Saturday, February 23, 2008

Seven years

So I haven't kept up with my blog as I hoped I would, and given the recent events in my life I really have no excuse.

For the past several years I have been plagued with nasty stomach aches. They would come on suddenly, I'd wallow in bed for about 2 days, and then they would go. Nothing I did and nothing I took helped them. After the first attack I saw a doctor who told me in a hurry, as I was crammed in between patients, that I had GERD. I researched it on my own and knew that wasn't what I had, but I had no desire to go back and be told the same thing. So for the past 7 years I've dealt with each attack and moved on. My biggest issue with the nasty tummy aches was that I started to worry people either thought I was full of shit (figuratively and literally) or was just being a big baby. I tried logging my food and keeping a diary to see if I could pinpoint what brought the attacks on, but nothing was ever the same and they seemed to attack at random.

When I got pregnant with Caden, the tummy aches stopped for the most part. After I gave birth, I feared them. For the past year I've been dreading the next attack because I knew a day or two of lying in bed was no longer an option. Every upset stomach, every bout of gas, every twinge sent me into an inner panic that this was it, the attack I'd been dreading since the day Caden was born. I didn't know how I'd manage through that pain and still take care of my son.

Last Monday my fears were realized when that afternoon the familiar pain in the center of my stomach returned. I tried everything to get rid of it but this time the pain was here to stay. I suffered through the day, put Caden to bed, and collapsed into bed. I woke up at 3am unable to sleep and headed to the couch. My tears soon woke Steve and he offered to go to the store to buy me a heating pad (ours had gone missing) in hopes it might help - it didn't but eventually I did manage to fall back asleep.

To my surprise, the pain subsided over the course of the morning on Tuesday. Instead of being all over, the pain localized to the lower right part of my abdomen and eased up. However, something was new this time - now that area of my stomach was rather tender to the touch. I turned to he who is there for all in their time of need - Google. Symptom checker after symptom checker kept bringing up the same "diagnosis": Appendicitis. No, I thought. I wasn't in nearly enough pain and I had been in this pain before. When I finally started to run a low grade fever of 99.9F I decided that I would head in to the doctor and I called Steve to take me at 4:50pm (I didn't feel safe driving with Caden in the car incase the nasty pain came back). I was sure that the doctor would call me a hypochondriac and send me on my way.

By the time we made it to the doctor's office I was feeling fine - unless I stepped heavy or pressed on my tummy. We joked with the doctor and he gave me an exam and interestingly enough, even when he pressed on my left side, it hurt on the right. He told me that the almighty google was correct, the symptoms pointed to appendicitis but there was only 2 ways to really know for sure - a finger inserted up my behind, or a CT involving rectal contrast. He said he was hesitant because most people with appendicitis were in a lot more pain than I was in so he left it up to me... head to the hospital for a barium enema or we'd just do a blood test to check my white blood cell count and go from there. I decided to go with the blood test and give my word that if the pain returned I'd head to the ER. While they symptoms fit, I was simply not presenting as a typical appendicitis case.

Wednesday morning came and I felt great. The pain was still there if I stomped or if I touched my tummy, but the fever was gone and all was well. I was wanting to work out since I wasn't feeling up to it on Monday and Tuesday but I figured I'd wait until the doctor called to tell me my white blood cell count was normal just to be safe. I told Steve not to worry about coming home since I was feeling much better. The doctor called around 11am and I told him I felt great! "Really? Are you sure?". Yes, yes I am! No need to stick anything up my ass today, Doc!
Sadly, that was not the case. My white blood cell count was rather high and I was told to go to the hospital right then and not to eat or drink anything until after the CT. When the receptionist called a few minutes later and was being extremely kind to me, I knew it was a little more serious than I first thought. I called Steve and he headed for home and my Dad came to watch Caden. I showered and we were off.

We get to the hospital and called into the waiting room for the CT. The nurse asks to speak to me in private and in a hushed whisper said "you know this involves a rectal enema".
"but my doctor said we could try to avoid that!!"
The nurse said in most emergency STAT CTs the patient is in too much pain to walk, but seeing as I felt fine they allowed me to drink a lovely cocktail while walking instead. Steve and I circled the hospital for an hour and talked. It was actually pretty nice to get to just hang out together like that. Before long the hour was up and it was time to get a picture of my insides. Steve and I were both sure that I'd be told it was nothing and we'd be home in time for dinner.

Because my CT order was marked as an emergency, we were require to stay and wait for the results. We were told to expect to wait about an hour as it often took time communicating between the hospital radiologist and my Doctor's office. I was pleased when after only 15mintues the phone rang in the waiting room and it was for me.

"You have acute appendicitis and you're being admitted. Someone will be down shortly to bring you to your room."

Um, okay. I made the phone calls to my parents to let them know what was going on, sent off a few text messages, sent Steve for my laptop, and I waited. Finally a nice gentleman shows up with a wheelchair - Lovely. I wasn't even allowed to walk! I assumed I'd be admitted and a doctor would come tell me what was going on, possible surgery in the morning. I get to my room and through a series of questions and a flurry of nurse activity I realize that I'm having surgery now - as in as soon as I get the hospital gown on. I insisted on speaking to a doctor first but I'm not even going to get into all that now.

Before I know it I'm in pre-op getting pumped full of funky drugs that knocked me out before it was even time to move into the operating room.

An hour or two later I wake up in a drug induced haze with a sore throat from hell - I was unaware that they intubate under general anesthesia. My appendix was now gone.

I ended up spending about 2 days in the hospital and was released on Friday. I am so lucky to have such awesome family and friends who helped us out with Caden during all of this and to them I'm so very grateful and thankful. I've been recovering at home and not surprisingly did manage to over do it a bit, so I've been making it a point to rest more, which really helps. The hardest part of all of this is that my little man is a pretty big boy and I am unable to lift him - I did try and I did regret it. But thanks to my awesome family and friends, everyone has been helping us out during the day to make sure he is taken care of and I am able to rest. Hopefully soon everything will be back to normal.

The positive in all of this is that I should never have to fear the tummy ache from hell again. As I suspected, I have not been suffering from GERD the last 7 years, but recurrent appendicitis. As it turns out the body can heal itself from appendicitis at times, but often, as with myself, the appendicitis reoccurs until eventually it gets to the point you head to the doctor and they rip it from your abdomen. My doctor even looked at the notes from my appointment 7 years ago and even he said that I never should have been diagnosed as GERD.
Recovery hasn't been terrible with the exception of not being able to fully interact and care for my son. Of course when not in pain I've over done it but after dealing with an increase in the ouchies, I've learned my lesson. I am just so extremely happy and relieved that after 7 years, I don't have to deal with that bullshit stomach ache attacking at random anymore.

I told you it wasn't GERD, and I wasn't full of shit ;)



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