Jan 14, 2012

Emergency Surgery!

A few nights ago, one of my biggest fears came true: that I would have to have surgery. After I had my wisdom teeth pulled in '07 and fell sick with POTS, I hoped to never go through another surgery, especially not an emergency one! My stomach has been bothering me big time since a few weeks before Christmas but I figured it was just from finishing up a round of antibiotics for a sinus infection mid-December. The doctor agreed that the antibiotics had simply gotten rid of all the good bacteria in my gut and put me on prilosec and probiotics (neither of which seemed to help at all).

After about a month of eating mild foods and still feeling awful, Thursday morning it got to the point where I couldn't eat or drink anything so I went to Urgent Care where the doctor poked around my stomach and sent me to the hospital for a CT scan of my appendix. The ER doc however, was skeptical of my appendix and thought it might be my gallbladder instead so they did a bunch of bloodwork, an ultrasound of my insides, then an x-ray, and last but not least the CT scan which revealed the problem: my appendix was inflamed and had a stone called a fecolith inside of it.

This actually came as quite a surprise to me because after 7 hours of tests and no food and drink in the ER, a nurse, (the same nurse who told me I had anxiety this summer after my blood pressure was 190/130 from the birth control pill) came in and told me that all my tests looked great but my heart rate was a little high so the doctor would probably come in to talk to me about possible anxiety (she obviously doesn't have a clue about what dysautonomia is!) So boy was I surprised when the doctor came in ten minutes later and told me that he was very concerned about my CT scan and that they needed to operate on my appendix that night and the surgeon would be arriving shortly. My first question was, "Are you kidding? The nurse just told me it was just anxiety!" And then I promptly started crying like a baby and confessed that I was so afraid of surgery because I had been sick ever since having my wisdom teeth pulled.

They did a bit more bloodwork and then whisked me off to meet with my surgeon who seemed very caring and competent. He knew a bit about EDS and realized that he would have to take extra precautions and that the incisions might not heal as quickly as they would in a typical patient. He and the anesthesiologist also asked about my autonomic dysfunction before the procedure. The anesthesiologist joked that she was more nervous than I was so maybe she should knock herself out instead! When I woke up in the OR my abdomen ached a bit but it was my throat that was really burning from the breathing tube they had inserted during the surgery and I was coughing and coughing. Apparently the anesthesiologist didn't give me very much of the drug that dries up secretions because it would have also elevated my heart rate so I was left with a lot of extra phlegm. They gave me three shots of fentanyl before taking me up to my room. Once I got into my bed I felt a little better until I threw up clear liquid all over everyone and all over myself. But my stomach felt way better after that!

My nurses were all very nice and caring and the first nurse I had was especially nice. I received a ton of IV fluids before and after the procedure and a few shots of morphine which didn't help very much and made me feel terrible. The morphine made me hot all over and made my shoulders and joints ache so I didn't take any more of it. I had one vicodin after that and it made me sleepy but didn't take away the pain either. I slept less than an hour total in the hospital after my surgery because of the pain.

Since I've been home I've slept a total of twelve hours though! My body had to catch up on its sleep deficit I guess. I have taken two tylenol since I've been home and think I will be able to get by with the pain okay on just the tylenol. They joked around in the hospital that I must have a pretty high pain tolerance to put up with appendicitis for that long before coming in.

I counted up all the different drugs they gave me in the ER, OR and in my room and added up a total of 12 that I know of. I am a person who hardly takes any pills because I am either allergic to or sensitive to just about everything. Here is the list of things they gave me and their purposes:

-IV Saline for dehyration
-IV Potassium for low blood potassium levels
-IV Protronics for upset stomach
-Oral GI cocktail for upset stomach
-IV Contrast Dye to see appendix in CT Scan
-IV Flagyl antibiotic as a pre-surgery precaution
-IV Fentanyl for immediate post-surgery pain
-IV Morphine for pain during and after surgery
-IV Anxiety right before getting wheeled into OR
-IV drug to dry up secretions before surgery
-General Anesthesia
-Oral Vicodin for pain

So far that's all I am aware of them giving me. I may have received more drugs during surgery that I wasn't aware of but when I get my medical records back for this I will find out.

I am so glad to be back home again. They warned me that the recovery may be slow and painful and to try my best to keep hydrated and keep eating, breathe deep and walk around a little every now and then to keep from getting things like pneumonia during recovery.

They performed the surgery laproscopically so I have three small incisions in my abdomen and they did not use stitches or staples but rather dermabond glue and I am expected to heal normally. I had some bruising the second day but he said that was normal. My abdomen really only hurts badly if I move around or walk. I am supposed to hold a pillow against it for now.

I am really not thrilled that I had to have surgery but I am very lucky that it hadn't ruptured yet or things would be much worse right now. I am lucky that my surgical team was fairly competent and didn't dismiss my existing health issues, in fact they seemed to take them very seriously. I am lucky I had a support system there to help me through it and a nice team of nurses. And I am certainly glad I listened to my body and went to the doctor when I did! For over a month I tried to tough it out at home but doing that any longer would have been a big mistake!

As I go through the recovery process, I hope to get stronger and stronger. What are your experiences with surgery and recovery? How long did it take you to recover? If you have any tips or advice to share it would be much appreciated!


  1. I had my appendix removed the same way a year or two ago. They went in to take out some cysts and Endometriosis but while he was in there he saw my appendix was really inflamed and was the cause of a lot of my current pain. If I remember correctly, the nausea was what gave me the most problems afterwards. I only took a few of the pain meds but they messed up my tummy so badly that I don't think I'll ever take percocet again. I don't remember how long it took to recover fully...longer than I would've preferred, I know. And they gave me DVDs of my insides. It was weird. I still have the three scars but I figure that having my appendix and other bad stuff out of me was worth a few small scars.
    Good luck and happy recovering!!!!! And now you know that surgery isn't so bad. But hopefully that won't matter because hopefully you won't have to have anything else done! <3

  2. Yikes I hear that the pain meds can do that so I am fortunate I didn't have to take any after getting home from surgery. A DVD of your insides?!? That's crazy! Did you watch it? I don't know if I could! But that's still cool that they gave you one! Total transparency, which is actually pretty cool. At least you know they didn't make any mistakes. I have three scars too but really they are no big deal and healing pretty nicely except for one that's still bruised.

    Thanks Rachel for your kind words! I am no longer as fearful of surgery but I'm hoping to not have to have any more surgeries ever again!!!