An untimely bout of appendicitis

I’m now at home recovering from my appendectomy. It was the first time I have been an non-elective inpatient at a hospital.

Thanks to the good wishes from so many people. For those interested, here is the story of the 48 hours.

Sunday 1 pm

At Chocolate Fish Cafe with the family. Outside supervising Ben whizzing around on the scooters when I appeared to pull a muscle in my abdomen. Well that is what I assumed it was. The weird thing is I wasn’t stretching or anything. But it came out of nowhere.

Sunday 1.30 pm

Drive home. Took Panadol as it was fairly uncomfortable.

Not feeling great. Have a lie down. Take temperature – normal. Still in discomfort but not huge. Despite no temperature feel hot so take a shower.

Sunday 5.00 pm

Still twinging away. Take ibuprofen. Feeling nauseous. Noy very hungry.

Google symptoms for appendicitis. Had assumed my pain was muscular as I thought the appendix was lower down the body but Dr Google informs me the pain is often to the right of the belly button where it was. Had the symptom of nausea but no fever or diarrhea. The pain was’t huge so was thinking I’d maybe see a doctor tomorrow.

Sunday 5.30 pm

Decide to go into the After Hours Medical Centre as a precaution. Take laptop and a book with me, in case I am there late

Drive in and get there around 6.30 pm and see triage nurse and then a doctor.

Doctor is unsure whether it is appendicitis. My pain level is only 3.5/10. I am walking okay and the urine test was negative. But he can feel a hernia there. Luckily he errs on side of caution and rings hospital and the duty registrar says they’ll look at me.

Sunday 7.30 pm

Drive to hospital and go to ED, after passing the Covid-19 checkpoint. Seen by a triage nurse again and do another urine test.

It’s a polling night (every night is during the campaign) so I’m working on my laptop in the ED waiting room setting up report templates for later on.

Transferred up to Ward 7 for assessment. They do a blood test also and that test also comes back negative. My pain level is still 3.5 and they are not sure if it is appendicitis or not. They say best to be safe and have me stay in for observation and they’ll do a scan in the morning.

While waiting for test results I set up the assessment room as a temporary office and work on poll results.

I finish the report around 11 pm and then go to the main ward area to crash for the night.

Sunday 11.30 pm

Pain is increasing significantly. Am glad I didn’t go home. They give me Tramadol as well as Paracetamol. Tramadol is an opioid painkiller and a reasonable step up.

Monday 1.30 am

Despite the Tramadol the pain is getting worse. Comes and goes but spikes at probably an 8.5/10 on the pain scale. Not to be fair that is the male pain scale, so probably just a 2.5 on the female pain scale, but nevertheless was enough for me to be actually yelling out loud.

Am now given Sevredol which is Morphine based. Have high hopes of this, and thought would finally allow me to sleep. Alas even the Sevredol didn’t remove the pain (maybe reduced it to a 6.5) and I am thinking that if this isn’t Appendicitis then I sure as hell want to know what it is. Wishing I never saw the Alien movie.

Monday 2.30 am

I start shivering. I think I must be cold so just need another sheet on top. I hate being a nuisance so don’t actually buzz a nurse, and just crawl under the sheets to try and warm up. After 15 minutes of shivering and shaking I buzz a nurse to ask if they would mind getting me another sheet or blanket. They look at me almost convulsing and say they think I have a fever. Indeed I do have a raging fever.

When any movement causes your abdomen to send agonising pain along your nerves, a shaking fit isn’t ideal. Around this stage I start to think the euthanasia law would be useful around now.

The nurses are trying to get antibiotics into me via IV line. The problem is have you ever tried to get a line into someone who is doing horizontal break dancing. I don’t recall details clearly but I think it took 3 or 4 doctors and nurses to do it, with some holding me down.

Am worried the appendix may have burst, but there is no way of knowing.

Monday 3.30 am

Bliss. The fever has subsided back to 38 degrees (not sure what it was at its peak) and the abdominal pain has lessened also. I do have a serious thought that if morphine can’t effectively negate my pain from an inflamed appendix, then what the hell must it be like for people with terminal cancer, and I become an even more ardent supporter of the End of Life Choice Act.

Monday 7 am

Not really slept but it is breakfast time. Except no breakfast as I have been on zero food and water since 2 am (last food was 5.30 pm). The IV line is working though and I even turn down pain killers. Still have a slight fever though.

Do video calls with the kids. Ben very interested in the five different bandages on my arms where there has been lines or blood taken.

Get taken in a wheelchair for CT scan. Doesn’t take long and back to the ward.

Monday 10 am

Surgeons come around and tell me scan has confirmed appendicitis. This is not a surprise after last night. The good news is the appendix hasn’t burst and it looks to be a uncomplicated case.

They say they heard it was a rough night. They ask me if I want the appendix removed. This is one of the simpler decisions in your life. If I was 25 and single and propositioned by Gal Gadot I’d take longer to say yes than I took to agree to having the appendix out.

Get visited by partner who brings clothes and also by an old Otago Uni friend who is a radiologist at the hospital. We’d been trying to catch up for months, so a silver lining.

Spend a bit of time on the laptop setting up the two polls for the night, and e-mail them off to my staff. Cancel several meetings scheduled for the week.

Monday 3 pm

My time for theatre has come. They whizz my bed down and I go through the normal routine of repeating name and DOB a dozen times to ensure they have the right person. They ask if I want to keep the appendix. I know three year old Ben would love to see it, but I also know equally it will gross out the rest of us, so decline.

98% of appendectomies are done by keyhole surgery, which is a lot better than in the old days.

They start the anaesthetic and I then wake up around 5.30 pm in the second stage recovery ward.

Monday 6.30 pm

Finally get to eat for first time in 24 hours. Not that hungry surprisingly but have some mince, potato and peas.

Very drowsy still. Dad visits. We chat, but don’t remember much details.

Monday 8.30 pm

Still feeling drowsy but data collection for polling finishes at 9 pm so I gingerly get out of bed and grab my laptop. Quite sore to lean over or walk so takes a fair bit of time to set it up on the food tray above my bed.

Start poll analysis at 9 pm despite still having anaesthetic in my body. Hoping I don’t make a mistake and record Advance NZ at 8% or something.

Finish work at 11 pm. Quite pleased that I have managed to complete poll reports on normal schedule, hours after surgery. Others may think rather mad, but I don’t really have anyone to delegate the analysis to. 95% of the operations are delegated, but not the analysis.

Feeling much better than before the operation so only take some paracetamol.

Tuesday midnight

Get my obs checked. The machine beeps because I have low blood pressure. I assure nurse this is normal.

Tuesday 4 am

Am sleeping this night, but being woken every four hours for obs means still fairly tired. A bit sore too, so up the pain killer to Tramadol.

Tuesday 8 am

Another video call with the kids then breakfast – weetbix! Ben has decided he has a sore stomach also and wants to come to hospital.

Tuesday 9 am

Surgeons visit. They come in a flock of five or so. Good news is all clear and I can be discharged. Yay.

Go and have a shower. Slightly alarmed that there is a fairly large pool of blood in the shower and on me. But turns out it is from my hand (where the line had been), not from the surgery so that was ok.

Get discharge papers and prescriptions. No heavy lifting or driving for a week or two. While the keyhole surgery is less intrusive than other surgery, you still have quite a bit of discomfort, especially the hole through your belly button. I am shuffling more than walking.

Get picked up and home around midday – so all over within 48 hours of the first symptom.

Nurses and doctors at Wellington Hospital all great. Excellent care. Glad I live in a country with a good health system.

Will take a while to recover. Was pretty painful yesterday and took Tramadol at night. Feeling a bit better today though. but walking and leaning over still a hassle. Having to work every night until 11 pm is not helping, but the appendix wasn’t willing to wait until after the election!

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