Here we are again, you cruising over other peoples pages you may wish to look at and even read and here I am sitting in a Gloria Jeans coffee shop on a not so sunny day on the glorious Gold Coast preparing to write yet another invisible illness story. I have titled this post ? Appendicitis August ? with the question marks and all because the month of August was such a whirlwind of a crazy month. This story starts only two months after being discharged from Robina Hospital with the unsure diagnosis of ‘Pelvic Inflammatory Disease’ (PID). (Quick re cap: PID is inflammation of the female genital tract, accompanied by fever and lower abdominal pain.) I was prescribed two very strong antibiotics Flagyl and Doxycycline, and even though they gave me horrible side effects they had seemed to have cleared up the painful symptoms which seemed like the end of it.
Now lets fast forward to the month of August, my cousin Jacob had only just recently been in and had his appendix taken out. His family ended up opting for the private health care route as he was stuffed around for multiple hours at Robina hospital. I however am not as lucky to have the option of private health care as it is too expensive.
I was on a film set for a film myself and a few others had been shooting for a few months now to raise awareness about Invisible Illnesses and Mental Health such as depression etc. We had just eaten and I seemed fine and then out of the blue filming in the middle of beaudeseret and an abandoned train track I felt the most excruciating pain on the right side of my stomach that I had ever felt. It felt like someone had sucker punched me right in the gut, I crippled over in pain, at first I thought perhaps it was because I had eaten really unhealthy junk food (McDonald’s) and that my body wasn’t agreeing with it. Then I wondered perhaps whether it was my nerves playing up because the pain didn’t stay there the whole time. However I had some sort of feeling that this was not my typical nerve pain because I had only recently had my (RIF) T12 nerve ablation surgery done. (Radiofrequency ablation (or RFA) is a procedure used to reduce pain. An electrical current produced by a radio wave is used to heat up a small area of nerve tissue, thereby decreasing pain signals from that specific area. )
and even though my pain was in the same area on the right side it was a pain like any other, I had never ever felt something so excruciating in my life, and I was convinced that it was something different when the other crew members that I was with told me that “I looked pale” and that “I should sit down and drink water”. So that is exactly what I did, sat down and had a rest and then I soldered on and pushed through the rest of the day and to my surprise I thought the pain had gone away.
BOY WAS I WRONG!
I got home and the pain came back worse than before it was so crippling that I couldn’t even move, it was so bad that the F Word left my lips a couple of times, no home pain killer seemed to help, the only thing that made a minuscule difference was a heat pack. I remember sitting up in my mothers bed, crying in pain, hoping that it would go away when I was overcome with a sudden feeling of nausea and literally watched my abdomen grow before my eyes, it looked so swollen like a scene out of a movie to the point of where if it kept growing I thought it might have exploded. I got up, I was bent over holding the heat pack over my abdomen and hobbled towards the toilet, and within seconds of reaching the toilet bowl I threw up everything bar the kitchen sink. Normally I have quite a strong stomach and sometimes have to help force myself to get rid of this feeling (Not a pretty sight, because of the constipation, the uneasy feeling usually just sits in my stomach unless I help it along) but this time no help was necessary, I opened my mouth and out it all came. I wasn’t sure if the vomiting and nausea was related to the pain or not because the week before my mum and my sisters suffered from a horrific 24 hour gastro bug, which started with pain, vomiting and then diarrhea.
This is what I looked like when the pain and the vomiting first started to take place:
For those who know me know that I am pale but never ever had I been this pale before. This all happened on the Sunday, I ended up having to take pain killers and sleeping pills just to get through the night and in hope that the pain might go away when I woke in the morning.
Monday morning the 15th of August, I organised an appointment to see my GP at the time Dr. Jason Lo Tam from Reedy Creek Medical Centre, I explained to him my symptoms of excruciating pain on the right side, the underlying constant pain and the coming and going of the spasm like pain. He asked me to hop onto the bed so that he could feel my abdomen, he hardly pressed down on the stomach area when I was practically crying out in pain from the slightest bit of touch or pressure. He told me that I could get back up off the bed and then proceeded to tell me that he thinks I should go to the hospital to have the proper care and get the right diagnosis. He said that he had hoped he could try and work it out so that hospital care wouldn’t be necessary but he believed it was the best option. So here I was left in pain and now crying for two different reasons,
1. Because I was so sore,
2. Because now I had to wait and face medical professionals who might not believe me about the pain.
In the meantime I had made an appointment to see a gynecologist to do a diagnostic laparoscopy which had been ordered by the doctors at Robina after I had been discharged in June.
Dr. Jason Lo Tam had written me an urgent referral to Robina Hospital, I took the letter went home, packed my hospital essentials (bag of clothes, phone charger, spare underwear) and mum drove me to the closest hospital which was Robina Hospital. A volunteer from the hospital wheeled out a wheelchair, helped me get out of the car and into the wheelchair and wheeled me to the front desk where I was met with a triage nurse. She asked me all the usual questions, checked my BP and then with a smile simply said “Please take a seat and someone will be with you shortly.” So that’s what we did, I was in too much pain to sit upright so I laid down next to a mother and her poor little girl, and between listening to the busy rush of nurses and the cries of a man who was covered by a blanket, I looked at the clock and had been sitting there for almost 2 hours now, with no pain relief at all.
I watched a family practically push their way in front of other people to talk to the triage nurse, we were cramped, there was hardly any space left in the waiting room, no beds in emergency and this family of 7 seemed fine but needed to be checked over because they had been a part of the train derailment that had happened in varsity lakes. I was starting to feel claustrophobic and still in an immense amount of pain , still without pain killer, I got up and moved to seats at the back of the waiting room and laid back down. However my pain was interrupted and I was distracted for a moment when I saw a girl who looked worse than me, she was red in the face from crying, tears still streaming down her face, she was crippled over in a wheelchair, clutching pretty tightly to a green whistle which didn’t seem to have helped her pain at all.
Another hour passed by and my mother realised this girl was by herself, asked how long she had been sitting there and if she had any pain relief, the girl replied “Since lunch time, and no, I haven’t had any pain relief.” So mum walked over to the nurses behind the glass and voiced her concern, but Robina hospital was waiting room was even more full now if that was even possible. So this poor girl who had been waiting in so much pain said she was going to go to the other hospital (Gold Coast), mum asked her how she was going to get there and she replied “public transport” and within that moment mum and I had a sort of telepathic conversation and thought we are not letting this poor girl in so much pain catch public transport to get to the specialist hospital. (Especially since the trains had stopped and now only buses were running.) So we offered to drive her , I realised that if I had to be at a hospital too I may as well be at the place where all the specialist teams were. So mum helped her lay down in the back seat, I sat in the front and we drove another half an hour to get to Gold Coast Hospital.
When we arrived there were no parks in emergency, so mum dropped both of us off at the door and we hobbled through the Gold Coast emergency waiting room together, It was almost completely empty compared to Robina Hospitals waiting room, we stumbled to the front desk the other girl in front said “Hi we have both come from Robina Hospital and we are both in excruciating pain. ” The triage process was a lot quicker now, we spoke to the nurses explained our symptoms, moved on to admin and got told to wait. We didn’t wait more than an hour in the waiting room and I am glad we didn’t because as we both laid opposite each other , a man came out from behind the door we could tell that he was not quite right and he just happened to sit next to us. He too was in pain, we listened to him cry out over and over again saying “Here it goes again, Here it goes again” as he squinted his face right up till it turned a shade of red. He started to ask mum all sorts of weird questions about us girls and she was fine in answering them, it wasn’t until he went to touch the girl that was with us that mum had to step in and say no. Luckily not long after that a male nurse came and did some obs on the girl that was with me and pretty much took her straight through to a bed in ED. Mum was now helping this girl with her bags and I was left laying by myself with this man and in pain, it wasn’t until he started asking me weird questions that I started to feel uncomfortable so I got up and hobbled over to a different lot of seats. I was just about to lay down when my mother returned with the male nurse following closely behind ready to do my obs.
He hooked up the blood pressure machine, the heart rate monitor and took my temperature and for some reason in that exact moment when he was there my body entered a whole other level of pain, I thought what I had been feeling before was bad, this was 110 times worse. I was now screaming in agony, tears running down my flushed faced and the spasm lasted for a good 30 minutes. The nurse tried to come me down and said he would be right back with panadine fort, he was gone less than 10 minutes when this lovely Indian girl doctor came out and called my legal name Lauren Reich, the nurse ran over gave me the panadine fort. It didn’t even touch the surface, the doctor than asked if I could walk I nodded my head and said “Yes, but very slowly.” I walked to a different waiting room area down a narrow hallway, to a place that said minor emergencies, mum was worried about this, about the doctors not taking it seriously but this lovely doctor smiled and replied “It is just a more quiet and quicker way to get through to emergency. I got changed into a one of those lovely hospital nightgowns and was poked and prodded, finally the doctor came to a conclusion and set we need to get your pain under control, so they inserted a Cannula (a thin tube inserted into a vein or body cavity to administer medication, drain off fluid, or insert a surgical instrument.) into my arm, which is generally a painful experience for me as I have very thin, very deep and very bad veins, I was also very dehydrated from throwing up, and gave me morphine through a drip to help with the pain and a saline/ hydro lite drip to help with the dehydration and then I waited. I waited for the bloods to come back, I waited for my urine to be tested, and I was almost up to my maximum dose of morphine through the IV. I saw that girl again once or twice throughout the night, I waved one time and the other time I was fairly sure I was pretty dazed from the morphine so just kind of smiled.
After the bloods and urine came back normal, and my BP started to drop again, I was sent off for a pelvic ultrasound, to rule out any ovary cysts or ovarian torsion, I had an external and internal ultrasound which was a fairly uncomfortable ordeal in general because of the pain, but more because my radiologist was a male (which meant for the internal he had to have a nurse sit in with him.
External pelvic ultrasound – In situations where an internal pelvic ultrasound is not appropriate, the examination will be performed by placing the ultrasoundtransducer on top of the lower abdomen (stomach area). To ensure that the inside of the pelvis area is seen clearly on the screen, a full bladder is required.
Transvaginal ultrasound is an examination of the female pelvis and urogenital tract (kidneys and bladder). It helps to see if there is any abnormality in your uterus (womb), cervix (the neck of the womb), endometrium (lining of the womb), fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder and the pelvic cavity. It differs from an abdominal ultrasound as it looks at the pelvic organs from inside the vagina.
The test is requested by your doctor if you have symptoms of pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, to check for fibroids (muscle tumours of the uterus), polyps (areas of thickening of the lining of the uterus), ovarian cysts or tumours, infertility, or assessment of early pregnancy.
I was then sent for an X-ray, and when all these test came back inconclusive and with the only sign being massive constipation, they decided that I couldn’t stay in ED because I wasn’t emergency enough so they sent me to a ward called CDU or (Clinical Decisions Unit) this ward is where you go in order for doctors / specialist to decide whether you are being sent up to an actual ward for further investigation or whether they send you to short stay just for pain relief. By the time I got to CDU it was 11pm at night and nobody was going to see me till the morning so I sent my mum home to bed.
In part 2 of this blog I will discuss the events that transpired over the next week. If you have a story that you would like to share please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org