Successful Surgery and “Warrior Mindset” Help Patient Recover from Appendicitis

Last December, Lisa Dockery woke up with stomach cramps that she had never felt before. After a trip to the emergency department at Parkwest Medical Center, she discovered she had appendicitis and underwent emergency surgery to remove her appendix. Just a few short months later, she has fully recovered and is thankful for the excellent care she received in her moment of need.

December Pains

The day she woke up with stomach cramps, Dockery recalls the dull ache subsiding during the day. “I laid down to rest, and we were watching the Dallas Cowboys game,” she recalls. “I woke up later in the evening, around 6 p.m., with throbbing pain. I thought my stomach was going to explode.” Lisa’s husband Donnie took her to the emergency department at Parkwest around 7 p.m. that night. She was examined and given IV fluids while diagnostic tests were administered. A CT scan revealed appendicitis, or a condition in which a blockage or inflammation of the appendix causes internal inflammation and can result in abdominal pain around the belly button area.

Lisa Dockery head shot
Lisa Dockery was pleased with the emergency surgery she required at Parkwest Medical Center.

Surgery at Parkwest

Dockery was admitted overnight and underwent surgery the next morning. She met Shannon Beierle, MD, acute care general surgeon at Parkwest Medical Center. “I see patients all over the hospital, depending on where I’m needed that day,” Dr. Beierle says. “I perform emergency surgery on hernias, gall bladders, appendixes, perforated ulcers and colon obstructions. I see a lot of GI issues and am there when someone needs emergency surgery due to these types of conditions.”

Making a Game Plan

“Once they knew what was wrong, we had a plan, and I was good,” Dockery says. “I was still in pain, but I was constantly being checked on. I remember when the surgeon introduced herself, I was very comfortable with her.” Dockery under went an appendectomy, a minimally invasive procedure using three small incisions to remove the appendix. Dr. Beierle says, “This laparoscopic procedure includes dissolvable stitches and patients go home the next day, or in some cases the same day as surgery. After some limited movement and no heavy lifting for a few days, they can get back to normal lives after one or two weeks.” Dr. Beierle reports that appendicitis is common, and one in 10 adults in the U.S. will experience it in their lifetime. She says it’s one of the most common causes of acute abdominal pain and often results in emergency surgery. “When someone is hurting, and comes to the hospital, I love that I’m able to have the tools to relieve the pain,” she says. “I like to work quickly to help people feel better.”

Compassionate Care

Dockery spent one night at Parkwest and went home the next day following her surgery. “We had already missed the Dallas Cowboys game and luckily we were home in time for the Tennessee football game,” she jokes. Dockery is a Knoxville native and has been practicing as a real estate agent in the area since 2016. She and her husband have an adult son and they enjoy volunteering in the community. She exercises regularly, so she was keen to get back to her routine.

Dockery recalls, “I couldn’t have been more pleased with Dr. Beierle. When I came back two weeks later for my follow-up, I got to spend more time with her and I enjoyed our conversation. “The operating room staff were fantastic,” Dockery says. “All the nurses spoke to me, and I remember the anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist were wonderful. Everyone made sure there were no complications.”

The Power of a Positive Mindset

“Throughout the COVID -19 pandemic, times have been difficult for everyone, on all different levels,” Dockery says. “We all have bad days. I believe our mindset is powerful. After going through a lot, including this emergency surgery, I decided my word of inspiration for going into the new year would be ‘warrior.’ I want to remind myself that I can face whatever is out there ahead of me, because I have a warrior mindset.”

Headshot of Dr. Shannon Beierle
Shannon Beierle, MD

Dr. Beierle also has a specific mindset in her approach to medicine, including making sure her patients understand what’s going on and are treated like family. “I encourage family members to ask questions and be present. I want my patients to feel empowered and know what’s happening with their bodies.” She adds, “I always treat people how I would want my family members to be treated. Anytime someone comes in for an emergency surgery, it can be scary, so my colleagues and I always want to assure people we are here to care for people in the best way possible.”

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What causes appendicitis?

Appendicitis is a condition that occurs when the inside of your appendix gets blocked by something. This makes it swell up, making the blockage worse. The bacteria that always live in your intestines become infected. If you have appendicitis, there is a serious risk that your appendix may burst. This can happen as soon as 48 to 72 hours after you start having symptoms. Because of this, appendicitis is a medical emergency. If you have symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms may include vomiting without ceasing, sharp abdominal pain and inability to keep down food or water.

Who is at risk for appendicitis?

Appendicitis is the most common cause of sudden (acute) belly pain that requires surgery. It mostly happens in teens and young adults in their 20s, but it can happen at any age.

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