Sunday, June 26, 2011

A pain in the belly and a change in weekend plans

I often complain about how nothing ever goes the way I plan it. Take Friday, June 24, 2011 as a prime example.

I'm warning you right now that there is a photo of surgical wounds at the end of this blog. You have been warned, just like Grover warned you all those years ago in your Little Golden Book that "There's a Monster at the End of This Book."

The day went very well. I got a lot accomplished at work and at home, and had written up about 10 items of out of about 30 to post for sale on ebay. Then the pain hit. It was in my belly. Jenn had made an amazing dinner of Dr. Pepper pulled pork, or something like that, and it was delicious. But I suspected that I since it was a new dish, maybe I just had gas, and I wouldn't be able to eat it again. No big dea.

But something was ringing in the back of my head, like "this is not just gas. This is something different." I went about my business for about an hour, until at around 9:30, I told Jenn that something wasn't right, and if I sit up in bed screaming to take me to the ER. She said my belly was hard and suspected gas, so I took some Gas-X and waited to see what happened. Around that time, my pain level was about 3 on a scale of 10.

I wrote up three more sale items, and noticed the pain was getting worse, not better, so I quit. We decided to go to bed around 11:30. At around midnight, Jenn said I was breathing funny and asked me if my pain was worse, or had moved. I admitted that the answer was both, but I didn't want to tell her because it was midnight and I didn't want to go to the ER and be stuck until 3 a.m. We were both very tired.

Jenn called her sister Heidi, and dropped me off at the ER door to register while she took Kaleb to Heidi's house.

When I saw the ER doc, he did the typical prodding and poking and said he believed appendicitis, which was exactly what we thought it was.  He ordered a blood test, IV, and a CT scan.

I wasn't thrilled about the IV. The last time I was admitted at a hospital and had my very own room, was in high school or college when something very similar occurred. At that time the nurse poked me three times with the IV needle (which is roughly the size of a knitting needle), and dug around each time, hoping to strike a vein. That incident was so painful, I literally told my mom to get her the f*** out of my room before I punched her. Even her replacement had to stab me twice.

At that time, I was at the hospital for the same symptoms as I had this last Friday night, but the pain was worse then. My parents didn't want to drive me to the hospital, which was about a half mile away, because they thought it was gas. I told them "You drive or I'll drive. Either way, I'm going." I don't think I had my license at the time. At that time in my life, I had a freakishly high (I mean absurdly super-human high) tolerance for pain. So when I gave that ultimatum, they decided to take me. I was admitted for 3 days before the doctors shrugged their shoulders, said "we have no idea what is wrong with you" and sent me home.

So I was apprehensive about being here again about 20 years later with the same symptoms and getting another IV with no tests having been done and no definitive answers. This nice little 80-year-old lady came in and said she was going to take some blood and start the IV.. While I am no stranger to blood tests, I decided to just look away until everything was over and not see the IV needle so I wouldn't flip out.

I told her about my previous IV experience and told her "I like you so far, so don't make me hate you." I was joking, of course...maybe.

She poked me with what I thought was a blood test (I have really bad veins, so I thought she might have a hard time. I asked her "warn me when you do the IV." Her answer was "it's done." I turned, looked into her eyes and said "I love you." Ask Jenn. She used the IV to take blood, then started me on saline and gave me a shot of morphine.

She handed me a what looked like a 30-ounce jug of clear (radioactive?) juice for the CT scan, and told me I had 10 minutes to drink it and an hour to wait after that to get the test done. I downed it in 2 minutes, not 10.

The CT scan went fast, and when I got back to my ER stall, the doctor came in and said the bloodwork came back consistent with appendicitis, and we would see what the CT scan said. At around 4 a.m., he came back and said I was being admitted for appendicitis and he was calling the surgeon to handle it the next (Saturday) morning.

I got to my room at about 5 a.m, and had to answer a bunch of intelligent, and a bunch of really ignorant questions. They told me they would leave us alone to sleep, but still came in every 15 minutes or so to bring this sheet of paper, or sign that sheet of paper, or help me change into a surgical gown, or ask me a question, or grab a chart that they had accidentally forgotten. In short, we didn't sleep much.

At about 7 am., I took a shower and scrubbed my belly with a special cleaning solution. The doctor came in and talked us through the procedure at around 8:30 a.m. I asked him about a catheter and he said "how do you know about that?" My answer was "I'm not stupid." Good news, he said. The catheter goes in and comes out (as does the small breathing tube) while I am under anesthetic and sleeping well. Good deal.

Being wheeled down to surgery with my mom in the background.
Everyone as picking on me, talking about what a big baby I was
about having to get a catheter,  except the guy in the blue.
I thanked him for being on my side. Scroll down much further and
you will see a photo of my surgical wounds. You have been
warned twice now. No complaining!!
My mom and my gurney arrived while we were talking to the doctor, so I got wheeled down to surgery right away. By about 9:15, the anesthetist put the mask over my face and told me to breathe deeply. I remember counting to seven quietly by myself and wondering why I wasn't knocked out again. Next thing I know, I'm waking up, head full of cobwebs with two nurses staring at me from a nursing station saying "there he is."

They wheeled me back up to my room and I slept a restless sleep for quite awhile. My mom had gone at some point, and Jenn had gone home, showered and changed, as well.

The next 3 or 4 hours are very unclear. I finally shook off the uggyness, and ate the jello and drank the two cups of coffee and the Sprite that they brought me. I called my mom and gave her an update, and invited her back up. Jenn left again to do some shopping to prep for my homecoming, which was expected to be that night. Mom and dad came and visited around 3:30 p.m. and stayed until about 5:15. Mom said I kept talking and drifting off, then waking back up, talking again and drifting away. I was told if I could eat solid food, I could go home. I demolished the dinner plate. By the time Jenn returned, I had signed my walking papers and was ready to go. I was home by 7.

The night went by pretty well, but I didn't sleep much. In fact, I dozed off for 20 minutes at the most, but was able to watch the movie Gladiator from beginning to end, only rewinding a few times to catch what I missed to sleep. I know I was up a lot going to the bathroom, getting more to drink, and taking a painkiller at 1 a.m.

I fell asleep after 4:30 and was awake by 7:45. Jenn made me an omelette and coffee, and I scarfed that down as well. I took a shower, and we went to church. Then we came home and sat out in the yard for a bout three hours. While I was out there, my feet started itching, so I took off my shoes and socks, and I had this horrible rash on my feet. We sat there and watched it grow, even after rubbing cortisone cream on it, and taking two Benadryl. We don't know if the reaction was caused by the antibiotic I was given at the hospital, or the Percoset, so we called the doctor. He called in some Vicodin for me, and Jenn is picking that up right now. The rash has mostly faded from my feet, and the itching is all but gone.

Two of my three incisions in the awesome shave-job they gave me while I was out.
No, you may NOT see the third incision.
I consider myself pretty lucky. I was in and out of the hospital in less than 24 hours. I have three small incisions from my laparoscopic surgery, and some scars with a good story behind it. My pain level is very low (the highest it got was a 6 on friday night just as I was registering at the ER, and hasn't gone above 2 since then). I didn't have to experience a catheter while awake, I was able to get some reading done, and I'll be off for a week. Add that to the following 4th of July weekend, and I will have a 10-day recovery period before I have to return to work. That will allow me to read even more, work on some more small e-bay write-ups a few at a time, and watch some movies that nobody wants to watch with me. Jenn has been awesome, handling tasks that I usually do, and not complaining about it when I ask her to get me something or taking something away for me.

Mom and dad have visited at the hospital and at the house, I was able to update my progress and keep everyone informed through the wonders of my smart phone and the social media, and I got a new blog entry from it. The only downer is that I'm not allowed to drive for at least a week. That's frustrating. But so be it.

This is only my second surgery ever. My first one was to straighten my eyes out when I was six months old or so, and I don't remember that one. Hopefully, this will be my last surgery.

And to think...all I had planned for this weekend was to write up ebay sales and read.

Thanks to all of those who have thought about me, prayed for me, sent me cards, and sent well-wishes on Facebook. I consider myself a very lucky guy.