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  • Writer's pictureDawn Neufeld


I have a lot to be thankful for. A loving family. A beautiful (yet always untidy) home. A pantry full of food. When folks ask me how my day is going, I usually say, "Nothing to complain about," because it's true. I'm blessed. I truly am.

But this year I have something else to be thankful for too.

A week ago today I had am emergency appendectomy. The night before I'd been in downtown Dallas shooting a commercial. Shortly after dinner, I started having some pain in my lower abdomen. As I sat there waiting to be called onto set, I reminded myself that I shouldn't have eaten any of the greens during dinner (I got food poisoning back in the day from a bad batch). I prayed to God that if it was food poisoning, my body would hold on until we wrapped and I got home.

The pain started to get worse. I felt bloated and contemplated unbuttoning my pants right then and there... maybe my thyroid-induced weight gain was making my jeans too tight and I needed to free my belly. As the pain got worse, I decided it was time to go full-blown gluten free because OBVIOUSLY my intestines were having issues. Maybe it was IBS or something like it. As the pain got worse, I calmed my mind by convincing myself it had to be constipation and I'd take some Miralax when I got home.

When the sun set that night, it got pretty cold. If you've ever been on set before, you know there's a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. So we stood around shivering waiting for folks to set up the shot. The cold didn't help as I rocked back and forth between shots trying to keep warm and ease the pain. By the time I got to my car after we wrapped, I was starting to get nauseous. By the time I got home, I was doubled over in pain.

I tried some things that didn't work. I took a couple of hot baths. No luck. Pain meds. No relief. Around 2 in the morning I took a couple of Salonpas lidocaine patches and stretched them across my stomach. They provided just enough relief that I was finally able to doze off but after about 2 hours of sleep I woke up in excruciating pain. So I decided I'd go to the emergency room for treatment. After about 30 minutes researching whether a hospital nearby was in-network for insurance purposes (please do this before you actually need it) I drove over to Baylor Frisco around 6 a.m. It was a slow morning so I was in a room being examined within 10 minutes of my arrival.

The doc said, "it might be your appendix." That thought never crossed my mind. So after a quick blood test that showed an elevated white blood cell count (indicating an infection), I had to down a jug of liquid for a contrast scan (had I known that disgusting drink was the last fluid I'd have all day I would've savored it more). Soon, a young doctor came in and told me it definitely looked like it was my appendix and I'd need to have surgery to remove it.

I started bawling and thought, "Ain't nobody got time for this." And the tears weren't necessarily about the surgery... it was about knowing I'd miss Bryn getting an award at school the next morning. And that Will's class had prepared a special Thanksgiving feast and that I'd miss that too. It was about having a deep sense of guilt knowing Ryan's life was going to get a little harder while I was out of commission for a couple of weeks. It was because 2017 has been tough for me health-wise and it was going to end with me having surgery. I was having symptoms of this for a couple of months... even made two trips to urgent care.

I wasn't whisked away to the operating room - there were a couple of folks on the schedule ahead of me. So I grabbed my phone and texted my family... and within minutes my mom called from L.A. to check on me. When I heard her voice, all I could say was, "Mommy," and I started crying all over again. Listen... sometimes we just need our moms, right? There was comfort in her voice that I needed... bad. She offered to fly out to help but I told her I was in good hands with Ryan.

It was a long, painful, sleepy day. I didn't go into surgery until after 7 p.m. that night (not sure exactly what time it was, but it was late). Morphine kept me comfortable and allowed me to sleep. But it was torture - no food or drink all day. I must've asked everyone who came into the room for some water... even asked the doc who did my surgery if I could just have a little sip. Nope. The waiting was really, really hard.

The surgery was successful. The doc told me that my appendix was pretty sick but it hadn't burst yet (which would've really complicated things). I was discharged early Friday morning. A week later I'm still on the mend. I've had to deal with nausea and I'm finally getting my appetite back. But we've had to plan B Thanksgiving dinner (there was no way I could shop and cook). Telling Will that we would be going out for dinner instead of staying in triggered a pretty gnarly meltdown (him... not me). I felt his pain...

So here is what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving:

I'm grateful I have health insurance. Every time they scanned my bracelet to administer a painkiller or IV bag knowing I wouldn't go bankrupt because of something out of my control provided some peace.

I'm grateful for the skilled medical staff and for a comfortable hospital experience.

I'm grateful for the internet - it allowed me to research some of the symptoms of appendicitis so I can share them with you. Apparently it's hard to determine because the symptoms can be indicative of other ailments. Loss of appetite was one I experienced a lot... I'm talking over a course of weeks. I was turning down sweets - I never turn down sweets. Bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, fever, belly pain that slowly creeps down the right side of the abdomen. Keep your appendix in mind if you're experiencing any of these. If in doubt, see your doc.

I'm thankful for my friend Jamie who happened to be on duty in the emergency room. She took great care of me and even gave me her chapstick when I said I needed some.

I'm grateful for the hundreds of folks who prayed for me.

I'm thankful for the folks who invited to cook Thanksgiving dinner for us or who invited us over for theirs.

I'm thankful for my neighbor Dawn who brought us dinner last Friday night so we didn't have to worry about it.

I'm so grateful for my family, especially Ryan.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Remember to YOLO and never take anything for granted. Listen to your body and trust your instincts.

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