Signs of Appendicitis: I Didn't Have the Usual Ones
What is Appendicitis?
The appendix is a small organ about the size of a finger that hangs from the lower right side of the large intestine. As far as science knows, it has no function and just flaps in the wind—so having it removed doesn't cause any health issues. The downside of this is that it seems to exist only to get inflamed because of an infection.
Appendicitis is the term used to describe an inflammation of the appendix. Appendicitis affects about 1 out of 500 people every year, and the risk increases with age. There is no known cause for it and, therefore, there is no way to prevent it. If it happens, then it happens. There is no "why" or "how" about it. Although the condition is rare, if it's not treated the appendix can rupture and spread the infection throughout the body, sometimes resulting in death.
Typical symptoms of appendicitis include:
- Abdominal pain, usually starting near the belly button and then moving to the lower right side of the abdomen.
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Low-grade fever
- Inability to pass gas
- Change in normal bowel patterns
The symptoms listed above seem obvious, but the ones I experienced definitely didn't scream to me to get my tooshie to the emergency room. The reason I am writing this article is that I did not experience vomiting or nausea, and for the first two and a half days I didn't feel any pain at all; everything seemed to be in working order. After my surgery, I was told that I was lucky my appendix didn't burst.
Initial Signs, Examination, Emergency Room
I can't be certain when my appendix became infected, but I first noticed very slight abdominal discomfort on February 26, 2013. It was not bothersome whatsoever, and I figured that I might just be a little gassy, so figured it would just pass normally. There was no indication that my appendix was in the first stages of trying to kill me, so I pretty much just ignored it. The discomfort I felt didn't seem to have a specific location, but seemed to be just below my belly button, and wasn't constant; it came and went throughout the day.
Tuesday came and went and when I woke up the next day, I was still experiencing slight discomfort. At first I didn't think my discomfort that morning was related to what I felt the day prior, so I thought that maybe I ate something that my stomach didn't quite agree with the night before, so I made it a point to eat healthier that day.
As Wednesday progressed, I noticed that the discomfort I was feeling seemed to be the same that I felt Tuesday afternoon. By that afternoon, I noticed that the discomfort was a little more pronounced, not in the sense that it intensified, but rather that it seemed to come and go more frequently. I became mildly concerned about it as I was still making regular bowel movements and passing gas normally and realized that it wasn't because of something I ate. But still, there was no pain and nothing was stopping me from carrying out my duties at work. So I continued to ignore it, expecting it to just be gone by the end of the day.
I woke up Thursday morning, and again I noticed I still had mild discomfort throughout my abdomen just below my belly button. I still didn't know what to think of it so I decided that if I was still feeling this way by lunch time I would get checked out. I was fortunate enough to be in the navy at this time so I had free medical services.
Sure enough, as the morning passed into afternoon that day I was still feeling "gassy." I informed my chief that I was closing up shop and going to medical. When I arrived at medical, I was asked what I needed help with and I explained what I had experienced the last couple days. I was asked if it felt like an emergency and I said it didn't. Again, at this point I wasn't feeling any pain at all.
A short time later I was examined. I was lying down and was put into various positions and had the bottom of my feet hit and was asked if anything hurt. I told the examiner that nothing she was doing was hurting me. She took out a stethoscope and listened to my abdomen, which I can't imagine was very pleasing as she told me that it sounded as if I had a little gas. She stopped the examination and told me to sit tight as she left the room.
A few minutes later she came back with her supervisor who then took me into his office to conduct the exact same examination, albeit less gentle. When he began poking and prodding my abdomen asking me if it hurt was when I said yes for the first time. "Yes" became a very familiar word to me for the next few minutes because, well, let's just say that he was extremely thorough.
After my second examination I was taken to another room to get blood work done. After my results came back I was examined yet again by the same guy. For the first time he seemed concerned. When he reviewed my blood test results I became a little nervous at the expression on his face and the curses muttered under his breath. I asked him what the problem was and he told me that my white blood cell count was very high, indicating that my body is trying to fight an infection. With the white blood cell count coupled with the location of my pain, I was told that I had to go to the emergency room immediately to rule out appendicitis.
Besides visiting a relative, I have never had any reason to be at a hospital. A short time later I was brought to the emergency room and I explained to the receptionist why I was there. A few minutes later I had nothing on except my underwear and a gown. When the surgeon came in to talk to me, she asked me why I was there and I told her everything that had happened over the last few days. She told me that I had textbook appendicitis and the she would remove it using a laparoscopic surgery. Long story short, the surgery went fine and I was able to go home the next day.
Appendicitis is Always an Emergency
Appendicitis is nothing new to the medical community, and if it is caught early it is very easy to treat. The reason I wrote this article is because I didn't experience any extreme symptoms of appendicitis, and I want people to know that they shouldn't wait until they are dying to go to the hospital. After my surgery the surgeon told me that I was lucky my appendix didn't burst because of the extent of the infection. I went to medical on my ship Thursday afternoon thinking all I needed was a laxative—not knowing that I would wake up Friday without an appendix.
What scares me the most is that I almost didn't seek medical help that day simply because my mild discomfort didn't feel like a ticking time bomb. I hope this gets to readers before it's too late and their lives become jeopardized because of a useless, insignificant, finger-sized organ that seems to only exist to have a chance of being infected, possibly to the extent of causing death.
If you have any questions about my experience, please comment. Understand that I am not a medical professional and therefore cannot diagnose you with anything. If you are concerned about your well-being, seek professional advice. I'll say it again: I am NOT a medical professional.
I hope this article saves at least one person, either directly or indirectly, the pain of advanced stages of appendicitis. Thanks for reading.