My Open Appendectomy at 36 Weeks Pregnant
This is a long one and it gets a little gruesome, so if you get queasy easily, you might want to skip this post.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016, we decided to take Judah to the zoo after my husband got off work.
I was one day shy of 36 weeks pregnant with Charlotte.
It was a beautiful Southern California evening, and we enjoyed walking around the world-famous San Diego Zoo while Judah burned off some energy before bed.
We weren’t there long when I began having terrible pain on the right side of my abdomen.
At first, I attributed it to 3rd-trimester pregnancy pains.
I have a ridiculously high pain tolerance, so I was trying to just walk it off.
The pain became worse and worse, so we decided to take the bus tour around the zoo to see if sitting still for awhile would help the pain lessen.
Even sitting still, the pain intensified. It seemed like it took hours for me to make it to the entrance to wait for Timothy to pull up the car.
On the way home, I called the midwife who was on call and explained the pain. She said it could be either really bad cramps or my appendix.
She told me to go home, drink a lot of water, and lay on my side, and if it didn’t go away to call back.
The pain got worse.
I had given birth to an 8lb10oz baby with no medication less than 2 years prior, so I knew pain, but this was awful. There was no baby at the other end of this pain.
I called the midwife again early the next morning and told her the pain only got worse and she told me to come to the hospital to get checked out.
Our wonderful friends happily agreed to babysit Judah and we went to the hospital.
After hours of blood draws, lots of people painfully pressing on my abdomen, and a horrifying MRI because the CT scan they normally do to check for infected appendixes was too dangerous for the baby, it was finally confirmed.
I had acute appendicitis.
At 36 weeks pregnant.
If you’ve carried a child before, you know that’s beach ball status.
As if MRI’s aren’t bad enough, keep in mind I was SUPER pregnant and had to hold my breath at least 20 times and stay in a narrow tube for AN HOUR!
An appendectomy was scheduled for Wednesday night.
I was scared.
Was it safe while I was this pregnant? Would it hurt my baby? What about the anesthesia?
Surely that couldn’t be good for my growing baby!
I was assured that they would take every measure necessary to keep my baby safe as they wheeled me in for surgery at 2:00 am.
They had to swap out the anesthesia and the recovery pain medication for different ones that were apparently safer during pregnancy.
Because I was so far along in my pregnancy, they had to prep me for a C-section just in case one was needed.
I really, REALLY didn’t want a C-section.
I wanted another natural birth.
This was out of my control though.
If I had to have a C-section, then so be it.
I felt peace. I know it was all of the prayers that were going up for me!
I know it was all of the prayers that were going up for me!
Modern appendectomies are almost always done laparoscopically.
It’s a minimally invasive surgery, where the appendix is removed through one of 3 small incisions (1/4 to 1/2 inch) in the right lower abdominal wall while the surgeon watches an enlarged image of the patient’s internal organs on a television monitor. (sages.org)
Because my uterus was so large, they couldn’t effectively perform the surgery laparoscopically, so I had to have it done the old way, which is called an open appendectomy.
The surgeon made a 3-4-inch incision in the lower right side of my abdomen, and because it was extremely inflamed, they had to drain the infection first, and then treat it with antibiotics.
Finally, he pulled out my appendix through the incision he had made, tied it off at its base, and then removed it completely.
That was my first ever surgery so I didn’t know what to expect.
I remember waking up to a several people standing over me in the operating room and feeling embarrassed because I hate being the center of attention haha!
As soon as I could form a coherent sentence, I asked if my baby girl was OK. I was assured she was still baking away in there. I was so thankful! I was also told she kept moving as far to the left side of my uterus as she could.
I was assured she was still baking away in there. I was so thankful! I was also told she kept moving as far to the left side of my uterus as she could.
I was so thankful! I was also told she kept moving as far to the left side of my uterus as she could.
I was also told she kept moving as far to the left side of my uterus as she could.
That’s my girl! Not even born yet and she was helping the doctors 🙂
(Haha, I’m sure she was scared out of her developing mind at all of the commotion taking place so close to her squishy little home!)
I was back in the room to recover by 5:00 am and my husband (my rock) was waiting for me.
After he told me how bummed he was that he couldn’t watch the surgery, I asked how Judah was and he said he had talked to the sitters and was doing great playing with their son.
He was going to pick him up after he woke up later that morning.
I was put on bedrest for the next few weeks.
I could barely move even when necessary. The little things I had taken for granted, like getting up off the hospital bed without help and walking the few steps to the bathroom, became tear-inducing challenges.
The little things I had taken for granted, like getting up off the hospital bed without help and walking the few steps to the bathroom, became tear-inducing challenges.
At 36 weeks pregnant, trips to the bathroom weren’t infrequent either!
I got discharged on Friday, June 24th, and my wonderful mother-in-law flew in from Japan to help with Judah and the day-to-day stuff around the house. What a tremendous blessing she was (and still is!)
The doctor had prescribed me some pain medication that they said was safe to take during pregnancy, but something didn’t sit right with me about them.
I couldn’t even take ibuprofen or cold medicine during pregnancy because they get passed to the baby, yet I was given these extra strength pain pills that were “safe” for a tiny 7ish pound human that relied on me to keep her safe and healthy? It didn’t make sense.
I only took a few of the pills before I decided to just live through the pain.
I refused to jeopardize my unborn baby’s health just so I could be more comfortable.
After a few days of painfully recovering at home, my incision wasn’t healing at all.
In fact, it was feeling and looking much worse.
I knew that couldn’t be right.
I called the surgeons office regularly to keep them updated on how the incision site looked.
On Wednesday, June 28, I was told by the surgeon to go to the hospital because my wound had become infected, which I learned was fairly common in open appendectomies.
The surgeon drained the wound (gross), and I thankfully didn’t have to spend the night in the hospital!
Unfortunately, they hadn’t realized the severity of the infection, so on Friday, July 1, I was re-admitted because the infection was not healing like it should have been, even with strong doses of antibiotics.
After consulting with the team of surgeons, he decided the best thing for my situation was to keep the wound open while it healed.
I’m pretty naive with medical stuff, so when they explained what that meant, I’m pretty sure my eyes almost popped out of my head.
In a nutshell, keeping it closed was going to feed the infection, so they removed the stitches and staples and flushed the wound.
Obviously, I couldn’t live my life for the next 8 weeks with an exposed 3 -inch wide, 2-inch high, and 2-inch deep hole in my abdomen, so they explained that I had to “pack the wound” twice a day for the next 5 or so weeks.
By now I was 37 weeks pregnant, so recovering from having a baby was for sure going to coincide with recovery from my latest (and only) organ removal.
Packing the wound meant that I had to have a wad of sterilized gauze pads stuffed into my wound every morning and every night. The packing materials would absorb the drainage from the wound which would help it heal from the inside out. Without packing it, the wound would close at the top, without healing the deeper parts of wound.
My husband was absolutely mesmerized when they showed us how to do it in the hospital. It became his job to do it at home and he was thrilled!
I was terrified.
Twice a day, early in the morning before he would leave for work, and then again when he got home, I would have to lay as still as I could while my husband removed soaked bandages from inside of a gaping hole in my abdomen, gently replace them with clean ones, and cover it with another bandage and tape to keep it in place.
I cried every time he did it for the first week or so.
He felt bad that it caused so much pain, but he would get so excited every time it was time to do it again.
He’s so strange.
I like to think we moved to a deeper level in our relationship after this experience.
I was in the hospital for another couple of days and had a lot of time by myself this time.
The past week and a half had been stressful, emotional (hello pregnancy hormones on top of everything else), and difficult.
I had gotten down on myself a few times.
I felt guilty that I couldn’t do anything for my husband and son.
Instead, I had to rely on others to do even the simplest of things for me.
With a personality like mine, I really struggled with that. People told me to enjoy being waited on. I couldn’t. It wasn’t like I was vacationing at a resort.
I wouldn’t exactly compare hospital food to room service food.
I couldn’t even pick up my 20-month-old, and he couldn’t understand why.
My husband had to go work as an electrician in the hot summer sun of Southern California, and then come home and do much more around the house than he usually did.
Thankfully my mother-in-law was there to cook, clean, play with Judah, and do whatever else needed to be done.
I’m sure it was emotionally draining on everyone.
I questioned the timing of it all.
If this had to happen at all, couldn’t it have happened much earlier in my pregnancy so I wouldn’t have had to have such an invasive surgery and slow recovery?
Why did the complications seem to keep piling up one after another?
When I asked God these questions, He reminded me of one of my favorite passages.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
I didn’t need to understand, I just needed to trust the Lord.
Through all of that, I knew the God had His hand both on my and Baby Charlie.
We had SO many people from all over the world praying for us.
Those prayers worked and I’m so so thankful!