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I Am A Damned Lucky Pony

I was telling this to lcohen last night, but I'm still kind of blown away by it, so I wanted to share it with a few more people. Apologies to lcohen for having to sit through it again.

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.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 12th, 2008 03:00 am (UTC)
lcohen is very glad that you wre such a lucky pony!
Jul. 12th, 2008 03:15 am (UTC)
Me, too. I probably would have survived with the open surgery, but it would have been much nastier.
Jul. 12th, 2008 03:47 am (UTC)
I know at the time I was pretty amazed at it all. And, of course, I did not want to harp on "Pony, you could have died!" It's interesting to know the fuller story as far as the medical theory/practice goes.

It's not always good to be at the forefront of new medical procedures, but it worked out very well for you, and I'm glad.
Jul. 12th, 2008 04:08 am (UTC)
Little Sister Pony was very worried about me at the time, and I think that Mom Pony was just not letting herself be worried. Since I'm the one actually in my body, I knew I was getting better after the first night, but it took the rest of the world a little longer to figure that out. But I was definitely scared when the doctor at the Student Care Center said the words "ruptured appendix."

I didn't really have much choice about the treatment; by the time they got around to determining that, I was on so much morphine that I was only capable of grunting. But they told me that it was a choice between antibiotics or open surgery, and I think I remember agreeing at the time that the antibiotics seemed worth a try.
Jul. 12th, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
That is excellent!
Jul. 12th, 2008 04:24 am (UTC)
Indeed. Not only did I survive and heal, I looked good doing it!
Jul. 12th, 2008 05:48 am (UTC)
First things first - *hugs* on being so lucky! You really are, and I'm glad that you are hale and also didn't have to have surgery.

I do think that professionals will disagree (within reason) whatever the profession. Look at how widely well-meaning fandom members can interpret the same piece of canon in such different ways. Through my parents' connections with Christian non-profits, I have seen some very similar disagreements over theology as it's applied to the work they're trying to do. So I wouldn't worry too much about people disagreeing, though I can see the nurses' forum would be disconcerted.

In any event, the important thing is you're still here. Take that, Houdini!
Jul. 12th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
Well, I did have to have surgery eventually, but it was the much kinder laparoscopic version, not the big open incision kind.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 12th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
I heart modern medicine, yes I do!
Jul. 12th, 2008 07:20 am (UTC)
I'll be sure to pass the compliment on to my cousin, who was responsible for training the surgery staff at UChicago ;)

But I'm also glad you recovered well and all that :)
Jul. 12th, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
I'll be sure to pass the compliment on to my cousin, who was responsible for training the surgery staff at UChicago ;)

Who are in the process of training others, now. Most of the doctors I saw were residents, though your cousin might have been responsible for the main surgeon I had.
Jul. 12th, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)
Wow. Yeah, you are lucky. A little while back my pal Jennie (the talkative one) ended up in hospital with suspected appendicitis. She was crippled with pain but the doctors took three days deciding if it was her appendix or something else, at which point the appendix helped them out by bursting. So they had to go in and fish out the pieces and managed to cut a bit of her bowel at the same time so she not only had to recover from the burst appendix and subsequent surgery but then couldn't eat for weeks because of her bowel and lost about two stone in weight.

So yeah, count your blessings :-)
Jul. 13th, 2008 03:21 am (UTC)
I'm surprised they waited that long to go in if they suspected appendicitis. At least in the U.S., if they have cause to suspect appendicitis, they go in and check, at least by CT scan, and assume that it is precisely to prevent an appendix bursting while someone is in the hospital.

I hope she's doing better now. Do give her my best and a lot of sympathy.
Jul. 13th, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC)
They were very apologetic but really, what fools.

She's grand now and is happy out to be able to eat again but I'll pass on your good wishes, thanks!
Jul. 13th, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)
I suppose there is an upside to Americans being lawsuit-happy. I'd be willing to bet my next year's stipend that the reason that American surgeons operate so quickly on suspected appendicitis is that someone in Jennie's position survived and sued the bejeezus out of the hospital for malpractice.
Jul. 13th, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC)
Ah, more proof that sometimes less is better in medicine. You were very fortunate.. and hopefully more people will have experiences like yours and not like Jennie's now. :/
Jul. 13th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
Well, I suppose every success story like me goes that much further to promoting antibiotic therapy as at least a viable alternative to immediate open surgery.

Though I will say that the U of C doctors were definitely hedging their bet. They wouldn't let me eat or drink anything for several days, just in case the antibiotics didn't work and they had to go in and do surgery on short notice.
Jul. 13th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC)
you were lucky indeed...in case we did nt tell you enough back the time.. but you were very very lucky! :-)
Jul. 13th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
I knew I was a lucky Pony even after having been on morphine for six hours. But there's just something about seeing photos of the results of the surgical alternative that really drives it home.
Jul. 13th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
And even without pics. One of my friends went through the same ordeal Dot reports in her comment last year. I am so glad you were spared all that!
Jul. 13th, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
Me, too!
Jul. 16th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC)
That's pretty freaking cool. I'm glad you were a lucky pony!
Jul. 16th, 2008 02:17 am (UTC)
I am, too! It's always nice to be on the cutting edge of medicine, especially when it does its thing and is a more pleasant experience than the non-cutting edge.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )