Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Appendix out, Baby still in.

Two weeks ago on Monday I left work feeling slightly nauseous, blaming it on a mars bar my new pregnancy craving for chocolate forced me to buy. As the night progressed my stomach felt worse and worse. Nauseous and painful. I phoned the on-call midwife who told me there was a stomach bug going around and not to worry. I put the phone down; cried a bit on the bathroom floor due to the pain, put the Frenchman downstairs so I could roll around in agony in bed by myself. Tried throwing up which did not relieve the pain – my first inclination that this was not a stomach bug. Surely there would be relief on regurgitation?

Spent all night tossing and turning, clutching my distended pregnant belly. The thought of appendicitis crossed my mind. At 5:30am Tuesday I went to wake the Frenchman and told him we needed to go to the hospital.

Arrive at the labour suite at Queens Medical Centre via taxi. Put into the labour induction room where various midwives and doctors ask questions and poke and prod amidst the occasional cries of a new person entering the world nearby. After some poking by the doctor on my right side where the pain had pooled (and subsequent tears at the shock of pain those pokes produced) I was given some toast and moved to a maternity ward for observation. The doctors mentioned that it could be appendicitis but they were still hoping it was a stomach bug. It hadn’t yet crossed my mind that appendicitis and pregnancy might not be the best combo until seeing the worried faces on the midwives.

White blood cell count was high, showing infection, but they were still hoping it was a stomach bug. On the ward in a room with three other beds each with small glass crib for newborns. Surgeons were brought in to discuss what they think is wrong. Perhaps it is appendicitis, but it isn’t certain, and the x-rays usually done are not an option for pregnant woman. What they don’t want to do is unnecessarily cut into a woman who is 6 months pregnant, but if it is appendicitis there’s a bit of a time issue – the last thing we want is for this to burst and put me and baby in even more danger – and yet performing an appendectomy has risks for the baby too. One thing you don’t want is to be full with baby who isn’t due for 3 more months, be in terrible pain, lying in a room with mothers and their newborns while various doctors talk to you about miscarriage, abortion and premature labour. Needless to say the tears due to pain were quickly replaced with tears of fear for the little life growing inside me. My partner was fabulous, holding my hand and letting me cry.

I was put on an IV drip since I was not allowed to eat incase they needed to operate and also put on intravenous anti-biotics to see if this would cure the potential appendicitis.
They sent us for another ultrasound to see if they could rule out any other internal failure – despite the pain I couldn’t help asking if we could double check the sex of the baby – another confirmation that we have a girl! Besides the added insurance that our first off spring will be of the female persuasion, the scan showed nothing wrong.

Back on the ward, the Frenchman and I were told that soon we would need to make a decision – have the operation even though they aren’t sure it is appendicitis and risk miscarriage or premature labour, or wait to see if the antibiotics temporarily cleared the appendicitis – the risk being that if it is appendicitis and the meds don’t work, then me and baby could be in a lot more danger than we are now.

We hated the idea of having this decision in our hands. What if we made the wrong one? How could you live with that if things went wrong? In an odd piece of luck three days after being admitted to hospital another blood test came back and my white blood cell count had sky rocketed yet again. So the surgeons made it rather simple for us: You and your baby are at considerable risk now, surgery is not going to increase that risk. Even if it isn’t appendicitis, something’s failing you and we need to go in and check. Oddly, this news was a relief. Decision made. We felt in good hands and although the risk was there, the odds were in our favor.

Surgery was scheduled for Thursday afternoon and the midwives all fought in my corner to get me some food. After 2 days of being nil by mouth this was very welcoming news. The fact that I was still hungry despite the pain threw the surgeons for a loop. Apparently people suffering from appendicitis have no appetite. Sorry, but no amount of pain is going to put big, pregnant me off food.

The unbelievably supportive Frenchman had to leave my side as they wheeled me to the operating theatre for surgery. I scooted onto the operating table, joked with one of the anesthetists in order to avoid thinking about what I was actually going through, breathed in deeply from the mask placed on my head, stared up at the bright lights as they slowly started to fade from view and everyone’s voices around me got further and further away.

The next thing I new someone was pulling on my arm and a female voice was asking me questions I couldn’t quite make out. I mumbled some answers as I started to come to. Bright lights and what felt like a large crowd was bustling around me. I waited until someone came close to me and whispered, “Is my baby still in me?” The voice said yes and I closed my eyes.

I was then moved back to the delivery suite, set up in a partitioned room used for close monitoring. I was given an oxygen mask, a blood pressure band placed on my arm that read my blood pressure every 30 minutes and a small clamp on my index finger to measure the oxygen levels in my blood. All of these statistics displayed on a screen above me, which the midwives and later the Frenchman kept a close eye on.

I was also hooked up to a self-administered morphine drip running through my IV. I was told to press the button whenever I needed pain relief. It would not over administer the morphine no matter how many times I pressed it so I would not harm my baby. I refused to press it. I figured my baby had been through enough and I didn’t want to add exposure to morphine to everything else. So I lay there in pain for a while. 3 various midwives and doctors tried to convince me to use the morphine and I just nodded and continued to refrain from pressing the button. Finally one of the doctors explained that if I’m in too much pain, I won’t heal properly and the stress of this could be harmful to my baby as well. Reluctantly I started using the morphine and once it started easing the pain I was a much happier (and sleepier) patient.

The Frenchman came back and sat by my side for hours on end. His first words upon seeing me after surgery were “T’es belle”. I called him a liar and smiled at his perfect choice of words. My IV (which was my second after the first one became infected) started to hurt and I noticed that when I pressed the morphine button, a liquid would spill out of the hole in my wrist. So much for pain relief. I reluctantly told the midwives that my IV was leaking and they took it out and put another in my right hand. I’m not a fan of getting IVs installed.

I have to say one of the aspects of being bed ridden that came as a surprising comfort was using a bedpan. Peeing in bed. When are you ever allowed to do that? By the second day in this little recovery room I decided to try walking to the bathroom myself. Still strapped to the IV, the Frenchman had to come with me and hold my IV bag. I was hoping we had at least another 40 or so years a head before one of us had to wipe the other one’s butt. Yes, we have crossed that tender threshold of assisted toilet hygiene and are all the stronger for it.

Unfortunately it was a bit awkward having to move together with him holding the IV bag, as we shuffled back to the bed together I noticed part of the IV sticking out, and then suddenly it wasn’t there and my wrist was spouting blood and I started getting dizzy as he shouted for help. On to IV number 4. Did I mention I don’t like IVs?

That night after the Frenchman went home for some much needed rest and a pint pour se detendre a woman came in and had to have an emergency caesarean. Her screams were piercing and as she was to be moved into the same room as me, they decided to move me back on the ward as they thought the noise coming out of her would be a bit off putting to a first time mother like moi. Too right.

Various rounds of antibiotics, learning how to shower and walk again, eating solids and lots of codeine filled sleep consumed my 4 days of recuperation on the ward. More monitoring. Despite feeling the baby move, it was always reassuring to hear her heartbeat on the midwives check up rounds. My mom flew in from Chicago to help the Frenchman play Florence Nightingale. On top of the kind and reassuring midwives and doctors, having the two of them by my side helped me keep my sanity and a smile on my face. They both went above and beyond in helping me get back on my feet.

Surgeons came round to check on how I was doing and told me I’d had a really nasty appendicitis and I was lucky they operated when they did. My appendix had curled under my intestines and they had to really dig around to get at it, part of my appendix had already died. After that bit of difficulty they said the surgery went really well.

So an appendix lighter. A 5-inch scar to compete with my ever-growing silver rivers of stretch marks. A much more prepared woman for childbirth. And most importantly a fighter of a baby still kicking away in her mother’s womb.

I thought it'd be sexier to have my pants unzipped. Who says you can't be pregnant AND classy? You can also notice the lovely bluish tinge the IVs left on the back of my hand.

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