Mental Health

Annie Vs. Appendix

The day after I graduated from college in May, 2015 I expected to feel elated- Hello, I just graduated from college! – but instead, I immediately noticed a sharp ache in my stomach, though I couldn’t pinpoint where exactly it was. Somewhere in the stomach region. This wasn’t one of those relaxed mornings where you smile as you wake up, say some self-affirmations as you reach over to play your favorite song and daydream about a café latte. Instead, I opened my eyes in a crazed flash, as if I had been bitten by a wild dog. I fought through the pain and decided to go out and hula hoop- my favorite pastime.

 “Maybe I ate too much cake at graduation yesterday,” I thought to myself. Who knows…. I pushed the thought out of my head. I wanted to celebrate Day 1 of summer vaca!

With each rotation of my hoop, my stomach ached more and more. I had only been hooping for seconds, but I felt sweat pool behind my hair and trickle down my face. Chills ran up and down my body, sending me into a fit of dizziness. I immediately stopped hooping and sat down. I knew that something was wrong when I told my mom on Mother’s Day that I wouldn’t be joining my family for dinner. Instead of doing what I should have done (go to the doctor), I sat on my couch and tried to distract myself.

Fast forward to 3AM: I woke up my mom and her partner, Matt, because I was in severe pain. I felt a serious stabbing pain in the lower right quadrant of my abdomen. We drove to the E.R. at Christ hospital in my hometown of Cincinnati. To my utter misfortune, the surgeon didn’t operate for 13 hours. Was he operating on someone else? Polishing his new Porsche? Who knows.  

The third round of morphine did nothing for me at that point. Unfortunately for me, I remember every detail. I screamed louder than I have ever screamed in my entire life. You would definitely be able to hear me across the entire floor. I feel so sorry for the eardrums of my kind nurse. Imagine how you would scream if someone held you down and dumped a coffeepot full of boiling water on your abdomen, times that by ten, and that was me. It felt like someone uncoiled my intestines and slowly jammed each inch down the garbage disposal. It felt like someone mistook my stomach for a block of parmesan cheese and began grinding it into a cheese grater. I’ll spare you the rest of my gruesome metaphors.

As I was shaking and screaming I felt a deep sense of regret down to my core. I should have come in sooner, I cursed to myself. What the hell was I thinking? I felt red hot fiery anger at the medical workers. I guess they’re going to let me die a slow and painful death with my family watching! There were a few more expletives going through my head, but I won’t mention them here.

Help, help, help!

No one helped.

No one.

Minute after minute went by, and no one came to help me.

After hours and hours of excruciating pain, the light dimmed within my soul. The appendix had won the battle. I was tired of fighting. The toxins had seeped into my body and sunken their teeth into what was left of my life. I recognized that I would die soon so I said my goodbyes to my mother and sister, who were in hysterics, begging someone to DO SOMETHING!

At this point, all of the emotions I was feeling – the desperate need for relief of the insurmountable pain, pity for my family having to watch me go through this, fear for my life- had vanished. A chill of calmness washed over my shaking body that felt like a pulse of light. I was on heavy pain meds, but I felt more clear-headed than I had in awhile. In my mind’s eye, I was in a receptive posture. I was ready for anything- whether that be help or death.

Well, I guess the doctors came in time. Thank you medical workers!  Hey, it’s always sorta fun to dash in 13 hours late and save the day, right? We all like a little drama. Will she live? Will she die? We’ll see!

They told me that they had to vacuum puss up that spilled onto my other intestines. They said my appendix looked like it had been leaking for days. Oops, I definitely should have come in sooner! So, looks like we both were a little late to the game, right doc? But hey, thanks for the $15 gift card that the hospital gave to me as an apology for being so late and negligent. Every time I look at the headband my mom picked out from the giftshop, I get nauseas. Remind me to throw that away….

Thankfully, I recovered normally. My uncle said, “You replaced that superfluous organ with a degree!” I laughed and moved on. I thought that the medical trauma was completely behind me, but I was wrong. That summer, I got C. diff twice, (Clostridium difficile.) I had to take so many nauseating antibiotics that my good bacteria was wiped clean. The symptoms of this life-threatening illness include deficating 12-15 times per day. That’s a lot of diarrhea! My 22nd birthday was spent on the toilet. The whole day…on the toilet.

It (you know what I mean) burned and itched so badly that I cried and writhed on the couch in misery. After ten days, I went to the doctor. I’ve really got to stop putting off going to the doctor! You would think that the near-death experience would have taught me. Nope! Immediately the doctor told me that I had C. diff and gave me antibiotics. If you don’t know what C. diff is check out the hilarious memes. They mostly highlight the fierce STANK. Also, word to the wise, the spores on surfaces can live for up to six months, making it highly contagious. Not to mention, the rate of relapse is fairly high.

A month later I got it again, but I knew what it was this time so I didn’t have to suffer for long. I called up my PCP again and she gave me a stronger course of C. diff antibiotics. Lucky for me, it went away this time.

I wish that my health journey ended there, but it’s not even the half of it.

If you take one thing away from my post: go to the emergency room when you’re in severe pain. This is your body’s way of sending you a signal that it’s in danger. I could have saved myself a whole lot of pain, from the appendix rupture and the C. diff by getting help sooner.

Thank you for reading my blog post! Stay tuned for my “food poisoning” incident that turned into a mysterious gastro-intestinal illness.

I hope that someone has benefitted from my story. If you’ve experienced a medical trauma, maybe this hits home for you. I hope my story helps you feel less alone.

Please stay safe and healthy in the world right now.

Best Wishes,