Recently, in my ongoing quest for distractions while studying for my history exam in September, I learned that Houdini had died of a ruptured appendix. After the initial flush of being vaguely pleased that I had survived something that had killed Houdini, I decided to search for a little more information on ruptured appendixes. Perhaps this is part of a process of coming to terms with having been so sick this year; if it is, I don't want to know about it. Anyway, despite the legends, I am hardly the only person to have survived this particular medical emergency, and other people have blogged about it, too.
What not everyone who reads this may know -- what I didn't know at the time that this decision was made -- was that the doctors at the University of Chicago Hospitals chose a relatively new and somewhat daring course of treatment for me; namely, treating the abdominal infection with antibiotics and postponing surgery until they could remove an essentially healed appendix. Dad Pony's GP, when he heard about this, was inordinately impressed, saying that doctors in the county where I grew up would not have dared try this kind of treatment. I saw an online R.N. forum where registered nurses expressed their dismay over seeing a patient treated this way. These are registered nurses, health care professionals, and even they have their doubts about antibiotic/delayed-surgery treatment. But the University of Chicago Hospitals ("At the Forefront of Medicine") decided to try it, mostly because they were not excited about the alternative.
The alternative is, of course, immediate surgery. Some ruptured-appendix patients have surgery right away. And at least one of them posted photos. I saw what could have happened to me. And, may I say . . . Holy Shit! I could have had an open surgery with an incision the length of my hand going down the middle of my tummy, with twenty-four staples holding it shut. I could have been hobbling through a surgical ward recovering from this bodily assault for a week and then spending several more weeks incapacitated at home. I could have had to endure having staples removed from my body -- I've removed staples from paper, and I do not want to know how that translates into removing them from flesh, especially mine.
I spent six days in the hospital, but I was up and walking the day after I was admitted (to the amusement of my doctors, who noted my tendency to wander rather farther away than they were used to seeing on a surgical floor), and was in the grouchy phase of getting better by Thursday. I was still shaky and not-entirely-well when I went home, but I could go back to school on Monday and finish out the quarter in good enough health to demonstrate some pratfalls to my classmates on the last day of opera class. I could schedule a surgery that was quick and noninvasive enough that I could go home the same day and recuperate in my own bed, and be up and lamp-shopping with Mom Pony three days later (Mom Pony carried the lamp home). A week after surgery, I attended a party where I swapped war stories with my colleague who broke his leg and traded Vicodin jokes with another colleague ("E-Bay dot CA!").
In short, I managed to maintain a basically normal life while pulling through a serious-and-potentially-fatal medical adventure, because I go to a fantastic university with a medical school and hospital that teaches its doctors to be brave and try the new therapies that might not work but that give enormous benefits when they do.
I am one damned lucky Pony.