Helping me through an appendectomy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 27, 2003

At about midnight last Saturday I was only thinking about two things: getting to the YMCA on Sunday afternoon and finishing in time to get home to watch the Oscars. But as the early morning progressed, my plans changed – painfully.

I was leaning over a counter in my Chuckatuck apartment when I suddenly felt like I’d been shot in the stomach. Seriously, I couldn’t even stand straight up for a few moments as it seemed that someone had jammed a fiery spear into my guts!

Hoping that it was &uot;simple&uot; food poisoning (or maybe just severe gas!), I suffered the pain for the next few hours. But around eight o’clock, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

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I called my friend Ella, and she drove me to the emergency room at Obici Hospital. Within 10 minutes of my arrival, I was laying on a cot, explaining my pain to Dr. David Munter. &uot;I’m about 95 percent sure that this is acute appendicitis,&uot; he said after we’d conversed (unfortunately, he didn’t mean that my appendix was adorable). As we talked, I asked him what could have caused the inflammation. He told me that, among other things, stress could have been the culprit. A few minutes later, the staff took some X-rays, hooked me up to an IV, and the doctor told me that surgeon Dr. Howard Harris would be coming within a few hours.

I can’t think of many times when I’ve been more nervous in my life. But as Ella and I waited for Dr. Harris to show up, several of Obici’s EMTs came in to speak to me. Some of them, having been through appendicitis before, told me what to expect; others, upon finding out that I was a sportswriter, told me what great athletes some of their children were!

Eventually, the staff herded Ella and I into room 338, and told us to just hang out for a while (OK, maybe they didn’t use those exact words, but I was a little sedated). Anyway, when Dr. Harris showed up he told me that the first procedure he was going to try would be lapatoscopic. This, according to, is the type of treatment that begins with the surgeon making a very small incision right below the navel. He inserts a laparoscope, a long tube with a lens at one end and a miniature video camera at the other. The laparoscope enables the doctor to see the appendix. Several more tiny incisions are made to allow for the passage of instruments, which are used to cut and clamp off the appendix.

Got all that? Well, at 3:30 Sunday afternoon, it was finally time for me to go under the knife, for the first time in my 24 years.

Ella hugged me goodbye, and I headed to the second floor for my operation. Just before I went under, one of the other nurses helped alleviate my nervousness. &uot;Are you ready for a little happy juice?&uot; she asked with a laugh. About then, I had a feeling that I was going to be OK.

After about 45 minutes in surgery (which seemed like about 30 seconds to the unconscious patient), I was brought back to my room. Dr. Harris came in and told me that the operation had worked, and that my appendix was out. However, he informed me that, left in another five or so hours, it could have ruptured.

Out of morbid curiosity, I inquired as to what he’d done with my lost organ. Obviously having been asked that before, he laughed and told me that it had probably been sent to the pathology department for observation.

I don’t think I got more than five hours sleep for the next day and a half because the nurses had to check my temperature and blood pressure every three or four hours. But the entire Obici staff was always very courteous, never making me feel as though I was an inconvenience, or that they had better things to do. So, for my first time as an Obici patient, they really made a great impression.

Over the next few days, I was visited and received phone calls from several members of the News-Herald staff. This really helped me feel the camaraderie and family atmosphere that we all share as members of a great organization.

Besides Drs. Harris and Munter, I want to thank the following people for helping me through the experience: Dr. Linwood Spruiell, Stacy Brown, Susan Doughtie, Heidi Pittman, Earl Boney, Sabrina Rhodes, Tina Joyner, Deborah Bazemore, and all of the other nurses, doctors, and other staff members that helped the tall, dark-haired guy in room 338 feel better. The hospital’s motto is &uot;Every square inch devoted to healing,&uot; and they proved it true in a big way.

Finally, thank you, Ella, for being there all night to hold my hand. You are truly one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Jason Norman is the sports editor of the Suffolk News-Herald.