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  • Writer's pictureConnor O'Donoghue

The Appendectomy

The Pain

I felt OK on Monday morning but by lunchtime, I had a fairly bad case of what I thought was indigestion and diarrhoea. I went for a nap that evening and was woken up by a terrible pain. I simultaneously had a cramping pain moving across my tummy and a stabbing pain in my lower right side.

I took some Wind Settlers. Trapped wind has been a significant source of pain for me since my weight reduction surgery five years ago. I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. I was still having diarrhoea but it was very unproductive by now. I spent the night going back and forth to the toilet. The pain was bad and was getting worse but I still thought it was probably just a bad case of diarrhoea.

I was going to Birmingham for work the following day. When I got up, I'd had almost no sleep and hadn't eaten in 24 hours, but I was definitely feeling better. Or at least I thought I was. I made my way to Victoria Coach Station and it was while I was on my way there that the pain started really getting to me. I started hallucinating with the pain. I was dancing with the buses in the station. I could hear them talking to me. I missed my bus and I felt unconcerned. It was fine. The buses were dancing with me. The pain was sort of beautiful.

There wasn't another bus for an hour and a half so I booked a train instead. I was doubled over in pain and seeing things, but still thought it was a good idea to go to work in Birmingham.

As the train pulled out of Euston, I went to the toilet. I shat out a dramatic amount of blood and was too sore to button my jeans. I staggered to my seat, hands holding my jeans up and decided to give up on the day in Birmingham. I got out of the train at the next stop, which was Milton Keynes. I was going to get a train back to London and go to A&E there, but I started visualising myself dying on the train with my jeans unbuttoned and asked a railway employee how to get to the hospital in Milton Keynes.

In the waiting room in A&E, I started screaming with pain after a while. I'd never felt like this before. Thoughts of death preoccupied me while I texted the various people I was supposed to meet in Birmingham that day, rearranging my work meetings. When a nurse did take me to a back room to examine me, I threw up all over her nice clean uniform and all over my nice green shirt. She was very kind about it.

The fat

I went for a CT Scan. The radiographer tried to find a vein to inject a contrast dye into my blood to make it easier to see my organs in the scan. He couldn't find a vein. Doctors and nurses often find it nearly impossible to draw blood or to hook me up to a drip, especially when I have extra weight on. This radiologist punctured me in five different places, but none of them were open veins, so he gave up. He said that scans on fat people were easier to do. The fat separates our the organs, so he'd probably be able to get a good look at my appendix. And he did. It's the first time a medical professional has suggested fat might not make everything worse all the time.

The scan confirmed that my appendix was inflamed. I was admitted for surgery. I was finally assigned a bed on a surgical ward at around 11:00 pm. I was told that my appendix was looking bad and they wanted to get it out before it burst, so I'd be operated on overnight. Two surgeons came to visit me at around midnight. They examined me and told me they wanted to operate straight away but that the anaesthetist had said she didn't want to put me under. General anaesthetic is apparently more complex for fat people, and she didn't want to do that, so she'd decided to leave it for her colleague in the morning.

I didn't sleep for the second night in a row, moaning and crying and keeping the rest of ward awake with my pain.

Late the next morning, they took me for surgery. About four hours later they woke me up. Apparently, the surgery had been a success, but it had taken a lot longer than expected because the appendix had burst because we'd waited so long, so there was a lot of pus and other crap to clear out.

The following morning, a surgeon with a Russian accent visited me with three junior doctors running after him taking notes. He told me to uncross my legs and I asked if I should keep them uncrossed for long and he said "never cross your legs" and I had no idea if he was being homophobic or giving medical advice. He told me that I was recovering  well but that the surgery had been a disaster and that the surgeon who had performed the operation had been swearing at everyone about having to clear out so much pus and having to work around so much fat and how horrible and difficult the surgery had been.

That said, I was recovering well and I would be released the following day.

The Prince Albert

When I had my scan before the surgery, I was worried that it was one of those giant magnetic scanners. I asked the nice radiographer if it was ok if I left my body piercings in. He said it would be fine. He asked what piercings I had and I told him I had a Prince Albert in my penis and I was worried that the machine was a big magnet and it would yank my penis off. He and the two nurses with him (and I) all had a good laugh at this as he told me he charged a lot to yank patients' penises off.

Before the surgery, a nice elderly nurse came to prepare me. She helped me on with my anti-embolism stockings and my gown. She asked about piercings. She put some tape over my earrings and my nipple ring. She gave me a little piece of tape and told me to pop it on my penis piercing while she had her back turned. I'm not sure what the purpose of the tape could possibly be, but I obediently put it on.

Sometime after the surgery, I had a groggy feel around down below, and I realised that during the surgery, someone had taken the little metal ball out of my penis piercing, but had left the hoop there. I was too sleepy and sore to question it.

At about midnight on the night after my surgery, the nursing team went into a panic when they realised that I hadn't pissed in over 24 hours. I swore I didn't need to go, but one of the nurses did an ultra sound on my bladder and told me it was clearly overfull of liquid.

They gave me three cardboard bed pans and I tried my hardest and couldn't go. I said it might be easier if I could stand. I was hooked up to drips and breathing oxygen through a machine, but this tiny South Asian nurse helped me to my feet and made me lean on her while she held a cardboard bed pan to my willy. I closed my eyes. I played river sounds on YouTube on my phone. I still couldn't go. I needed to distract myself and so I started reciting. I recited the prayers I'd learned in school - Hail Holy Queen and the Memorare. I recited the Irish poem I'd learnt for my Leaving Cert exam, Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire. I recited pieces of the show I performed about my body last year. And drip by tiny painful drip, I managed to pee. It's the only time in my life that I've had a forty-minute pee. But thank god it worked. When the nurse took the bed pans away, I had a feel around. Oops. The rest of my piercing had fallen into the bed pan. Oh well.

The singleness

Lots of people texted me in hospital. People are very kind. Two different friends offered to get a train to Milton Keynes and help me home. My mother wanted to fly my sister over to mind me.

These were all nice offers. But what I really need is a boyfriend. The nurses took my contacts off before surgery. I needed someone with a key to my flat to bring me my glasses. I spent 24 hours not able to see anything in hospital. My only shirt was covered in vomit so I took a train home smelling of puke two days after my surgery. Again, a friend couldn't have helped. I needed someone in my life with a key to my place. Someone who knows you can't buy shirts in my size in a high street shop. Someone who could come to me with glasses and a giant clean t-shirt and love.

To be honest, I needed someone who would examine my genital piercings and tell me they were ok and help me pee and I also needed someone to tell me that if I was hallucinating and crying aloud with pain, then I shouldn't get on a train to Birmingham.

I will have a boyfriend before I'm 43.

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