Updated: Jan 8, 2019
... Appendicitis? An hour ago my tests were normal! How is this possible?
The surgeon told me that for some reason they were not able to find my diagnosis in the tests that were performed. Feeling like I only had a part of the picture I asked if there was any way I could fly somewhere else to get the surgery. To make sure the appendix did not rupture I was not able to fly. The lack of hygiene in the hospital had me very nervous about having surgery! This is where my medical knowledge played against me because I started thinking about the other diseases that may have been lurking around in the dirty hospital. I tried calling my fellowship (AP) with my host’s phone. Straight to voicemail each time. I decided to call my mom. Luckily she woke up (it was about 2 AM in the US) and I told her what was going on while fighting tears. My mom frantically responded she didn’t know what to do. I honestly didn't either. I was able to get it together and gave her the numbers of the people who would know what to do. I told her to keep calling them until they pick up, tell them what is going on, and have them call my host's phone since I still had no minutes.
My mom was able to get connected to the emergency system at New York University and they called to get details about my situation. My host’s assistant was able to recharge my phone minutes while I spoke on my host's phone. The pain medicine given to me intravenously started kicking in and I was able to talk normally. I tried getting my host to understand why I was nervous about the surgery and that I would like to speak to the surgeon before the procedure. She gave me a confused look and responded that I was at the best hospital in the region. I told her I understood that but since no one was around to translate for me during the testing period I did not fully understand why I was getting an appendectomy. Her response was this is a big hospital. I then realized how big our language and cultural barrier was. Realizing that my host was not capable of advocating for me when the surgeon came back to the emergency ward I asked him several questions including why gastritis was ruled out. His answers made me feel comfortable about having surgery. Honestly, he was the most professional person I had spoken to the entire time I was in the hospital. His bedside manner was professional and comforting. Everyone kept repeating me that this was a minor surgery. I believed this was to keep me calm but in my opinion, there is nothing minor about having someone cut you open to remove something from your body. No matter how big or small that organ may be! AP called me back and started getting logistics together for me.
Before surgery, I changed into a surgery gown. There was a dark stain around the collar of the gown. I convinced myself that it was red disinfectant used for surgery (povidone- iodie), not blood. Three hours after my diagnosis it was time for my surgery. My host was gone again when they took me for operation but her assistant accompanied me. Once in the operating theater, I waited while they prepared for surgery. I was nervous and started crying. This was my first surgery. A nurse walking by gave me some gauze to wipe my tears. The time for surgery came. The surgeons explained every step they were taking. Someone from the surgery team asked me about ant pre-existing conditions I have. I let him know I have asthma. He was the third person I told this to that day but the only one who showed any concern. He told me to let them know if my breathing change at any time. First, they gave me an epidural in my spine. Once my body felt numb from my chest down the surgery started. I was still very nervous. I could not feel pain but I felt pressure. Because I was nervous the surgical team decided to sedate me. I remember them talking me through the process of being sedated and then slowly falling asleep.