Monthly Archives: January 2015

Book Review: Lila, by Marilynne Robinson

Lila

Lila is an uneducated, impoverished, lifelong “drifter” who is unexpectedly drawn into a community where she is shown extravagant kindness and grace. Although Lila never received much formal education, she is a deep thinker who constantly ponders morality, human existence, and theology in relation to the people and circumstances of her past and present.

Lila is Marilynne Robinson’s third book set in the Iowa town of Gilead, but it is fine to read on its own. I appreciated Robinson’s perspective and her gentle and compassionate tone. I have not yet read her other works of fiction, but I am planning to.

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Appendectomy at 11 Weeks Pregnant

I didn’t expect to be ringing in the new year in a significant amount of pain, but here I am, and things could be worse.

Two nights ago, I went to bed with a bad stomachache. Even though it hurt, I was able to sleep pretty well. But when I woke up in the morning, the pain had all shifted to my lower right abdomen, and boy, was it intense. It honestly felt like the most painful “transition” stage of labor, only there were no breaks in between contractions–it was just constant, searing pain.

I thought it was due to the big bowl of popcorn I had eaten two nights prior. I almost never eat corn in any form, because it always bothers my stomach, so I was hugely regretting my decision. I kept saying to T, “I was so, so stupid. I am never, ever going to eat that much popcorn at one time again.” T kept rubbing my lower back, as that was the only thing that was able to slightly distract me from the pain. No position was comfortable. I was literally writhing on the bed, crying, praying, begging for the pain to stop. I told T that I wished I could just cut off my stomach without hurting the baby (oh yeah, I’m 11 weeks pregnant), because I couldn’t deal with this much longer.

I had eaten a light breakfast, not because I was really hungry or felt like eating, but because, well, honestly, I thought eating more food might help things “move along” digestively and provide some relief from the crazy pain. Well, I threw it all up, so obviously, that plan wasn’t very effective.

Around the time when T went to make lunch for the kids, I started thinking, “Maybe this is more than just popcorn.” I Googled “right side pain,” and lo and behold, I had a lot of the symptoms of appendicitis. I also thought it might be an ectopic pregnancy, although I was not experiencing any bleeding, and ectopic pregnancies usually make themselves known before 11 weeks. But I knew it was still a possibility.

I began considering a trip to the ER. I didn’t want to show up all stinky and unshaven, so I forced myself to take a quick shower and get dressed. The kids finished lunch, everybody got in the van, and we drove the short distance to the ER.

T dropped me off at the entrance, because we didn’t really want the kids exposed to the potential germs of the waiting room. I hobbled to the front desk, blurted out, “I’m eleven weeks pregnant and experiencing severe stomach pain.” They took my name and told me to have a seat. Well, I tried to have a seat, but that only lasted for a minute. Then I was kneeling on the floor, rocking, draping myself over chairs, wishing there was a place to lie down, crying, and trying not to moan too loudly. I wanted to go back up to the desk and beg them to please, please admit me next, because other people’s names kept being called before mine. But I didn’t.

Finally, probably 20 minutes later, my name was called and I was taken to a room. I did a urine test. The results from that came back quickly and showed that there were signs of some kind of infection. Then my nurse took five vials of blood and sent them off for testing. It took a lot longer to get the results of those back, but I was told that I had an elevated white blood cell count (another sign that something was really wrong) and my potassium level was a bit low (most likely because I had been throwing up; I threw up a couple times at home and then once in the room. I was given some Zofran and didn’t throw up any more after that). The nurse started an IV of antibiotics and set up a bag of potassium to run after the antibiotics.

They wanted to do an ultrasound to check on the baby and to hopefully be able to get a view of my appendix, but there was a line for the ultrasound machine. I finally got in there around 4:30. The baby was wiggling around and had a normal heart rate. I got a print out with a couple of pictures. One is a 3D image (my first ever 3D ultrasound; I never had one with the other kids), and Baby looks super cute. The ultrasound tech had to push hard on my very sore right side to get good images of my appendix, so that wasn’t fun, but it didn’t last too long.

Around 6 PM, a doctor came in and confirmed that I had appendicitis. She said the surgeon would be coming in and I would need surgery immediately.

T and the kids came then to give me hugs and kisses and deliver some things (most notably, my phone charger, as my phone battery was almost dead).

My surgeon was really nice and made me feel as comfortable and safe as possible, although I did have to sign a lot of scary paperwork detailing the high risk of “fetal demise” when undergoing general anesthesia and having abdominal surgery in the first trimester.

I kind of lost track of time after that, but I think they took me to the surgery wing around 8 PM. The anesthesiologist explained that she normally gives patients a form of anti-anxiety medication first thing, but that that particular medication can increase the risk of cleft palate for babies of pregnant patients, so I declined it and just steeled myself to not be anxious about getting a mask put over my face, etc. She gave me something else that made everything around me start spinning, which was really weird. I don’t know what kind of medication that was or what its purpose was exactly. I was wheeled (on a rolling bed, which they called a “stretcher,” although that’s not what I think of when I think “stretcher”) into the surgery room, transferred to a different bed, and given a mask. I was pretty loopy at that point. Someone told me to think of something happy, so I thought of my family, and that’s the last thing I remember.

When I started to wake up, everybody around me was calm, so I took that as a good sign. They said I had done really well, and that the baby was fine. I felt really groggy, and it took me a few minutes before I could get my eyes to stay open. It was actually a hazy, not unpleasant feeling. I was glad that it was over, that I was still alive, and especially, that my baby was still alive.

The surgeon was able to do the appendectomy laparoscopically, so only three small incisions were made. He said that my uterus was still far enough down in my pelvis that it wasn’t in his way at all. Thankfully, my appendix had not yet ruptured, but in the surgeon’s words, it “definitely needed to come out.”

Then I was wheeled to a small, private recovery room. The nurse put motorized compression socks over my calves to prevent blood clots. First the left would squeeze and release my leg, then the right, and back and forth they went all night long. It felt kind of good, but the machine was noisy, and it was just weird to have my calves alternately squeezed for hours and hours. I had an IV in the crook of my right arm with more antibiotics and then just regular hydrating fluids. The most annoying thing was that if I bent that arm, even slightly, a blaring alarm would go off on the IV machine, and a nurse would have to come in to reset it. I tried so hard to keep my arm perfectly straight, but I still had to call the nurses in probably 20 times throughout the night to turn off the alarm! And I had to use use the restroom literally every hour all night long–the consequence of not only being pregnant, but also of receiving lots of fluids after being dehydrated for an entire day. So every time I needed to use the restroom, I had to call in a nurse, who would unhook the compression socks, help me get out of bed, and wheel the IV over to the bathroom. Then she waited around until I was done, brought the IV back over, helped me get back into bed, clipped on the socks again, and left. Between accidentally setting off the IV alarm and needing assistance to get to the bathroom, I really kept the nurses busy. But they were all really friendly and helpful and didn’t make me feel badly for making them work so much!

I got a couple of (non-consecutive) hours of sleep and watched some lame TV (all that’s on in the middle of the night is infomercials! But I did catch a couple of episodes of Hoarders around the time the sun was starting to come up). I was astonished when they brought me a real breakfast around 8 AM (I thought I would just get Jell-O or broth or something). There were scrambled eggs with ham, which were actually surprisingly yummy, a fresh fruit cup, and a few other things. I felt sort of spoiled to be getting breakfast in bed.

My surgeon came by to see me a couple of times in the morning to give me instructions about after-care. I am supposed to go back for a follow-up appointment in a week or two. All this time, I had been holding out and declining pain medication whenever the nurses asked, because I was concerned that it might not be 100% safe for the baby, and I figured that the baby had been through enough already. But right before it was time to go home, the right side of my neck started hurting so badly that I was finding it extremely hard to even breathe. So I finally accepted one tablet of the lowest possible dose of Percocet. The neck pain could be a result of having to hold my right arm so still and not being able to sleep comfortably and/or because of the carbon dioxide they pumped me with to inflate my abdomen during surgery. T and the kids came to pick me up, and I was back home by noon today.

Right now, I’m still really sore at the sites of my stitches and on the right side of my abdomen. And unfortunately, my neck is still killing me, so I can’t lie down and have to sleep sitting up (I did get a good sitting-up nap this afternoon). All in all, though, the surgery was a success, and I’m so grateful that Baby and I are okay. We had lots of people praying for us.