Backstory: Of my mother’s nine siblings, five contracted appendicitis. One sibling died after it was misdiagnosed as stomach flu. Since I heard that story, I’ve carried a loathing of appendicitis. Would I recognize it? Would my doctors? Would I overreact? Would it strike slowly? Quickly? Am I paranoid to worry about it?
In case you too are wondering whether this could happen, maybe this will help you recognize it and act.
As a Realtor I try to time block multiple client meetings, whether over coffee, through listing/buying presentations, every day. One recent Thursday night, I woke up in the middle of the night with a belly ache. I don’t get belly aches often, but this felt different than others I’ve had before. Since I am attuned to Appendicitis my first thought was “maybe this is it!” I ended up going back to sleep and woke up a few more times with the same stomach ache. I had a 10am meeting the next day over breakfast. The belly ache was not severe, but it was “there” and after 2 hours, I squirmed to get out of that chair. Next, I had a 1pm meeting – with lunch! I was feeling a little worse then and the last thing I wanted to do was sit and eat more. Ordering soup and ginger ale, I did my best to keep up my end of the conversation. I don’t drink sodas, so my business partner knew this belly ache was getting to me. The final meeting of the day was showing property from 3-5:00. My discomfort was increasing. There was no specific pain, just a general stomach ache, followed by chills toward the end of the showings. I just wanted to be home and remove the clothes that felt constrictive. The chills worsened. Still vague and non-specific, the belly pain increased. I could not pinpoint the pain location, but I decided to draw the line; if the pain remained sharp in the morning I’d check into the Emergency Room. The pain continued steadily upward; there was no ebb and flow.
I rose, showered, and checked into the ER by 8am on Saturday. (Lesson learned: if you can plan your emergency, 8am on a winter Saturday may be a good time. Sparsely populated and alert staff ready for action.) I answered a few questions, and they took me back to a room. A few minutes later a Physician’s Assistant and Nurse asked me specific questions. Chills and a dull stomach ache accentuated with sharp twinges migrated to the lower right abdomen as classic appendicitis. For the prescribed CT scan I was ordered to drink 1000 ml of “contrast,” which resembled water (huge improvement over contrast from 20 years ago – a blend of water, chalkboard dust, and “berry” flavoring). Within a couple of hours (by 1000) they ran me through the CT scan and confirmed an inflamed appendix. A surgeon appeared shortly thereafter and operated on me by noon. I was done by 2:00.
So if you suspect appendicitis: Any belly ache that persists longer than a day, go to the ER or your Doctor. I waited too long and had to stay in the hospital over night because it had ruptured and toxic seepage required strong antibiotics to prevent infection. Remarkably, if your appendectomy is done before your appendix ruptures, you may be home the same day as surgery! Practically out-patient surgery. Don’t worry, the surgery included general anesthesia, meaning you are not awake and will not remember anything. After an overnight watch in the hospital I was released with a week of antibiotics and a prescription for strong pain medication. I have not needed the pain prescription; OTC Aleve is fine. I am diligent about taking the antibiotic though. Nobody wants a relapse.
Recovery has been quick, but avoid hard exercise for 4-6 weeks. Walking is directed, though take it slow. Avoid bouncing. Ask your family and friends to not make you laugh. It’s horrible. And don’t get me started on coughing. Or sneezing. Take it easy. Walk around the house every few hours. Give yourself permission to get into whatever relaxing position feels good and let yourself heal. Oh, and no driving for 10 days so see if you can arrange help getting from here to there. Good luck and I hope somebody finds this helpful!