Homage to The Appendix
by Gina Rizzo Bishop
Monday-Wednesday, of last week, I began experiencing intense indigestion and heartburn- which I accredited to my extreme love of fruit. So, I cut back a bit on my intake but, that was a No go. On Wednesday night I was a mess— and when I say ” a mess ” a mean… I thought I might be dieing. I surrendered to the porcelain hole and clung to it for dear life … affirming to myself “This Too Shall Pass”… I suppose my stubborn-self really gets riled up when pain is added to the equation. I pride myself on being able to take-on illness, like it’s my bitch. No meds is my motto and I resort to deep meditation and long breaths to get me through most painful crisis. And, in most situations it certainly does the trick… except when met with the “The Appendix”.
Mid-day Thursday, upon the begging and pleading of my gracious mother, I made my way to a drop in clinic where I was promptly given the “Appendix Push Test” — and told to go straight to the ER. “Shit” is all I thought. When the nurse asked if i had insurance I wanted to laugh (but that hurt too much) and I certainly couldn’t cry over an inflamed organ so I just kindly said “Um… no ” because, of course I was no longer putting $250/month into the corporate system and yea… I was abroad for 8 months with NO ILLNESS and WAM-BAM, one month back in the states, I’m admitted into the hospital. What more can I say except I’m grateful the ER doesn’t require bank statements prior to treatment and that I’ve been blessed with the support of a family who reminds me “Your only job is to stay alive, Money will come and Money will go”.
First order of business was a Rectal Contrast and Cat scan. If you’re not familiar with the Rectal Contrast, I suggest googling it and then praying to God you never have to undergo one of these. I must say… the entire thing made for a scene straight out of a movie. When I was wheeled into the room, and met by a handsome 20-something year old Physician, I couldn’t help but vocalize the apparent “Um, well… this is gonna be awkward”. If there is one thing pain does… it emphasizes my zest for humor, and so the two of us giggled our way through the nightmare. Doc got a bit flustered while explaining to me the details of the procedure but, eased my nerves when he said “I’m not gonna lie, this is gonna be extremely uncomfortable”. Awesome, I thought. I’m not one for being easily humiliated, in fact I sort of like the “shock-factor” in normal life, however… my body was feeling a bit traumatized by the mechanical probing that had just occurred. When just then… as I lay on my left side (ass in face) the doctor said “Do you get your teeth whitened? Because, I mean… you have a beautiful smile” and all i could do was squeeze my cheeks, laugh my ass off, and reply… “Nope, Just good Genes”. lols
My surgery wouldn’t be scheduled until the next day so, I had to stay that night at the hospital.
I haven’t taken any form of meds for almost a year now and so, my body was a bit overly sensitive to the initial injection the nurse gave me. My folks decided they would leave that night, to get a good night sleep, but not until she had administered the dose. NOTE TO LOVED ONES: Wait at least half an hour after a nurse has given a patient pain-meds to mediate the reaction. There I was… in a hospital, for the first time in nearly 7 years, doped up (on what I later found out was a drug 10X stronger than morphine) Tripping out of my mind. Let’s just say… i didn’t get a good night sleep… drugs + disorientation + a mechanical bed that moves up and down = mind trip. Get me back to Bali…
The next morning is a bit groggy to me but, what I couldn’t hide was the fact that the number 11 seemed to be EVERYWHERE. The most pronounced: the date being 5/11, my room number adding up to 11, and the doctors bringing me into surgery at exactly 11:00am. Now, this number seems to follow my family… it has a sort of symbolic relevance to major life events in the life of the “Bishops” and so we are all pretty attuned to noticing its presence. I hadn’t wanted to overtly point it out to myself, or to my angel of a mother, in case it was a sign that my passage was near. Since my high school boyfriend had an spontaneous appendectomy, when we were 18, I always had this feeling I would lose this tiny little organ. Any sign of a tummy-ache had me administering self “appendix push tests” and thinking “Yep, this is is. Bye Bye appendix”– which always struck me as bizarre. I had some sort of knowing, all along, that this little bugger would be a pest one day.
When there was no pre-op rooms available the nurses had to wheel me into the operation hall-way where I ended up in front of a clock that seemed to be magnifying the 11th hour and a flip calender declaring “11″ (not the normal ones that have all the dates but, that one that has the numbers in BOLD) staring me straight in the face. As doctors approached me for signatures, and questions, all I could think of was 11… and then I thought of my mother. My father was venturing North to Berkeley to attend my Brothers College Graduation (which we would have all been doing had it not been for this little stint) but, even upon my request that she go… she wouldn’t. I felt blessed to have gotten the chance to talk to my partner, who is currently situated on the other side of the world, moments before being taken from my room. And, I just couldn’t bare the thought of all these 11′s meaning “my closure” here, my loved ones having to take on that grief (especially when I’ve got a lot of life left to live) and the fact that the medical world deems this a “standard procedure”. So, when the doctors asked if I had any questions I said “No,” because, I didn’t. I just said… “Today, is not mine to die. Keep me Alive.”
And… My surgery, that afternoon, went off without a hitch- And when I woke up, I was in agonizing pain but, I WAS ALIVE!
When the Doc said: “Pass Gas, and you can go home…” farting took on a whole new meaning to me. I guess someone forgot to inform me that during a Laparoscopic Appendectomy (aka: “Lap-Appi”), in order to clearly see your organs, they must pump you full of Co2. The result of doing so, is that the patient wakes up in almost as intense pain (as was experienced prior to having the surgery) and a belly that looks something like you’re 6 months pregnant. After 3 days of excruciating pain, Three 6mg injections of Morphine, 20+ doctors and Nurses poking at my temperamental tummy, an IV that got infiltrated in my right arm (resulting in a build up of liquid that made my right Bicep look like Popeye) followed by a surgery and 7 day liquid diet… the nurses pulled me out of bed and told me to Walk. What the?
Nightmare-esque and a true sight to behold: I sluggishly mopped the floor with my hospital slippers, pushing along an IV, drugged up, and looking nothing short of a slightly less grotesque, female version, of the Hunchback. Dear God, I dislike Hospitals.
But, in an attempt to see the abundance of beauty, I harnessed the strength of my mother. Who gives…
And then… I followed doctors orders by enveloping my heart in Flowers, which the hospital splendidly adorned the hallways with, to get back on my feet again and successfully activate Project: Pass Gas– to get my ass home.
I do not hate my appendix. Nor, do I condemn its untimely departure from my body. However, if there was one thing I’d have rather been taking part in, it would have been relishing the opportunity to show my support to someone who has been a radiant light in my life, from the moment of his birth… Michael Dean Bishop, I am so proud of all you’ve accomplished.
Congratulations on your Graduation from Berkeley. You inspire me every day. And… I love you:
I don’t think it makes any difference how big or small an operation one goes through… it is all life-affirming. Hospitalization, Pain, Dealing with the realities of our fragile existence, and watching concerned loved ones- all play a role in “The Procedure”. The perception alterations that come with Physical Dependency, Emotional fluctuations and the required ‘tapping into’ survival mode- are life lessons, no matter the cause … the effect is dramatic.
At the age of 21, I fell prey to an auto immune virus that basically shut down my liver. I went through 7 months of hospital treatments, a biopsy, weekly blood-work, jaundice, fatigue, loss of appetite, and a broken-self. My appendix was like a trailer compared to the movie-length drama it took to restore my liver to its proper health. I came to view this time in my life as a moment of re-birth. It was a wake-up call from the source and it changed my 21 year old self, in uncountable ways. In fact, what I went through… it changed all of us, my entire family. It shook up our reality, it strengthened our love, and where weakness ensued… we found greater strength.
I am incredibly grateful to my family, the gorgeous nursing staff at Providence, supportive friends who came to visit, and a magnificent view of the Southern California Mountains… for nurturing me through this process.
After a painful week, 1 surgery, and four days of hospitalization– I was more than ready to breath in some fresh air and continue mending at home…
My body is a temple, I know this. It can be broken down at any moment. Healing is Healing. Plain and Simple… it is a partial test of physical strength and a large test of mental endurance. What I had never known, until now, is that when one is soaring so high in the sky (full of joy and love) falling to the ground seems all the more brutal. But, where there is loss… there is also gain. And whether my wings be on temporary hiatus, my soul… it still soars, in humble appreciation, for the experience of living.