Part One: December 16, 2006 my appendix ruptured. For two days I had been complaining of severe abdominal pain. It had been so bad on the first night that I cried out for my parents for hours. The next morning I was blacking out in the bathroom. My Dad told me to take an ibuprofen and some toast. It wasn’t that time of the month and it wasn’t ovulation time. Something was wrong, but no one would listen to me. My classmates and my teachers were worried about me, but when I went to the nurse she blew me off and gave me a coke. The second visit to the nurse’s office her and Mom finally caved and I was allowed to go home.
On the second night I took matters into my own hands and got on Webmd. I put in all of my symptoms and Appendicitis came up as a possibility. I called my Mom and told her she needed to take me to the ER. She asked if I was sure, she was on her way to a Christmas party and didn’t want to miss it if I wasn’t seriously ill. I told her yes, I was sure. I knew that it had almost been a full 48 hours and my appendix was near rupture time.
We went to an urgent care clinic, they did the preliminary work and agreed it appeared to be appendicitis, but would need a CT to be sure. They started me on contrast and sent me to the ER. The ER quickly had me in a bed and on a morphine drip. The pain was so bad I kept asking for more morphine, but I was maxed out. The CT confirmed appendicitis and eventually I was moved to a room. A surgery was scheduled for the following afternoon.
As I was getting into the bed in my room I felt a horrible pain in my side. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life and I began screaming. The charge nurse heard me screaming and called the surgeon to tell him she was pretty sure my appendix had ruptured. He moved the surgery up to the morning. And after my appendix ruptured I felt wonderful and slept peacefully. For about six to eight hours I had an awful infection brewing in my abdomen.
The surgeon went in, saw that it had ruptured, and cleaned up the mess. I was in the hospital for a week and the first few days were tense. I was never right after that. Within six to eight months I was having horrible abdominal pain. Everything I ate hurt and the pain got to the point where I couldn’t walk. It hurt just to move. I went from doctor to doctor and they would dismiss me as too young and most likely constipated. I ended up back with my surgeon and he believed there were adhesions. A surgery was scheduled for the summer after graduation.
He went in, removed my adhesions, which were pretty bad. They had wrapped around my liver and intestines and there was a strange unidentifiable liquid hanging out in my abdominal cavity. My gallbladder was removed as a precautionary measure. I felt so much better – for two months.
Freshman year of college I began, once again, going from doctor to doctor trying to figure out why I was in such excruciating pain. For now, I’ll spare you the details of the next four years. But I spent four years searching for an answer. No one had one. I tried all kinds of dietary changes, lifestyle changes, anything to make the pain stop. Nothing worked. Spring semester of 2011 at the University of Georgia, the school recommended I see a doctor in Athens. I saw him and we did a few tests and he diagnosed me with Gastroparesis. I had never heard of it.
Gastroparesis means stomach paralysis. He offered two medications and a low residue diet. The first didn’t work. The other is blacklisted by the FDA and began to give me twitches, I had to be pulled off of it. The low residue diet helped sometimes. Ultimately, I was in rough shape with no hope of getting better. I asked my doctor what to do, and he told me to experiment. I threw myself into research and used my body as a test subject. I tried everything and anything. I had long given up on school and work. My body couldn’t handle it and by this point I was just struggling to survive. Living out a life wasn’t even on the table. Things that worked I would share with my doctor and he would write them down as recommendations for his other patients. It became an odd doctor patient relationship, where I educated him and he took notes.
I wanted to live, but my body was literally rotting from the inside out. Undigested food would remain trapped in my body for weeks at a time and nothing I did would help it out. My Dad got me an appointment at the Mayo clinic in the summer of 2012. They did every test imaginable. Including one where they dusted me with powder and baked me in an oven until I turned purple, no joke. The results? The same as the doctor in Athens, GA. I had gastroparesis and some unidentifiable intestinal problem. The doctor at Mayo told me that while he knew what was wrong with my intestines existed, he had no name or treatment options he could offer. His solution for my gastroparesis? Daily enemas. I declined.
February of 2013 I decided that if I was going to die I at least wanted to go to Europe before that happened. I chose Paris and David and I booked a trip. Two months later we were in Paris. David proposed and I felt alive for the first time in seven years. My body was functioning at a level it hadn’t in years. Why? Well I’d been in the sun almost the entire day, every day for a week. It was the only thing that had changed. Vitamin D. I needed a boost of vitamin D. I began to supplement and I noticed a marked improvement. Enough so that I began to have hope for a life again.
Slowly, I began to heal my gastrointestinal tract. David and I were married and in the winter of 2014 I went in to have blood work done to see how well my body was doing. My body was doing great and I had a proper balance of supplements to keep it functioning. I was still sick, but I at least could function. It’d taken me eight years, but I had developed a system that worked. My doctor gave me the go ahead to start having children.
Winter of 2015 I was pregnant with Brielle. I’ll talk about how this applies to my gastrointestinal health in my next post.