me for my stomach and was ecstatic that I wasn't in pain.

Before I tried to fall asleep I needed to use the bathroom.  I looked up at my IV hooked up to my arm and frowned at how much work this was going to be.  I pushed the nurse button and asked to go to the bathroom.  She asked if I wanted to use the commode.  I was like, the what?  And she pointed to the chair with a piss pot in the seat.  NO THANK YOU!  She helped me slowly stand up and followed me to the bathroom with the rolling IV bag.

I went into the bathroom with my IV and said I didn't need any help.  I rolled over to the mirror and tried to look at my incisions.  At first I didn't see them.  Where did they go?!  But I found them and they were small red lines covered in clear glue.  I used the bathroom with relief and rolled myself back to bed.

Since I had arrived in the Recovery Ward my nurse had been offering pain pills if I needed them and had been commenting on how quick I was recovering.  Until this point I didn't want them and didn't need them.  But I did want to get some sleep and the other people in the Recovery Ward were beginning to wake up and make noise.  I asked for one pill and the nurse helped me order some breakfast from room service.  She said if I was able to eat and hold down breakfast and lunch my doctor would release me.  Challenge ON!

I ate all my oatmeal and saved my yogurt for later.  The pain pill kicked in and I passed out.  3 hours later I started to wake up.  It was almost noon.  My sleep had been restful.  I had constantly been interrupted by someone taking blood, or someone giving me a breathing exercise, or taking my temperature.  But with the pain pill, it was all a dream, so I felt rested.  Time for lunch!

I ordered lunch from room service, the options were horrible for a vegetarian.  I ate my yogurt from breakfast and took a stab at the squishy mac n cheese with broccoli on the side.  Over cooked, ugh!

Appendix Diagram on my pillow
At this point I started getting antsy, I rolled out of bed and started pacing up and down the Recovery Ward with my IV bag in tow.  I went back to my little room and rearranged the furniture so I could sit on my visitor chair with my feet propped up on the bed.  My nurse realized that I was ready to go!

She called my doctor and started putting together my release papers.  At this point my dad finally showed up to visit, after going to the wrong hospital...  I made my dad sit on the hospital bed and told him all about my journey.  I showed him my pillow that the surgeon had tried to draw a diagram of where my appendix was and we laughed and hung out until it was time to go.

Finally, the nurse gave me a huge packet of post-op instructions and walked us to the front door of the hospital.  In 16 hours I had walked in with a bad appendix and walked out with the problem solved.

Piece of Cake!

From the ER to the OR

My journey began in my last post called, Spaghetti and Pepto for those who want to catch up.

It's getting late in the ER and so far I've only given a blood and urine sample.  A very painful blood sample if I might add.  The nurse or aide that tried to get a vein couldn't find one.. destroying my left arm.  So a very nice ER doctor came in and got a vein right away on my right arm.

The ER doctor started asking me questions about my symptoms and then she started pressing on my stomach.

Does this hurt?

No... No... No... YESS!

She pressed all over my stomach and finally pushed down right over my appendix.  It hurt so bad I sat up in the hospital bed and my eyes bugged out a little bit, but not like that scary lady with the bug eyes in that commercial.  She shook her head and said I was going to need a CT.

In my mind I got excited because I was finally getting to do all those things the patients do on the TV show House.  My first CT and I'm excited... I guess I'm kind of a dork like that.

It wasn't exactly like the one on the show.  The machine was shaped like a big huge plastic donut, with a bed that slides through the hole.  I think this machine was designed to make claustrophobians more comfortable.  The x-ray tech lets me know that whatever he's injected into my arm is going to make me feel very warm in my nether regions like I peed my pants.  But he assured me that I wouldn't actually pee my pants.

Well he was right.  I was lying there alone in the CT room while he's off in the control room and I was trying to hold back my giggles.  It really did feel warm down there... like I had an accident!  My laughter turned into snickers and then I was instructed to hold my breath for the scan.  He wheeled me back to my room in the ER and I shared my fun times with my poor sleepy mom.

At this point, it's past 1 AM.  Way past my mom's bed time.  But I'm very lucky to have a mom that cares enough to make me walk into the hospital in the first place and then keep me company through the whole experience.  I probably would have been a lot more nervous about the whole thing if I had been alone.

Then the surgeon on call walks in.  He's a very friendly smiley guy.  His smile made me relax.  I realized that it's part of his job to make me feel comfortable, so I don't run away screaming from surgery.  I tell my story of the symptoms again and he pushes on my appendix.  Ouch.  He explains the surgery and how he's going to give me a laparoscopy.  Only 3 small incisions: 1 on side of belly, 1 in belly button, 1 on bikini line.

I was getting kind of gitty from staying awake so late at this point.  For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to send a quick email to some close friends, letting them know that I was going into surgery and that if anything went wrong that I loved them.

Around 3 AM or so I get wheeled off to prep for surgery and my mom, poor thing, got escorted to the surgery waiting room.  Last thing I remember is talking to some nurses and my anesthesiologist on the operating table..Wow that's a big light...it's cold in here... Zzzzzz



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spaghetti and Pepto

    So it started out as a normal family dinner. We had spaghetti with yummy marinara. I took an acid pill before I ate to prevent acid reflux.  On my way home, I picked up my room mate at the metro.  While I was waiting for him in the car, my stomach started to hurt.  It started to hurt really bad!  I was sitting in the pick up area, trying to figure out what the cause of the pain could be... gas, indigestion, food poisoning...  Maybe if I just ignore it, it will go away... Maybe I just need to go to the bathroom.

    My room mate got in the car and we stopped by Costco on the way home.  Walking made it feel a little better, but by the time we got to the medicine section, I grabbed a bulk sized bottle of Pepto Bismol and had at it.

    By the time  we got home, the pain was only getting worse.  I got myself a glass of ice water and went up to my room.  I tried to drink some water... it rose back up into my mouth... I couldn't keep my water down?!  I hadn't eaten that much spaghetti, had I?  Nothing was comfortable, I couldn't sit down, fetal position wasn't doing it for me, so I paced around my room... thinking... how do I get rid of this pain?!  What medicine will work?  Pepto is failing me.

    I hear my roommate wish me well as he leaves to go out with friends.  At least I can suffer in peace without disruption now..  hopefully he discovers my body before my cat gets curious and hungry...  I called my mom.  I tried to blame her cooking, but that didn't go over well.  She advised I called the 24 hour nurse line on my health insurance card.  Thank goodness I even have health insurance.  Being self-employed I had considered trying to go without the expense, but luckily everyone yelled at me and convinced me otherwise.

    The nurse on the phone was very helpful.  She walked me through some questions and finally advised that I go to the ER.  She mentioned that if I started to vomit or piss blood, to call back.  Thanks!  So I called my mom and asked her to come pick me up to take me.  In mid-sentence, I hung up on my mom and ran to the toilet, where I proceeded to violently puke my guts out.  I had been feeling seriously nauseous for the past hour, but it didn't feel like I would actually puke.  I'm not sure if it happened because I was nervous or because it was time, but it happened.  It was gross, my dinner in the toilet with globs of Pepto Bismol floating on top... yuck!  I cleaned myself up, packed my purse with essentials: iPod and iPod charger and phone charger.

    I arrived in the ER and the triage nurse smelled like a stale pack of cigarettes... very healthy.  I didn't even want to walk into the ER when we first arrived.  I walked in circles in the freezing parking lot debating the symptoms with my mom.  The pain had almost disappeared after I vomited.  The pressure was released I suppose, so the only pain I felt was when I pressed down on the right side of my stomach.  My mom convinced me to go in so we could at least get confirmation that something or nothing was wrong.  I was nervous that I was overreacting and didn't want to be embarrassed.  The smokey nurse took my blood pressure and temperature and next thing I knew I had my name on a bracelet and a private bed in the ER.

    At this point I realized that maybe something serious was going on.  They wouldn't admit me in the ER if it was just gas, right?     OK, I'm not crazy and not embarrassed, yet..

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Robbed By Crabs

After sleeping through Hurricane Irene, I decided it was perfect timing to hit the beach before the next hurricane. I was lucky where I live in Maryland, we were barely affected. Didn't even lose power! But my heart goes out to Vermont with all the flooding caused by Irene.

After the storm cleared, my dad and I packed up the car and headed to Ocean City, MD. I had been wanting to visit my parent's beach condo for a while, but it had been booked solid for the busy season. So I was excited, but also nervous to assess any damage caused by Irene. Upon arrival we saw that water had seeped through the sliding glass doors on both balconies and gotten the carpet wet. Nothing major, time to party!

My dad invited his friend to come down with his boat. His friend had a daughter working at a bar in Ocean City for the summer also, so plans were set for us all to go out on the boat. I love boats, especially private boats so you can go where ever you want and do whatever.

So next day we dropped the 20 foot motor boat into the water and headed out into the Assawoman Bay to go fishing. The goal was Flounder. I asked the guy in charge of the boat ramp where the best spot to get big Flounder was. He told me to go to Super Fresh, the grocery store up the street. Not too encouraging... but I laughed it off and we shoved off on our 3 hour tour.

We came prepared with 3 cases of beer, inflatable floats, chicken wings, and bait. We cut the engine in the middle of the bay, with not another boat in site most of the time. I think a lot of people had their boats safely tucked away for the hurricane, so traffic was minimal.

We dropped the chicken on crab lines into the water and took our positions all around the boat with our poles. It was a beautful day with perfect blue skies and the temperature was mild for summer. For the most part, little Maryland blue crabs feasted on our fishing pole bait, as well as our crab line bait. Unfortunately, the crabs were all under the legal size. That didn't stop us from taunting them a little before letting them go.

All of a sudden my dad announces he's got something. I look over and his pole is bending at a sharp angle and his line is moving fast through the water. This is no ordinary fish. At first, we couldn't see what it was at all. We yelled for him to reel it in closer. I think he was having trouble simply holding onto his pole, but finally the creature came near the surface.

At first glimpse, it looked like a little shark! But we soon recognized that it was a sting ray. It was quite a big sting ray for the bay, probably two feet across. So we took a couple pictures, but eventually realized there was no way we were going to be able to reel in the ray and get the hook out of his mouth. So we cut the line eventually and watched the poor creature swim off into the abyss. 

After that, my dad proceeded to catch 2 blue fish, both under the legal size, so we quickly released them. I convinced my dad to let me try his pole, since it seemed to be so lucky. I sat around with the pole, sipping on my beer, and felt some nibbles on my line. I assumed they were crabs stealing my bait, since there was never a strong tug, but when I finally pulled up my line, I saw that I had caught a flounder! My flounder was only a third the legal size, but I was very proud to be the one to catch the first and only flounder on our flounder fishing trip.

After the flounder, I retired from fishing, blew up my float, attached my float to the boat with a rope and jumped in. The water was perfect, so I drank a couple beers in my tube and had a blast.

We topped off the perfect Ocean City day with dinner on the bay-side deck at Fager's Island. A couple beers and some good food tided us over while the sun set across the bay. Hard to believe a hurricane had threatened all this only a few days prior.