I’m finally feeling “human” again and ready to post about my health care absence for the past 10-days. For those that don’t follow my blog, I’ve been sporting a pain in my lower right abdomen since about March 2, 2011. I had to take one day off from work because I couldn’t get on top of the pain, chills and sweats…but that’s been about it.
So, the kicker of this whole deal is that after six (6) weeks of wrestling with this mysterious pain and the fact that I don’t have any extra money to spend going from doctor to doctor to see if anyone can figure out what is causing this pain and discomfort, I really do have a valid health issue…my appendix had ruptured and now has abscessed!!! Wow, there really was a reason for my six (6) week struggle!!!
I’m stubborn, I’ll be the first one to admit that…so much so that I have to be doubled-over, throwing my guts up, diarrhea non-stop before I will admit that there is something far bigger than I can cope with going on with my body. However, I am of the firm belief that if you can learn to live with what ails you, do so. Push through the pain, get on with your life…
Okay, so that hasn’t been the best line of thinking in my current situation. I did finally find a primary care doctor that I adore and feel will get this ol’gal back to tip-top health. The doctor is young, pretty and just starting her practice. She has the time and attention to devote to a crazy, old woman like me. This was a huge relief for me. It isn’t that I want to go to the doctor all that often, but when I do have something going on that I can’t figure out or wish away, I want to be able to call my doctor and get some time and attention.
I had my introductory appointment with my new doctor on April 1st…this being after the cruel, ugly morning with my former PC (primary care) doctor basically fired me from his patient list. This doctor was able to get me in that Friday afternoon. I filled out tons of forms, communicated what was going on with me…the doctor did a quick physical…and found the painful area on my right abdomen without hardly trying. She was concerned about how much pain I was in and ordered a complete blood work-up and as soon as the results of the blood came back, which would be one day the following week, she would schedule me for a CT scan of the lower abdomen. She assured me that she would get to the cause of my current discomfort.
In the meantime, I set about getting medical records releases/authorizations sent to my previous medical providers to give my new doctor a better idea of what she was dealing with, with regard to my current health situation.
I was still struggling with the pain through that weekend and into the first of the week. I called the doctor’s office on Wednesday to find out if I needed to send them copies of the medical authorizations I had sent to the various providers and to inquire as to whether or not my blood work had come back and had the doctor had a chance to read it.
The doctor did call me back later that Wednesday afternoon…she was in the process of scheduling my CT scan but was waiting for pre-certification approval for the CT by my insurance company. Not surprising there.
I had decided to abandon my walking group training, I just didn’t have the energy to push myself through the current 2.5 miles at a fairly decent pace…I hated to do that but the last couple of times I had been to walking group just left me gasping for breath, reeling in pain and completely, physically drained.
I felt like shit on Thursday, I needed to know if the lab reports showed anything, an elevated white count, something, anything that would indicate that there was something going on inside my old, tired body. I hate feeling old and tired…I hate having a pain that I can’t explain or wish away…I was tired of trying to make it through the work day and make it home to get naked and climb into my bed for the evening…I was tired, chilling again and hurting…I was very tired of dealing with this pain.
Thursday afternoon my doctor called and said the insurance company had not approved the pre-certification for the CT scan and that she felt sure by Friday morning, the scan would be approved. She said she would have her office call me as soon as they could find an opening at one of the labs to get me in for the scan. She told me to not eat Friday morning if possible…so, I was fine with that.
Friday morning, I prepared for work, not eating any breakfast. I was still in some pain…not enough to keep me from going to work. Just as I was about to give in and eat something for breakfast around 9:15 a.m. which is when the doctor’s office called and asked if I could make it out to one of the satellite labs for a CT scan at 11:00 a.m. I didn’t have time to really give it any thought…I had to go, I was able to scheduled for a scan and to me, this meant there was hope to finding out and fixing what was wrong with me. I explained to my main attorney what was going on, telling him I planned on being back after lunch, he was surprised that I had to leave, not to mention I think he thought I had already dealt with this situation…I assured him I would be back shortly after lunch and we’d get whatever he needed done out before the close of business.
I made it out to the South Tulsa lab in record time…I checked in, was given my choice of flavors for the Barium shake and proceeded to drink it all down and wait for it to travel through my system. At approximately 11:15 a.m. I was called back, given some scrubs to change into for the scan. The tech called me into her little office and we went over all the questions and such before starting the scan. I did tell the tech that my mother had suffered from severe allergic reactions to various scan dyes and various diagnostic testing that required the injection of dyes…though I would guess there has been great progress made in what makes up these radiological dyes and contrasts for testing, the gal informed me that there was no way she could do my scan because they did not have a doctor on-premise, which is required in a situation like mine since this was my first scan with contrast.
The tech asked what kind of time frame I was on and I told her that I had taken off work and was hoping to get back to the office sometime early afternoon. She had me wait while she made a few calls and VIOLA, she was able to get me worked into another full CT scan at the main hospital as soon as I could drive from Point A to Point B. The tech told me to stay in the scrubs, gave me another Barium shake for the road to make sure I was still very bright on the scan and off I went to the main hospital which was much closer to downtown Tulsa…
I was at the main hospital in 20-minutes, waited about 10 minutes before they took me back for the scan. I was in the radiology waiting room about 10 minutes when the radiology tech came and had me come out in the hall. She informed me that my doctor wanted me admitted immediately, that the scan revealed I have a ruptured appendix that had absessed. I say “have” because they ( the surgeons) have not operated on me yet because “we” are in the process of loading up my body with IV antibiotics and trying to drain and calm the abscess down to determine the next steps.
I was then taken down to the ER to be admitted into the hospital. I spent 3.5 hours down there..I got hooked up to all manners of machines to monitor my heart rate, blood pressure, pulse…a lengthy parade of doctors came by during this time…3 surgical interns were in the process of studying the CT scan trying to come up with a “plan.” Eventually, I the head surgeon of this entourage would make his appearance and we would discuss “his” plan.
My iPhone didn’t work down there in the ER. I would get a “no reception” or “searching”…so I got a pen and paper and wrote down the needed contacts from my phone so I could call from the land line there in the triage room. It dawned on me that my family contacts are all long distanse calls, so I would have to wait till I was in a room to call my sister and brother. I did call my main attorney and told him they wouldn’t let me go back to work. It really shook him up when I told him what they had found. He told me to keep him posted and we’ll just see how it goes this weekend.
I was able to call my youngest son and he called the rest of the family. He was in Tulsa getting his windows tinted in his car so he said he would come to the hospital as soon as he got his car. I told him he didn’t have to,but I got to thinking about it and my kids needed to actually “see” me and see where I was and know that I was okay right now.
The head surgeon finally made an appearance in my triage room and proceeded to inform me that he was not planning on operating on me until we had a better handle of what was going on with me…in other words, the infection after the appendix ruptured had been somewhat contained by my body. He wanted to get in there and drain the abscess and have the abscess fluid evaluated before determining the next steps of the plan. He felt like my body had handled the situation remarkably for the past six weeks and he felt like helping my body finish off this job would be a slow and lengthy process but better than a full-blown, cut-me-open alternative of an appendectomy.
I was frustrated and angry at first. I wanted the damned thing out. I was done, I was tired of the nagging pain that had become all consuming…go ahead, cut me open take it out. He said no. He wanted to get the infection under control and that at this particular time, it would far more dangerous to cut me open and stir up the infection, as well as the abscess rupturing and causing more widespread damage and destruction.
I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to be operated on, but what in the world had I done to myself? Doctor after doctor had been through my triage room and then my hospital room asking me about my pain and why I hadn’t sought medical attention until then…hello, I was trying to find a freaking doctor that was taking new patients that would take me and get the ball rolling on this…this is not a fast process…to me, with the way politics have entered into the whole health care deal, it’s only going to get worse for a person like me on a limited income, with a super high deductible …that’s a whole other blog post…back to my story…
My youngest son was with me about 30 minutes before they moved me to a room. Oh my goodness, it was so nice and quiet after being in the ER so long!! I was trying to get my mind wrapped around the fact that I would not be going home for a few days and how in the world was I going to “cope” with the fact that I was now “trapped” and forced to deal with this ugly pain, which has now been determined to really be a serious health issue.
In my feeble little mind, I came up with the mindset that this is a “spa” stay over the next few days and I was paying big bucks to be pampered and cared for…okay, I was buying it to a point…oh yes, this was going to be a freaking expensive little “stay”…the length of which no one was talking about or guesstimating!!!
I was a little disturbed that I was being put on the “Oncology” floor…but the orderly transporting my gurney informed me that this was also the “overflow” floor for other departments. I bought his thought process and was thrilled to find I had a “private” room that was spacious and had a good view of the helipad for the Life Flight helicopters. My youngest son seemed to be “okay” with my digs and after a little while, he decided to head home, but assured me he would be back with his big brother later in the night. My oldest son is a Highway Patrol officer and was on night duty, 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
I was immediately hooked up to IV antibiotics…which meant I had to quickly learn how to work with my IV stand in order to go to the bathroom and such. I was not “ordered” to remain in the bed and I’m a firm believer in being pro-active in my immediate care, no bed pan for me, I would ambulate as much as possible unless I was told otherwise. The nurses showed me how to navigate the IV machine and make my way to the bathroom and then back to bed.
I was also put on no food or drink by mouth…surgery was still a possibility, though the next step was to get me in to have the abscess drained to see what the fluid in that showed…in order to undergo that procedure, as special radiological team was called in on a Saturday and I would be sedated while a giant needle was inserted into the abscess while I was in a CT scan allowing the surgical radiologist to get to the abscess…
I developed a monster headache in the night…I couldn’t have anything because nothing by mouth…okay, I knew I was getting dehydrated and they hadn’t started pushing fluids…I’ll be damned if they went and gave me morphin by IV which only made my headache worse, not to mention made me feel really ugly…not nauseated but getting there…I was wide awake most of the night. I was hungry as I hadn’t eaten anything at this point since Thursday night…this was Friday night into Saturday.
I was hoping that I would be scheduled for the draining of the abscess procedure early Saturday morning, but low and behold, orders got missed and I wasn’t even on the Saturday “special” surgical radiology team’s schedule. WTF?????? I have to admit, my nurse was my champion, she called the surgeon who had told her that there was a small window in which they were working to get this abscess drained and determine if they could operate should they decide to go that route…if the draining of the abscess waited until Monday, I would more than likely have to be opened up and my insides cleaned…a much more complicated and lengthy appendectomy and an approach the surgeon was trying to avoid.
I got word about 11:00 a.m. that I was going down for the abscess draining and that after I was brought back I could eat and drink…I was really cranky by this time. My head was killing me, which finally, I was allowed to take some Tylenol with a sip of water…
I was wheeled down to radiology around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and back in my room by 1:00 p.m. I was goofy from the sedation drug I was given while in the procedure…which made me freaked and angry. I was more nauseated than I had ever been during this whole six week ordeal, it just wasn’t looking good.
Finally, back in my room, I was brought a food tray, I ate a little bit, but was able to drink some water, suck on some ice…I started feeling better and like myself. I really wasn’t all that hungry, but I ate a little bit.
I was also given fluids via IV to help push and hydrate my system…by 5:00 p.m. on Saturday evening, I was feeling better, just really tired and ready to rest. Now all that was left to do was wait this out.
And so, for seven days, I resigned myself that surgical intervention was not something I wanted to subject myself to and getting the infection and inflammation under control was the best plan. The surgeon pointed out to me that I had a six-week jump on the situation as the best they could estimate is that the appendix ruptured around March 2, 2011 and I didn’t enter into treatment until April 8, 2011. It was going to take time and patience…
What a lesson this has been!! I came home from the hospital this past Thursday, April 14th and will return to work on Monday, April 18th. I am to rest and gauge my energy levels and respect my body. I am on oral antibiotics for 10 more days. I have follow-up appointments this next week with my PC doctor and the surgeon later in the week. Basically, I will be monitored over the next 30-days and then evaluated to see if there is a need for surgical intervention at that point or to allow my body to continue to heal with oral antibiotics.
I’m fortunate, I realize that now…being home and realizing that a surgical approach to all of this would still have me in the hospital, not to mention completely and totally off of work for six full weeks. I can’t afford that…Hell, I can’t afford the whole week of work I missed as it is…
It’s all going to work out…lesson learned.