On having appendicitis

On Sunday evening I underwent laparoscopic surgery for removal of my appendix. I had been feeling ill for about two days and woke up at 3 in the morning with a pain in the middle of my stomach, right under my navel.  The pain continued all morning, and after not feeling any relief I called my Doctor’s office and the doctor on call recommended I go to the ER immediately.  After about a 45 minute wait, I was in the ER and answering questions.  I still felt like it couldn’t be appendicitis, and that I’d somehow end up being embarrassed to find out that I just had bad gas or some food poisoning.  I wasn’t confident it was appendicitis until they started pushing on my stomach at the spot of the appendix and I felt severe pain, while other areas of my stomach felt fine.

They did the typical lab tests of blood and urine to eliminate a urinary tract infection and to get an idea of my white blood cell count.  I didn’t have a fever or a high white blood cell count so they also ordered a CT scan, and it turned out positive.  I underwent surgery about 7 hours after arriving.  I spent one night in the hospital and was discharged the next afternoon, about 20 hours after surgery.  I’ve been home for a few days and recovering pretty quickly.

When I was a kid, living in Venezuela, there was a man who died from appendicitis.  He had no access to good health care, the local clinic had sent him home with pain killers when he had come to see them with initial symptoms.  His appendix burst, and he was unable to survive the ensuing peritonitis and died, leaving behind a wife and children.  In reality, just a few centuries ago I would have probably had an experience very similar to his, with a high chance of serious damage from an event that affects 1 in 15 Americans.  I found this Time article from 1931 that indicates that 18-20,000 people died annually from appendicitis at that time.

I’m truly grateful for a great hospital, good doctors, and access to good healthcare.

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