My First Surgery

My appendix decided to make its presence known on Cinco de Mayo. I had spent the day on my couch recovering from a weekend of drinking, dancing and making new friends. The pain came out of nowhere, it felt like someone was twisting my belly button. After ruling out hunger I decided to sleep on it so I took two Motrin and went to bed

The next morning I headed off to work and called my GP. Going to work put me closer to my doctor’s office plus it distracted me from the discomfort. I still wasn’t sure it was my appendix and suspected more of a pelvic issue since the pain was concentrated there.

My doc did all the usual poking and prodding including a full pelvic exam before ultimately agreeing that though I didn’t present the usual symptoms it most likely was appendicitis. She sent me off to the ER with a note to that affect.

When I left her office it was taxi changeover time so I took the subway since it was only two stops and a few avenues. Exiting the subway I noticed police tape and a blood trail on the ground. It seems someone had been shot earlier in the day. This was in Murray Hill, not a neighborhood you’d expect to hear of shootings but then again very little surprises most New Yorkers. I ended up following the trail for a little while, it was a good distraction as I couldn’t help but wonder if that person had also attempted to walk to the ER.

NYU Langone is undergoing a huge renovation. When I asked for the ER I was told its now called “Urgent Care”. It lived up to its name.
I was immediately taken in by a nurse who asked me a bunch of questions, took some blood and scheduled a CT scan for me .
By 8.30pm that evening they confirmed that I had appendicitis but that luckily it hadn’t burst. A surgeon came to see me and we agreed that removing it was the most reasonable tactic.

This would be my first surgery.

He mentioned that recovery would be quick which led me to ask if I could still do Reach the Beach 10 days later. His facial expression was quite something and his “no” emphatic.

My friend Lynnette had emailed me earlier in the day to confirm plans to meet up for lunch that week to which I had replied I’d have to play it by ear in case I did have appendicitis. She tracked me down with some essentials like pajamas and underwear from Kmart. NYC may be a fashion capital but past 10pm that fashion starts with a capital K

I fired off a couple of emails to work and friends but I did not call my parents in Paris or my brother in Hong Kong. My phone was dying, this was routine surgery and there was nothing they could do. I did not want them to worry.

I was woken at what seemed like the crack of dawn by the surgical team asking if I had any questions? “Yes. Can I go back to sleep?” They chuckled and left, telling me they’d be back for me later. As I drifted off all I could think is wow, that is one good looking medical team.

The leader of the team was Dr. J, a petite Asian woman who clearly does her best to counter the schlumpy look that can be scrubs along with a little makeup to look put together and an efficient demeanor. Overall she exuded competence and I immediately felt at ease.

After lunch, or lack thereof in my case, I was wheeled off to surgery. Arriving on the surgical floor my doctors greeted me again. This time in addition to Dr. J who was quick to recognize my nervous humor, there was the Spanish anesthesiologist, his accent like summer heat, dark eyelashes and a whimsical surgery cap. His voice alone lulled me into a blissful state.

My general surgeon and woman in charge arrived: Dr. Hopkins, all business but with an easy demeanor and who you could tell knew her stuff, seemed like a great teacher while undoubtedly being tough on her team. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to my own surgery. Before I went under we were chattinv about travelling to Hong Kong and the shopping habits of the Chinese and our culture shock in India.

The actual surgery was done laprascopically and they went in through the belly button. So all said, they made three incisions, two of them just below my bikini line.
I awoke in recovery in a decent amount of pain so they gave me some percocet before carting me off to a new room with views of the East river and beyond to Brooklyn.

Later that evening as the nurses checked my vitals a friendly face appeared at my door: Amy.
Amy is my person. We met at work where we bonded over late nights, crazy bosses and the single life. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding. We trained for our first marathon together A year later, I got to hold her daughter when she was still wrapped like a burrito at the hospital. She is listed as my emergency contact on all my medical and race entries. She is the one person who I had called when told I would be admitted for surgery. The message I left was along the lines of: “um, if NYU calls its because I have” appendicitis. They are removing it tomorrow but I’m fine. they are keeping me overnight. just thought you should know.”

During her visit, she asked if I’d seen my appendix post-op. She knows me so well that that’s exactly what I should have asked but I hadn’t thought to ask. She also asked if I’d called my parents. I had not. She told me I should. Mothers worry.

The next morning a nurse woke me at barely 6.30am for discharge instructions even though discharge would be at 10am… sheesh, these morning people! I asked about running… she rolled her eyes and told me to focus on taking it easy and resting but to be sure to move around and not be lethargic as moving would help dispel the post surgical gases.

She was followed shortly by the surgical team with a few more additions to the team or so it seemed. We had a good laugh about my snazzy animal print anti-slip bed socks. I complimented them on their ironic placement of bandages: the two incisions for the cameras/tools along my bikini line bandaged in parallel so all that I can think of when I look down is “pause”. I got the all clear to go home.

The nurses kept asking who was picking me up. My response of “no one, I’m taking a cab home” seemed to throw them off. It’s not that I don’t have people but those people work and they were already lining up to come visit plus I could manage.

I got my my drugs (yay, more percocet) and hailed a friendly cabbie. Once I explained I was post-op and not going to puke in the back of his cab, he did his best to avoid pot holes and soften the discomfort of any ride through the streets of NYC. He even helped me out of the cab and to my building’s door.

I arrived home but could not rest as I had not taken out the garbage on Monday and it wreaked. Vowing to make the most of my trip down 4 flights of stairs I shuffled off to the grocery store for a few essentials and back home made myself a kickass rice noodle soup with two poached eggs, mushrooms and leeks. (That is recovery food not the yellow powder you add to water that the hospital proffered)

That afternoon I even managed to take a smallish bag of stuff to the laundry to wash a few essentials and after a two hour nap from that effort, dragged the larger bag of sheets to the laundry guy across the street to be done. When you live alone and hate to feel helpless you learn to be resourceful, quickly.

I spent the days that followed lolling around and losing track of what day of the week it was. I did watch all of season 1, 2 and 3 of the Good Wife and my friends came by… with lots of ice cream?!? They seemed to confuse my appendix with my tonsils (the latter I still have) but then again ice cream must have healing properties based on the speed of my recovery.

The following Monday I went back to work. I took it easy as though not entirely ready to return it was a matter of principal. I object to being forced to take a week of “vacation” time before my medical leave could kick in.

This past Monday I was given the all clear and told that I’m quick to heal just have to wait for the stitches to really disappear.

So that’s that, I’m turning 35 in a few days minus my appendix.

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3 thoughts on “My First Surgery

  1. Pingback: Color Me Pretty | Life Until Done

  2. I’m almost tmetped to say congratulations on the kidney infection. Appendectomies are no great fun. But whatever, get well quickly and enjoy the drugs.And the next time you’re offered something for pain, ask for the full bong.

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