What it was like to lose my appendix
When he felt a pain near his bellybutton, NATHAN BAILES wasn’t too worried. But when it intensified and spread to the right-hand side of his abdomen, and he experienced nausea, a fever and vomiting, he knew straight away that something was very wrong. Here’s how losing his appendix gave him a different perspective on his health.
I was 16 when I had my appendix removed. I was in year 12 and started feeling severe pain in the middle of a maths test. It came on really quickly. At first, I thought it was a stomach ache, as I’d never really heard of appendicitis. No one I’d known had ever had it before. But the pain got so bad that I went to the school nurse who felt my appendix area. It was very sensitive, so they sent me straight to the hospital.
I had to have a lot of tests. The testing process is very quick but pretty invasive, and I went through a whole bunch of doctors, which was really disorientating. They worked out pretty quickly that it was an issue with my appendix, but they weren’t sure if they should operate. Sometimes appendices can get inflamed without bursting, so they don’t want to take it out if they don’t have to because there’s recovery time involved.
I have private health insurance, which helped. It meant I had my own room, which is great when you’re going through something like this. You’re in a lot of pain and already under a lot of stress, the last thing you need is a lot of people around. Being in the hospital was already quite daunting, so it was good to be in my own space.
The waiting was the hardest part. It’s not a slow process, but it can feel like it. I couldn’t eat anything in case they did decide to operate, and there were long stretches of waiting for things like food to pass through my body to avoid any possible surgery complications. I was in pain, and was medicated through a drip, but it’s a fine line because I had to be aware of things and keep the staff updated on where my pain levels were at.
After a bit of time, they decided to operate, but there were complications. By the time the doctors decided on surgery, my appendix was so swollen that keyhole surgery wasn’t an option. They had to open up my stomach muscles, which is more painful and requires a longer recovery time. I had 17 stitches in my skin, but they can’t stitch your stomach muscles back together, they have to grow back over. It was pretty intense. They got the appendix out in the nick of time. It burst on the table right after it was removed!
Emergency surgery is really stressful. Having private health insurance really made the whole experience as good as it could be. I was in hospital for three days post-surgery, and being in a room by myself was brilliant. I had my family come out and hang out all day, which was great because it was just us in our own space. We didn’t have to worry about bothering anyone else. That kind of thing really helps to make those processes nicer, smoother and a more comfortable journey for the patient.
(As told to Taryn Stenvei)
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