Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Visit with Appendicitis

It started out a lazy Saturday morning. Arielle was at a soccer tournament with her dad. Alysia, John and I went to the North Market to buy wine for a dinner party and have breakfast at the lovely waffle stall. We sat a picnic table with the sun shining and a warm breeze blowing by.

I'd had a bit of an ache in my side since I'd woken up, but I dismissed it. We were busy. Friends were due for a Spanish dinner that evening. We'd cooked Friday night and still had paella and tapas to make during the day.

As I waited for the cheese counter man to hand me some Gouda and tried to resist the urge to purchase goat cheese just because I adore it, chills hit me. When we got home I promised my husband I'd help cook after a 15 minute nap.

When I woke up three hours later my side was burning. That's when I asked the most important question of the day, "which side are your appendix on." The answer is the right side, just north of the center of your belly. On that fine information I called the doctor, who sent me to the urgent care, who sent me to the ER, who proceeded to test me for hours.

The nice doctor assured me it was a routine surgery, but is any surgery really routine when you're the one being cut? The morphine kept the hysteria down and my amazing husband handled all the thinking in his regular loving way. As they wheeled me into the operating room I announced as loud as possible, "I am here to get my appendix out." Several residents tittered in amusement. A nurse promised me I was about to get something in my IV that would relax me like a margarita. Then the world went blank.

I remember a little of the recovery room, but mostly I remember waking up in the room with my husband there holding my hand. New pains from tiny incisions had replaced the appendix burning. Pain medication coursed through my system and I felt worse than ever.

The weeks that followed were a haze. I expected myself to get better faster. I resented the throbbing pain that limited my motion and consumed my thoughts. I hated my new limitations-- no lifting for six weeks, stomach aches from the antibiotics and constant weakness. Most of all I hated the unplanned nature of the thing. I'd just started a new job. I didn't get to see the kids on Mother's Day because I'd been in the hospital. I tried to go back to work too soon and had to stay home for more days.

The whole experience humbled me. It made me realize how life can change in an instant. I was lucky. It really was minor surgery. Six weeks later little remains but a few scars and a ghost of pain now and then. But many are not as lucky. So many suffer from chronic health problems. I have so much more empathy now that I've experienced something like this. There were days I railed against the universe. Why me? There were days I cried or just felt down. There were days I did nothing but stare at the wall. Lucky for me the window was short. But it doesn't always go that way.

As a writer, I think about how I can tap into these emotions and experiences. Perhaps I'll write a young child who must have her appendix out. The entire world will feel strange and horrible, a sea of grown-ups swirling around poking and prodding her. Or perhaps I'll write a teenager who comes out of her surgical haze to find her best friend has taken up with her boyfriend.

Maybe I'll write about the amazing friends and family who gave so much support to one mother who spent Mother's Day in the hospital. Wait, that's a true story. That's my story. Perhaps that's the greatest chapter. I'll end my musings with a thank you to all my dearest and nearest who helped and to the farthest and dearest who called and sent well wishes. And thanks to all who read this blog. too.