The Hellhole

Monday, December 21, 2009

What a horrible adventure with that Appendix Demon...

I've told some of you parts of this but I disremember which parts I've told to whom, and others have asked for details, so now that we're home (yay!) and Alan is napping, here is the saga of Alan and His Assploding Appendix™.

The first I knew of anything amiss was late Wednesday afternoon, when he sent me an e-mail saying that he felt "rumbly in the tummy" and wasn't going to take the Chihuahuas to Puppy Playtime. "Rumbly in the tummy" is our code for any sort of digestive upset, major or minor; we prefer not to go into (or know) more graphic detail. I replied that I'd try to leave right on time so that if traffic wasn't bad, I'd be home in time to take them. Once I got home, he said he was okay-ish, just didn't feel like standing around Petco for an hour, so I loaded up the puppies and went to Playtime.

Now, Alan is slightly lactose-intolerant. For example, he can eat cheese, cream-based sauces, ice cream and such without ill effects but will opt for rice milk on his cereal instead of cow's. This time of year, he drinks eggnog in spite of the intolerance because he loves the taste (and who can blame him?) . A mug of eggnog is generally no problem for him; however, on the previous night he'd had two large glasses, so he thought that was causing his distress. That's why at first we thought nothing of it.

When I got home from Puppy Playtime, though, he was clammy and an odd greyish color. Being a guy, he wanted me to let him be so I changed into sweats, came up front and was just starting to think about what I might cook for dinner when he came into the den. He told me that if the gastrointestinal pain didn't get better soon, I would have to take him to the emergency room. "No," I said, "We're not waiting to see if it gets better. If you feel badly enough to even think about the hospital, it's bad enough that we're going now." It was back into jeans and a sweater for me, but his pain was so bad that he couldn't bend to change into his jeans so he went in his lounge pants. He was grimacing in pain every time I hit a pothole and when I crossed railroad tracks, I thought he was going to pass out.

Luckily, the emergency room was not crowded and he was seen pretty quickly. Blood and urine samples were taken and then a CAT scan was ordered to rule out kidney stones. Much to our surprise, the tech who came to take him and perform the CAT scan was our next-door neighbor! - the lady who raises Chinese Cresteds and who is a great disappointment blog-wise because she never starts giant bonfires or throws toilets on her lawn or runs around her driveway shouting and wielding a mop at 1AM like previous residents. No kidney stones so the doctor returned, viewed the various test results, palpated his abdomen and pronounced, "You got appendicitis, kiddo!" and ordered some IV painkillers to help with his distress. She turned and told me, "We've paged the surgeon on call."

Now, I interpreted this to mean that a surgeon was on the way, an appendectomy was imminent and that he'd be in an operating room in the very near future. Our cell phones didn't work in the little E.R. exam room, so I went outside to call our parents and our bosses, since obviously neither of us would be at work on Thursday. It was about 9PM at this juncture. Once those calls were made, I went back to the exam room and we waited...and waited...and waited. At some point the charge nurse told us that they were waiting for a tech to take him upstairs to his room, so I figured that he'd be kept on his saline and painkiller drips until they were ready for his surgery. (This turned out to be true, but in a way I had not anticipated.)

I knew that I needed to return home, check on the pets, pack fresh clothes for us both and get his CPAP machine. But I figured I'd wait until he got his room assignment so I'd know where to find him when I returned, fully expecting that I'd be running this errand while he was having his appendectomy and that I'd be back in his room waiting (and fretting and worrying and freaking out) when he was returned from surgery.

Not so much.

It was AFTER MIDNIGHT when he was finally taken to his room. Then, although we only live 5.6 miles from that hospital, it was after 1AM when I returned from gathering clothes and necessities, making sure the pets had food, water and pee pads, etc. Now, this is kinda funny especially if you know my klutzy ass personally: Alan was housed in the newly built east wing of the hospital, which is on the furthest ass-end point from the Emergency Room. At 9PM, all entrances and exits to the hospital are locked except for E.R., so they can monitor who comes and goes. Therefore, once he was finally in a room and I could run my errand, I had to hike about a mile back to the only exit that was open and once I'd packed, I had to hike back that whole way schlepping a duffel bag, his CPAP in two pieces (it has a humidifier thing but the machine can't get wet or it's ruined, and I was having trouble - even after being emptied the tank kept spilling water here and there, so I only packed the machine part and was carrying the tank piece), my jacket, his jacket and my purse. I was wandering around trying to follow the directional signs, because I hadn't been paying that much attention when we went to his room; I was focused on my husband. It was kind of spooky because all the lighting was dimmed, the place was totally deserted - not a creature was stirring, as it were. Well, all throughout the hospital, they have these yellow caution signs (like this) standing about. I finally got to the east wing, went one way and realized it was wrong, retraced my steps, tried another way, found a sign and reoriented myself. There was low-pile carpeting in most of the areas and a yellow caution sign sitting at the precise spot where the carpeting gave way to some very pretty ceramic tile. I spied my destination (elevators) and turned, smacking the caution sign with the edge of my duffel bag. THAAAA-WAAAACK! went the caution sign, sundering the eerie quiet of a hospital at 1AM. Seriously, it was just SO LOUD - you know how when you're trying to be quiet, either for nefarious purposes or just so you don't disturb others, that everything from a creaky floorboard to a key jingle to dropping something is amplified to eleventy? This was more like triple-amplified to thirty-eleventy.

Overloaded as I was, I RAN for the elevators, pushing the button frantically, trying to get away before I was discovered. I'm not sure why - it's not like they were gonna banish me from the hospital for knocking down a sign, especially as I was the one with the insurance cards, but for whatever reason fleeing was paramount. I found my husband again, who was still in pain and resting most uncomfortably.

Recounting events, I am not sure at what point we realized or were told that "paging the surgeon on call" didn't mean that Alan was moments from surgery but rather that some dude had looked at all the test results and decided that yeah, they'd probably do an appendectomy sometime, at some point, when it felt right or the planets aligned or something. But that's what it meant. Of course, since no one actually knew when his surgery would be scheduled, he was forbidden from eating and drinking, which started around 9PM Wednesday, meaning that the last meal he'd had was Wednesday lunch. The real source of misery (aside from the pain) was that he wasn't allowed water. I caved and let him have a small sip of Dasani when I got back around 1PM - he was so pitiful and I figured one sip wouldn't make a huge difference.

He had a bad night with a lot of pain, but a couple of times when he complained, there was nothing they could do - he was on morphine and simply could not have more until a certain amount of time had elapsed. The next morning, my mom headed up from the next town over and his parents headed up from Augusta, 120 miles away. Mom brought me a Diet Coke and two sausage biscuits because I hadn't eaten anything since Wednesday lunch either - my mind wasn't exactly on food the night before, but by this time I was feeling pretty rough. Hunger combined with a restless night (I worry a lot and I have an active imagination, so I can invent lots of horrific scenarios) meant that I wasn't at my best either, even though I was better off than Alan.

Around 10AM, we were informed that his surgery was at last scheduled, and would be at 11:30. Although I'd been impatient for them to do something to ease his distress, now that the moment was nigh I started worrying anew and worked myself into quite a state, though I tried to hide it from everyone, especially Alan. I couldn't get Matt's dad out of my mind - a close friend's dad, in good health otherwise, went in for surgery to put a pin in his broken ankle. He threw a blood clot and wound up brain dead. Then there was my dear friend Patrick who went in for acid reflux and wound up having 2/3 of his intestines removed...or Uncle Payton who went in for routine gall bladder surgery, came through it fine, spoke to his wife and told her his back was hurting, and died of acute myocardial infarction moments later. And even if Alan survived, what if it wasn't appendicitis? What if the appendix was fine but there was a huge tumor smushing it? There might be a tumor. See why you should call some other friend if you're sick? You don't want me around if, say, you have a sore throat or diarrhea because I'll feel compelled to remind you that those are symptoms of the onset of ebola. For reals. I mean, I'm trying to make fun of myself now that I know he's fine, and ridicule my tendency to worry about things that haven't happened yet and probably won't, ever, but still. They might. I was really scared.

The surgery went well in that they were able to do it laprascopically, through his belly button, but badly in that the appendix ruptured. I can't help but wonder if it would have ruptured had something been done earlier, instead of letting him suffer all night and most of the morning. Still, speculation is useless; it may well have ruptured whenever they started messing with it, whether that was at 3AM, 9AM or 11:30. Still. I wonder.

The rupture meant that things ramped up from being a step or two above outpatient surgery to a Big Major Deal. He had to have his entire abdominal cavity flushed, a drain installed and hardcore IV antibiotics administered. Alan thought they'd let him go on Friday, and his surgeon laughed outright at that idea - several days of IV antibiotics, minimum. As it was, they wanted him to stay another day for more IV antibiotics but Alan rebelled. He was uncomfortable in the hospital bed, he wanted oral antibiotics and home. His doctor agreed to this if we'd meet certain conditions such as emptying the drain, recording times and volume of gunge, taking his temperature frequently, etc. Once I got him home and settled, I was going to leave to get his prescriptions filled. I asked if he'd be okay on his own for a while and he replied, from the depths of our feather bed and 600-thread-count sheets, a puppy on either side of him, "I am totally miserable. But I feel 1000% better. You know, that hospital could probably cut peoples' stays in half if they'd allow puppies."

Alan is doing pretty well. He isn't eating or drinking as much as I'd like and is still in some pain, though he has meds for that. He told me earlier that he expected to feel so much better once it was over, but isn't really. He says he still feels weak and puny, but we can work with that. I went to the grocery store earlier and bought some things to tempt him to eat; he had a grand total of like 7 grapes yesterday, an improvement over the previous several days of nothing - but today he's had half a bagel and a small cup of pudding. I also bought a bottle of wine and in a bit, I'm going to have a long, hot bubble bath (there was only a shower in his hospital room) and a glass of wine. I realize it's the middle of the afternoon; I don't care.

Thanks to all our friends who left comments, called, e-mailed, texted - it means a lot to us to know so many of you are there for us. Just don't count on me to be there for you if the tables are turned - I'll want to, I'll care, but I'll only tell you things about ebola and bubonic plague and septicemia that you'd be happier never knowing. Trust me on this.


  • Sounds awful -- for both of you. I'm glad he's home and on the mend though. Hospitals are no fun.

    I hope he recovers quickly and is able to fully enjoy Christmas.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:32 PM  

  • Thanks so much, Afton - and congratulations on the new great-niece! Happy belated anniversary, too.

    By Blogger Helly, at 4:39 PM  

  • Wow, I'm glad everything turned out okay and just in time for the holidays! :)

    By Blogger A Margarita, at 4:51 PM  

  • Get well soon Alan! Make sure you have plenty of IV puppies, stat!

    By Blogger neil h, at 5:42 PM  

  • Ah, puppies & kitties, the perfect antidote to almost whatever ails ya.

    It sounds scary, but I can picture how you made it even scarier. ;) I'm so thankful that I was somehow born with the "everything will be fine unless someone tells me differently" gene, even though I've also experienced some weird sudden deaths. My uncle had heart surgery and had the best surgeons he could have, including his own son, and he survived the operation swimmingly, only to die from a damned blood clot. Anyway, you know I don't say this to scare you, cuz you can scare yourself just fine without my help. :)

    I'm glad Alan's now at home, with his girlie, his puppies, teh cat, and all of his stuff. I hope he feels much bigger than puny soon. Hey, they mucked around with his insides and filled him full of meds, not to mention, took out a whole piece of him - it's natural that he wouldn't feel like climbing Everest right now. Luckily, May is the good climbing month anyway, so he has plenty of time.

    And you, you deserve a nice bath w/ wine every night for two weeks for being the good spouse.

    By Anonymous FlippyO, at 6:37 PM  

  • Thank goodness Alan is OK and you also survived the ordeal. I agree with Flippy's comment about you deserving a bath w/wine for an extended period of time. Have a good holiday season...I'm also sending good thoughts to you, Alan's and other relatives' vehicles given your most recent post.

    By Blogger basil, at 2:54 PM  

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