Farewell to an appendix: Grateful patient documents emergency surgery by Michael Voges
One night I had a tummy ache. My wife, of course, immediately proclaimed I should go to the ER because it’s probably my appendix. But I felt better the next day. Mostly. In fact, for the balance of the next ten days, I felt fine, mostly. I had a low fever for a couple of hours a day and got the chills for a while but it never stuck. My appetite wasn’t great but who can’t stand to lose a little weight in today’s world?
Fearful of my wife’s initial proclamation, I kept poking my appendix area because I really wanted something to blame for this mild discomfort, but if it was tender there, it seemed to be only because of all the diagnostic poking. After over a week of this occasional low fever-chills-tummy thing, I finally decided to get in touch with the nice folks on the Ask a Nurse line. They said week-long tummy aches aren’t the norm and I should probably go see someone.
My regular clinic on East Lake was booked but they got me into the nearby Whittier Clinic the next morning at 9:00 AM to see Kelly E. Pezzella, APRN, CNP who was simply fantastic. Kelly dutifully poked my belly to see if she could make me scream and then ordered up some blood tests in the clinic. Some very nice people smiled and chatted and poked a few holes in me eventually procuring the nectar of life and sending me on my way.
Somewhat embarrassed for taking up everyone’s time I got back in the car with my wife and proudly proclaimed… “Probably nothing!” Well, probably nothing barely lasted all the way home before Kelly and team tried calling to get me to go down to HCMC right away for a CT-Scan. While there were no appointments available for the scan that day, I was told to just go get on the wait list and they would fit me in eventually.
To my surprise, they fit me in before I even took my jacket off to sit down and I was quickly rewarded with a CT-Scan with contrast, and it wasn’t even 11:30 AM yet! Ever the optimist and anticipating days of paperwork floating around to discuss my mild tummy ache and sorting out whatever might be the cause I went home to enjoy the rest of the day. I made it all the way there before I got a call telling me I needed to go right back to visit the emergency room and demand someone remove my appendix just as quickly as possible. So back I went.
By 12:30 PM the nice people at the ER check-in were a bit perplexed by my request to start pulling out body parts but they went with it because honestly, I am sure they have had stranger things asked of them up there. I was tucked into a bed in no time and people started poking me to get all sorts of samples and IV lines, while I was constantly quizzed on my birthday, etc. (assuming they all want to get me a gift?).
I don’t want to get on a soap box but here I go. In the room across the hall someone was having a bad day. Passed out somewhere. Woke up somewhere else. Still probably not all together there. But the thing I love about HCMC is that it doesn’t matter. They just take care of people. I’m not big on going to a hospital personally, but every time I interact with the staff at Hennepin Healthcare, I’m humbled by the kindness everyone manifests. Not just for me (although that’s appreciated), but for everyone else who otherwise might not get a lot of kindness in their day-to-day lives. I wish the world was staffed by nurses instead of politicians and CEOs.
Anyway, from ER to Pre-Op I met about a thousand really nice people who seemed more than willing to take their time to explain what the next steps were going to be. While there appeared to be some urgency to remove my appendix, everyone was more than happy to answer my occasional questions and make sure I understood the risks involved with my particular operation.
I got some really nice free plastic bags to keep all my stuff in and a friendly person agreed to keep my wife updated with my progress. The Wi-Fi was really good, the blankets were cozy and the beds comfy. Honestly, aside from the rapidly decaying vestigial organ, multiple IV’s and impending surgery, this really wasn’t a bad way to spend a day.
Things get fuzzy at this point at around 4:00 PM. I think that’s by design. More nice people get me moved into the operating room… and yeah, it looks just like it does on TV. I’ve got to start taking deep breaths now. I’m waiting for them to ask me to start counting backwards from ten but we never get there. I’m out in a flash.
When I wake up someone shows me my appendix. It looks awfully small to have caused all this trouble. I’m sure for a short while I engage in witty banter with imaginary people because everything is really just fantastic. Real or imagined, everyone assures me everything went great and I totally believe them. By early evening I’m off in my own little room and friendly people come in to check on me all the time. Evidently, I can get up and walk right after surgery!
Honestly, the absolute last thing I want to do is get up and walk around right after surgery. I do sit up though and it’s not that bad. By 10:00 AM the next morning I was walking, eating and checking out of my really nice little room. It’s nice not being dead.
While sadly I won’t remember everyone’s name that helped take care of me, I’m never going to forget their kindness and patience they all provided me when I needed it most. I’m not going to get started on all the things that could be fixed with the health care system in this country, but I will emphatically say that the people providing the care to regular old people like me, and maybe more especially to that guy who woke up in the wrong place in the ER, represent a bedrock of compassion that makes the world a better place. Someone asked me what I would do differently next time and as a happily married man my only answer is, listen to my wife sooner. Thanks for caring… really.