Gastroenteritis my butt!

So it's been a long, crazy, and at times horrendously frustrating week. Long story short, Crystal is about 6 grams lighter after parting ways with a nasty, infected appendix. (And a few pounds lighter after not being able to eat much thanks equally to pain and pain medication.) She is recovering well, but still quite sore. But, on the bright side, she's alive -- which can't be said for many whose appendicitis go undiagnosed as long as hers did. 

Her pain started almost a month ago. After two different doctors and a number of theories, her pain had not subsided at all. 

Crystal, being a superhero with insanely high pain tolerance (and just the tiniest-bit terrified of doctors and hospitals) had decided to tough it out. Finally when I came home from work and found her crying in the fetal position on the bed, I took he to the local ER. 

We went to a little hospital, not too bad a wait (even in emergency), but when we got out of the waiting room and back into a bed, I realized we might have made a bad choice. All the little curtain rooms were full and there  were 4 patients on beds and in wheel chairs in the hall. The armed security guard sat outside our curtain, watching the two men in restraints who the staff referred to as L2K (my smartphone taught me that that means they're crazy, suicidal, or in some other way no longer legally competent.) So I peek out, see the guard who's maybe 5'4 and 140 pounds, and then notice that both the crazies are MUCH bigger than he is. So I was pretty amped all night, ready to knock out any loony who tried to get into my wife's little room. 

Anyhow, we got there at 6:15 p.m. and were discharged at 4 a.m.; the charge nurse congratulated us on almost making it though a full shift. We were certainly not the doctors' first priority ... which is understandable considering the fact that she also had to deal with 3 suicide attempts, a baby who needed a lumbar puncture, and a dozen other patients while we were there. Luckily they kept Crystal loaded with really good pain medication (Dilaudid -- they say it's about 5x stronger than morphine) so she slept through most of the wait. 

Doctor ordered blood tests, urine tests, x-rays, and a CT scan. (Crystal loved the "make your guts glow" lemonade they made her drink.) And found nada. Diagnosis: Gastroenteritis -- THE STOMACH FLU! Yeah, they just gave a tiny little girl three shots of a pain killer that makes morphine look like an Advil, and then they have the audacity to tell her it's the stomach flu. I was frustrated, angry, confused, but really didn't have any option other than to say thanks and leave. 

I knew the diagnosis was wrong, but wasn't sure what to do about it. The discharge papers told us to see a GI (gastroenterologist) within 24 hours. I put my trust there; the specialist would have to find what the ER docs couldn't.

We got home at 4:45 and by 7:00 I was awake and calling the GI they recommended to us to get an appointment. He was out of the country. He had no backup. I got on the insurance page and called every GI in our city – not one of them would see us for at least 10 days. Then I started calling the docs in Vegas. At this point I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and experiencing perhaps the worst frustration I've ever had. I'm hugely protective of women, especially of my wife, and I knew I had to find someone to help her... but everyone told me no.

With each call I got more frustrated, more dejected, felt more helpless. It was a truly terrible experience. I looked over at my sleeping wife, who was curled into a ball holding her stomach and began to feel empathy for John Q. (OK, maybe I was being a little dramatic). Finally, choking back tears of frustration I found a doctor who could squeeze us in in 5 hours. I breathed a great sigh of relief and began praying that Dr Saud would be able to help us. Crystal's parents went to the temple and put Crystal and the doctor on the prayer roll.

Finally the appointment time came. Dr Saud touched Crystal only once and said that her pain was too severe for Gastroenteritis. He ordered an MRI and told us if it got worse to go to a bigger hospital. I went with his nurse to schedule the MRI and Crystal sat in the waiting room. When I came out she was uncontrollably shaking and cold to the touch. The doctor and nurse came out and the nurse asked if she should call an ambulance. Dr. Saud looked at me and said, "the hospital is right around the corner, you can probably get there faster than an ambulance." 

He was right. I flew. We made it in less than 2 minutes. Then, because we hadn't come in an ambulance, we got stuck in the waiting room. Fifteen minutes later the triage nurse took Crystal back. Usually that's when they get your info and then tell you to go wait... but this time I saw something I'd never seen before. The triage nurse called for a doctor. He saw Crystal's pulse rate (156 bpm) and told them to take her back right then.

They hooked her up to a heart monitor, started an IV, ran an EKG, then blood and urine (again), x-rays (again), then loaded her full of pain meds. The doctor wanted to run another CT scan -- this time without the glowing insides juice (I think they called it contrast... but I like my description better). 

We waited for 2 hours for an opening in the schedule (Trauma cases kept coming in and pushing Crystal back). She hung in there like a champ. Finally they took her up... and I realized I hadn't eaten in 38 hours - so I found a vending machine and got some potato skins. They were gross.

She came back and then we had another 2 hour wait while they read the results. About that time I was pacing the hallway when one of the staff came up to me. "I know you," he said. And while he did look familiar, I had no idea where from. Men's Chorus, BYU, Work? My poor sleep deprived mind spun but nothing clicked. "I think I'm in your ward," he said. "You got up and bore your testimony last week, right?" He was right. I had. 

I'd never talked to Tyler before, but he became my new best friend as he brought me a sandwich and a glass of milk from the staff lounge. 

Finally the doctor came back with the diagnosis of a perforated appendix. That was about 10 p.m., and by 10:20 the surgeon was there for a consultation. He was a funny guy. Asian, looked younger than he was, (or else he is the real Doogie Howser) he seemed like one of those guys who would stay up all night beating Nintendo games on extreme difficultly just to prove he could. 

"I just did and appendectomy... I'm warmed up," he said. "Let me see if I can get us into an OR right now!" He was way too animado - even for me.

Turned out the OR's were booked for 2 hours, but we'd go in at midnight he said. I grabbed Tyler again and we were able to give Crystal a blessing. I'm pretty sure that brought me more comfort that it brought her as she was highly medicated... but either way - it was truly a tender mercy that he had recognized me and been willing to help me administer to her. 

Those two hours passed quickly. I was on the phone talking to the whole world and explaining to them what was going on. My battery died quickly, but the crazy "I talk to dead people" medium lady whose husband was in the bed next door offered me her charger. (The random things women have in their purses... awesome).

So they rolled Crystal off to surgery and escorted me to the waiting room. I'm pretty sure they're going to bill the insurance for the carpet I wore out pacing back and forth for the next hour and a half. To keep sane, and because I'm really bad at keeping to myself, I made friends with the only other people in the room - a guy and his mother in law who were waiting for his wife to have spinal surgery. They had come in all the way from Hurricane, Utah for the operation -- said this was the best surgical center within 400 miles - which made me feel a little better.

Anyhow, after what felt like 6 hours the surgeon came in and told me it had all gone well and that Crystal was in recovery. The appendix, he said, had twisted and tucked itself in behind her colon, so there was "quite a bit of dissection involved" in the extraction. I'm still not sure what he dissected... the colon? intestines? just the  appendix? Whatever it was he said it would make her recovery a little longer and more painful. 

That proved true. We're now 10 days post-op and Crystal is still sore. She has a hard time sitting up straight, but between her Mom and Dad (who were here last week) and me (having been with her as much as work would allow) she's been well taken care of. The pain, she says, is nothing compared to what she was feeling in the week before they figured out what it was. It's hard to watch her hurt... but at the same time I have to be amazingly grateful for that surgery and for the doctor who squeezed us into an already full day, and then told us not to trust the other diagnosis. If not for him, we may have waited the 10 days for a GI appointment. With the condition of her appendix, she probably wouldn't have lasted that long. The microperforation would have become a rupture and a painful condition would have quickly become a deadly one. 

It was a frustrating week and a challenging week, but it was a week of miracles. Not massive, obvious miracles, but small, simple ones. Things fell into place exactly as they had to to accomplish what was needed.

Could it have been coincidental? Absolutely -- but I can assure you that it wasn't. It was evidence that God hears and answers prayers - sometimes in overt, obvious ways, and sometimes so subtly that we could easily miss them. That only doctor that would see us was right next door to the best surgical center in the state. The surgeon there had hundreds of appendectomies under his belt. The staff there included a worthy Priesthood holder who recognized me because I had just happened to feel impressed to get up the week before to share my testimony. His brother (who was working one floor above us) happened to have consecrated oil because mine was locked in the valet parking office... It's too perfect to be anything but Divine intervention. 

Thanks to all who have shared kind words, prayers, service and advice over the past few weeks. We truly appreciate it. It has been both humbling and inspiring to see others offer service and time so freely and we will not soon forget your generosity and friendship. God bless you all! 
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