When I arrived home from my trip on Thursday night I started having abdominal pain and nausea. I attributed it to something I may have eaten in Mexico, and did not think much of it until the next morning when I still felt crappy. Hubby texted me in the morning to tell me I should see a doctor. I had canceled my calls and meetings for the day, and just collapsed on the couch to rest. By noon I was thinking: this is not good.
I have a fairly high pain tolerance but not wanting to get up off the couch because of the pain and because I still felt nauseated was a warning sign. I texted hubby and asked if he could drive me to the doctor. He left work immediately and drive me to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. From the moment I walked into the emergency room (around 2:15 in the afternoon) until I checked out an hour ago, the care was excellent.
Every nurse, physician, surgeon, PCA, CT tech and all other staff who attended to us were friendly, professional and kind. They explained everything they were doing, the tests, what they indicated, and how long things would take. Once a diagnosis of appendicitis was confirmed, they explained the procedure to me, and asked if I had questions.
Later, when I was scheduled for surgery that same night, other residents, and health care professionals (HCPs in my world of clinical research) asked me to explain what I understood would happen in my own words. As someone who reviews informed consent documents as part of my work as a clinical researcher, I really appreciated how much they checked my understanding at various points in the process.
I was prepped for surgery starting around 8:15 and then taken in around 9 p.m. My husband tells me the surgeon came out a little before 10 p.m. to let him know the status of the surgery. Fortunately it was a laparoscopic appendectomy with only three small incisions (about an inch long each). The appendix was intact, so the procedure was standard and without complications.
I woke up around 11 p.m. and the people around me told me everything went well. They planned to keep me overnight for observation, so my husband said goodbye and let me know he would return in the morning. A couple of times during the night a nurse checked my vitals and blood pressure, but for the most part I was able to rest and sleep. I woke up around 7:30 a.m. as the hospital staff were switching shifts, and my care team introduced themselves.
I was able to order coffee, which I had not wanted the day before (another sign something was off for sure – I love my coffee first thing). Around 9:30 I had some breakfast which I was able to order from the patient menu (like room service!). Having fasted for ~40 hours, I was happy to feel hungry again, a sign of healing.
I am so grateful to have high quality healthcare and good health insurance coverage so I did not worry about that during the process. Also, the entire health care team was amazing, without exception. There must have been 15-20 people who interacted with us over the course of the ~21 hour period we were at the hospital. If you are in the St. Paul, Minnesota area, and you have a choice of hospitals I recommend Regions without exception.
The woman in the bed next to me while I was in recovery did not speak English, but the nurses and doctors accessed their on-call translation service, which was a little box like a phone where the translator could speak and listen to the patient in Spanish. Later, when her family arrived, someone in the family helped to translate, but I really liked knowing that service was available to remove any barriers to excellent care.
Now I shall stay home and take it very easy over the next few days. My hubby is already off to the grocery store and pharmacy to pick up a few things. He is a good man. I am glad I finally listened to him when he said ” you can’t mess with this shit” and drove me directly to a hospital. While I was waiting for surgery, I let my sister know the situation. She is an RN, and she explained to my parents what was going on.
My father almost died from a burst appendix about 45 years ago. While my case was less severe, it was an excellent reminder that good health and access to excellent care are so important, and such blessings. I realize the privilege of having good care comes from an employer that pays for ~80% of the cost of premiums, and a philosophy that employees deserve good benefits.
I will write more on my views of health care policy in the future. For now, I will put the laptop away, get out some books, sit and drink so tea with my kitties and give thanks. The healing journey continues.