A Sick Experience

One Man's Shocking Ordeal, And The Wife Who Put Him Through It.

By Tom Danehy

MY WIFE HAD an emergency appendectomy a few weeks ago. Thank you for your sympathy. In lieu of flowers or gifts, please make all donations to the Tom Danehy Doritos & Chips Ahoy Fund.

I came home on a Saturday afternoon (not a good day to get sick!) from some late-summer, early-autumn basketball function at the high school. As you may know, September is the most important month for a high-school basketball player like my daughter. Well, it's not as important as October, which in turn isn't as important as November or December, but it's still really important.

Danehy Ana looked sick when we got home. This is weird, because she's usually too ornery to trifle with bacteria and such. In nearly two decades as a teacher, she has only missed school for her two pregnancies, one knee surgery, and her father's funeral. She goes years at a time without missing a day of school.

When she said she was feeling lousy I decided to take her to Urgent Care. This isn't as easy as it sounds in this day of the shifting HMO landscape. You don't know from one week to another who your healthcare provider is, which hospital you're attached to, and which former doctor of yours is going to show up on 60 Minutes.

I took her across town to the only Urgent Care facility I knew for sure would see her. We went in, paid the co-pay, and then sat down next to a stack of Sunset magazines. When you're in a place like that, you don't want to look around, but you just have to.

Over in the corner sat a woman with a dinner plate apparently glued to her head. I didn't ask.

The seats across from us were empty at first, but then the Clampetts showed up. The dad, Jed, and his wife/sister, Jed-ette, sat down while the kids began running wild. Bare feet, snot trails, and dirty diapers resembling dinosaur tails made me think that maybe Margaret Sanger's eugenics theory wasn't all that crazy after all.

The guy kept staring at me. I was afraid he was going to say something like, "You sure got a pretty mouth." But then he just smiled that every-other-tooth smile which looked like the path the stock market has taken the past couple months.

When we went into the triage room, a nurse took all the pertinent information, then took us to another room to wait for the doctor. He eventually showed up, did a quick examination, and then gave Ana a shot of some really strong drug.

When we left, the Urgent Care folks had narrowed it down to either gall bladder pain, the heartbreak of psoriasis, athlete's foot, or some undetermined abdominal distress.

After then having to spend eight days in the hospital with a ruptured appendix and no chance to take a shower, darned if it didn't turn out they were right on all four counts.

Actually, it's hard to diagnose appendicitis, because it usually starts out as a severe stomach ache and it sometimes takes hours or even days for the pain to localize in the lower right quadrant. By mid-Sunday, we knew something was wrong, so, as per the instructions we had been given, we waited until Monday to take her in to see her regular doctor.

Ana's doctor is a wonderful woman named Marilyn Hart. She's really cool, but every time I see her, she lets me know that she disapproves of my girth. She says really subtle stuff like, "Could you wait in the other room. That's 'w-a-i-t,' not the other kind. But since we're on the subject..."

Dr. Hart sent us to the Northwest Hospital Emergency Room. Ana told the doctor that she was in excruciating pain and she was unable to eat or drink anything. To which the ER doctor replied, "Okay, lie still there on that table and drink these two gallons of iodine solution over the next couple hours so we can run a test."

Late that afternoon, the legendary surgeon, Dr. Stuart Melcer, performed the appendectomy. He did it laporoscopically. That's a Greek word that means "cringe while I explain that it involves going through the navel."

During the actual surgery, I was at Wilson Middle School, watching my son play football for La Cima. This is a fact which will undoubtedly appear in future columns and/or legal papers. As soon as the game was over, we went and picked up Darlene at Amphi and then hurried to the hospital.

Ana had a rough time that first night. She had a very high fever from all the infection, so she had to spend hours under something called an ice blanket. The label said that the blanket was made by "Torquemada Industries, Providing All of Your Medical and S&M Needs."

The nurses--Peggy, Paula, Susan, Cynthia, Wendy, and all the rest--were simply wonderful. I even tried to sneak a salute to them into the recent Best of Tucson issue, but Uber-Editor Mari nixed it because it didn't have anything to do with Fourth Avenue or something.

After seeing first-hand all the great things the people do for the patients, I will never complain about the cost of health care.

The doctors and nurses earn their money. If there's any excess in the system, it's in the corporate offices. All I know is that all that time Ana was in the hospital, not one HMO suit stopped by to see how she was doing.

Ana spent eight long days in the hospital while the IV-fed antibiotics fought the residual junk in her body left behind by the ruptured appendix. Her recovery was slow, but steady.

On the second day she was grading homework. On the third day, she was walking all around the second floor. By the fourth day, she had organized all the patients walking the halls with their IV holders. One woman was cited for failure to yield and lost her Jell-o privileges for two days.

Ana finally got out of the hospital, spent a few days at home, then went back to work way too early. That's just her way, and I'm glad she's back. TW

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