Greetings, Creating Krista readers, from the blissful comfort of the couch in my own home. I can hardly contain my excitement and the joy that I feel to be at home, in somewhat good health, and eating solid foods. So… instead of our usual Sunday evening DIY post, I’d like to share the story that I’m calling Creating Krista & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Ruptured Appendix (Subtitle: Don’t Ignore Stomach Pain). Editor’s Note: I am not going to get too graphic in this story, but if you have a weak stomach or are a little faint of heart, you may want to read at your own risk. There is only one picture, and it’s relatively cute and happy, so you won’t have to avert your eyes.
If you’ve ever had a really bad, traumatic, once-in-a-lifetime stomach virus, you’ll know that it can be pretty gruesome. I won’t go into the specifics, but aside from the painful and frequent trips to the bathroom, there’s also stomach pain, lethargy, fever, and general yucky feelings. I had been feeling like I was on the verge of having a full-blown stomach virus since Monday, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what was wrong with me. I was feeling exhausted, didn’t want to do anything active, and I had zero appetite. This should have been the first red flag for me, as I have notoriously said time and time again, nothing keeps me from eating. This week, however, I could count on one hand the number of meals that I had eaten over five days (not good).
On Wednesday morning, I woke up in the middle of the night with a dull stomach pain in my upper abdomen. I’d never felt pain there before, so I was a little worried about it, but I took some Tylenol and went back to sleep. I told Dan that I was slightly concerned, but we both decided it was probably nothing. Later on that day, I could barely muster up the energy to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and my students at work thankfully told me to go lie down and rest in our break room for a bit (this should have been red flag #2: I hardly ever have to rest during work hours). I had an amazing “going away” celebratory happy hour with some colleagues at On the Border to celebrate my new job, but unfortunately I couldn’t bring myself to consume any alcohol and barely ate the delicious Mexican food in front of me (not eating guacamole is officially the third red flag).
Thursday was a rough day. I powered through the morning, but by the time lunch rolled around, even chicken noodle soup was beyond my appetite. I had stomach pains all through the day, and I was actually dying to throw up, but I couldn’t bring myself to force it out of me. As soon as I got home, I dropped all of my belongings on the floor and threw myself on the couch, crying from the pain. Dan and I decided that if I still felt that bad in 24 hours, we would go to the hospital. Waiting and not going at that moment was probably our worst mistake.
I spent the entire night in pain, tossing and turning and barely rested. At 6:30am, we decided that I needed to go to the emergency room. I didn’t want to scare anyone or worry my parents, so we kept it quiet for a while until I actually was able to see a doctor. After she pressed on my abdomen, I started to realize that the majority of the worst pain was on the right side of my body (re: appendix!). I started to actually feel calmer, knowing that surgery to remove the appendix is pretty common, and that I wouldn’t have to be in the hospital for too long. Dan and I hung out in the emergency room for the whole morning and most of the afternoon, laughing with our ER nurse Becky and drinking Contrast to prepare for the CT scan to view my entire abdomen. It wasn’t until my CT scan results came back and the doctor had a pretty serious look on her face that I started to panic.
The doctor told me that I must be a soldier with an extremely high pain tolerance (aww, shucks, little old me?) because I had experienced the full rupture of my appendix without needing to go to the hospital. My appendix had ruptured a few days previously and an abscess had formed at the tip of it, creating a 3×4 centimeter ball of blood, pus, and other totally appealing materials. Regardless, this was a dangerous situation that could lead to a full-blown infection which could have spread throughout my body, so it was crucial that we had arrived at the hospital. The moral of the story? Go to the doctor already. Anyway, after talking with a few doctors, they told me that I wouldn’t be able to have surgery to remove my appendix that day because the infection and abscess were too dangerous to mess with, so they were going to focus on targeting the abscess by inserting a tube into it to drain it. The doctors told me that I may have to get my appendix removed in six to eight weeks, or I may not need to have the procedure done at all, so I’ll be waiting patiently for that update.
I went through another CT scan, which was really just a series of pictures to identify the exact location of the abscess, and then went through the procedure where the doctors inserted the tube into my abdomen to start draining the abscess through the tube and into a clear plastic bag outside of my body. I was awake during this procedure, and burst into tears, so that was really cool (ugh, so not cool). Not sure if this was because of pain, or because I was overwhelmed by the entire day and how quickly everything had progressed, but either way it was pretty tough. I knew that I was going to spend a significant amount of time in the hospital to be monitored with antibiotics, having nurses and doctors constantly checking on my temperature, monitoring my bathroom trips, blood pressure, and all of that fun stuff. I was not looking forward to it.
When my time in the ER came to an end, I got approved to eat clear liquid foods. The first thing I got my hands on was a cherry Italian ice, and it was the first thing I had eaten almost all week without any stomach pain. It was amazing. No words can describe the glorious feelings that I experienced from eating a push pop Italian ice in the hospital. It’s the little things in life, my friends.
I spent the next 36 hours in a shared, two-person hospital room being constantly monitored by doctors and nurses. I was a good patient, obedient and keeping track of my own vitals as best I could. However, I am not a person who likes to sit down and rest for long periods of time. I definitely don’t like being in a bed and attached to an IV (who does, really?). It was challenging for me as a young person to be confined and unable to do any of the activities that I would normally participate in, even something as simple as walking. I realized how much I take for granted on a daily basis, and I reflected a lot on how privileged I am to be young, in good health, and to be able to afford this kind of medical care. I hated being awakened at 4 a.m. by doctors asking me complex questions and pushing on my wounds. I did not like getting my temperature taken and listening to my IV beep steadily as I was administered my antibiotics.
All that aside, I had so much to be grateful for: I was generally healthy. I had a husband who stayed with me for almost the entire 50+ hours that I was in the hospital, sleeping in a non-reclining chair beside me. I had family and friends visit me and provide me with their support, as well as a ton of well-wishes from others via phone calls and texts. I received careful and thoughtful medical treatment from professionals that I now have a new appreciation for, especially doctors and nurses working long shifts with lots of patients experiencing all kinds of medical and emotional trauma.
I’ll be sporting a drainage tube and bag for the next six days, so I’ll be moving a little slower, napping a little more, and perhaps finally starting to binge-watch Gilmore Girls after years of friends convincing me to start. I’m totally open to suggestions for other R&R activities until I’m back in the working game, which will be either at the end of this week or the beginning of next week. Though I would love to be fully mobile and taking on the world, Creating Krista-style, I know that I’ll need to summon my patience and listen to my body more closely than ever before. This is not a time for over-exertion but for self-reflection and healing. Overall, I’m grateful to be healthy, happy, and to be surrounded by support in so many different ways. Thanks for reading and being a part of the journey – I’m always a work in progress!