Editorial: They took out my innards and slung them around like a cowboy

Published 9:21 am Thursday, July 8, 2021

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I’m still here.

Thanks to some competetent doctors and nurses, I’m still here. Even with my apprehension to embrace modern medicine, I’m still here.

You may or may not have noticed, but I missed a week of work. For the first time in my 41-year career, I missed a week of work that wasn’t on purpose. Previously, I had only taken a week off twice – once for my honeymoon and another time for a vacation. But both of those times, I worked extra hard before and after the absences.

I thank Robin Snow for her quick action in making sure a newspaper was still printed that week. Within hours of hearing the news, she had assembled a competetent team to get the job done. Dwight Sparks came out of retirement. Brian Pitts and Ray Tutterow were there, willing to do whatever was needed. Betsy Ramsbotham and Beth Cassidy were recruited. And despite obstacles that weren’t their fault – things worked out wonderfully. Thank you from the bottom of my heart (At least that part of me is still tickin’.)

It all started about three weeks ago, when I noticed a pain in my stomach area on a Thursday morning. By Friday morning, it had reached my side. The pain didn’t get worse, but it wouldn’t go away, stuck there just on the right side of my abdomen.

By Saturday afternoon, I was at the emergency room at Davie Medical Center. The staff was courteous and kind and prompt. After about a 10-second diagnosis, I overhead the doctor saying “He has appendicitis.”

I decided to have the procedure at Davis Hospital in Statesville, the hospital closest to my home. I was nervous. At age 63, I have never had an operation before. Never been cut on.

I was out of it for most of the time, but here is pretty much what happened. The doctor said if things went well, the surgery would take about 40 minutes and I would be home the next day. It didn’t go so well. My appendix – without my knowing – was filled with gangrene. When the surgeon went to extract it, the darn thing exploded, sending gangrene throughout my stomach cavity.

Like I said, I was out of it, but that 40-minute surgery turned into more than 2 hours. What they did, to the best of my recollection, was take out my innards, sling them around like a cowboy roping a steer, before stuffing them back inside me.

When I woke up, there were tubes coming out of just about every orifice I had; they even created a new hole just for the fun of it. They wheeled me into a room, said I would probably be there a week, and started pumping the highest doses of antiobiotics they could into my system.

By this time, I had been more than three days with nothing to eat but a few crackers. Sleep – well – that wasn’t possible. It was the pain before the surgery. After the surgery, it was pain and the constant laying on my back. I can’t sleep on my back. I sleep on my stomach. There were too many tubes and holes for that to happen.

Back to the food. The nice folks they are, I was fed ice chips. That’s right. Ice chips. For two days, my only sustanance other than whatever that stuff is that goes through the IV was ice chips. I had already been three days with no food. But let me tell you, those were the best ice chips I had ever had in my entire life. And I decided right then and there that we eat too much.

After five days with no food, they brought in some Jello, broth and a strawberry Italian ice. You would think one would be starving, but I only ate a little. That strawberry ice, however, was the best thing I had ever tasted.

Sleep is necessary, but it didn’t happen but 15 minutes or so at a time, and those occasions were rare. The lack of sleep was weighing on me much more than the lack of food or the recent surgery.

After four days, I was sent home with more high-dose antibiotics and pain medicine (Don’t get me started on this one, but hydrocodone is the devil’s medicine.).

I began to eat more and more. I began to sleep more and more (I figured out that extra padding on my belly button (That’s where they went in for the surgery, and there were staples holding it together) and strategically placed pillows allowed me to sleep more on my stomach.

I’m gaining strength, but still not near 100 percent.

One nurse told me that it was rare for someone of my advanced age to get appendicitis. Maybe I have the body of a 40-year old, I thought.

Then I went to walk around the yard. I made it, but was exhausted.

Maybe age 64 will be the next age 40?

– Mike Barnhardt