Monday, May 5, 2008

One Appendix Closer to Race Weight

Coachubby and I are competitive people, so he thought he'd had me beat for who was having the most craptastic Saturday ever when he crashed at mile 34 of a 115 mile ride. I wasn't out there, because I had bigger plans to one up the poor raspberry-covered guy.

Feeling sick to my stomach since Thursday morning, I was debating going to the doctor. After a family friend told me I'd be dead already if I had ruptured my spleen or appendix, I figured I had just pulled an ab muscle. I started poking my stomach and decided one side was more tender. "If I go to my doctor," I thought (this being the new doctor I'd just adopted Monday as my doctor, since he's an Ironman), "he can tell me it's nothing and I can do my 20-mile run tomorrow without worrying. " So at 11:50 am, I show up at his office, 10 minutes before his Saturday departure.

He pokes around. "When I push here (left side), does it hurt on the right side?" He asks. "Um. Yeah, it does. But it really just hurts right here in my lower right ab. I think I did it weight lifting, what do you think?"

"When I push here (left side), it hurts here (right side)?"

"Um...yeah, it kinda does."

"Wrong answer."


"Well, we have two options, you can lay low until Monday, see if it goes away, since you have no symptoms whatsoever and otherwise appear fine, or you can go get a CT scan now and we'll rule out appendicitis. Just to make sure."

"I'll do the scan now so I can run tomorrow."

So I drive a block down the road to the hospital, where they immediately admit me, only to realize they're understaffed to serve me barium in a cup, and I must check into the Emergency Room for kicks. After two hours of laying around, coachubby arrives from his epic ride, with a nice self-done raspberry cover-up job. He has a purple left thumb and no skin on the right knee, shoulder, and elbow.

He brings me the foot-long turkey on wheat from Subway that I've been craving all day and a ginormous lemonade. The nurses say I can't eat it until after the exam. I want to die. I'd have eaten more for breakfast at 9am if I'd realized I wouldn't be allowed to eat all day afterward.

"This is freaking boring." I say as I try to chug barium-laced cranberry juice. Or cranberry juice-laced barium. It was disgusting and there was a lot of it, and it didn't look nearly as amazing as the sandwich coachubby was munching on.

"You have to wait two hours for that to go all the way down," says the nurse.

Sweet, I think, I'm going to be radioactive like Alex Mack, and I'll be able to turn myself into a silver puddle, slide under doors, and move things with my eyes.

"Want me to turn that off?" The nurse bursts my dream bubble, motioning toward the heart-rate monitor. Mine has been hovering at 42 bpm and the machine beeps when it goes below 50. "You're a runner, right," she asks, to verify why I am such a freak.


"OK, well then we'll just turn the alarm off."

Only 1.9 hours to go...Coachubby and I read Triathlete and National Geographic Traveler. I realize I accidentally left a cup of pee in the bathroom and go to retrieve it, however some old guy has already barricaded himself in the bathroom. A nurse assures me he'll find my pee for me. How kind.

Finally, some action! 2 hours after drinking the barium, I'm wheeled into the CT scanner room. Coachubby merrily continues to sit in my ER stall, believing he's got one up on me today, because drinking nasty barium doesn't hold a candle to the fact that he ate it big time on Pacific Coast Highway, then kept riding.

The CT techs administer an iodine IV, telling me I might feel like I've peed my pants, or a slight metallic taste. Right on cue, I feel like I've emptied my bladder and am chewing on aluminum foil simultaneously. The giant CT scanner whizzes up and a mechanical man-voice says "Breathe In. Hold-your-breath." It pulls me through the circle, then says "Breathe out." After a couple of rounds of holding my breath, I'm wheeled back to the ER room. 30 minutes, they say, until I get the results.

Coachubby looks smug. He's so got me, he's thinking. I can tell.

Just then, a way-too-cheery ER doc comes in. "You have appendicitis! Let's take you into surgery!"

You've got to be kidding me.

"How does this happen?"

And that's when I realized that I really was having the most craptastic weekend ever. Literally. Maybe I should've laid off of the All Bran? I didn't have a single one of the recognizable symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, high heart rate, high white blood cell count). My lower right ab hurt when I poked it and I generally felt kind of bloated. Enough to make me not do my Ironman training, which, for me, was a big deal, and the only indicator to anyone that maybe I wasn't complaining about a "food baby".

My doctor calls the ER room. I tell him I've made the coolest jerseys and I'm planning on modeling them in the advertisements, so I'd better not have any scars on my abs! Otherwise, I'm putting "Triathlete Diva Jersey" by TriDiva, Scar by Dr. Blah blah in the ads. He assured me they'd do it laproscopically, meaning they'd make three small holes on my abs, one under the belly button, one to the side, and one near my crotch. Then they'd insert a camera in one, surgical tools in another, then blow gas into me through the third. Or something like that. That's all I needed, more gas.

My surgeon arrives a few minutes later. He's a tall, congenial older man with an accent and an unpronounceable last name. He wheels me down a hallway, when a bubbly Mexican anesthesiologist pops out at me from an adjacent corridor, tells me he's going to make me a wonderful cocktail that I'll really enjoy, and that's it. Ok, then.

I enter the surgical room. The computer's screen-saver has a picture of a great white shark. "You know, one of those ate a triathlete this week!" I say. "No way!" says the anesthesiologist, who must've put himself under all week to not have heard the news. "Here's a delicious cocktail!" he declares, putting something into my IV, then he puts a mask over my face and...

When I wake up, I hear the doctors discussing how my heart rate was so low to begin with, that I was an interesting case. Great. I'm glad they didn't kill me. I'm so groggy, I quickly go to sleep again. The next time I wake up, it's 2am and I'm in a dark hospital room with coachubby as my roommate. He's passed out on the bed next to me, and I have somehow gained a pair of self-walking moon boots. These squishy bootie things self-inflate, one after the other, like I'm walking, but I'm lying down. They keep my blood circulating, and I want to take them home with me. Super cool.

At 6am, I ask for breakfast. The nurses are incredulous. Yes, I am hungry. I haven't eaten in 21 hours! It takes a lot to make me loose my appetite, and an appendectomy just isn't enough to make me stop eating. Tell me I can't do Ironman, and then I'll stop eating.

A few hours later, I get up to pee. Dragging the IV behind me, I sit on the toilet, realizing there's a measuring cup stuck in there. Gross. I pee into it, then decide to take a walk down the hall. Everything is pink and purple and yellow. I realize I'm in the pediatric unit. I take it as a compliment--like getting carded at a movie theatre. I'm obviously not 8, or even 18, but thanks, nurses, for making me feel like I'm young enough to need to be in the colorful part of the hospital with the nice nurses.

I spend the rest of the day watching pootacular Jackie Chan movies on TNT, eating mushy foods, and trying my best to fart. It would be a sign that my bowels are working, and farting would relieve my shoulder pain, but I just can't get one out. I've never wanted to fart so much in my life. I'd been taking my gassiness for granted.

At 6:30pm, my friends arrive with balloons and flowers and stories from the Wildflower long course, which took place Saturday morning, while I was debating going to the doctor. I had planned on missing Wildflower this year to do a crazy Ironman training weekend instead. So much for that idea.

Finally, back at home, I crawl into bed with coachubby and a very neglected cat. And in the silence of the night, it came. "I farted!" I declare! My system begins to work again and I finally sleep.

And what of my race roster? I'm supposed to defend my overall women's title at the Redondo Beach Triathlon in a month. And do Ironman Coeur d'Alene on June 22nd. Right now, I'm excited to poo and walk to the kitchen in my tiny apartment. We'll see if kicking some butt is in my near-ish future. But for now, I know I definitely kicked coachubby's butt for the most craptacular weekend ever. Not that we usually try to compete for that title.

And appendices suck. Why evolution has not gotten rid of the little pointless poo-hoarding, bacteria-bursting jerks a long time ago, I do not know. So I took one step forward for evolution this weekend and got rid of mine.

And now I'm one appendix closer to my IM race weight. See appendix below.

Appendix or appendicitisMy appendix. In blurry form.

Happy training! (or farting, if that's your goal right now, too)


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