- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Appendicitis - What does it feel like? Recovering from Appendicitis
How things started
Please note symptoms will vary between individuals. For referrence, I'm a middle aged female.
If you suspect you have appendicitis, please seek urgent medical help.
The day began as normal. Late afternoon, a subtle, very definite discomfort began in the right side of my belly, about level with the naval.
Over the next couple of hours, discomfort turned into pain. This wasn't stomach ache, it was stomach pain.
The pain wandered round, then homed in on the lower right of my belly, almost into the crease of the hip. Instinct told me, " Get checked out, sounds like appendicitis." Another voice said, " A good night's sleep works wonders.." Unwilling to prove my instinct right, I went to bed.
After an hour trying to sleep, I had to get up and take painkillers, spending most of the night in a chair. By this time it felt like mice were nibbling my intestines - very sharp pains. I didn't feel nauseous. In my mind this was a pointer against appendicitis, as was lack of fever. But first light found me heading for the Accident and Emergency Department.
The appendix is worm-like, around four inches long, located at the join of the small and large intestine. This lays on the lower right side of your abdomen.
Doctors are unsure of its purpose. Removal of the appendix appears to cause no change in function of the human body.
Arriving at Accident and Emergency
A nurse took me to triage. After a quick history, he led me to a cubicle. I was handed the dreaded hospital gown and instructed to leave clothes to one side. The next challenge was climbing onto the examination couch. Moving was getting more troublesome, causing extra pain.
A nurse stuck little pads to my chest, running an ecg heart check. Another nurse appeared, took my blood pressure, temperature, and blood samples.
A doctor fitted a needle in one hand to administer drugs. He took a history, and examined me. When he touched the lower right of my belly, I batted his hand away, clutching the side of the trolley while he continued. All the lower belly was now very sore, but especially on the right.
A urine sample showed trace blood.( An inflamed appendix may rub against the bladder and cause irritation.) Kidney problems popped into the equation, possible renal colic. Being female added anatomy to the area, query ovarian cyst. Oh, and any chance of pregnancy?
Doctors have found that giving painkillers doesn't affect results of an abdominal examination. The patient should generally be more comfortable, but pressing on the belly will still hurt in the same places. This means the doctors can collect evidence, and the patient is in less overall pain.
In the Surgical Assessment Unit
Next, I was transferred to the Surgical Assessment Unit. " I thought you'd tell me I had a virus," I said. " We may still say that," they said. " One step at a time."
A nurse hooked up a saline drip to rehydrate me, then two med students took a detailed history, and had a good prod. They presented my case to a doctor, who said I'd be transferred to a main ward shortly.
I was moved to the Treatment Center, which has cubicles with en-suite facilities. Given painkillers, more painkillers, and a break from being prodded felt good. The doctors wanted an ultrasound scan to check things out.
At the Treatment Center
I was started on two types of IV antibiotics.Doctors came round three more times for belly prodding. It really hurt. By this time I was moving as little as possible, helped by the electric bed to sit up and down. Meal trolleys trundled past - I was Nil by Mouth. It wasn't a hardship as I had no interest in food.
The following morning things were much the same. I was prodded, questioned, flooded with antibiotics. By lunchtime, it appeared the scan was scheduled for next day. No! They told me I should eat. I choked down a bite of chicken. Another doc came to check my belly. Yes, it still hurt.
Around 5pm the doctor re-appeared with the consultant. Prod time. I winced in pain. The consultant nodded. " We'll take you down to theatre," he said," No more waiting for the scan. We'll do an exploratory laparoscopy, and remove the appendix if need be." I was in too much pain to be worried.
Going to Theatre
Things moved swiftly. A healthcare assistant came to put on support stockings, which help reduce the risk of blood clots.
An anaesthetist checked out my lungs, neck and jaw, and medical history. I told him I had inner ear nerve damage which often made me dizzy, so he said he'd use extra anti-nausea drugs, and have backup ready. Bless him, that worked like a charm, no hint of nausea post-op.
A doctor ran through the consent form for the operation. They would explore my insides using a camera, then take out the appendix if necessary. This could be keyhole surgery, or involve a larger incision. It was possible a small section of bowel would also be removed if infected. Anything gynaecological would call for another consultant to proceed with the operation, they'd do whatever was needed. I was happy to sign the consent. I didn't really care what happened by this point.
Two wonderfully calm anaesthetists took me into the pre-op area. I had to breathe oxygen through a rather smelly mask for a couple of minutes, then they gave an injection into the needle in my hand, saying, " Here we go, off to slee...."
Is this Real?
Next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room. Bizarrely, I thought," I'm in HubPages. How do I shut down my laptop?"
The nurse patted me, smiling. " Yes, it's the real world," she said. " You keep asking if you're in the real world. You are. Everything's fine. They took out your appendix."
Suddenly I was in a vaguely familiar room - my cubicle. I wasn't in any pain. The night nurse came at regular intervals to check on me, taking blood pressure, oxygen levels, and temperature.
Following the Operation
I realized I'd had laparascopic surgery, with dressings on my naval, on the left of my belly, and a drain mid bikini-line. The drain was uncomfortable. They'd washed out the abdominal cavity, and needed all the fluid to escape.
I managed to get out of bed for a snail - paced trip to urinate, which was painful, cleaned my teeth, and was just back in bed when the docs arrived. They were pleased I'd been up already, as mobilizing helps reduce the risk of blood clots. They said my appendix had been "nasty." I didn't like it either.
The consultant wanted to keep me in that day, thankfully he was happy for the drain to be removed. I could start antibiotic tablets instead of IV as soon as I was eating.
The nurse came to remove the drain. She didn't know how long it was, everybody was different, but the only thing to do was keep pulling until it was out. I took a deep breath, and, boy, it was unpleasant . It felt like it had been over by my right hip. The nurse said, " Well, that was like a snake!" It did sting for a couple of minutes, then started to settle.
The following few times I had a wee, my lower belly was pretty sore. The nurses assured me this was normal, as both the appendix and the drain were likely to have irritated the bladder. The problem resolved during the day.
I started eating, though my belly was bloated from the operation. Strong mints were helpful.
The doctors told me fifteen people had been admitted with suspected appendicitis the same day as me, an unusually large number. Twelve had responded to antibiotics, and been discharged home. I was the first to have surgery.
Next morning, the docs paid a visit. As I was feeling well in myself, though still sore, they were happy to let me go home.
The nurse changed my dressings, and gave me some spares for home. I had to wait for a discharge letter, and a prescription for painkillers and antibiotics.
The ride home was unpleasant. My belly was swollen from the operation and the jeans I'd worn going in were uncomfortable. I'd recommend loose, soft jogging pants, but hadn't given that a thought.
Once home, getting out of bed was the most difficult thing - in hospital I'd had an electric bed and rails to help. It became easier over the next couple of nights. Changing positions seemed to re-jig my insides, which was sore. Lying on my side was not an option, too uncomfortable.
Getting out of bed after abdominal surgery
The following video demonstrates getting out of bed using a log roll method. This is used for people with spinal problems, who this video is made for, but the process is also useful when you want to take any strain off your abdominal area. After a little practice, it becomes second nature while recovering.
If you feel at all dizzy after sitting up, take a minute or two on the edge of the bed before standing.
How to get out of bed after abdominal surgery
I was warned to watch for signs of infection - leaking wounds, fever, increasing discomfort. Also to be aware of possible thrombosis - sore, hot spots in the legs, any shortness of breath. No lifting, and no vacuuming for a while.
I visited the family doctor a couple of days later as one of the needle sites in my hand appeared infected. Being given more antibiotics was a disappointment, but it pays to be careful.
At the time of writing, it's one week since discharge from hospital. I'm still sore around the belly, lacking appetite, but improve each day. There's bruising working it's way out. I'm gaining stamina, have had a trip to the shops, and a short walk. If I'd been younger and fitter, no doubt recovery would be speedier.
The best part of all this? I'll never have appendicitis again!
Four weeks post-op, I'm improving all the time. My belly's still a bit sore, elasticated waists are more comfortable, so have had to buy a couple of new items. I'm satisfied that things are going in the right direction.
Younger people seem to have a quicker recovery. My son had his appendix out aged ten, and chose to go back to school a week later. Everyone is different, but please don't think you're odd one out to have twinges a while down the line.
Check with your doctor if you have any worries.