As many of you know, last weekend (5.2.20) was the day that I married my best friend and now wife (Michaela). It was hands down the best day of my life and it couldn’t have been more perfect. If you’d like to read about it, you can do so here. It was the highest high that I’ve ever experienced, but as I would soon find out, it would be followed by one of the most difficult lows. This blog documents our first week of marriage where Michaela put the “in sickness or in health” part of my vows to the test. Without further adieu, here we go.
I won’t go into too much detail, because I wrote a whole blog about it, but our wedding day was perfect. It didn’t happen as we had originally planned (thanks COVID), but we trust that it did happen according to the plan; God’s plan. As our special day came to a close, Michaela began to experience some slight stomach pain, but she chalked it up to a day full of excitement and, feeling that it was nothing serious, kept it to herself.
I didn’t sleep too well during our first night together because Michaela didn’t sleep well. She was tossing and turning all night and a brief exchange at 3:00am was when I first learned about her abdominal pain. I can’t help but laugh because I woke up to the smell of horse liniment (very distinct smell), which Michaela had rubbed all over her stomach in search of relief. If you don’t know what horse liniment is, it’s essentially Bengay for horses (very strong). We were both able to go back to sleep, but the next morning was when I knew something was wrong. I watched Michaela wince as she got out of bed and within minutes, she was writhing in pain on the floor. We called the closest urgent care and after a short video call with the doctor, made an in-person visit. The doctor seemed to think that it was too soon to tell what was happening with Michaela’s abdominal pain and so he sent us home with some medication and the instructions to keep an eye on things and get help if they get worse. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and resting and we hoped that things would improve with a good night of sleep.
Unfortunately, Michaela’s pain didn’t improve at all and if anything, it got slightly worse. In an attempt to remain optimistic, we talked each other down and used wishful thinking to keep the worst case scenarios out of mind. Instead of being on the beach in Hawaii (like we originally planned), we spent the second day of our “honeymoon” in the apartment, in bed, watching Netflix and drinking plenty of fluids. Each time that Michaela stood up, she would hunch forward until her pain subsided (usually less than a minute) and then she would walk around like nothing was wrong (she’s a trooper).
This was the last day of our abbreviated and makeshift “honeymoon” and it was again, spent resting, worrying, praying and watching lots of Netflix. Both supposed to return to work the following day, we chose to keep our fingers crossed and hope that by some miracle, her symptoms (which appeared to be worse after each meal) would disappear overnight. Even though my heart wanted to be hopeful, my mind wouldn’t stop thinking that something was wrong.
In the morning (to our disappointment, but not surprise), her pain was still present and ever intense. In fact, the pain, which had been diffuse throughout her abdomen, had concentrated down in her lower right quadrant (where the appendix is) and we both tried to hide our panic. I had to leave for work so I encouraged Michaela to call the urgent care, I gave her a kiss and drove to work. Within the hour, Michaela texted me and told me that she was on her way to the emergency room. She kept me updated throughout the day as anxious thoughts clouded my stream of thought. She had been sent for a CT scan and when the results came in (early afternoon) she was told that she was going to be taken in for surgery within the hour. Her appendix needed to be removed. Neither of us thought that things would move this fast, but it soon set in that this was real. When I read her message, I stepped into a private room at work and called her. I could hear the panic and fear in her voice; her words were sporadic as her tone trembled
The hospital wasn’t allowing any visitors due to COVID-19 protocols and as Michaela sat alone in the hospital, about to have an unexpected emergency surgery, there was nothing that I could do about the situation. Even though my heart sank in my chest, I put on a brave front and let her know that I loved her and that I would be there for her whenever she was allowed to come home. Our call ended and I felt utterly helpless. We had been married for less than a week and I couldn’t be there to protect and care for her like I wanted to. The only thing that I could think to do was to lean into God and trust that this too was part of His perfect plan. I had no option but to surrender the control that I wish I had and give it to God; this was in His hands and those are the best hands. The next few hours were harder than I can describe. I don’t remember anything other than how I felt; worried about my wife more than words can describe.
I was driving home from work, sometime after 6:00pm and the surgeon called me. She told me that the operation went well, but that Michaela’s appendix had perforated and that “it was nasty.” Hearing the surgeon describe the procedure shed a new light on the seriousness of the situation; Michaela’s appendix had burst and it’s contents were in her abdominal cavity (not good at all). Not too long after the surgeon called, my phone rang and I had never been so happy to see Michaela’s name pop up on the caller ID. She was still groggy from the anesthesia, but we talked and I did all that I could do; I was there for her, even if it was from the other end of the phone. We continued talking until she was tired enough to fall asleep and that gave me some peace, although not enough to sleep.
I woke up and went to work, waiting to hear from my wife. She texted me in the late morning and told me that she was going to be discharged home in the afternoon. The next several hours felt like forever, but when I got the call to come pick her up, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, I pulled up to the hospital in the middle of the afternoon and I couldn’t stop smiling as I watched my beautiful wife hobble (that’s a very appropriate descriptor for how she was walking) to the car. We drove home, we got her comfortable and I felt that I was able to take the first deep breath since the wedding. However, as it goes, we were not out of the woods just yet. That night might have been just as hard as the one before; Michaela had a fever and being that her appendix ruptured, it was concerning. There was no chance that I was going to be able to fall asleep and instead, I spent the night taking her temperature every hour, giving her gatorade, getting her medications and praying that she would feel better soon because nothing hurts more than seeing her hurt.
I can’t say that I “woke up” because I never went to sleep. Powered by pure worry, lots of adrenaline and copious amounts of caffeine, I went off to work as Michaela’s mom came to Philadelphia to stay with her for the day. Even though I was at work, my mind was somewhere else. I couldn’t stop thinking about my wife and hoping that she was doing okay. When work ended, I came home and got the good report. She had been without a fever since the morning and even though she was sore and tired, she was feeling better than the day before.
It’s been one week from our wedding and it has been quite the week to say the least. I’m happy to say that Michaela continues to feel better with each day and I’m proud to say that I make a pretty good nurse if I do say so myself. We didn’t have the wedding that we planned and we definitely didn’t have the honeymoon that we planned, but I couldn’t be more grateful to have my wife home, recovering and still making me smile.
It might not have been the wedding or the week that we had planned on, but we both trust that this is God’s plan. Even though it doesn’t always make sense, His plans are always on purpose for a purpose. Our first week of marriage was a challenging one, but also one that brought us closer together and put life in a new light. We both have a lot to be grateful for and I am so excited to spend the next week reminding Michaela to take her medicine and to drink plenty of fluids.
Here’s to continued recovery for Michaela and a less eventful second week of marriage.
Joe Rinaldi, PT, DPT