I know this appendectomy story has gotten quite long, but I'm not even sorry. Because. So, where were we?
The Wisconsin nurses asked me if I had ever had surgery before, and I said, under heavy doses of narcotics, "I think I'm fully intact other than my wisdom teeth."
After the results of the CT scan were clear, and it was obvious that I needed to have an appendectomy, I met with Dr. Birkenstocks again (while he literally sat on the floor of my hospital room. I have video, but that would be mean) to express my concerns about being in the "middle of nowhere" and asked my questions about this scary surgery. The following is our conversation, loosely based on the facts, as remembered by someone who was on morphine at the time.
"I'm on a road trip. Can I still go on the road trip?"
"OH, so is there any way that I could go back to Minneapolis and have the surgery at Abbott Northwestern Hospital? It's like a mile from my house."
No. Look, whatever happened to you in the last 24 hours to cause this attack, well it worked fast and the next thing to happen is your appendix is gonna burst. We need to get it out of there. It's really a miracle that it hasn't burst already.
"OH. OK. So, how long is the surgery?"
"How long will the recovery be?"
You'll be released probably tomorrow, and you'll need to rest, but you'll be back to normal activities in about two weeks.
"How big will the scar be?"
It will be tiny. They'll go in with a small camera to do an exploratory review of the situation. If everything is as we expect, they will then remove the appendix.
"OH. OK. So my friends won't need to get a hotel room then...in this town, right? We can all stay here tonight and we'll most likely be on our way tomorrow?"
Yes. If things go well you'll be out of here tomorrow.
"Can they sort of do the scar, like, below my bikini line? I mean, I don't want to be a Princess, but, you know, I like to whip out my chubby stomach at parties to be like funny and it's kind of my thing...it's this thing I do...I mean I don't really want a scar ruining my schtick."
Yes. There will be three small holes and whatever we can get under the bikini line, we'll get under the bikini line. Look, the surgeon will be here soon. You can ask him all of these questions when he gets here. We'll get a printout of the CT scan and he will review it with you, and show you exactly what's going on, and where the incisions will be and, I'll warn you: He'll probably be a little grumpy from having to wake up at 2:00 in the morning, but he's the best one to answer all of your surgery questions.
And then Summer and Beata and I all fell asleep and waited for the surgeon and his staff to get to the hospital. Or, should I say, Beata and I fell asleep:
And then the surgeon and his team got there and it was time for surgery! I could see five or six people standing outside my room all in blue and "scrubbed up" and I started getting nervous. The Nurse Anesthetist came in and asked me a few questions and I asked him a few questions and then I signed something. Then my surgeon and his PA came in the room and asked if I had any questions for him. I was a good participator and asked him, gosh, you know I just remembered that I have a ridiculous [Dad: you might want to sit down for this part] ladybug tattoo that I got 15 years ago [It's true. I have a tattoo. I've successfully hidden it from you since 1999 when I got in in San Francisco when I was stupid and 22-years-old. Don't be mad. I love you. And you didn't come to any of my student-teacher conferences or marathons or my surgery] and the ladybug would look really dumb if they sliced it open, could they maybe avoid it during surgery? He asked me to show it to him and looked very confused when he saw that it is sort of near my hip bone. He said his incision would be nowhere near it. And then I got confused. More conversation:
"So, where exactly where will you put the three small incisions? I was told you could try to get most of them below the bikini line?"
Who told you that? I don't do laparoscopic surgeries. I do open surgeries.
"WHAT?! HUH? Everybody since I got here told me it was laparoscopic. Don't they always do appendectomies laparoscopically? Um...OK...well then can you make the incision below my bikini line at least?"
*laughs, condescendingly* Your appendix isn't below your bikini line.
"Well then where will the scar be?"
*laughs* It will be about 5 inches long, from here to here *draws imaginary 10-inch diagonal line from just under my rib to well below my belly button*. How does this feel? *jabs my appendix HARD several times*
"OW! It hurts really bad! Oh man, that's terrible news -- I really don't want a big scar like that...can you show me the CT scan now please? I'm so curious about exactly what's going on here and I need a second to think about this scar."
*laughs, incredulously* I don't read CT scans. The radiologist reads CT scans.
"I was told you were going to review it with me before my surgery."
*laughs, then huffs* Who told you that?!?
"The ER Doctor! Look, I'm getting the impression that you feel like I'm asking you a bunch of stupid questions, and I can see that we got off on the wrong foot here, but please understand I'm just repeating to you what was told to me. I was told that it was a 45-minute laparoscopic surgery, that I would probably be released tomorrow, if all goes well, and that I will recover pretty quickly but just be unable to do any physical activity for about two weeks."
*now he's really mad* The surgery is three hours. You will be in this hospital for no less than three days. You can't do any physical activity for six weeks.
"Whoa. OK. My friends would have to get a hotel room here. Everything you're saying is so different from everything I was told. Wait, I can't ride my bike for six weeks?! I'm starting to feel really uncomfortable. I'm so sorry -- I'm just feeling like I would much rather go back to Minneapolis to have this surgery. There's a hospital about a mile from my house. Is there ANY way that I can safely get back to Minneapolis to have this surgery?"
*to his credit, he softened here* Kady, I want you to be comfortable. You don't seem comfortable. If you want to go back to Minneapolis, you should go back to Minneapolis.
"So are you sure my appendix won't burst in the three hours it takes to get back to Abbott? They started me on one bag of an antibiotic to prep for surgery. They said there were two bags. Maybe we could finish the second bag, and then you could give me another shot of morphine right before we leave to last me the car ride and are you sure my appendix won't burst?"
Of course there are no guarantees, but the way I see it, your biggest risk on the drive home would be a speeding ticket. And don't hit a deer.OK. Can you give my friends and me just a minute to deliberate?
And then he left. Summer and Beata looked at me and I think by now I had tears in my eyes. I said, "will you guys please take me to Abbott? I don't want you to be scared, and I know I'm putting you in a terrible position, because I know you don't want my appendix to burst in your car, but I just think I really wanna go to Abbott" and they were like YES, OBVIOUSLY WE GO TO ABBOTT (I love them). And then it was basically just like in that scene at the end of the movie Big Fish (the first 1 minute and 35 seconds from the clip below), and they got me outta that place!! (Not before asking the nice people to call ahead to Abbott and explain the situation and tell them that we were on our way. And then the Wisconsin hospital people asked us how to spell "Abbott").
And then Dr. Birkenstocks came back in the room, and apologized profusely for the misunderstanding. I said, "listen man, NO HARD FEELINGS. I am so happy with my treatment here. Everybody has been really great. But I'm vain and I don't want a scar, and I wand the shorter recovery of a laparoscopic surgery and would feel so much better to do that recovery closer to home. We don't even know the NAME of this town! Where are we? And these two, they can sleep in their own beds. And please tell those ten people out there I AM SO SORRY that they had to get out of bed and drive all the way here and now I'm not having my surgery here."
And then they packed up their smorgasbord picnic and helped me escape!
And then they packed up their smorgasbord picnic and helped me escape!
First 1:35 of this clip = Summer and Beata busting me out of middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin hospital: