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“Something’s wrong.”

Posted on November 14, 2018 in Surgery

Polite and considerate, task oriented and intelligent, Marilyn Roddy has a habit of putting others first. It’s no surprise that she quietly kept going even though she wasn’t feeling well this past March.

Through dinner preparations, serving the meal and even as night came she decided not to bother her husband. But after tossing and turning for hours, she came to the conclusion that she was going to have to ask for help.

“When it finally got to be 7:30 the next morning I said, ‘You’ve got to take me to the doctor. Something’s wrong. I feel terrible,’” Roddy says.

Persistent Pain

Roddy was experiencing symptoms of appendicitis, a condition in which the appendix becomes irritated and inflamed. It develops when the small opening of the appendix becomes blocked and bacteria takes over.

Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center surgeon Joseph Thurman, MD, says in the early stages there’s usually a vague pain in the area of the belly button, often with some nausea.

“As the appendix gets more and more angered and inflamed, it rubs against the inner lining of the abdominal wall and that’s when the pain moves,” Dr. Thurman says. “You’ll get that sensation of discomfort, almost like a knife stabbing the right lower part of the belly.”

Roddy’s pain was unrelenting, but she didn’t want to “cry wolf.” She decided to see her primary care physician instead of going to the emergency room.

“My attitude is that it’ll go away, it’s just a stomach ache,” Roddy says. “You try to explain it away.”

After an examination Roddy was sent to Fort Sanders Regional for a CT scan. By the time she got to the hospital, she was doubled over and barely able to walk.

Quick and compassionate care

Even the simplest tasks seemed unbearable. As Roddy made her way through the hospital lobby, she saw a wall of computer terminals for self-check in.

“I remember thinking, ‘there’s no way I can do this,’” Roddy says.

Seeing that Roddy was struggling, a hospital volunteer quickly offered assistance.

“She was such a godsend, and that was my first indication that everything was going to be okay,” Roddy says. “It was such a small gift, but it was so important.”

From radiology for her CT scan and to the emergency department, Roddy was hurting and sometimes anxious, but always comforted. The staff at Fort Sanders Regional stepped up anytime she needed guidance, help or compassion.

Ending the pain

In the emergency department, Roddy met her surgeon. Dr. Thurman patiently talked in a way that reassured her.

“It was just one of those days where you really feel God’s hand on you,” Roddy says. “The right things kept falling into place and I had a real sense of peace that it was all going to be well.”

Roddy’s instincts were right. Her appendix was removed, and she soon found herself recovering in the care of the Fort Sanders Regional nursing staff.

“The floor nurse was so fantastic. She rocked the white, starchy hat and the white hose and the white shoes,” Roddy says. “When someone comes in and presents themselves professionally, she’s probably also doing everything else right.”

Putting the patient first

When any medical emergency happens, it’s important to be in a place where there is good communication and where attention to the patient’s needs is a priority. Dr. Thurman says treating a patient means more than just fixing what’s wrong physically.

“If you can calm people’s nerves, make them feel like the situation is under control and get them engaged,” Dr. Thurman says, “they can help themselves get better.”

With just enough time to stop for a cup of coffee and share her story, Roddy is back to her busy life, serving her community again. She says everyone she came in contact with at Fort Sanders Regional seemed to have a shared commitment to excellence.

“Being competent is important, but if you can be competent and also kind, friendly, and a have a good attitude,” Roddy says, “that’s important, too.”