This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
For women wellbeing is of crucial importance – so many of us need to remember our own self care in order that we can continue looking after our families. This became a priority for one of our guest contributors – Joanna Meilleur who lives in Canada – who had an unexpected emergency the other day…
Feeling lucky! At 61 years of age, I know I’ve been fortunate to have never undergone any type of surgery… until this week, I should say!
I woke up this past Monday with very bad lower back pain. I often have this, so didn’t think too much of it. As the day wore on, the pain began to move around to the front right side of my abdomen and by evening was quite bad. I was unable to sleep or even get comfortable at all during the night and around 3 in the morning began feeling nauseous. After a couple of urgent visits to the bathroom, I had to face the fact that something could actually be wrong.
I don’t know about you, but the decision to go to the emergency room at the hospital at any time, day or night, is something that doesn’t come lightly. Knowing that I’d likely be waiting for hours to be seen and then maybe told that I was just having gas or some other insignificant ailment, is very off-putting to say the least. But off-putting or not, that time had come!
We arrived at our nearest emergency room at 4am where I checked in with the nurse on reception only to find that I had unbelievably forgotten to bring my health insurance card! I thought my husband was going to have a coronary, but thankfully the nurse was able to look me up on the system, so there was no problem. Shortly afterwards I was called into Triage where a very lovely nurse upgraded my status to urgent and inserted an IV in readiness for blood work and pain killers. I was sent back out to the waiting room until an emergency bed became available.
After a two hour wait, (not too bad!) I was called in and given a bed in a cubicle. Before I even had my hospital gown on, a doctor arrived and ran an ultrasound on my kidneys, looking for stones (none found) and then on my appendix. He then ordered an CT scan of the appendix as my white blood count was elevated and my temperature, rising. After only an hour or so wait, I was taken for the scan and then after another hour or so, a diagnosis of acute appendicitis was confirmed and I was scheduled for surgery later in the day.
It was a weird day at the hospital however, as thunderstorms were causing the lights to flicker on and off, someone started a fire in one of the stairwells (why??) and most significantly, one of the ‘coolers’ (giant air conditioners located on the roof) had gone on the fritz resulting in the cancellation of all non-urgent surgeries. So luckily for me, my operation was moved right to the top of the list and I had it done by noon!
I had my appendix removed by laparoscopy (3 small incisions) rather than an open incision and thankfully there were no complications. I woke up around 3pm in the recovery room and was dressed and wheeled out to the parking lot where my husband (who wasn’t allowed to join me on this adventure, due to Covid) was waiting to take me home. By 4pm Tuesday, I was back in my own bed recovering!
I know that an appendectomy in no way compares to heart or brain surgery, or cancer or a multitude of other serious conditions and procedures, but it is an emergency surgery and it got me thinking that if not for modern medical science, that could have been ‘it’ for me. Not too terribly long ago if my appendix had burst and infected my abdomen, I would have died at age 61. As it is, five days post op, I’m feeling pretty good, with only twingey pains coming and going. I’m restricting my movements and lifting and generally letting my husband run around after me.
I live in a city in Ontario, Canada that boasts a world class hospital network and although many people complain about our health care system, in my opinion it’s pretty darn amazing! A quick google search shows that the average cost of an appendectomy in the United States is around $33,000* (equivalent of around £23,841) according to a study done way back in 2009, reported by CBS News, January 2014. How do people manage? It’s not like it’s optional surgery! My cost was zero. I received great care by all the emergency room doctors and nurses and what could have been a terrifying ordeal was dealt with quickly, efficiently and compassionately.
It’s a beautiful, coolish late Summer evening. I’m sitting in my backyard bundled up in a blanket, looking up at the sky and thanking my lucky stars!
*CBS news Jan 2014. Michelle Castillo
Read more from Joanna here