Friday, March 30, 2012

Brink of death

Morbid title I know. But that's basically what a year ago today was. I almost died. I cheated death for the second time in my life. I'm guessing someone upstairs wants me alive. Maybe. Also, I look at it as a way to completely empathize with my future patients when I'm a health professional (notice the vagueness?)... Anywho. Let's walk down (painful but interesting) memory lane, shall we?

On a Tuesday in March last year, the 29th to be exact, I started have crazy intense pain in my lower abdomen. It sort of accumulated throughout the day but at night it became so incredibly unbearable that I literally shoved my head into the corner of our couch and was yelling as loud as I could. My flatmate, M, thought I was dying. There were moments where I thought I was okay but then my insides would be like, "HA! You wish buddy... This is what you get for torturing me." M and I decided that it was women issues so we heated up the heat pack and laid it across my lower abdomen and turned on a mindless movie to distract me from the pain. I also took about 6 AdvilPMs. I may have even taken 2 Excedrin PMs. They semi-helped but not really. Didn't really feel nauseous, not that I remember anyway, except for when I was in extreme pain and then when I was done trying to stifle my yells of pain, I felt a little weird. I battled with the pain and didn't really sleep but in the end I guess I was so exhausted from fighting the pain I fell asleep.

The morning of the 30th, I woke up from my non-sleep and was in so much pain I couldn't move. To go to the bathroom, I doubled over and shuffled (meaning tiny baby steps, about 5-6 for one of my normal strides) 4 feet. It took me about 5 times longer than normal. Probably more. As I put my body back into my bed, I texted M and said, "I think I really need to go to the hospital." We had agreed the night before that if I still felt like my insides were trying to make their way out of my body "Alien" style, we'd go to the hospital.

I wore a hoodie and sweats into the streets of Dublin, which to those of you who don't know, is complete "North Dublin" wear... That is, what "track suit wearers" would wear out. M told me that people were looking at me as if I was a leper and dying. I felt like it. I climbed into a taxi (with the help of M gently pushing me over to the other side) and began the most painful cab ride of my life. I felt every bump, turn, and shift change.

As we got to the Mater Hospital, I walked (shuffled) into the A&E and plopped myself down onto the nearest chair. M, the superstar and amazing person that she is, took care of everything. Even when I had to go to the bathroom, she came in with me and made sure I didn't fall in. Yes, I lost every shred of dignity during this time of battling death. I finally got called in for the initial check in and the nurse looked at me with the most pitied look I have ever seen. I plopped down into the chair and she proceeded to ask me questions, take my blood pressure, and temperature. My temperature was 40 degrees Celsius. That's 104 F. 3 degrees away from possible brain damage. I think she gave me some pills to swallow which took an immense amount of energy and escorted me back to my seat in the waiting room. She told us as we walked outside that they would try to find a bed as soon as possible because clearly, something was very wrong.

Sure enough they found a bed. Where was it? In the plaster room. What is that in American terms? Where they put fiberglass casts on folks with broken bones. Why there? They had no other beds and they really needed me to be laying down and probably also not to freak out the other people in the waiting room. Then I waited. And waited. During the (approximately) 7 hours of waiting, my pain changed. It didn't completely go away but it definitely changed. It was at this point (and after 3 doctors confirmed it was appendicitis) that people started to really freak out. In hindsight, this is because my appendix burst. As the doctors and interns put it, "It was shredded" and "It was a mess in there."

Finally after my surgery I was transported upstairs to the ward where I would be staying. Honestly, I don't remember much of that besides the pain from being transferred from the surgical table to the bed. I should have gotten better. The key word in that sentence is should. Over the next five days, my belly swelled until it looked like I was 7 months pregnant and I could not stop vomiting. Even when there was nothing left to vomit, I vomited bile. I had an NG (nasogastric) stuck up my nose then snaked down to my stomach to make me stop vomiting. Weirdly, that was one of the most painful parts of this whole ordeal. I had multiple x-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans. Oh and of course blood draws which were real fun since I have ridiculously small vessels.

On the fifth of April after my final CT scan results came back, the doctors rushed in and said, "We are taking  you to surgery again. Sign these forms. Now." My mesoappendiceal tissue was "raw and oozing" <-- that is a direct quote from my surgical report. (if you want photos

I was in the hospital for a total of 17 days. I was getting fed through tubes exactly 2000 kcal a day. They said I was supposed to be there for a month. The doctors said I was lucky and that they think my mom had something to do with my quick recovery... I'm sure that's part of it but I think it was God.

A year later I'm great! Well not fully great because I haven't exercised AT ALL and instead gained ALL the weight back :( ah well. I will start gearing up soon because I just need to be healthy again!

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