Sooo, in recent news, I have lupus! No surprise here. But the past few months, in fact, most of the summer I have been doing really well. I have been having some weird stomach problems off and on over the summer- and was considering setting up an appointment with a GI doctor. I assumed it was just related to my lupus somehow- because it seems like everything is… Between nausea, pain, and other various unpleasant stomach symptoms, it was just getting to be enough. But before I had time to get it really checked out, it brought itself front and center.
Long story short- I lost my appendix last week! Well, technically it was taken from me.
(You can see my appendix HERE)
Good news: I don’t have appendicitis!
Bad news: I still had to have surgery.
It all ‘started’ Friday morning where I had an appointment at the Family Doctor, where my mother made an appointment for me because of the stomach pain I’d been complaining about, because she was worried and tired of no answers. I thoroughly expressed my unhappiness about the appointment- stating they wouldn’t be able to solve anything regarding my stomach- as no one had as of yet. Turns out my family dr. thought it was serious enough she wanted to send me to the ER in case I had appendicitis. Ugh… so much for going to work on Friday!
So I went to the ER nearest my house upon recommendation of my family doc- who called them to let them know I was coming. My symptoms were severe cramping, sharp pains in the lower right quadrant of my stomach etc. So I went to there, and from there it kind of becomes a blur. I was pretty nauseous, and I guess I was dry heaving a lot. It got so bad that I actually stopped breathing twice, and was turning purple. I don’t really remember that part that well- other than the fact that it hurt my face and my stomach terribly and that I couldn’t breathe. It got pretty hectic from there, they ended up putting a breathing mask on me, and using some of the equipment behind the bed in the ER to keep me breathing. I’ve never actually seen that stuff used! Once they stabilized me from the nausea/ lack of vomiting, they did blood tests, exams, the whole work up- told me I looked good and sent me home on medicine for my headache/stomach- Reglan and Benadryl [On a side note- my family and I have come to the conclusion that no matter how small my medical ailment may be, that from now on I have to stay within my system of doctors (UCH-University of Colorado Hospital) rather than choosing other places over convenience. It's the only thing that makes sense, given the complication, complexity, and frankly uniqueness of my conditions.] ANYWAYS- So I went home, as usual, with no answer. Just temporarily medicated to mask whatever problems I was presenting. I suppose, with me having lupus, the docs just chalked it up to another piece of the disease-not feeling well. I went home- and went straight to bed, as I had had an incredibly tiring day that not only did I feel was wasted, but I stopped breathing twice and the doctors barely noticed. I pretty much felt like I didn’t matter or belong in the ER with my stomach pains.
Turns out, the next day (Saturday) I woke up, feeling even worse. Terrible pains in my stomach, to the point where it hurt to breathe. So my dad drove me to the correct hospital (UCH @ Denver-30 min drive south) Saturday evening after I was sick and in pain all day long. I threw up the entire way to the hospital, and when I got there- they actually got me back and to a room quicker than I’ve ever experienced in that ER. When I presented to the ER my BP and heart rate were high and my oxygen was low- in the 70′s. They immediately started me on dillaudid, phenergan, and oxygen. From there, I don’t remember a lot… just being in pain, getting scans, and being ‘admitted’ to the hospital, but there were no rooms so I was somewhere in the back of the ER for a day or two. At some point I got a room, I’d say by Monday or Tuesday, but I was really sick so I have a hard time remembering. There were a lot of doctors coming in in groups (teaching hospital) doing exams on me, and I do remember they said my appendix looked perfect in the CT Scans. I couldn’t have cared any less if it was my appendix or not… all I knew was that it hurt very bad, it was making me very sick, and they needed to figure it out. So thats what I told them. Day after day. They told me the only abnormality they saw was some ‘stranding‘ on my right ovary, which could indicate a number of things- most likely not severe. Problem was, they cannot use IV contrast in CT scans for me, because I’m allergic. So they cannot see very specifically into my abdomen.
Eventually, the doctors, rheumatologists, and surgeons, came to some sort of weird internal struggle on whether they should do surgery on me or not. It seemed to me that just about everyone wanted me to have surgery- except the surgeons! Strange, I know. But I guess they were worried they would go in, and not find anything wrong, and then just cause me additional trouble (for ‘no reason’) regarding healing from the surgery due to my medications and Lupus. After a few back and forths between the surgery team, the primary care team, the rheumatology team, and a big ‘push’ from my dad- the chief surgeon came in my room one morning and said he’d do the surgery as an ‘exploratory appendectomy’, where they take out my appendix (regardless of it’s condition, and then look for any obvious further problems) as long as I knew and understood the consequences.
I was to the point where I was so tired of the pain, I didn’t care if they took out all my organs… I just wanted them to fix it. And I KNEW they would see something wrong if they looked inside. So a little after 9pm on Tuesday night…. they did the laproscopic surgery with 4 holes- two in my belly button, and two more about three inches below the one before.(You can see my appendix HERE)
The outcome was a relatively unremarkable appendix, and about 20 cc’s of bloody material from a suspected large hemorraghic cyst on my ovary that hard ruptured and caused bleeding into my open abdomen. Most of the blood had been absorbed into my body, but this was frankly too much and too gunky (gross- I’m sorry I know) to be absorbed into my body. So there was the source of all my pain! Apparently I’d had a large hemorraghic (blood filled) cyst that had cause the ‘stranding’ on my ovary and then at some point ruptured- leaving all this free fluid and cyst leftovers that needed to be cleaned out of my open abdominal cavity. (Note: normally there should be no fluid in your abdomen- outside of your organs!). It is very rare that a cyst ruptures and leaves remnants (especially so much blood) in the abdomen…so this was not even on the doctors mind’s as an option to consider to be causing my sickness.
OF COURSE it’s rare. Rare should be my new middle name.
I got out of the hospital on Thursday afternoon, feeling relatively well. My pre-surgery was gone instantaneously after the surgery was completed! And all that’s left now is the post- surgical incision pain, etc… but that is manageable :)
So, ultimately, I feel lucky that the doctors went in and did the (what turned out to be necessary) surgery- and I wasn’t left suffering for weeks longer.
Even though this particular ailment had nothing to do with my SLE Lupus, I’m surprised how much it came up in the Thanks to my dad’s stern push- and my rheumatologists’ fighting for me, knowing me as a patient- I am at home and recovering well!
I even have a picture of my appendix! (I was lucky enough to convince the docs to take a picture of it!). You can see my appendix HERE. Haha, of course I would ask for a picture of my organs. Hey… if they are going to take it out I might as well see it! I will make sure it is a linked photo though, so you have the option to click it. Until then, xoxo