My family and friends frequently tell me that I am the type of person that can handle any situation that life throws at me and that many of my experiences can make great blog material. As a result of this, I have decided to start a new series of posts that tackle many what-if situations that students may worry about facing when they get to college or live on their own. Today, I will be sharing my experiences dealing with appendicitis in college and having my appendix removed.
All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
It all started when I was walking to class
The story of my appendicitis has humble beginnings and all started when I was walking to one of my favorite classes. While I was walking, I suddenly felt like I was about to fall over, and figured that I should stop by the dining hall and grab a glass of water with an apple to see if that helped. I was a few minutes late to class, but figured that I would feel better once I had something to eat/drink. Turns out, I was very much wrong and I spent most of class lying on the floor of the bathroom because I felt so sick.
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Security escort turned ambulance ride
Since I was lying on the floor of the bathroom, my professor said that I should use the university’s security escort service to get back to my dorm, since I was still feeling very sick. I have used this service many times in the past, so I expected that the security officers would just meet me outside and I would go back to sleep in my bed. However, once security officers got there, they said that I needed to be checked out by paramedics before they could drive me back to my dorm.
When the paramedics arrived, I told them that I was fine, even though I had just spent the last hour in the bathroom throwing up. I didn’t have a fever, just abdominal pain and nausea. The paramedics knew that I was sick, and suggested that I go to the emergency room near campus. I told them I would use my phone to call for a ridesharing service, and they said that wouldn’t be necessary- their ambulance was parked outside.
If you had told me two hours ago I would be leaving my classroom building while lying on a stretcher, I definitely would not have believed you.
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The first ER visit
I got to the emergency room a few minutes later and told the nurses about what had happened. Since I had been to this emergency room many times before, I didn’t have to fill out a lot of paperwork, since everything was already on file. They did not do a physical examination, and instead gave me very powerful nausea medicine that helped me stop throwing up. I still felt incredibly miserable, but figured I might have food poisoning or something like that. Once I was discharged, the campus police came to pick me up and drove me back to my dorm, since I wasn’t too far away from my college.
Anyone want toast? And can someone drive me to class?
At this point, the only food that I can eat without immediately getting sick is plain toast, which was very upsetting to me since I love eating lots of different foods. The nausea medication was not helping me at all with the pain, and I ended up having my friends walk or drive me to class because I couldn’t walk very far without needing to rest or feeling even more nauseous. I did attend my classes though, even though I ended up lying down on the floor during one of them since sitting upright was too painful. My professors encouraged me to go rest but I told them that it was fine, I just was recovering from food poisoning.
A phone call from Student Health that saved me
Once I got back from class, I ended up going to bed and sleeping until the next morning when I got a call from Student Health encouraging me to come in for a follow up. I considered ignoring their call until they called my mom, who said that I should absolutely come in for a follow up since I still felt like garbage. My friend ended up dragging me to my appointment that afternoon because I was extremely weak from being sick and in a lot of pain.
Once I got to Student Health, they immediately took me in the back and said that my symptoms were running consistent with appendicitis, minus the fact I didn’t have a fever. I told them about my previous ER visit, and they suggested I go to the main emergency room 15 minutes from campus, and called a ridesharing service for me on my phone.
The second ER visit
Once I was at the ER, the doctor immediately said that they suspected appendicitis, and that they were going to order a CT scan. This meant that I had to drink liquid contrast and also receive contrast through an IV, so that they could get a clear picture of my abdomen. I listened to lots of music on my iPad while I got an IV in my arm and waited for the contrast to work its way through my system.
After I got the CT scan, the doctor decided to order an additional ultrasound while we waited for the CT results because I had been at the same ER as a college freshman with abdominal pain. Ultimately, it was the ultrasound that confirmed what everyone was suspecting. My appendix was so large, it was visible on the ultrasound.
Preparing for surgery
Once my appendicitis diagnosis was confirmed, I called my mom and told her that I would be likely having surgery in the morning. She started to drive to the hospital while I was transferred to a hospital room for overnight observation. My mom arrived a few hours later and I tried to get some sleep before my surgery.
Shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder
The next morning, I was added to the schedule for a 9 am surgery so that my appendix could be gone once and for all. At this point, it had been three days since I first felt sick on my way to class, and I was lucky that my appendix hadn’t burst, so it could be removed with a laparoscopic procedure. What no one warned me about though is that while my abdominal pain would decrease dramatically, my shoulder pain would increase. I ended up waking up from surgery mumbling “shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder.”
Since the surgery was a success, I was able to be discharged from the hospital a few hours later and cleared to go home. I sent an email to my professors explaining that I had an appendectomy and that I would be gone for the next two weeks, and all of them immediately sent me well wishes for my recovery. Since I was taking painkillers, my professors and I made the decision to have me make up the assignments I missed once I was off of the painkillers and could think clearly again.
Recovery, and my eventual comeback
I spent a total of three weeks at home recovering from my surgery, since my existing chronic pain was aggravated by having my appendix removed. At the end of the second week, I was able to start working on some assignments, but it was a longer recovery process than I had expected. Since I told my professors at the beginning of the semester that I have an unpredictable chronic illness, they were happy to work with me and help me come up with a modified plan to turn in assignments.
At the end of the third week, I returned to campus for the last week of classes and met with all of my professors so that I could finish working on the assignments that I had missed. We also filled out incomplete forms in case I needed them, so that I would have time to complete the assignments during the summer and next semester if I needed to.
Having your appendix out in college may seem like it could be the end of the world, but that wasn’t the case for me. Because I had told my professors what was going on, they were happy to help me be successful and focus on my health. So even if you do get an appendectomy in college, I assure you that everything is going to be just fine!