You Always Have a Choice
A steady aching pain woke me. Thinking it would pass I showered and dressed for the day. Then I threw up. It must be a stomach bug I thought. We had been traveling so food poisoning was a possibility. After taking some activated charcoal, my go-to remedy for all stomach pain, I lay down. Every time I moved or stood up the pain in my abdomen worsened.
By early afternoon I knew whatever was ailing me was not food poisoning. I texted a friend. “I’ve got a mystery illness. Hope it doesn’t last long. Can’t meet tonight.”
Now I could only lay still on the couch. Every movement brought increased pain and nausea. Googling my symptoms narrowed my self-diagnosis. Pancreatitis? Maybe, but not sure. Appendicitis? Probably, but hopefully not. It felt like being in mid-term labor without the breaks.
By 8:00 pm my husband had me at the emergency room. One glance and they brought a wheel chair. Yup, the CT scan confirmed my appendix was inflamed which was evident now by the severe pain in my lower right abdomen. Reluctantly I agreed we had made the right decision to come to the hospital however much I dreaded the inevitable surgery.
A nurse administered some IV antibiotic and they admitted me. Moving onto the hospital bed brought tears, the pain was so intense.
“The doctor will see you in the morning and they’ll do the surgery first thing,” they informed me.
By noon the next day no doctor had appeared. The pain was not as intense as the previous night. I wasn’t eager for surgery so took the waiting time to do some research. A glimmer of hope awakened. Maybe I could avoid surgery. The surgeon would no doubt not share my view.
Shortly after noon the nurse announced they were taking me down to the O.R.
“Wait, isn’t the doctor coming up to talk with me first? I need to talk to him or her!”
“He’ll talk to you down there,” the nurse replied. “I don’t know why he isn’t coming up.”
Off they wheeled me to the O.R. By now the bumps in the doorways were no longer causing me grimacing pain.
The anesthesiologist asked if I was ready for surgery.
“Maybe,” I smiled.
She looked puzzled, “Maybe you should go first,” she suggested to the doctor. He waved her to continue. She gave me the standard spiel on general anesthesia.
Dr. Moy appeared to be about my age, mid-forties, short, fit and confident. He listened attentively as I described my improving symptoms and timidly asked if he ever gave antibiotics instead of removing the appendix.
“99% of the time we do an appendectomy. It’s the standard of care,” he stated.
It’s what they’re obliged to recommend. Protocol!
He continued, “Of course there are times when antibiotics are used, like for a sailor on a submarine. They’re not going to surface for emergency surgery.”
“I’m one of those patients that like to research things. They were reputable sources… Harvard Health, Cleveland Clinic…” I added quickly.
One of the OR nurses jumped in and backed me up, “This has been in the literature. We might be seeing this come up more.”
Then Dr. Moy said something so simple, yet unexpected. It was full of integrity and respect. “It’s your choice. It’s completely up to you.”
With relief I told him how grateful I was he said that and how so many docs are pushy and make you feel like you don’t have a choice.
“You always have a choice!” he restated, smiling. “What would you like to do?”
Glancing at my husband I replied, “I’d like to try treating this with antibiotics, especially since my pain is already decreasing.”
The nurses wheeled me back up to the floor. “I think you made the right choice,” one of them confided to me. “I hope you make a full recovery,” the other added.
Another night and three doses of IV antibiotics later I left the hospital armed with a prescription for oral antibiotics.
Recovery was swift and complete. The next day we were on the road, heading for home. Oh, did I mention I was 1,200 miles from home when this happened!
I’m so grateful I avoided surgery during my bout of appendicitis. My sincere gratitude to a humble but confident surgeon who stated the principle that all physicians should follow. “You always have a choice.”
The Nitty Gritty
Here’s the FAQS for those of you who want the details.
Disclaimer: This is not intended to be medical advise. Please talk with your physician about any acute emergency medical situation. I’m only sharing what I did in my situation. Everyone’s condition is unique.
Research on Antibiotic Use for Appendicitis
Researchers from Nottingham University Hospitals in England compiled the results of four randomized clinical trials that compared antibiotics and surgery for uncomplicated appendicitis. Here’s what they found:
- Antibiotics alone successfully treated appendicitis 63% of the time
- People who received antibiotics instead of surgery were 39% less likely than those who underwent surgery to have developed complications such as a perforated appendix, peritonitis, or infection around the appendectomy incision.
- About 20% of those treated with antibiotics had a return of pain or other symptoms and needed to go back the hospital; some of these had serious infections brewing.
The Possible Usefulness of the Appendix
Since I believe in a creator and that He created the appendix, I’m of the mind that there is a purpose for it. Just because we haven’t figured it out yet, isn’t reason to cut it out and toss it in the trash at whim. While sometimes it’s necessary to remove an inflamed appendix, maybe in some cases it’s worth saving.
Scientists have discovered that the appendix may be a “Safe House” for beneficial bacteria living in the gut. Especially with the rise of gut problems in western societies and the surge of C. diff (called Clostridium difficile colitis), one of the most common causes of infectious diarrhea in the U.S., it might be time to appreciate the newly discovered role of the appendix and explore the benefits of saving it when possible.
My Treatment Protocol
(This is what I did and is not a prescription or recommendation. Please consult with medical professionals.)
Antibiotics by IV for 3 days followed by oral antibiotics for 3 more days. The antibiotic prescription was for 10 days. However, knowing the havoc that antibiotics have on my digestive system and also having done extensive research on the effects of targeting nutrition support on boosting immunity and healing, I opted to discontinue the antibiotics early. If I had eaten the food the hospital gave me and went home on the standard American diet, I would have continued the antibiotics. Actually, I probably would have ended up back in the hospital and had surgery. No joke!
Nutrition for Healing: I fasted from the onset of symptoms for 2 1/2 days, drinking only water. The first day I took activated charcoal with lots of water. Who knows if it did anything, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Activated charcoal absorbs toxins and reduces inflammation. The third day I ate applesauce and drank some fruit juice, because I knew I had to get my bowels moving to get out of the hospital. For four more days I drank lots of green vegetable/fruit juice mixed with ginger and tumeric. These are full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. When I did eat, it was very small portions and only vegetables and fruits. I was on the road traveling so had to make do with store-bought vegetable/fruit juices. If I had been at home you can bet I would have drunk only fresh pressed vegetable/fruit juices for the whole week.
Probiotics: After discharge I immediately began taking probiotics to replenish the good bacteria in the gut. Prescription antibiotics are a killer for not only harmful but good bacteria in the digestion system. I chose a probiotic with at least 5 different strains of beneficial bacterial strains. 60-80% of the immune system is in the gut, so building it back up to optimal function is imperative in any kind of healing regimen.
A bi-monthly round-up of the best out there on health, motivation, personal growth and joy! Yes, please!