Part of Me is Missing… Which Doesn’t Bother Me Much

By: Caitlin Vanlaningham Last Updated: March 18, 2015

Cait-surgery 1Life has a funny way of upending all of your plans. I am a novice runner, and I was really looking forward to the season starting up this year because I had big plans for myself. There were half marathons to be conquered. I also have a penchant for yoga. Twisting myself into a pretzel was getting easier and easier every day.

I knew that in order to keep myself from collapsing during mile seven or breaking my spine during a bow pose, I would have to practice. And I started to, but life intervened and said, “Nope. You’re going to get appendicitis instead.”

On a Sunday in early March I began to have symptoms of what I thought was a foodborne illness. I treated it as such, drinking what fluids I could keep down and sleeping, but my stomach still hurt. It was a cramping that moved from one side to the other, and it got so bad that on the following Tuesday I woke up with searing pain on the right side of my abdomen.

Then I got mad. I hate being sick. Normally I just ride it out, complain and mutter a little, then start over when I’m feeling better. But this wasn’t something to be messed with. I took a ServSafe class and I remember that foodborne illness can do some serious damage. So I hobbled out to my car in the wee hours of the morning and drove to Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Crown Point.

Once there I walked in (walking hurt by that point) and after telling my nurse, Allison, of my symptoms, she took some blood to test. That was the first good thing that happened that day. I’m TERRIFIED of needles, and I warned her beforehand that I might turn into a blubbering invalid. She took it in stride and proceeded to poke my arm. I didn’t freak out, and the lack of freaking almost freaked me out.

So I sat in my hospital bed, waiting for the results of my blood test. Allison turned on the TV and I watched Lord of the Rings until the doctor on duty, Dr. Streeter, came in and asked me some questions. He then proceeded to gently press on different parts of my abdomen because he suspected it wasn’t a foodborne illness. I saw this happen to my sister when she had her appendix out. Left side, nothing. Center, nothing. Right side, I let out a yelp. Just as he suspected. All we needed was the confirmation of the blood test. It came soon after, revealing that I do indeed have appendicitis. Things were set into motion as an IV bag was stuck into my arm (another nailed needle feat) by a very nice nurse named Jill, and I was given pain meds and wheeled up to the OR floor.

I called my parents who were on vacation in Texas and they had my sister come to the hospital to be with me. She was my champion throughout all of this, arriving before I had surgery and being there when I came out, so huge shout to her. My parents would later jokingly scold me for not waiting until they got back to have an appendectomy.

Before I went into surgery I met my surgeon, Dr. Woo (cool name). Very nice guy, and the nurses assured me that I was in good hands. I was on some pretty good pain meds at the time so the names of all of the people that I interacted with elude me. But what I do know is that from the minute I arrived to the minute I left I was treated incredibly well.

I watched and listened to the surgical team as they prepped me for surgery. It seemed like they had done this thousands of times which made me feel good. One nurse even told me in jest that Dr. Woo could have performed an appendectomy with his eyes closed because he had done so many of them.

When all was ready a nurse looked at me and said, “Okay, we’ll see you in recovery.”

I looked at the ceiling and said, “Okay, sounds goo…”

I was out.

I woke up to the feeling of movement as I was hoisted from the surgical bed to a bed that was to transport me back to my room. Coming out of anesthesia is weird, and I didn’t like it one bit. I started bawling and shaking, and I got confused.

I asked a nurse, “Why am I crying? I'm not even scared. Is this normal?”

The nurse calmly helped me relax and said that as anesthesia wears off side effects like these are totally normal. My body was just trying to right itself. It was the strangest feeling because I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t even upset. I knew I was going to be fine. St. Anthony Health is a great hospital and I wouldn’t have chosen another place. I live less than 10 minutes away which makes it convenient but even if I lived in a different county I would have made the trek to St. Anthony Health. Silly anesthesia, stop messing with my emotions.

Cait-surgery 2The rest of the day I was sleepy and silly. Family and friends came in, nurses checked my vitals and made sure I had whatever I needed. My phone was filling up with texts and Facebook notifications streamed in, all from people checking to see if I was okay. In my waking moments I joked with the staff and found joy in small things like irony. My boyfriend is currently oversees with the Air Force and he also remarked that I always go to the hospital when he’s gone. I really have no respect for other people’s time. ;)

I was instructed to get up and ambulate, which I found out was a fancy term for “walk”. I slowly shuffled around my floor in those ever stylish hospital gowns while my sister referenced LMFAO song lyrics. I was also restricted to a liquid diet and I found that I really liked beef broth. The next morning I got to go home, where I was under the care of a different kind of medical team: family. Since I couldn’t do much more than sit or stand I wasn’t able to do much in the means of physical activity. My family took over and made sure all was ready when I got home so I could recover without incident.

Out of all of this I only had one drawback: a half marathon might have to wait. But is it really that bad when you take a look at the big picture? Nope it’s not. I have my health, I was able to bond with family and friends, and I had an excellent experience at an excellent hospital. Thanks to Franciscan St. Anthony Health for taking care of me. Part of me may be missing (should I even call it missing? I don’t miss it) but thanks to you I feel right as rain.