A thorough recount of my experience with appendicitis, getting an appendectomy (the appendix surgically removed) and recovering for the next few weeks following.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, surgeon or nurse - just a lady who had appendicitis and an appendectomy. Always consult with your doctor if you think something might be wrong. These are my own thoughts and feelings from my own personal experience with appendicitis and appendectomy.
For most of my life I enjoyed a fairly clean bill of health. Dodged the chickenpox when I was younger, only got sick maybe once a year when all the other kids got sick and my main complaint most years was that I got a weeklong cold. Right before Christmas in December 2017, I began feeling some awful stomach pains.
How Did You Know You Had Appendicitis?
I figured it was just something I ate. Maybe a stomach bug going around at work. Those happen from time to time and I got one about the same time last year. I felt awful stomach cramps on Tuesday, December 19th. I figured I would let it run its course if it was something I ate or a stomach flu.
The one thing I found very peculiar was that I immediately lost my appetite on Tuesday the moment I felt those stomach cramps. The thought of food just wasn’t appealing to me and I didn’t eat anything other than crackers and water until Wednesday night, the 20th. I had lasagna and meatballs because it was my father-in-law’s birthday that day. I was starving and hadn’t eaten more than 300 calories in the last day and a half. It was a glorious meal, even if I knew it would hurt me.
Fast forward to Thursday the 21st of December. I knew something was wrong because I just wasn't feeling any better. If anything, I felt worse. I tried to hop into the shower and trudge on and get to work, but the water hitting my lower right stomach area made me feel immediately nauseous and I actually sat down in the bathtub to gather myself out of that awful nausea feeling. Looks like I was staying home today. I figured I would go to the local urgent care office that’s 5 minutes down the road from us.
My mother-in-law kindly drove me to the urgent care, because she knew this was the beginning of the third day that I didn’t feel well. When the nurse at the front desk asked what was wrong, she immediately told me that they don’t have any imaging equipment on site there and that I should go to the emergency room because it sounded either like appendicitis or an ovarian cyst.
What Happened in the Hospital
Next stop, the hospital in Red Bank. I’m not sure if it was because it was around 10:00 A.M. or if they are just efficient in there, but I got a room in the emergency department in less than 10 minutes. I got blood drawn, gave a urine sample and was hooked up to an IV line with instruction that I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink until they found out what was up with my insides. I threw on a hospital gown on my top half and kept my pants and shoes on because it was December and I was freezing.
After meeting with the doctor who suspected appendicitis, they ordered a CAT scan of my lower abdominal area. I had to drink two huge cups of contrast and then wait 90 minutes after that for the scan. Everyone has said that the contrast always tastes awful, but mine tasted like Crystal Light iced tea. It was also a bit refreshing after being told I couldn’t eat or drink anytime in the near future.
I was rolled up to the imaging area and they assisted me onto the table. I’d never had a scan like this before, so it was a bit of a new experience. It wasn’t unpleasant really, but they did push what I believe was iodine through my IV line so that it would show up on the scan and that felt a little awkward. After that, my bed was rolled into the hallway into the queue to be rolled back to the room. I was sad and alone and left my phone back in the ER room with my mother-in-law. I just wanted to text my husband (the guy who married me 47 short days prior) and tell him what was going on.
(Funny story about him. He actually had appendicitis when he was 7, and his burst. He waited an unusually long amount of time to get it checked out because it didn’t seem like it was bothering him. He had the traditional surgery with two large incisions and spent 2 weeks in the hospital. The reason I bring this up is because everyone thought that there was no way I could have appendicitis if my main complaint was an overly crampy stomach. I had no fever and no other typical signs of appendicitis other than lower right quadrant abdominal pain.)
You Have Appendicitis
When I got back to the ER room, I was starting to get the feeling that I was probably just making this all up and that I just had really bad gas or something. A short while later, the ER doctor came in to tell me the results of my scan. I had an “angry appendix” and it was ready to come out. I had appendicitis and I was getting surgery that day. In my head, I was not very prepared for all of this. I had never had surgery, didn’t know the first thing about surgery and didn’t have a solid 10-15 hours to google all the things that can be associated with appendicitis and an appendectomy.
I was upset, but I also have a sense of humor, so I let the doctor know that once she left the room I was only going to cry a little bit. She assured me that they take out appendixes all the time and that they are very minimal surgeries and usually everything is fine afterwards. I tried to calm myself down, but I think the Benadryl they pumped into my IV line really did the trick.
My husband called me, said he was leaving work early to come be with me. I appreciated that a lot. My mother-in-law was doing a great job at keeping me from worrying but I could tell she was getting tired from sitting with me for the past 4 hours in the ER. I made a few phone calls and texts to my family and close friends just letting them know what was going on.
Once I knew what was happening, I made sure I called my mom who was at work and was leaving the next morning to go on her Christmas cruise with my dad. I felt guilty that my surgery was so sudden and scheduled right before my parents were about to go away for a week. (I also later told my father-in-law that I wanted to wait for his birthday to be over (it was the day prior) before I started being overdramatic and asking to be taken to the hospital.) My mom told me she’d come to the hospital and see me after my surgery because she couldn’t get out of work and wouldn’t be there until around 5:30 anyhow.
I originally was told that I’d be taken up to a room in the hospital and then would be transported to the holding area queue where patients go before surgery. I suppose there was an opening in the surgery queue because while on the way to my hospital room, they re-routed my bed and brought it up to the holding area before surgery. I went into full blown panic mode, as much as a person could while they were hooked up to an IV full of Benadryl.
My husband and mother-in-law joined me as I waited in the holding area and then later got prepped for surgery. I asked to use the bathroom and when the nurses found out I was still in my pants and shoes they made sure that I promptly removed those :(. They did load me up with a bunch of warmed blankets, but I was still shivering and cold and nervous. I further blew myself into a panic by overreacting when I realized my hand on the side with the IV in it had swollen up a little bit. The common theme throughout this appendicitis charade was panic, panic and more panic.
The OR nurse, Marie, introduced herself to me, as well as a few of the people on the surgery team. I met my surgeon and anesthesiologist which felt a lot like a whirlwind. I signed a bunch of papers consenting to the surgery and only managed to sign my maiden name twice…#newlywedproblems
I got briefed on the surgery and why I was getting an appendectomy for my appendicitis. My appendix didn’t look like it had burst from the scans, but doctors usually opt to remove them in case they do decide to burst (which usually happens very quickly after you start to feel symptoms of appendicitis).
It was nearing 5:00 P.M. and they were just about ready to take me into the operating room. I kissed my husband goodbye and said thank you to my MIL for all she did for me that day. I was incredibly sad but also kind of woozy from the Benadryl and felt really cold. I was rolled from the holding queue to the operating room and scooted myself from my hospital bed onto the operating table.
Ready or Not, Here Comes an Appendectomy
I laid down on the table, head placed nicely into a U shaped foam block and put my arms out onto the platforms. It was ice cold in the operating room and I only remember a bunch of people getting ready before my anesthesiologist came by to tell me I’d be getting very sleepy soon.
Very sleepy was a complete understatement. I blinked my eyes twice and was out cold. From what the doctors told my husband, they performed a laparoscopic appendectomy from 5-6:00 P.M. and everything went well. I had no recollection of any of it, except for when I woke up.
I had an awful reverse flashback the moment I opened up my eyes in the recovery room. It was like something from a weird movie or a dream. I could barely keep my eyes open, but managed to squint and stare at the clock across the room long enough to raspily ask the nurse “excuse me, is it 6:45?”. It was indeed 6:45 and I was in a world of pain. This is probably because I have no other indicator of “worst pain of my life” and came into the hospital telling triage my pain level was a 4 out of 10.
Post Surgery Pain and Recovery
The pain after surgery in the spot they sliced open was at least a 6.5 and I was very adamant about not leaving that recovery room until I was in less pain than I was in when I woke up. Needless to say, I fell back asleep almost immediately (as I am known to do in real life) and woke back up to the sound of a phone ringing when it was almost 9:00 P.M.
The nurse was on the phone with someone and she was looking my way. “Yes, she’s still here and she’s fine. We just need to get someone to transport her back to the room.” My adorable husband was calling the recovery room to ask where I was because he missed me (and he had been sitting with my parents for several hours waiting for me to be released to my room, ha!)
Apparently anesthesia affects people differently. It makes some people ravenously hungry and others violently ill. It made me really cranky and mean. I didn’t mean to be that way, but I was uncomfortable, in pain, and just wanted to have a drink and not feel like I was about to burst ala Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory once she turns into a blueberry.
Sometimes the gas they pump inside your stomach to view the insides of the abdomen during laparoscopic surgery doesn’t always fully escape when they seal you back up. I was sad and literally a pocket full of gas. The only thing they recommended to make the gas dissipate was to walk around. I was just mere hours post-op and was in no shape to be walking around that night. It wasn’t until the next morning after I had some breakfast that I was able to slowly shuffle around the hospital hallway.
I'm very sorry for the TMI, but going to pee the first time after surgery is a feeling I will literally never forget. It felt like fire and burning of my abdomen and all sorts of parts of my insides were trying to figure out where they belonged at that very moment. I’m not sure where the bladder is located in regards to the appendix, but I have a feeling they are fairly close. Painfully close.
An Overnight Hospital Stay
The nurses came in to check vitals and give me medicines intravenously throughout the night. I didn’t sleep more than an hour or two because I was in so much pain from the gas. I felt like a quitter for asking for more pain medicine so I could attempt to sleep. In the morning they gave me the okay to have a regular diet again. I had water, ice chips and apple juice when I was awake enough after surgery Thursday night. That morning I had some toast with jelly and yogurt. Food was so nice but I was still really uncomfortable.
With every passing hour I was doing a little better, and by lunchtime I asked my husband to peel me out of the hospital bed so we could go “walking” to make the gas pain go away. I was still in some pain and was uncomfortable and dreaded going pee but the nurses needed to see that I was making progress so that they could discharge me. I didn’t love having the IV stuck in my arm and getting my antibiotics in the afternoon made me feel very sleepy.
Thankfully, sometime around 3:00 PM on Friday the surgeon gave us the okay to be discharged if I was ready to go home. I didn’t feel ready to go because I was still in a fair amount of pain. I had enjoyed having a room all to myself for the whole night and most of that day, but around 2:00 PM there was a new admission who became my roommate. I was a little uncomfortable sharing a room, so I mustered up all of my courage and said I was okay to be discharged.
Discharge Instructions and Preparing to Go Home
They took off my IVs, gave me a rundown of what medications I’d be taking when I got home and how to take them. I was finally able to put my clothes back on and ditch that hospital gown. The nurse who helped us during the discharge was very sweet and we bonded over how much we love our dogs. For anyone recovering from a laparoscopic appendectomy, she recommended Phazyme to relieve the pressure from the gas they pump inside you during surgery because it’s stronger than Gas-X.
I was wheeled downstairs in a wheelchair to the door and my husband kindly helped me into the car to go home. Every bump in the road was painful in my incision spot. My MVP husband dropped me off at home and went to the pharmacy to go pick up my medicines. I had two types of antibiotics to fend off infection post surgery, pain medication and he also picked up a stool softener and Phazyme as the nurse recommended.
Recovering at Home
Recovery took a little longer than I expected, but by the second week I was 80% back to normal. I wasn’t allowed to face the water in the shower directly after surgery. I didn’t get any stitches, but rather the glue that stays for 3 weeks over top of your incision spots.
Walking was a little bit of a struggle post-op, but it did get better with every passing day. Getting out of bed on my own the first 5 days was pretty much impossible, so I would wait until my husband sounded like he was awake before poking him and asking if I could get plucked out of bed so I could go to the bathroom.
I only took two doses of my prescribed pain medication - one each night for the first two nights post-op so I could get some sleep. The first night I was home I slept like the dead because I didn’t get a proper night’s sleep in the hospital. (Unless you count the hour I was under anesthesia and two hours after when I was sleeping in the recovery room...which I don’t.) For the rest of my recovery I took Tylenol when the pain was really acting up.
The stool softener did a good job of “regulating” my insides back to some semblance of normal, although it took 3 days post-op to get things going in that department. It was my Christmas Eve miracle because I didn’t know if I was ever going to “go” again (lol).
Making the Most of the Situation
I didn’t drive for the first week post-op because I was still bloated in the stomach and my seatbelt hurt the incision site. By the end of the first week, I drove myself to Starbucks and had a tall caramel coffee, let the barista know I had just had surgery and that this was my first trip out on my own since then, and then promptly left because I knew I had said too much.
Baggy clothes and low riding yoga pants were my attire of choice for recovery and made it easy to fall asleep at the drop of a hat when I was tired the first few days after surgery. I suppose anesthesia makes me cranky AND incredibly tired. I was able to sit up and hang out with family during Christmas dinner, albeit I was in a bit of pain sitting at the dinner table and wasn’t really that hungry even though dinner looked amazing. I just fell asleep promptly after everyone left.
Returning to Work
I went back to work after the New Year and it was a little bit of an adjustment. The seatbelt hurt my incision a bit still and for the first 3 days back at work I wasn’t feeling the greatest, but I pushed through and was feeling better by the end of the week. I was walking better with each passing day, which was encouraging.
My follow up appointment with the surgeon was supposed to be earlier, but he was away on vacation during the end of December/beginning of January. I appeared to be healing up nicely and my surgeon said to call the office if anything was bothering me related to my surgery or incision. I was still a little sore in the big incision spot, but mostly when I had been sitting too long. Usually a stretch and little stroll around the office eased the tightness.
I peeled the glue that had held my incisions shut post-op at the 3 week mark and was glad that the scar underneath wasn’t as ugly as it appeared to be with the glue over top of it. I’m still not used to having 3 scars on my belly, but I suppose one day I’ll get used to it.
Advice, Tips & Other Thoughts on Appendicitis and Appendectomy
If I had advice to give on appendicitis or appendectomy recovery, I’d have to say that you should get it checked out if you think something is seriously wrong. I’m a natural worrier, so I was in mental agony the two days prior to going to the hospital. I was probably more distraught over the thought of having surgery than I was with the actual pain associated with my appendicitis.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when your pain is localized in the lower right of your stomach, where the appendix lives and where appendicitis pain usually presents itself. I’m glad I caught my appendicitis when it was still in the early stages before anything catastrophic happened, like having it burst. I consider myself very lucky and I’m glad I chose to have it checked out when I did.
Did you have appendicitis? How was your recovery? Let me know below in the comments!