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In which Franklin has a weird appendix

For the past few months, I've been dealing with weird pain in my lower back. It's been an ongoing thing that has followed a consistent pattern: I wake up in the morning in intense pain, take ibuprofen, the pain goes away, I go about my day, and it comes back the next morning.

Being a middle-class citizen of an industrialized twenty-first-century nation, I did what any middle-class citizen of an industrialized twenty-first-century nation would do in such a situation: I consulted the Oracle at Google. And lo, the Oracle at Google said that this might be a kidney infection, so I should talk to an actual practitioner of medicine rather than Googling my symptoms.

And so it came to pass that I made an appointment with the doctor, on the day before I was scheduled to head to Canada for several weeks. The doctor poked and prodded my back, made me pee into a cup, asked me lots of questions, and said "hmm" a lot. Then she disappeared for a while, leaving me to sit in a small room with an old-fashioned electro-mechanical clock on the wall that reminded me of the clocks in the elementary school I attended in the plains of Nebraska.

A short time later, she returned to say that whatever my issue was, it definitely wasn't a kidney infection (take that, Google!) but it could be a kidney tumor, and I should make an appointment for a medical imaging test. Oh, and stop taking ibuprofen, that can aggravate kidney tumors.

Naturally, on my return home, I consulted the Oracle at Google once more, and Google obligingly filled me with horror stories about renal adenomas and such. I also made an appointment to have the imaging done--something that would, they said, take a month to schedule.

Head now completely filled with the possibilities of a rapid and gruesome death, I ventured to Canada, sans ibuprofen.

The pains kept getting worse, and then worse after that, until finally Eve offered me industrial-strength painkillers...that did pretty much nothing. Well, nothing save for making me feel like my head was stuffed with cotton balls, anyway.

So I called my doctor who suggested I make my way posthaste to an urgent care center for imaging.

Now, we live in a twenty-first century world that still clings to nineteenth-century notions of borders. My insurance, as it turns out, is not valid in Canada. So we piled into a car, Eve and I, and drove across the border to Bellingham, where I explained the situation and was admitted with alacrity.

A short time later, I was able to mark "Get a CAT Scan While Wearing Bunny Ears" off my bucket list.

For those of you who have never had a CAT scan, the whole experience is a bit "bureaucracy at the DMV meets a scene from a science fiction movie." You're cataloged, bar-coded, and wheeled into a futuristic-looking room where the technician feeds you into a giant machine with displays and blinky lights and a big spinny thing.

That part's pretty cool. The bit that's less cool is the stuff they inject you with to make your innards show up better to the machine.

"You will feel hot," the dude said. "And then you will feel like you're peeing. Relax. You're not."

That didn't exactly fill me with images of pleasant frolics through a lovely garden, but the reality turned out to be even less pleasant than he suggested. He shot me full of some transparent liquid and I could feel it traveling through my body as a wave of intense heat. Even my eyeballs got hot--something I hope never to experience again. As promised, when it hit my waist, I felt like I was peeing, though he'd neglected to mention that it'd feel like I was peeing hot lava.

Then the machine did its spinny blinky thing and Was wheeled back.

After a bit of waiting, an earnest-looking and overworked doctor came in to give me the news: my kidneys were fine. No problem at all. The problem, he said, was totally different: I had appendicitis. And, apparently, my morphology is as unorthodox as my ideology. My appendix is in entirely the wrong place; the end of my large intestine points toward the front of my body and curves up, leaving my appendix pointing straight up at my liver like a defiant middle finger raised against one's oppressors. (I'm not saying I have an oppressive liver, mind you; it's a metaphor. Work with me here.)

He told me the Three Wise Men (the doctor, the radiologist, and the surgeon) had consulted, and my appendix was right on the threshold of the point where they would normally opt to remove it, but after some deliberation they'd made the decision not to. He gave me a CD of the CAT scan (complete with autorun.inf file--seriously, has anyone in the entire world not got the memo on why autorun is a terrible fucking idea?) and told me to follow up with my doctor, who should figure out what to do with me.

So the problem is still ongoing: I wake up in the morning with pain that dissolves at the touch of ibuprofen, even though it's intractable in the face of rather more potent painkillers, and go about the day.

Apparently, my insurance only covers out-of-state medical care if it's an "emergency." I'm not sure if "appendicitis that's right on the fuzzy border of requiring surgical intervention, so we're going to pack you up and send you home" is an "emergency" or not. A part of me is still holding my breath wondering if I'm about to be hit with a huge hospital bill for all of this.

But hey, no kidney tumor! That bit was a huge relief; we (my sweeties and I) were, I think, more worried about that than we'd realized at the time this was all happening.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 5th, 2015 12:13 am (UTC)
My appendix ruptured when I was 13. It was ruptured for a week, I went septic, and I nearly died from it. The only reason I survived is that my body is also a little weird. My body created a bubble and contained the infection, even as it slowly spread. Most people die within 2-3 hours of rupture. A week is pretty unusual.

Appendicitis is a medical emergency. Please do not wait. Go where you need to go and get it taken care of!!
Jul. 5th, 2015 05:43 am (UTC)
I'm glad you don't have a tumor, but I think you should go home and deal with this asap.
Jul. 5th, 2015 06:17 am (UTC)
Achievement unlocked!

As an observation for possible Further Consultation with the Oracle, my understanding from people who... study the effects of various drugs, is that drugs interact with various people's physiology in different ways. Such that "more potent" painkillers for The Average Population may be no-op for specific individuals. And it seems to be true that for all painkillers there exist at least one individual for whom that particular painkiller does nothing. So pain management is a speciality that includes knowledge of "well, if that one did nothing, then these two in the same 'family' probably won't work, and we should try these other three from this other family". Because typically one doesn't find out that certain painkillers are no-ops for one's body without trying them (at least once) and finding they "don't do anything", so generally patients won't know in advance. (Unless they've had a particularly bad experience before, that is.)

If Ibuprofen is effective for you, and Other Drug is not, that may indicate that Other Drug and your body have just agreed to ignore each other. And there may be other semi-related drugs for which that is true.

All that is without even getting into the field of specific pain killers being better are specific kinds of pain, for more Average Human Population physiological reasons.


PS: I understand this is one of the main causes for cases of why "major surgery while feeling everything" happens to people.

PPS: I gather this all interacts in unfortunate ways with the War On Drugs (tm). Such that certain "effective for certain types of pain" and/or "effective for certain people" drugs are de facto (or de jure) unavailable, despite being very effective.
Jul. 5th, 2015 02:34 pm (UTC)
I'm really surprised they didn't remove it. I think you should do it. Very happy it's not a tumor, but please don't neglect this! Just have the surgery ASAP!
Jul. 5th, 2015 04:28 pm (UTC)
Concur ... remove it post haste
I too had an appendix rupture while in my body. The pain was beyond inconvenient and well into the impossible. As stated by a previous comment ... good chance that an incurable case of death would have ensued if I had not gone to the er. The fact that you have time to consider ... just tells me you don't have to make the trip at midnight, but make that trip you should.
Jul. 6th, 2015 12:29 am (UTC)
Back in '08, I had lower abdominal pain for the better part of a week, mostly on the lower right now, but not solely there. Having an interesting history with lower abdominal ick (the details of which I'll spare you and your readers), I took a "watch and see" approach, although I did the "kick your right leg out" routine to see if it felt the way appendicitis was supposed to, and it didn't--that is, it didn't hurt any more than it already did. Come Friday, I decided I wasn't putting up with being in pain over the weekend, and diverted myself from my work commute to my doctor's office, which sent to me the ER for a serious workup (for some reason, that's how Mass General rolls, I don't know why). It turned out that while my appendix hadn't yet ruptured, it was rather close to so doing, and consequently my not-so-happy ass was wheeled off for an emergency appendectomy around 7 p.m. Fortunately, they were able to do it without totally peeling me open as in the old days, and although they kept me in-house on IV antibiotics for a couple of days, I was fine in the end. (Apparently most case of appendicitis are in people under 35 or so, just as most cases of severe diverticulitis are in people over 50. I just love being an outlier both ways...)

My suggestion to you? Get your not-so-happy ass back home to your regular doc, and see about getting your appendix out ASAP--you don't need your bird-flipping protuberance as an abdominal Sword of Damocles, OK?
Jul. 10th, 2015 04:07 am (UTC)
Appendicitis is considered a medical emergency since perforation can cause all sorts of horrible (ie expensive to treat) infections. If you decide to get a second opinion and go ahead with surgery, and your insurance gives you any crap at all, message me and we'll take care of it for you.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )