My appendectomy

by Neil Rickert

I haven’t posted for a while.  I was thinking of some more topics, when reality intruded.  This post is related to how I have been spending my time over the last week or so.

Colonoscopy

Let’s start at the beginning.  Almost 2 months ago, I had what was supposed to be a routine colonoscopy.  That’s where they push a camera up one’s rear, and look around.

For the most part, a colonoscopy isn’t too bad, if only because you are under an anesthetic for most of the time.  The really unpleasant part is the “bowel prep” on the previous day.  That’s when you take some heavy laxatives to clean yourself out and make room for the equipment.

The colonoscopy itself came out okay.  There were three small polyps, which were removed and biopsied.  The test showed that they were not cancerous.

The problem was the the physician saw something else he didn’t like.  The appendix is attached near the top of the colon, and should look like a small cavity.  The camera showed something larger and white and bright (under the illumination they were using).  The doctor advised me to have the appendix removed, and referred me to a surgeon.

The appendectomy

The removal was to be laparoscopic.  This is where they make three small incisions, then send a camera through one and instruments through the others.  This avoids fully opening the abdomen.

Again, I was under anesthesia for the procedure.  There was another day of bowel prep (cleaning out the intestines) before the surgery.

The surgery itself seemed to go okay.  There was some pain afterwards, but it was pain that I could easily tolerate.  When asked by the nurse, I rated it a 5 on a scale of 1-10.

I did feel a little poorly after the surgery.  They gave me water to drink and offered crackers to eat.  But the body did not seem able to deal well with the eating and drinking.

Ileus

I went home later that day following the surgery.  The next morning, I felt a little better, and drinking water seemed to work out.  I ate only very lightly, but it still felt as if food was not being handled well.

Over the next two days, eating seemed to improve a little at first.  But then it got worse and I felt increasingly bloated.  I had my wife take me to the emergency room to be checked out.

At the emergency room, they diagnosed “ileus”.  Apparently the digestive system had shutdown.  Based on what I had experienced, my guess is that digestive system shutdown completely at first.  But the upper digestive system came back to life after around 2 days, causing me to at first feel a little better.  But the lower digestive system (the large intestines) remained shutdown.  So I was filling up with gas that could not be eliminated.

They setup an IV (intravenous line) to keep me hydrated adequately.

The NG tube

Next they inserted an NG tube.  This is a diabolical torture device.  They push a tube down the nose (a nasogastric tube).  They have to probe around in the nose to find how to insert it properly, and this causes some bleeding.  Then they push the tube down the throat and into the stomach.  Then they tape the upper end to the nose.

This is a most unpleasant experience.  It is awkward on the nose.  There is a sore throat due to the tube going down there.  It makes talking harder.  It makes lots of things harder, because the tube gets in the way.

However, once the NG tube had been in place for a while, and connected to a suction device, I began to feel better.  This was reducing the bloat problem.  It was allowing accumulated gas to be released.  So while I described it as a diabolical torture device, it is probably the main part of what solved the problem.

I was, of course, admitted to the hospital and spent two nights there.  The next morning after admission, my lower digestive system showed activity and things began to move.  From that point on there was steady improvement.

Final note

I’ve now been home for almost 2 days, and I am seeing continued improvement.  I’m still eating soft foods (such as soups, juices, yogurt, etc), but gradually moving toward a normal diet.  So things are looking pretty good from here — good enough that I can even take the time to blog about it.

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