***I’ve been looking for this story for years. I wrote it a week after I suffered from Appendicitis. Be careful reading it. I grossed out my seventh grade students when I read it aloud to them and two of them fainted***
I have been in pain before. Kick the wall barefoot and break my toe pain. Split my mouth open and need stitches in my tongue pain. Have my wisdom teeth chiseled out of my jaw pain, but nothing like the pain I felt in my gut last weekend.
My wife, two year old son, five month old daughter, and I were living at my parents while our house was being completed. All day on a Saturday, I labored away on various projects in our uninhabitable new house. Undercutting doorways, painting posts, sealing grout, and running away from yellow jackets were the major time consumers. With no working electricity I was forced to leave the work site at around seven in the evening. I headed to my wife’s parents place.
During the drive, my stomach started to feel strange. When I say feel strange, I mean it was an abnormal sensation that I couldn’t relate to any other pain I’ve felt in my life. Something was wrong with my stomach. I arrived at my in laws, Mark and Shirlie.
My stomach pain started to intensify during my visit with Mark and Shirlie. My wife, Lisa Marie, asked, “Why are you so crabby?”
I grumbled in return, “Could we go home please?”
“We don’t have a home. Don’t you remember?” she snapped. I hobbled along picking up various building blocks, diapers, and personal belongings. We wrangled Bob the Builder, my son, and snatched up my little daughter, The Flower Child, and plopped them into their car seats. We headed back to my parent’s house. My abdomen grabbed and pulled at me as we drove.
Saturday night was miserable. The Flower Child woke up numerous times. My stomach kept me from sleeping between The Flower Child’s feedings. My wife asked me why I couldn’t sleep. I replied with, “My stomach hurts. I’m not sure if it’s my insides or my outsides.”
I went to the bathroom and didn’t know if I should sit on the toilet or put my head above it. Luckily, I didn’t have to use it for either. Sweat beaded up on my forehead, so I pressed my face against the cool tiles of the bathroom floor.
Sunday morning came, and I tried to figure out what was wrong. Did I eat too many peanuts? Did I pull a muscle trying to undercut the door? Do I need to take some antacids? Do I need to eat some more or not at all. Should I drink something or nothing?
As the day progressed, I became more and more useless according to my wife. She asked, “What’s wrong with you?”
“Something’s wrong with my stomach.”
“Suck it up, Tief,” she would chant. I tried to hold The Flower Child and play with Bob the Builder, but I couldn’t keep my mind off the pain; the ever increasing pain. My stomach rolled, ached, and started to stab me in the lower right side.
I took three baths because the water would take some pressure off my body. My mother said at the dinner table, “Maybe its appendicitis.”
I asked, “What’s that?”
“I don’t know.”
My family ordered me to go upstairs and lay down. I did, but the right side of my stomach kept needling me. The pain made my eyes water as I staggered to get up.
I shuffled over to the computer and looked up “appendicitis symptoms.” The computer spit out a list of symptoms that mirrored the way I felt. The most dangerous item in the description read, “If you have been feeling these symptoms for more than four hours, see a doctor. If you have been feeling these symptoms for more that 24 hours, see a doctor immediately. It was six in the evening. I started feeling “these symptoms” about 23 hours ago.
I printed out a copy of this wonderful literature to share with the family. I put on my shoes. “Let’s go to the hospital, Lisa,” I announced. My parents stayed back with Bob the Builder, but my wife grabbed The Flower Child, and we raced to West Allis Memorial Hospital.
The nurse took one look at me at the emergency desk, and took me into a small emergency room. There I had to drink some awful yellow substance. She said it was supposed to taste like lemon ice. My wife said it looked like pee. I gagged it down and chased this substance with four glasses of water as ordered by the doctor in the emergency room.
I had to take off my clothes, and put on a hospital gown. Luckily they let me wear my boxer shorts so my butt wasn’t hanging in the breeze. The doctor examined me in some ways I wish not to describe. The worst was the, “Does it hurt here?” as the doctor dived in with his hands first, pressing all over my stomach. When he came close to the left side of my stomach his hands felt like a jagged knife stabbing me. Cold sweat covered my forehead as I laid still. They gave me an IV of morphine. After the doctor left, my stomach still shouted with pain.
At nine at night I went to get a CT scan of my abdomen. It was hard to lay straight on the table. I wanted to curl up in a ball. It felt like a giant fist reached under my skin and was squeezing my belly. The X-ray technician was going to insert dye in my IV that would highlight the area around my intestines, as she said, so they could see on the X-ray anything that would be causing problems. She warned me, “When I inject this fluid, you will feel very hot. You may get a sensation that you’ve wet your pants.” I laughed. It hurt. The injected the fluid which made my shoulders hot, and wouldn’t you believe it, made me feel like I wet my pants. Let it be known that I did not wet my pants, even though my friend, Billy Madison, once told me, “Peeing your pants is cool.”
The X-rays came back along with with the diagnosis of appendicitis. The doctor informed me that the surgeon had been summoned from his home. They would have to wait until eleven at night to perform the surgery because I had eaten dinner. I told my parents and my wife I didn’t want to eat at that time, but they made me swallow down some gooey potato salad and half a cheese dog. Those jerks.
Eleven couldn’t come fast enough. I was sweating profusely. The bright and blurry lights burned my eyes. My abdomen kept pulling tighter and tighter. Finally, they carted me off to surgery. My wife kissed me. The Flower Child smiled and cooed. My wife said, “Sorry honey.” I nodded.
For a moment, I felt worse about my wife than myself. What if I didn’t make it and she was left with two young children, and no home.
Before I could turn into an emotional wreck, the surgical team assembled: Nurses, Anesthesiologist, Surgeon. They attached more wires that lead to several different monitors as we rolled into the very bright room. I couldn’t focus on any one particular thing. Lights, people with masks, somebody pressing on my abdomen. They strapped a gas mask on my face. Someone asked me a question. The room spun and went black.
I woke up. Everything hurt.
I fell asleep.
I woke up again and heard my wife talking, I think. My side sizzled like there was a fire inside my intestines. My arms and legs I felt so heavy. I wanted to move, to sit up.
I fell asleep.
I woke up and it was quiet. The room was dimly lit. The pain and nausea was intense, and my body remained glued to the bed. I cranked my neck forward from the bed and my right side blistered with pain. Carefully, bracing my arms against the bed railings, I managed to sit up. IV cords dangled on my arm. A glowing red band-aid was wrapped around my index finger. Another cord was attached to this light which dangled from the end of my finger. A nurse appeared. She helped me with my legs. I couldn’t overcome the pain and move them with my own power. She asked me to number my pain from one to ten. I thought about telling her ten, but I figured that is how you feel when your whole body is on fire or something, so I said eight.
The nurse helped me to the bathroom. I couldn’t sit down, or go to the bathroom, so I gimped back towards the bed. Leaning first on the side rail, I sat down on the end of the bed. The nurse helped me scoot back. I clung to both rails as I leaned back and my side ached. The nurse told me about a wire which had a button. Every time you pushed the button, morphine would go into my IV. If I pushed the button once every ten minutes, I would get more morphine. The machine wouldn’t let me have a constant stream of painkillers, because the painkiller would then kill me. I pushed the button.
I pushed the button again, and again, and then again. My side still screamed. The doctor arrived. He asked me to number my pain. I said seven. He looked at how many times I had pushed the button. 67 times in 12 minutes. He said that I only get morphine every ten minutes. I told him, “I don’t want to miss the exact moment when my ten minutes are up.”
As time went by, the pain dulled. It was a battle to get out of bed and shuffle to the bathroom without any help, but each time it became easier and easier. My family visited. My brother stayed for a while. We watched a movie about man eating sharks. I laughed. It hurt.
The doctor returned the next day and said I could leave. He explained in detail what was happening to me when I was in pain. “You are lucky you got in here when you did. An appendix is like a dead end in your intestines. When you get appendicitis, that dead end is swelling up with infectious pus. If this swollen appendix isn’t removed in time, it will burst and the infectious materials will spill out into your body cavity. This can lead to death. In your case, your appendix was just about to rupture.”
“Why do I hurt so much now?” I asked.
“You will get better soon, but I really had to move a lot of stuff around in there to get at your appendix. It was pushed down under your intestines and behind your colon,” He calmly recited.
“Is that why my cut is so long?” I wondered.
“Yes, I needed extra room because I had to get in there and carefully maneuver around other things to get to your appendix. I know you feel bad now, but you will recover fairly quickly. You’re appendix was the largest one we’ve ever seen! We must have got to it just before it was about to burst. Do you want to see it?” The doctor asked with a bright smile on his face.
My whole face scrunched up in disgust. “You kept it?” I asked.
“Yes. We’re going to use it when we teach Med students about appendicitis. So, do you want to see it?”
Like I popped his birthday balloon, the doctor went from giddy to grumpy instantly. He asked, “What is your pain number now?” he asked.
“About a three or a four,” I said. “Thanks for saving me.”
I shook the doctor’s hand, and he reminded me to see him in a week as he exited the hospital room. The pain was subsiding. I could move around.
The nurses detached all my IVs and wires. My wife arrived, and she wheeled me downstairs. The storm in my stomach had passed. My wife felt bad about telling me that nothing was wrong. I told her not to worry anymore because you only have one appendix and mine is gone.
My stomach hurt.
*** David Tiefenthaler wrote a book, O.K. is Great, and the reviews are in! ***
“I love this book. It is humorous, but well grounded in reality. The author seems to know and understand well the angst of adolescent boys. If you have enjoyed the wimpy kid books try this one. It’s funny, witty, has hilarious illustrations, and tells a great story, too.”