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Our First Holiday Together? or Shelby's Thanksgiving Appendectomy

"I was supposed to be in Philadelphia..." I mumbled as the anesthesiologist approached with the oxygen mask. Kevin and I got to spend our first Thanksgiving together--sort of.

How it all began

For two years I've been planning on spending this Thanksgiving in Philadelphia with Mary. Kevin was taking Scout down South to spend the holiday with his family in Orange County. But Monday night I woke up with terrible nausea and stomach cramps. Tuesday morning I was feeling a bit better so I headed to work. By noon I knew I wasn't going to make it through the day. I went to my regular doctor, who diagnosed me with the flu. Not THE Flu, but a lesser flu--stomach virus type thing. I got some medicine for the nausea and went home to drink plenty of liquids. I called Mary to let her know that I wasn't going to make it, and I thought that would be the end of the bad news. How wrong I was.

Shelby Goes Downhill, Crazy Lady # 1

I literally went to sleep Tuesday afternoon and slept until Wednesday afternoon. When I woke up on Wednesday, I was still in a great deal of pain, which seemed to be localized to the lower right area of my abdomen. I was very disoriented and wasn't able to keep down any fluids or food. I'd had 2 glasses of Gatorade in the past 24 hours. I continued to feel worse, and at 8:00 pm, Kevin took me to the emergency room in Gilroy. After checking in, there were two waiting rooms. One was crowded, with small children fighting and a TV going, and the other was empty, save for one woman, who came to be known as Crazy Lady # 1.We sat down in the empty room, and Crazy Lady # 1 leaned over and spat in the chair next to Kevin. She then made a comment about Kevin and his "pretty little lady" having "tied her up with a safety pin." We then moved to the crowded room, where we were both treated to our first episode of Felicity (we remained unimpressed). Following Felicity, I usurped control of the television to watch a new episode of Law and Order. Finally, mercifully, it was my turn to see the doctor.

Dehydration, Albert the Drunk Guy, and a Surgical Consult

The very nice young doctor poked and prodded my stomach with little commentary. He declared me to be dehydrated, and ordered an IV and some blood tests. The blood test guy came first. He brutally attacked my left elbow, sticking it 4 times unsuccessfully, while making jokes about how bad my veins were. I didn't find this line of humor very funny myself. After squeezing out a half a vial of apparently useless blood, he left to get "a smaller needle." Which begs the question, I felt, of why was he using the bigger needle to begin with? Before he returned, a very nice skilled nurse entered to start my IV, which she managed to do on the first try. The blood guy came back and was just in awe that the nurse had "gotten it on the first stick?!?!" They then took blood from the IV stick, saving my already ravaged elbow from further abuse. I then got 2 liters of IV fluid while I listened to Albert the drunk guy snore in the bed next to me. The blood tests were inconclusive, so the ER physician decided to call in the surgeon. This was about midnight.

"Female Problems" and the ICU

The surgeon poked and prodded and was a bit confused. It was clear that I was in pain, but the pain seemed to be localized too low to be my appendix. He felt it was "female problems as found in young girls like you" but couldn't rule out appendicitis. Since it was about 2:00am, the surgeon decided that I was not in any immediate danger of dying, so he scheduled an abdominal CAT scan for the first thing the next morning and admitted me to the hospital for the night. I got to sleep in the ICU because there were no other non-critical beds available. At this point, Kevin finally got to go home, only to return in 6 hours for the CAT scan.

Happy Thanksgiving, Appendix in Hiding, and the OR

Before the CAT scan, I had to be thoroughly radioactive. I began Thanksgiving morning by drinking some nasty tasting fluid every 15 minutes for 2 hours. Kevin returned to the hospital looking peppier and more refreshed than he probably felt. Once we got to radiology, it became clear that just drinking radioactive fluid wasn't enough--I needed an enema and IV radioactivity as well. As I lay on the table contemplating my halflife, I looked at the giant white donut that was the CAT scan. Or, to be more specific, the General Electric Medical Systems HiSpeed SubSecond Spiral CT Scanner This large appliance with the familar "GE" logo spoke to me in a disembodied female voice, instructing me to breathe deeply, hold it, and let it out. Kevin got to watch the computer as my deepest insides were displayed and lit up for all the world to see. After seeing the very core of me, Kevin still wants to get married, so I think that's a good sign. The CT scan was inconclusive for one major reason: my appendix was not where it was supposed to be! It was actually hiding behind my ovary. This explained why the pain was, as the surgeon said, "found where the female problems are as happens in young girls like you." I returned to my room to wait for the surgeon to review the CT results. He poked and prodded some more and confirmed that 1) the pain was worse, and 2) the pain was in the same location as my newly discovered appendix. I was then whisked off to surgery.

Surgery Surprises and Recovery

Prior to surgery, the surgeon explained that he was going to do a Laproscopic Appendectomy instead of a traditional appendectomy. This involved 3 small incisions in my abdomen through which the surgeon would pass a camera and instruments and perform the surgery. The advantage of the laproscopic surgery is that he would be able to check my ovaries and uterus thoroughly for any problems there. There was a small chance that the surgeon would not be able to remove the appendix laproscopically, in which case he'd have to perform a traditional appendectomy as well. I agreed that we should go with the laproscopic surgery and hope for the best. The surgery lasted about 2 hours. The surgeon removed my appendix which was swollen. And if that wasn't enough, I had another problem as well! He found that I had a ruptured ovarian cyst. There was quite a bit of fluid in my abdomen from that and between the cyst and the appendicitis, no wonder I was in pain! He was able to remove the cyst and fluid in my abdomen as well as thoroughly check the rest of my "female parts." I made it through the surgery very well.

Post Surgery and Home Again

When I woke up from the surgery, I could not believe how good I felt. I was ready to run a marathon! Dance a jig! I'd been in so much pain before that the sheer lack of pain was wonderful. Unfortunately, the local anesthetic soon wore off and I started to hurt from the actual surgery. My pain has been well-managed with Vicodin. In fact, I am convinced that Vicodin is proof that God exists and He wants me to be happy. I should be fully recovered in 7-10 days. For now I'm shuffling around the house and napping frequently.

This page last revised Thursday, August 30, 2001
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