Since we got home 2 and a half weeks ago, I've been feeling better and better each day. I can feel myself getting stronger and more dexterous. It’s getting easier to move around, and I generally have less and less pain. Certain things like bending over or getting out of deep chairs can still be uncomfortable and sometimes a bit painful. Overall, though, I am feeling more and more normal each day, which is a fantastic feeling.
Normally, I am most comfortable sleeping on my side, but throughout my stay in the hospital and at the transplant house, I had to sleep propped up on my back because I wasn’t strong enough to get in or out of a prone position. Plus, being on my side was too painful due to the sutures. I used a wedge pillow to sleep propped up on my back in the transplant house and at home (Here's a link to the one I bought if you're interested). A few days after getting home, I tried sleeping on my side and it was comfortable. It’s amazing how something so simple as just sleeping on my side did so much to make me feel more normal.
It’s also amazing to think that my surgery was 5 weeks ago yesterday. It feels like it was both a long time ago but not that long ago at the same time. It’s also amazing how much better I feel than I did when I got home. Being home and taking my twice-daily cocktail of antibiotics have really done wonders. I was excited (but also nervous) for the follow-up appointment I had on Monday the 17th, when it would be determined whether or not I would need my appendix removed.
I drove up to Philly on Sunday night, February 16th, and stayed overnight in the Transplant House in preparation for my 8:00AM CT scan the next morning. Unfortunately, Jill couldn’t be there with me because she had work on Monday, but thankfully I was feeling well enough to make the drive myself. Besides a little bit of traffic and a couple of pee breaks, the drive went really well. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do that 2 weeks ago.
When I arrived at the Transplant House Sunday night, I saw a friend Jill and I made during our stay. Her husband had a lung transplant, so they needed to stay for a while until doctors were confident he was well enough to go home. She invited me to eat dinner with them and another couple in a similar situation with whom we also became friends. It was really nice of her to invite me, and I very much enjoyed the meatloaf, creamed corn, green beans, and sugar-free chocolate pudding they had made. It was also nice to talk with them again. We chatted for a couple of hours, and after we went back to our rooms to take our respective pills, we came back downstairs and talked for another hour or so until bedtime. One of the things we talked about was how thankful we were for the Transplant House and how it made it possible for us to meet people who were in similar situations to us who could understand what we were going through. We decided that after everyone is well, we’d all like to get together again sometime.
I woke up bright and early the next morning for the CT scan of my appendix. The nurses had me change into a gown and said I’d have to drink a contrast dye for the scan as well as to have the IV dye. I was relieved at first when they didn’t give me the disgusting dye to drink that I was given in the ER a few weeks ago, but it turns out that what they gave me was worse. They gave me two 450ml bottles of what the label called a vanilla flavored “smoothie” that had the dye in it. The first couple of sips were ok, but after that, every sip was agony. It was thick like a smoothie, but not in a good way. It tasted OK, but each time I swallowed, the taste as well as the weird sensation of it going down my throat gave me the chills. It’s hard to describe, but the closest thing I can think of would be drinking vanilla “smoothie” flavored cough syrup. It was not a fun experience made all the worse by the fact I had to drink almost a full liter of the stuff. The more I drank, the weirder it made me feel. I was slightly nauseous while drinking it. By the time they took me back to put in the IV, I drank almost all of what they gave me and was very happy when the nurse told me I didn’t need to finish. The CT scan was pretty much the same as the other two I had. After the scan, the radiologist said that there wasn’t anything on the scan that made it look like I needed to go to the ER, so I was told I could have my IV removed and that I could leave.
Next, I went to the Transplant Center that I had been to many times before to have my (almost) 6 week follow-up appointment with the doctor. She said that everything looked good from her end, especially since I was feeling as well as I described at the beginning of this post. She said that I should still refrain from playing any strenuous sports that require a lot of movement, running, jumping, twisting, etc. and core exercises for the time being, but she said that they want me to start getting about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day; things like light jogging, walking, or the elliptical and bike machines at the gym. However, if I feel any pain while doing those exercises, I should slow it down a bit. At the 6-week mark, I would also “graduate” out of the 10-pound lift restriction into the 10-20 pound restriction. If things go well with that, I would then “graduate” to the 20-30 pound weight restriction, and so on. They want to allow me to lift slightly heavier things to ease my body back into things. Otherwise, appendix permitting, my next appointment with them would be at the 6 month anniversary mark around July.
I was hungry since I had not been allowed to eat breakfast, so I went to the Jimmy John’s around the corner for an early lunch at about 10:30AM. Afterwards, I went back inside to check in early for my appointment with the colorectal surgeon to go over the results of my CT scan. Unfortunately, the surgeon was running a bit behind schedule, so I would have to wait a bit. While I was waiting, I started to feel a bit nauseous, similar to how I felt while drinking the “smoothie” contrast dye. It went away after about 10 minutes, though. When they called me in to check my vitals, I told the nurse about it. She said it was probably my stomach feeling weird with the “smoothie” and the sandwich mixing together. I was sent back to the waiting room and almost an hour and 45 minutes after my scheduled appointment time, I was brought back into an exam room and was told the doctor was still behind schedule, but would be in as soon as she was able. After another almost hour, one of the doctors arrived.
He wasn’t the colorectal surgeon I was here to see, but he was on her team. He asked me how I was feeling, how I found out I had appendicitis, and asked me how my recovery had been going. He then showed me a side-by-side of the CT scan that was done while I was in the ER and the one I had earlier in the morning. I couldn’t make much sense out of the images, but he told me that while my lower colon and appendix were still slightly inflamed, it was nowhere near as bad as it was while I was in the ER. He then said he would go over the scans with the colorectal surgeon and be back in soon with the decision about whether or not the appendix would need to be removed.
About 20 minutes later, over 3 hours after my scheduled appointment time, the surgeon came in. She apologized about the wait, and I said it was no problem, because I understand things can get behind schedule sometimes. She then told me that when she saw me in the hospital a few weeks earlier, she wasn’t very optimistic about how the antibiotics would work. Now, though, she was very surprised at how well they had reduced the inflammation. She said that at this time, she didn’t see any reason as to why my appendix would need to be removed. I was so relieved to hear that. She did say, though, that because I am going to stop taking my antibiotics in a couple of days, I would need to keep a close eye on how I feel afterwards. She said that they’re not sure if the antibiotics are actually helping or if they’re just suppressing something that will come back after I stop taking them, so I was told to call them if anything out of the ordinary happens (such as more pain). If everything goes well, though, they want to do another CT scan in 2 months just to see how everything is going. Thankfully I can do the CT scan here in Virginia and send the results to them back in Philly. They’ll analyze the results and make another decision on whether or not the appendix needs to come out. They gave me the prescription I needed to get the scan, and I was free to go home.
Even though I was faced with a 4-ish hour drive home with traffic, I was very happy because, at least for the time being, I won’t need another surgery. My antibiotics will run out tomorrow morning, so hopefully everything goes well and I don’t feel worse after I stop taking them. I’ve got my fingers crossed!