It was June of 2014 and life was moving along pleasantly. My oldest child was approaching her second birthday, and my littlest was still new: a mere three months old. Becoming a mother of two children was a transition that happened with an unexpected ease. I was thoroughly enjoying motherhood and my two babes.
It was around this time when I first started experiencing abdominal discomfort. I was perpetually bloated and generally uncomfortable in my middle. I had no other symptoms. I truly believed my body just needed a bit of a reset. I had already lost the pregnancy weight, but knew that postpartum recovery wasn’t limited to weight-loss. In an attempt to help things along I began implementing healthy habits like daily walks or workouts, and intentionally eating well.
On one occasion I recall wearing a green tank-top and grey workout shorts. I was pushing the girls in our heavy double stroller under the summer sun to the park, and thinking about how it was only a matter of time until my body would bounce back to normal.
Bouncing back, unfortunately, did not happen.
My symptoms worsened, and I began to experience recurrent fevers. They would go away with a fever reducer, but return once the medication wore off. My GP thought I somehow had excessive air trapped in my stomach, but the medication she prescribed didn’t help. As my symptoms remained and my fever persisted, I was finally able to go in for an ultrasound.
I sat in the waiting lounge with the news on the television blaring in the background. Undoubtedly I was the youngest person waiting for a scan that day. I had been in that same lounge on two previous occasions. Each time my was belly swollen with life, and I anxiously anticipated a sneak peek at my little babies growing inside. This time my belly was bloated with pain, and I waited anxiously because of what they might find. I began to mentally prepare myself to be immediately admitted for an appendectomy. I wasn’t ready for that. My daughter’s second birthday party was planned for that weekend, and surgery was not part of my plan.
The scan itself was was all a blur. The ultrasound tech was not at liberty to discuss what she was seeing, but upon completing her work, she insisted that I not leave until I spoke over the phone with my doctor. “Oh no”, I thought, “this is the part where she tells me it’s my appendix”. To my surprise all my doctor said was this: “If you are in pain right now you must go to the emergency room.” “So it’s not my appendix?” I asked. Negative. Well, that was all the news I needed. Considering I had been feeling more well than other days, and that my fever had ceased, I decided that the most logical thing to do would be to go home and finish planning my daughter’s birthday party.
I knew something was not right. At this point it was nearing mid-July and my symptoms hadn’t really let up. The party had passed, and my husband and I began preparing for a trip that was several states away when my fevers had returned. Given my condition, I felt uncomfortable with the idea of being far from familiar healthcare for a trip. I decided to take my GP’s original advice and go to the emergency room.
After waiting several hours to get a room in the emergency department, have labs done, and see the doctor, I was not in the least surprised to find out that his suspicion was appendicitis. I reiterated to him the results of my recent scan: “It is not my appendix.” Looking at me with sorrow and a sense of defeat he said: “Well all of your tests are normal. If it’s not your appendix, then there isn’t much more we can do, so we will send you home.”
I knew that no news could be good news, but in this case, it was a huge letdown. How could I have such persistent symptoms for an entire month, with no answers. In fact, my labs were “normal”.
After the doctor had left the room I remember feeling such helplessness. How can this be normal? If they cannot figure out my health problems in a hospital, how will anyone ever figure them out? Then, as quickly as he left, the doctor returned. His entire demeanor had changed. “I am sending you for a CT immediately.” My self-pity shifted to worry and confusion. Apparently, not feeling satisfied with the positive appendix report, he pulled my ultrasound images to take a look at things for himself. He saw what no one else had mentioned to me: there was concern for inflammation of my intestines. Very soon after this, I was wheeled back for a CT scan and the results confirmed his suspicion.
After weeks of discomfort and few answers from the medical community, this one ER doctor in a last ditch effort to find a shred of evidence that something was wrong, had found it. It was enough to admit me overnight for a few days so that I could see a specialist and have further testing done.
As much of a relief it was to know that I had people working on my behalf to find some answers for my mysterious health problems, it was slightly unnerving not knowing what exactly they would find. I didn’t know it then, but this would turn into a process spanning several months. All the while I had complete and naive trust that these doctors could “fix” me. Surely, whatever was causing this inflammation would be temporary and treatable.