Appendixes

Yesterday morning at 1 a.m., my mom took my sister into the emergency room because she was experiencing intense abdominal pains for the past day.

Yesterday morning at 9 a.m., my brother e-mailed me (We’re always on computers) to tell me that our sister was in the ER with my mom and they were running tests and scans to see what was wrong with her.

I had a lovely little trip to Columbus, Wisconsin for work from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. before I finally made it to the hospital to check in with my sister, mother and now my father. My sister’s white blood cell count was around 16,000. The average is 4,000 to 10,000. A higher white blood cell count is proof that your body is fighting off an infection in your body with all of it’s might.

My sister went in for an emergency appendectomy at 3 p.m. and this morning she is fine. She’ll leave the hospital this afternoon, a bit groggy and uncomfortable.

That is two sisters now lacking two appendixes. My version of this story was much more severe. I was only 16.

One night after dinner I got a really bad stomach ache. I walked around for two weeks with a inflamed and then later ruptured appendix. I just thought I had a stomach flu. My appendix burst inside of me. I remember when it burst because I had been sick and had aches and then I felt better. I even played in a basketball game and went hiking on some bluffs.

And then I got really sick. I had a horrible fever and was laying in our living room. My mom was with me and OJ Simpson was being chased by police officers on the LA freeways on national television.

The next day, a Saturday, my mom was going to stay with my aunt and grandmother 90 minutes away because she was finishing her college degree at a nearby university. She decided that it would be better if I came with her and we would stop in at the ER, have a doctor give me some cold medicine and I could relax with my grandma all weekend. Our other option was to wait until Monday to get an appointment. We opted for the ER.

We entered the ER at 9 a.m. I was in emergency surgery just a few hours later. The doctors told my mom and I that if we had waited until Monday, I would probably be dead.

My appendix had burst inside of me, forming a mass the size of a softball that was poisoning my body and cutting off circulation to my legs. My white blood cell count was 36,000. More than three times the normal amount.

Further, I had been walking around sick for at least two weeks, ignoring the pain. I have a high tolerance. But I hadn’t been eating much and had lost weight.

After the surgery, I spent the next 10 days in the hospital as my family, the doctors and nurses waited for my body’s systems to start working properly again. I would have panic attacks because of the pain medicine I no longer needed for the pain, but was using to sleep, and later, the lack of the pain medicine as they cut me off of it. I had nightmares that I wouldn’t be allowed to leave. And I couldn’t eat because my digestive system couldn’t handle any solid foods. Could barely handle liquids.

To this day, chicken broth still gives me flashbacks and I don’t use strong pain medicine unless absolutely necessary. I made it through getting my wisdom teeth removed with advil.

It was early summer and I had just finished my track season as a junior, so I was healthy, strong and weighed 125 pounds. I left the hospital at 98 pounds and wouldn’t regain any weight for at least the next four months. I felt like a walking skeleton.

Further, the surgery had to cut through my abdominal muscle wall to remove my appendix and the infected mass. I wasn’t allowed to carry anything over 10 pounds for the rest of the summer and easily prone to infection and colds because of my weakened immune system, including a later overnight hospital stay because of a stomach virus.

In my senior photos, taken late that same summer, I couldn’t wear my prom dress because it was strapless and my bony body couldn’t fill it out the same way. It literally fell off. I returned to school and most people were surprised by how frail and thin I looked. One idiotic twit said she wished she could lose that much weight.

I have two scars on my stomach. One large scar, five inches long. One small scar, one inch long. They have faded quite a bit. You never forget scars though.

Yesterday, when the doctors told my family it was my sister’s appendix and they could remove it without cutting into her through a laparoscopy, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief. We knew how this went and this time it was better.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Appendixes

  1. OBG

    Is your sister mad that you one-upped her appendix story? I guess it’s OK since it happened prior to her experience.

  2. Blondie

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure she’s happy that her situation wasn’t like mine. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone …

  3. John

    I wonder whether appendicitis runs in families? My maternal grandfather died of peritonitis, (c20 years before I was born) and I went down with appendicitis while at university.

    I didn’t sit around waiting for it to burst though. Went to the library, worked out what it was, walked into town to get the doctor to confirm it, then walked up to the hospital. Also avoided my first year exams at the same time, which was neat – though on balance I’d have probably preferred to have sat them.

    25 years ago and it still remains the only time I have ever been to a hospital on my own account. But then one week on hospital food is enough for anyone. Even a student (though I did obviously gain from not having to buy a week’s food – which for an impoverished undergrad was a bonus).

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