Almost a year ago I was rushed to the ER with debilitating abdominal pain, a low grade fever, and nausea. A few hours later, after a myriad of tests, I was wheeled into the surgery room for a laparoscopic appendectomy. The entire experience still feels like a dream – a bad dream really. On Saturday afternoon I was fine, enjoying the sunshine and hanging out with friends, and by Monday morning I was severely drugged and hooked to an IV, in a post-surgery bed looking like I had been run over by a truck. The next day while I was taking a walk through the hospital hallway, propped up by my husband, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. I was horrified! A pale, stooped creature with sunken eyes, wearing an over-sized pale blue hospital robe looked back at me. Talk about feeling your own mortality! Needless to say I took my recovery very seriously!
After my surgery I wrote a post about my appendectomy and tried to any answer a few immediate questions that surfaced both for me and my friends about the causes of appendicitis and the importance of the appendix.You can read it here.
Over the last year many of my readers have found my blog through the appendectomy post. They had a lot more questions about my post-surgery recovery as some of them had themselves or had family member who had undergone appendectomies.
Here are some of the more frequently asked questions, and the conclusions I have come to so far.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and I responded to these questions simply by sharing my own experience. Please educate yourself and seek qualified medical advice if you experience any appendix related complications!
1. What should I eat / drink after the surgery?
After the surgery I wasn’t very hungry and it took me a while to get my appetite back. As soon as I was brought back from the surgery room my best friend handed me a large jar of bone broth. After sipping on that for a while, I switched to coconut water – it was a bit easier on my gut.
My next meal was a blueberry-avocado smoothie with raw cream. Between the drugs and the pain I wasn’t too hungry the first day, but I tried to get some good nutrients in me.
The next morning, however, I woke up starving, so a friend brought me soft scrambled pastured eggs and raw yogurt.
I did NOT eat any of the hospital food. The options of things consisted of things like jello, soft drinks, and apple juice from concentrate. In fact, the day after my surgery they brought me some packaged pasta, bread, and some grey looking green beans for dinner (this was a pretty swanky hospital too..). Needless to say I turned it down. For lunch I had homemade coconut chicken ginger soup, and I continued to sip on coconut water throughout the day. I tried to stay hydrated and also cleanse my overtaxed liver by sipping on lemon water. For dinner, my husband made me another amazing raw cream blueberry smoothie.
( This image was taken two days post surgery.)
I ate more soft scrambled pastured eggs and a small piece of sprouted spelt toast with kerrygold butter. For lunch I had a fresh squeezed vegetable juice and a very mild curry a friend brought. For dinner, homemade split pea soup.
After day three my digestive system felt more capable of handling foods that are starchier, although I tried to eat mostly bone broth, soups and stews paired with fermented vegetables for a couple more weeks. Try to stay away from food that are hard to digest like burgers, steaks, meatloaf, etc.
2.What do I do if I am not having a bowl movement?
I didn’t have a bowel movement for thirty hours after the surgery. I forced myself to go on walks even though I was moving very slowly and I tried to increase my water intake. I also began taking probiotics and eating fermented foods. The combination of all those things helped A LOT. If you still don’t have a bowel movement, you should contact you doctor. (This photo was taken six days post surgery.)
3. Should I take any supplements?
After my surgery they pumped me full of intravenous antibiotics for 24 hours. When I asked the doctor if I should take any supplements for my gut flora, he shook his head. When he saw my face he said I could buy some Greek yogurt and eat it if it makes me feel better but that my body will restore itself naturally.
Well I didn’t listen to my doctor and went ahead and bought a good probiotic and added even more fermented foods to my diet for the next few weeks. I also upped my dose of Acerola Powder from 500 mg to ~1000 mg for the next two weeks to help boost my immune system. I took a tablespoon of fermented cod liver/butter oil blend once a day for a month. This oil blend contains vitamin A, D and K2 which are extremely supportive for the immune system. I also took a teaspoon of wheat germ oil which contains a natural source of vitamin E to help with the healing process.
4. Can I sleep on my side?
It has been a year and I still can’t sleep on my right side. After my surgery I couldn’t sleep on my left side either. I literally felt the stitches inside when I tried to lay on either side! Very uncomfortable! The good news is that after six months I have been able to sleep on my left side. Still working on my right side though.
5. How long before I can go to work?
Give yourself a week. You’ll feel better in a week or even less if you take good care of yourself but don’t push it. Eat nourishing foods, take your supplements and sleep. Let your body recover from the trauma.
5. Am I going to have any scars?
Yes. You will have three tiny little scars from the incisions, if you do it laprascopically They will heal pretty nicely though, and mine were barely noticeable in about a year. I did put quite a bit of vitamin E oil on them once the stitches were out.
6. How long before I can lift anything over 15 to 20 pounds?
I stayed away from lifting anything heavier than that for almost two months, which was hard because we moved during that period. My husband was a rock-star. I admit I tried to lift my girlfriend’s two-year-old once during that time, and it didn’t feel too good. ( This photo was taken one years post surgery.)
7. I am not having regular bowel movements after the surgery and it has been two weeks.
First off, don’t self medicate with over the counter laxatives. Consult your doctor because something else might be going on. Pair whatever the suggestions they give you with fermented foods, probiotics, walks, lots of filtered water. Don’t replace water with juice, iced tea, or soda.
8. I want to take out my appendix.
Please don’t take out your appendix unless you have an episode of appendicitis. Some people have been removing their appendix before anything is wrong because there is this common misconception that the appendix is a vestigial organ. Recent studies are showing otherwise. I found this article from the Scientific American that explores the important role that the appendix plays in the body.
For years, the appendix was credited with very little physiological function. We now know, however, that the appendix serves an important role in the fetus and in young adults. Endocrine cells appear in the appendix of the human fetus at around the 11th week of development. These endocrine cells of the fetal appendix have been shown to produce various biogenic amines and peptide hormones, compounds that assist with various biological control (homeostatic) mechanisms. There had been little prior evidence of this or any other role of the appendix in animal research, because the appendix does not exist in domestic mammals. Doctor Loren Martin Professor of Physiology at the Oklahoma State University
Dr. Loren Martin argues that appendix removal ought to be done on less of a precautionary basis because the appendix can be successfully transplanted into the urinary tract to rebuild the sphincter muscle and reconstruct a functional bladder.
What if I am not a fetus or a young adult? you might ask.
The appendix not only supports gut flora but is also rich in infection fighting lymphoid cells which helps support the immune system.
In this context, the function of the appendix appears to be to expose white blood cells to the wide variety of antigens, or foreign substances, present in the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, the appendix probably helps suppress potentially destructive humoral (blood- and lymph-borne) antibody responses while promoting local immunity. The appendix – like tiny structures called Peyer’s patches in other areas of the gastrointestinal tract – rakes up antigenes from the contents of the intestines and reacts to the contents. This local immune system plays a vital role in the physiological immune response and in the control of food, drug, microbial, or viral antigens. Doctor Loren Martin Professor of Physiology at the Oklahoma University
I began writing this post a couple of times. As soon as I would begin typing the first sentence, a flood of tears would overwhelm me. I was taken aback by my strong emotions. I mean come on, it wasn’t that big of a deal, right? They didn’t even open my entire abdominal cavity! Just three small incisions. Rationally I knew all this, but my body had a very different experience. I focused so much on healing my body physically and getting better that I somehow missed how the whole experience affected me emotionally.
Writing this unearthed emotions I had not yet processed, and I found the writing process to be very healing. At first I was embarrassed by my tears. But I took a break and had a good cry while my husband rubbed my back. I was able to come back and respond to all the questions and look through all the notes I wrote down during that period. Now, as I wrap this up I feel a heavy weight off my shoulders. It is amazing how much physical trauma our bodies can store. I had no clue I would react this way! I am so so glad I began writing again about this experience which allowed my body to process!
Please listen to your body. If you are experiencing sharp stabbing pains, something might be terribly wrong (a good rule of thumb…). Call your doctor. Don’t wait until its too late.
And lastly, don’t forget the importance of letting yourself heal emotionally. Don’t neglect some of the more subtle processing that might be necessary to really move on from such a traumatic experience.
What do you guys think? I would love to hear your experience and what helped your recovery!
P.S. I hope my list of supplements did not overwhelm you! If it did and/or you already have no money after you had to pay all the hospital bills then invest in a good multivitamin and probiotic these two are pretty affordable.