Monday, March 24, 2008

University health care

In short, I had a laparoscopic appendectomy on Saturday night and spent the whole weekend in the hospital. I don't owe a cent, and now I'm at home recovering. Thankfully, my student health insurance covered everything 100% (except the taxi rides). I am so thankful that I didn't have to worry about the cost of my tests, hospital room, or surgery. I am all in favor of universal health care because no one should have to worry about their ability to pay for necessary hospital expenses.

If you want the details of my appendectomy adventure, read on.

On my way home on Friday evening I started having general abdominal pain. It got progressively worse until I started feeling nauseated, then felt like I was going to black out, then I vomited most of what I'd eaten for dinner. About an hour and half later I threw up the rest of my dinner. I felt better after the second round because the general pain went away, but it became localized on my lower right. I had a fever of 100° F. It could've been food poisoning, but the pain on my lower right was classic appendicitis, so we went to sleep prepared to go to the ER in the middle of the night if it got worse. I found that sleeping on my right side made the pain go away so I slept all night.

When I woke up on Saturday (Jon's birthday), the pain was still there so we made an appointment at the student health center to see a doctor at 9:15 am. After an hearing my symptoms and pressing on my abdomen she sent me to the ER saying it was likely to be "appendicitis or an ovarian cyst." We didn't have to wait terribly long in the waiting room before I was admitted and given a room in the ER. We spent the next 9 hours there while they took urine samples, blood, gave me an IV, did a pelvic exam, and took a CAT scan. I didn't have a fever or a high white blood cell count (both signs of infection that usually go along with appendicitis), so they spent a long time ruling out other possibilities such as ovarian cysts or torsion. I had no pain as long as I wasn't moving. Walking hurt, as did using my lower abdominal muscles, and obviously all the pressing they did.

I finally had a CAT scan about 5 pm which revealed conclusively that my appendix was inflamed. I had mild appendicitis. Did you even know you can have mild appendicitis? You learn something new every day. I had classic symptoms of appendicitis but it was in the early stages of infection so it wasn't at the point of bursting and being life-threatening. Thus, I waited about 5 more hours for surgery as they only had one team of anesthesiologists that night and they first had to deal with a much more critical patient. After about 9 hours in my room in the ER, they gave me a real hospital room which was quite nice. We watched "The Sound of Music" and the beginning of "Big" before they took me to surgery.

I was quite calm about the whole surgery thing. I had my wisdom teeth removed but that was the only surgery I'd ever had. Still, I trusted the doctors completely since they do appendectomies almost every day. I think I would have been much more stressed out by the surgery if I felt really shitty, but since I didn't have a fever or pain as long as I didn't move I was able to make interesting lighthearted conversation with the various doctors I met. One of them who Jon named "Dr. McHandsome" has relatives in RFC so we talked about that for a while. Dr. McHandsome was such a stereotypical thirty-something, tall, dark-haired, scruffy faced, handsome ER resident that he looks like he stepped right out of a TV show.

Laparoscopic appendectomies are the least invasive kind. They make three small incisions and go in with a camera and some instruments and pull the appendix out through one of the three holes. They said the surgery itself would only take about 45 minutes (I'm not sure how long mine actually took). I asked the anesthesiologist when I would wake up after the surgery and he said I'd wake up right away. They started me on an IV with something that knocked me out before I got in the operating room and I have only a vague image of being in the OR.

When I woke up, it was to the sound of a nurse on the phone calling for someone to come pick me up from the recovery room. I saw that the clock said 1:45 and I kind of freaked out because the doctor told me I'd wake up right away and that the surgery should only take 45 minutes I went into surgery around 10:45! Then I was out of it until the nurse called again for someone to come pick me up. During this time poor Jon was waiting in my hospital room all worried because it had been nearly 4 hours since I left and no one would tell him how the surgery went or why I wasn't back. Finally he convinced the nurse to go with him to go pick me up from recovery since the person who was supposed to move me obviously wasn't available. I remember hearing his voice and being glad that I was going back to my room but I was terribly annoyed that I hadn't woken up right after the surgery like my anesthesiologist told me I would. I remembered from getting my wisdom teeth removed that some people wake up from anesthesia very emotional, so I rationalized to myself that I was in a terrible mood from that. My throat was also very dry from the breathing tube they put in during surgery (which I don't remember) but I wasn't allowed to drink anything yet. I didn't want to talk to anyone except Jon so I half-pretended to be asleep (I was mostly asleep so I didn't have to pretend much) and presented my arms as necessary for vitals and mostly just frowned. Jon translated for me when I needed to talk. They gave me morphine and I think Jon and I fell asleep in my hospital room around 3 am.

Nurses came in a 6 am and 8 am to take my vitals, and then a surgeon came in at 9:15 to tell me I could drink water. My bad mood finally started to lift around 10 am when I got my throat moistened enough to talk relatively normally. Overall I felt a lot worse than I had the day before. My abdominal muscles were really sore (and still are today). Oddly, I am somehow compensating with my neck and so my neck is really sore as well. Mariya came to visit me in the afternoon and brought me flowers which was lovely. Every beloved hospital patient leaves with flowers, right? I had liquid Easter lunch and liquid Easter dinner in the hospital (broth, jello, sherbert, juice) and went home shortly after dinner. Today I finally get to eat real food. I haven't digested any real food since about 4 pm Friday.

I have to make a follow up appointment for next week. Until then, I'm not supposed to do much. I definitely can't ride my bike, so I might be taking more taxis than usual. I'm not supposed to do any heavy lifting (no more than two gallons of milk) for 6 weeks. That means I should get the all-clear just in time to start field work in May.

I had big plans for what I was going to accomplish this week, but I'm going to take it easy. Whatever I get done, I get done. Jon is home from work today to help me out and run errands for me (eg. I think we left my cell phone at the hospital). We'll celebrate his birthday next weekend when we're NOT in the ER all day.

I hope all of my readers had a better weekend than I did!


EcoGeoFemme said...

OMG! I'm glad you caught it before it got too serious. Good luck recovering. Thank goodness you don't have to pay for it.

Paulina said...

yikes! that Jon sounds like a keeper :)

Anne-Marie said...

Wow, sorry you're having to deal with this. Take it easy, I'm glad that you came through ok. Don't stress about missing out on doing the work you'd planned, it will be there when you're up and running again, right now focus on getting well!