Surprise Appendectomy!

Funny story. About month ago, I had my appendix removed. In Borneo. Add that to the list of top 10 things I would never do again 😉

Here’s what happened.

Everything was chill and wonderful in Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah, East Malaysia, Borneo. I was kinda at the end of my Borneo trip, having visited most of the places I could reasonably visit, and was just killing time till my flight back to Singapore from Kuching, in about a week from then.

I was hanging out in my hostel, chilling and watching Netflix (Masters of None, if you must know – pretty funny show!) and suddenly developed a pain in my belly. It felt like indigestion so I employed the usual remedies – hot water, ENO, trying to fart etc. Nothing worked, and the pain started getting worse.

I went out for a walk, hoping to walk off the uncomfortable / bloated feeling, but about 10 minutes into my walk, the pain in my belly had intensified to the point where I was clutching my belly, almost bent over double and hobbling about. I gave up on my walk (and any hope of dinner), and returned to my hostel where I proceeded to freak myself out on WebMD (appendicitis! kidney stones! stomach cancer!) as any sensible person would do.

I lay in bed intermittently writhing in pain, punching myself in the stomach, and getting up to go to the toilet to gag for a few hours as the pain got steadily worse and I developed a mild fever. It seemed lame to die in a random hostel in Sabah, so I finally decided to take myself to a clinic at about midnight. At the clinic, the doctor ran a blood and urine test, examined me, and proclaimed that I had a very bad UTI, but also possibly appendicitis so GET THEE TO THE HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY!

I got him to give me a shot for the pain, and went back to my hostel to sleep it off instead. 😀

The next day mostly passed with me lying in bed, with a weird pain in my abdomen and a mild fever. After consulting with my doctor friends and family (shout out to Jordan, Kalpy and Kannan!), I decided it might be better to get some scans done at the hospital to make sure I wasn’t going to die of a ruptured appendix.

At the hospital A&E department, I was examined by:
1. A junior doctor who thought it might be appendicitis
2. A less junior doctor who thought it might not be appendicitis but ordered some tests.
3. A more senior doctor who thought it might not be appendicitis but asked a surgical specialist to come an examine me anyway
4. A surgical specialist who thought it might or might not be appendicitis but wanted a second opinion from another surgeon
5. Another surgeon who thought it might be appendicitis but decided to ask the head surgeon for his opinion
6. The head surgeon who decided it was almost certainly appendicitis and called for immediate admission.

The start of my hospital ordeal – the first IV.

It was quite dramatic, because this hospital doesn’t accept any form of card payment, just cash or cheques (what is this, the 1960s?) and obviously I don’t carry thousands of Malaysian Ringgit around, and there wasn’t an ATM nearby that accepted foreign cards, so it was a bit of a situation. The doctors had a bit of a debate among themselves for a while about whether to let me go back into town, get cash and come back to the hospital to be admitted, or if they should just admit me anyway without an upfront deposit. Finally, head surgeon guy came to me and said they’d admit me without a deposit, and that he personally would sign as my guarantor – so if I disappeared without paying the bill, it’d come out of his paycheck. Apparently, they seem to think that if they let me leave, I might never come back (not an incorrect assumption).

So now that I had been admitted, the waiting game began. Wait for a ward / bed. Wait for the operation theater. Wait for the surgeons. When they admitted me (it was just after midnight on Saturday), they said I’d probably be getting the surgery done within the next few hours, or by morning. In the end, I waited a good 24 hours before I was finally taken in for surgery. Which is fine, except for the fact that I WAS ON A NIL-BY-MOUTH DIET. So hungry. But no appetite anyway, so I guess it could have been worse.


WhatsApp Image 2018-04-29 at 12.43.12
Terrible hospital food – boiled fish, rice and cabbage. Even if I had an appetite, this food would have killed it.


I think the worst part of this whole ordeal was the stupid fiasco with the IV drips. So when I first arrived at the A&E, they inserted a thingy in my hand so they could connect me to a drip. When they did connect me to the drip, the tube / vein got blocked and my hand swelled up, so they had to take it  out and put another one on my other hand. That wasn’t inserted very well and my entire hand felt like it was on fire. So they took that out and tried to reinsert a new one on my first (swollen) hand, which obviously didn’t work cause everything was swollen. They finally managed to insert a new plastic tube into my first hand, but along the vein in my wrist so I was basically told, just don’t move your hand. Obviously my dominant hand as well. -_- Miserable experience.

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Evidence of failed IV insertion attempts. My other hand looked similar.


Anyway. The surgery was fine, I was discharged the same day in the evening. Strange thing was that the surgeons told me my appendix didn’t look inflamed (the post op histology lab report confirmed this, but there were other signs that it was being weird anyway – I don’t know, I’m not a doctor) but it was “stuck” somewhere (whatever that means).

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Post-op, with three holes and five stitches!

So that’s the story of how I had emergency surgery in Malaysia! It was quite funny – all the doctors, nurses and people the at hostel I was staying at felt quite sorry for me, I think. But I’ve always figured I might end up spending some time in a hospital in a foreign country by myself and now it’s happened! Probably won’t be the last time either lol. Definitely wouldn’t recommend it though – being in pain, alone, and in a strange hospital in a foreign country is not a fun experience. At least they spoke English! Can’t imagine having to navigate this in Spanish or worse, any other language I’m not fluent in! Well, that concludes my surprise appendectomy story! Stay safe kids!

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-28 at 05.45.05
Proving to people I’m fine on my own in a random hospital in Malaysia. 😀

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