Listen to Your Body

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Last fall, I spent a lovely day in the mountains with my family. We had a picnic, which included my mother-in-law’s homemade sausage biscuits. They were delicious and she graciously sent us home with the leftovers. The next morning, I had one of the leftover biscuits for breakfast and then took my two young children to the grocery store. Halfway through my grocery shopping, my stomach began to hurt, which I dismissed as simple indigestion. By lunchtime a few hours later, I had a severe stomachache and tried to eat plain toast and plain white rice for lunch. I immediately vomited and was struck by more intense stomach pains and nausea. This continued throughout the day- I could barely stay in one position because the pain and nausea were so strong. I decided that I had food poisoning and blamed my mother-in-law's biscuits. I spent the entire afternoon moving between the bathroom and the couch, all the while cursing my husband and his mother.

I felt worse and worse, and by the time our children were in bed, my husband had decided I needed to go to the emergency room. I continued to insist it was food poisoning and believed we would have a long wait after which I would be sent home with a list of bland foods and clear liquids. Little did I know what lay ahead. The ER was so crowded that I had to sit on a bed in the hallway. Having not eaten all day and still feeling incredibly nauseous, I was told to drink a huge bottle of barium- a nasty, thick, white liquid that must be ingested one hour before a CT scan can be done. I was poked and prodded, blood was taken, an IV gave me fluids and medication, and finally, after a lot of tests, I was told I needed to have my appendix removed. My blood counts were significantly high- 9,000 is a normal white blood cell count for appendicitis and mine was over 14,000. Surgery was scheduled for first thing in the morning and I was told to try and rest. My appendix would be removed through a tiny incision and the laparoscopy procedure would allow me to go home less than 5 hours later. The IV medications kept my pain and nausea gone, which we now know was a big mistake.

The rest of my appendicitis journey is a big blur to me. When the surgeon finally took me into surgery three hours later than I was originally scheduled, he found that my appendix had ruptured and my "simple procedure" became major surgery. Instead of four hours, I spent four days and nights in the hospital. Instead of a one inch scar covered by a band-aid, I had stitches, surgical dressings and lots of pain. I could not drive, go up stairs or carry my children.

What I learned was this: listen to your body and admit when something is not right. I should have gone to the doctor earlier in the day and when told I needed surgery, I should have asked more questions and insisted on more urgent care.