Wednesday, January 28, 2009
My Appendectomy Experience
Last week, my body threw me for a huge surprise. On Friday night, I had a blind date with a surgeon who took out my inflamed appendix; it was a date we hadn't scheduled, but decided on at the last minute.
You see, out of the blue on Thursday afternoon after I ate lunch, I started experiencing intense abdominal pain. It was located in my stomach area, and not my intestines, so I just thought it was indigestion. I've had gut issues in the past, so this just seemed like no big deal.
The pain persisted, but I had a client at the gym after work, and trained her despite the pain. Prior to training her, I thought I just needed to move around to get the pain out (thinking it was gas or something), so I did some light cardio and some body weight exercises (chin-ups, dips, pushups, and core exercises). This probably wasn't a good idea considering what was really going on inside me.
After the training session, I returned home to eat dinner at 7pm. My tummy still hurt, but I thought I just needed food in it to make it feel better. After dinner, I was still in a lot of pain, so I just ended up laying on the couch curled up in the fetal position and watched my favorite TV show, House MD (I have it on DVD so I don't have to waste time on commercials). After two hours of watching that (which I never do...), I still didn't feel any better. By that point it was time to get ready for bed, so thinking it was still gas, I popped a few Tums antacids, and tried to sleep.
The whole night I tossed and turned in pain. It was brutal. Something just wasn't right at all. By 3am of no sleep at all, I took a few Advil and just hoped that would work. It didn't. Thankfully I didn't have to work on Friday, or my day would have been horrible.
I didn't want to drive to the Emergency room in case it was just gas or something, so I waited until my Dr's office opened at 8:30am. I didn't have an appt, but when I showed up at the office, I was pale as a ghost and so nauseaus that I thought I was going to show everyone what I ate for dinner last night. The nurses let me wait in the bathroom until the Dr was ready because I started to lose control. All I wanted to do was to get out what was inside of me, but nothing was coming up; I didn't drink or eat since dinner that night, so my stomach was empty, even though it felt like it was full.
My Dr finally checked me out and sent me to the local hospital to get blood work and a CT scan. I had my blood drawn first and the results showed an elevated WBC (white blood cell count). I'm surprised I even made it through the blood draw though since I was so nauseuous and weak. Then, went over to the CT area and they made me drink the contrast solution. Upon the first swallow, it stayed down for about 10mins then all came right back up. They nurses sent me over to the ER in a wheel-chair to get anti-nasuea meds so I could drink the contrast. While in the ER I vomitted more and was in the most pain I've ever felt... it was all over my abdomen. They gave me a pain killer and anti-nasuea meds, but I still couldn't drink. The first pain killer did nothing. They then hooked me up to an IV bc I was so dehydrated and then gave me morphine. At that point, I could finally drink and did so until it was all in. This all took about 5 hrs and then I went in for the CT.
The CT scan showed that my appendix was inflamed. By 7pm I was in for surgery for the removal and they confirmed the appendicitis (because, even with a CT, they're really not sure if it's appendicitis, but they go in anyways). I woke up for surgery shaking a lot from the anesthesia, so they gave me more drugs and something to calm me. I still felt terrible though, and just wished the pain would go away.
The nurses then wheeled me over to my hospital room for the night and I attempted to get comfortable. My roommate was a 100yr old woman who broke her leg (seriously, she was 100, born in 1908) and all she did throughout the night was moan and talk in her sleep. I was kind of creepy and I wished I had earplugs. I know that sounds insensitive, but I was in pain too and just wanted to sleep.
In the morning, a food tray came to my bed and since I was allowed to eat it, I did (I had one boiled egg, one egg white, and a plain box of cheerios, with a cup of Green tea [not bad for hospital food]). I thought the food would calm my sour stomach, but it didn't that much. I still felt bloated, in pain and totally gross. The surgeon finally came to visit me just before lunch and told me that the surgery went well and I could leave the hospital whenever I wanted. He told me I could eat a normal diet, and I should stay home all week to relax. At that point, I was still incredibly bloated, my guts seemed like they were dead, and all I wanted to do was be normal. He said that was the usual response to the surgery and I'd be fine.
Well, I left the hospital that afternoon. I wasn't totally better, but knew laying in that bed wasn't going to do me any good.
Over the next few days, I have been working on my recovery and learning more about why this happened. I learned that appendicitis is very common for people 10-30 (I'm 29), and there is no definitive cause. For some people, it gets inflamed because of parasites or bacteria, where others, it gets blocked with stool and then gets infected. Either way, there's no common cause.
Then, for recovery, I've been trying to move around as much as possible. I can't work out (obviously), but I have been walking and cleaning my house a lot... (it's sparkling right now).
For supplements, I've been taking 5g of glutamine 4 times a day. Glutamine is an amino acid that is used preferentially by the gut, especially during times of stress. Then, taking plenty of probiotics (the friendly bacteria that live in your gut), to replenish the bacteria that were killed with the antibiotics they gave me during surgery. For pain, I've been taking Arnica, a homeopathic medicine. And for food, I've been eating a balance of healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. I'm trying to eat the right balance of fiber to keep me moving, but because my intestines have lost some of their function (they're not contracting like their supposed to), I don't want too much fiber.
I've also revisited what I was doing with my diet prior to the incident and am trying to determine if what I was eating was right for me or not. I've decided to go back to Eating for My Blood Type, since I wasn't doing that before, but used to at one point. I'm a Type A blood (and personality...), so I'm not supposed to eat red meat, tomatoes, processed grains (duh), oranges, bananas, green peppers, vinegar or spicy foods (which I was eating before the surgery). I should eat some fish and chicken, lots of soy, nuts, beans, veggies, grains and fruits. However, I'm allergic to soy and nuts, so I have to obviously not eat those.
In other areas of my life, I'm really on the ball. I see a homeopath two to four times a month, I take probiotics daily, I've had my stool checked for parasites, I don't take birth control, I don't drink, smoke or do any drugs, and I exercise regularly. My cortisol and thyroid levels are normal (they used to be out of wack, but I'm better now), and I take time to relax and rest due to all the insanity in my life.
I'm not sure if I'll understand why I had to have my appendix taken out and why my body is like a a very complicated puzzle, but I chalk up all my experiences as positive ones. I'm one of those people that learn from personal experience, rather than association. It's not always easy, but it's what I'm all about. I don't mind, but these surgeries are not always the funnest things.
I'm not going to let this get me down (too much that is... there were a few bad days there), and I'm going to get my dissertation done on time.
If anyone has any insight on this topic, I'd love to hear it. I've consulted with a few very knowledgable people, and I am happy with the information.
To learn more about appendicitis, see this great page by the National Digestive Diseases Website.
I hope everyone is healthy and well. If you have pain in your gut, like I did, don't wait to figure it out... it's not pleasant if the appendix bursts from what I hear.
Be well, Cass
at 8:46 AM