Appendix about to rupture, Packers' David Bakhtiari grateful he had appendectomy in time

Ryan Wood
Green Bay Press-Gazette
View Comments

GREEN BAY – Lying on his couch, two days before the Green Bay Packers traveled to Chicago this month, David Bakhtiari felt pain in his lower, right abdomen. He wondered if he strained a muscle. Maybe a bruise.

It was confusing, he thought, that his side hurt only when he touched it. The veteran left tackle had practiced that day. Later, on the couch, he could sit up without discomfort. Only when he pushed on his right side did the pain become worse.

He turned to his wife, Frankie, and asked her to Google “lower right stomach pain.” Frankie, five days from giving birth to their daughter, grabbed her phone. She flashed Bakhtiari a look as she typed. The kind wives might give grumbling husbands late in their pregnancy.

“She was like, ‘Are you serious?’” Bakhtiari said.

The Packers medical staff initially thought Bakhtiari wasn’t. When he arrived at Lambeau Field on Friday morning, Bakhtiari immediately reported the abdominal pain. Team physician Pat McKenzie thought he was joking. Bakhtiari is the resident prankster inside the Packers locker room. If anyone would signal a false alarm about stomach pain, it would be him.

Except this wasn’t a hoax.

Scans showed Bakhtiari’s appendix was a couple of days from rupturing if he didn’t receive swift medical treatment, a shocking revelation. None of the regular symptoms of appendicitis were bothering him. He had no fever. No upset stomach. Bakhtiari could flex his abs without pain. It only hurt when he pushed on his side, but his appendix had inflamed past the point of medicine, or even a partial removal of the appendix.

Bakhtiari needed the most invasive option, removing his entire appendix and stapling his colon shut. He had surgery that day.

“This has been wild,” Bakhtiari said. “Very random. Kind of popped out of nowhere. I had no idea this was even something that was happening to me. I just went into the doctor, I thought maybe I had just strained my ab or something, just wanted to check it out. Then literally next thing I know, I’m laying in bed and shaving my stomach, telling me that they were going to have to cut into me. Basically cut my appendix out and staple my colon shut. I’m like, ‘This is wild.’”

Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari blocks New England Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings.

For Bakhtiari, the appendectomy only continued the wild ride his life has taken over the past two years. If Bakhtiari is the one player inside the Packers locker room who might pull a prank over an appendectomy, he’s also become the player most likely to have a fluke medical issue. It was New Year’s Eve 2020 when Bakhtiari tore his ACL, an injury that usually comes with a nine- to 12-month recovery.

It took Bakhtiari more than a year to play again. Even then, Bakhtiari lasted only 27 snaps in last season’s finale at Detroit. He couldn’t play two weeks later in the Packers playoff loss against the San Francisco 49ers.

Bakhtiari has had four surgeries since his torn ACL. His knee required three. Now an appendectomy.

“That’s not cool,” Bakhtiari said. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, and I don’t enjoy it, but that’s the road. That’s what’s written on my life. Like I was telling someone earlier today, tough times don’t last, but tough people do.

“I’ll keep rolling with it, and eventually it’s going to calm down, and I can get back to what’s been my regularly programmed scheduling of my life.”

Most frustrating, Bakhtiari said, is that his knee situation had stabilized in the weeks before his appendectomy. Bakhtiari had a surprise absence Week 7 against Washington. A week earlier, he’d played 69 snaps against the New York Jets. He practiced that week, but the Packers downgraded him to questionable one day before the game. Rookie Zach Tom got his first NFL start at left tackle a day later.

Tom didn’t learn until 90 minutes before kickoff he would start against the Commanders. At that time, Bakhtiari’s knee situation was so uncertain, Tom said, he had a pretty good idea anyway.

“Pretty much any week, with Dave,” Tom said after the game, “you just know that the knee, anything can happen.”

Bakhtiari hadn’t missed a start since Washington. He’d played 100% of the Packers snaps in four of their five games before Chicago, including every snap on their Thursday night game against the Tennessee Titans, four days after playing every snap against the Dallas Cowboys. He could feel his knee getting into a groove.

Then, the appendectomy. An entirely different kind of recovery.

Bakhtiari said his colon got roughly 500 micro staples, which he saw on scans after his surgery. “It’s gnarly,” he said. It feels worse than it looks.

“The first poop,” Bakhtiari said, “is not fun. You’re going to be constipated when you can’t push or stream.”

More:After asking for weeks, Keisean Nixon thankful Packers finally let him return punts

More:Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry facing same problem Mike Pettine faced 3 years ago ahead of game vs. Dolphins

Bakhtiari spoke for the first time since his surgery, a sign he’s nearing a return. LaFleur said his left tackle “potentially” could practice Friday. It’s very unlikely he’ll be able to play Sunday in Miami, when the Packers try to continue their long-shot playoff odds, but Bakhtiari’s goal is to return this season. LaFleur said the team has not decided to shut him down.

If he can play in the final two games against the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions – and if the Packers can pull off an upset in Miami – the Packers will have depth on their offensive line. Tom has played well in Bakhtiari’s absence, able to fill in at multiple positions. Still, Bakhtiari knows it won’t be easy. As he looked around the locker room Thursday, he tried to determine which position groups might have a harder time returning from an appendectomy. Maybe quarterback, he said, because of the torque required to throw a football.

Eventually, he decided offensive line is about the most challenging position. Blocking 300-pound men every play does a lot of damage on the abdomen.

Bakhtiari isn’t tipping his hand for when he might return. For now, he said, his status is “day to day.” It’s an uncertain status he’s grown accustomed to over the past two years.

“I’m not a doctor,” he said. “I have no idea. I’m on this journey right now with all of you all.”

View Comments