Yes, I admit it. I win the prize for stubborn bull-headed stupidity. This past Monday I saw patients all day while suffering from acute appendicitis.
At about 3:30 in the afternoon my pain was bad enough that I knew I couldn’t continue working. I knew something was seriously wrong. My partner was kind enough to agree to see my last 2 patients for me, and I drove myself a few miles down the road to the ER.
I’ve learned a few things about appendicitis from this adventure, which I’d like to share.
Appendicitis moves fast
I went from only minor not-feeling-well to seriously sick with 8/10 pain in about 8 hours. In school they taught us to be very suspicious of rapidly progressing abdominal pain, but it still was a shock at how quickly the illness can get bad.
Where is the pain?
My pain was not around my belly button or in the right lower quadrant like I would expect. It was in my upper abdomen under my breastbone. In fact, having had gallstones many years ago I felt the pain was very similar to gallstone pain.
Are you hungry?
I was surprised that my appetite stayed normal throughout most of the process. I had breakfast and lunch as I normally would have done. In fact, I had a snack mid-morning and it seemed to help the pain a little (so of course I diagnosed myself with an ulcer and started eating antacids).
Fever? Nausea? Diarrhea?
Nope, not really, and nope.
Leave it to me to have everybody scratching their heads. The textbooks describe appendicitis as rapidly progressive pain around the belly button that moves to the right lower quadrant, with associated fever, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite.
Here’s a picture from WebMD:
My CT scan showed my appendix was enlarged but didn’t really look inflamed. Dr. Brown (shout out to my magnificent doctor and friend!) found I was tender when she pressed on my right lower abdomen and recommended we go ahead and take it out.
I am so grateful to everyone who took such wonderful care of me at the new UH Broadview Heights ER and at my home hospital, UH Parma Medical Center. Dr. White at the ER was caring, reassuring, professional and thorough in dealing with a fellow physician who was in severe pain, frightened and mildly hysterical. The nurses and aides were gentle and compassionate. The OR staff made everything seem so routine and even joked with me a little (“We’re just waiting on your pregnancy test. Anything you want to tell us?”).
And of course my rockstar surgeon Dr. Trudi Brown fixed me right up and made me feel so comfortable with the plan. She even mothered me a little, telling me I couldn’t go back to work right away, Being a doctor herself she probably could see the signs a mile away that I needed to be told to take care of myself!
I’m feeling great and if I didn’t have a scheduled week of vacation coming up I’d be back to work Monday. As it is, I’m going to take advantage of the opportunity to relax and get some more rest. See you soon!