Physically, I’ve always considered myself extraordinarily average. Brown hair, five-feet-five, not athletic but not hopelessly clumsy, just average. But I discovered I was wrong. My appendix was an overachiever.
It all started a little over a week ago, with an aching stomach. Just your usual stomach bug, and not a particularly bad one. I was just glad I had a week to recover before boarding a plane to Anchorage. The pain worked its way from my stomach down the right to the lower right side of my abdomen over the next couple of days. I felt better, but that area was still tender when I moved or touched it.
Then I had a fairly healthy couple of days, but the tenderness was still there, maybe a little worse. Sunday, I was fatigued as well as sore. I started googling appendicitis. While the pain and loss of appetite were classic symptoms, I had no fever, vomiting, etc. Still, I thought I should get checked out before flying. I called a walk-in clinic, but they said for appendicitis symptoms I should go to the emergency room. It didn’t feel like an emergency.
Monday, I tried to see the doctor who’d done my colonoscopy a couple of years ago, but he’s booked until October. They said go to emergency room. The tenderness wasn’t any better. I gave in and my husband took me in.
The fine people at the ER did the usual – blood work, urine, etc. and started an IV for the dye they use in a CT scan. Turns out I don’t have particularly good veins for IVs, but eventually they got one in.
I went for my first CT scan. I’m sure I’ll be using that in a book someday, with that futuristic spinning light and that mechanized voice telling me to hold my breath. But then they stopped the scan. The IV wasn’t taking in the dye. They backed me out of the machine and lowered my arm. The dye started again. Raised my arm. It stopped. So, the IV only worked at table level, and I couldn’t go into the machine with my arm beside me.
Various people punched a few more holes, trying unsuccessfully to start another IV. Then a nurse discovered if I held my arm behind my head, turned outward to just the right angle, the drip worked. We were in business. The CT scan was completed and they sent me back to my ER room to wait for results.
And we waited. I presumed the delay had something to do with the difficulty getting the scan and half-expected to be sent back to do it again. The nurse confided to me she’d never seen someone with no fever or more pain than I was having come back positive for appendicitis. Finally, we got the call. I not only had appendicitis, it was ulcerated and I was going into surgery. Soon.
As it turns out, my appendix was in an unusual position, kind of hidden behind my colon, which for some reason tends to confine and mask the symptoms. The surgeon took it out in three pieces, and I spent a miserable two days in the hospital. But now I’m home, I’m alive, and I’m thankful.
Things could have been so much worse. If it weren’t for the flying deadline, I might have continued putting it off until my fever spiked and I got really, really sick before the surgery. What if I’d continued to blow off the symptoms and my appendix went kerboom halfway between Seattle and Anchorage? That wouldn’t have been pleasant, for me or the other passengers.
Here’s my Public Service Announcement for others with my tendency not to want to make a fuss. Go. The people in the ER are there to help. If it’s not a heart attack, or appendicitis, or whatever, that’s good news. If it is, thank goodness you went.