Colostomy Surgery One Week After a Hysterectomy (My Story)
The 'journey' that ended up with me having a colostomy was fraught with many challenges. It was literally a horrible journey that spanned over twenty years.
No, it wasn't as if it was that terrible, after all, people have been known to go through worse, but to me, that morning, after waking up in the hospital with a colostomy bag stuck to my abdomen, it appeared to be the end of my world.
How it all began?
When I was about 18, I woke up with excruciating stomach pains, something I had never experienced, save the usual pain that accompanies menstrual cramps. Long and short of it, I ended up in hospital, spent a couple of days and was subsequently discharged.
Diagnosis? Endometriosis. I was placed on some form of medication. Case closed, or so I thought.
A few years down the line, while having difficulties in conceiving, doctors check-up indicated that ai had fibroids. And so the 'journey' began.
My first myomectomy (surgical removal of uterine fibroids) was carried out in my late twenties. Many were removed but apparently, the tiny ones were not easy to remove so were left there. This is what my doctors told me. Finally, it was all over or so I thought!
Yet, I never got pregnant.
The fibroids started to grow back. Did I hear that an idle womb breeds fibroids? I think I did, somewhere. Many years down the line they grew to be so massive, people thought I was pregnant.
Shrinking them with injections never helped so I had to have a second myomectomy. By now, they had become so large (doctors told me they weighed more than 4 kilogram's) and just had to be removed.
Checking into a private hospital, the plan was to have a hysterectomy, stay in a hospital for a maximum of one week, heal well and continue with life. Who wants to walk around looking 7 months pregnant, without being pregnant?
During my hysterectomy surgery, it was discovered that my uterus had adhered to some of my digestive organs. This happened due to the sheer size and rate of growth of the uterine fibroids.
According to what my surgeon told me, they had to be "dissected out" carefully. Asides that, the hysterectomy surgical procedure was performed successfully, or so it seemed.
My Post-Surgery Experience
Four days after, the doctor on ward rounds looks at the medical charts hooked on to my bed's footboard with a slight frown on her face.
Yes, I caught that brief look.
Thus a series of tests begin as my temperature began to run high and I began to feel weak. Soon my recovery, which seemed fine a couple of days post-surgery began to deteriorate. Blood cultures were taken and the results which never comes soon enough was not good.
I was instructed to stop eating and taking any fluids even before the blood culture results arrived. They took an abdominal scan which showed images of a dark area spread around the lower digestive tract.
Apparently, that wasn't good too; meanwhile, I didn't fully understand what was going on.
I was immediately put on powerful antibiotics, intravenously. This was when the hallucinations began. A little nap and the horrible dreams begin. At night, it was never ceasing. I had bad dreams of giant and deadly forms ten storeys tall trying to crush me. There were with images of dead bodies, blood, evil, and mangled giant trucks and cars. I started to fear sleep because dreamland was utter chaos!
I was literally "walking through the valley of the shadow of death".
They decided to reduce the dosage of antibiotics given to me which finally helped me have a good sleep, after a couple of days.
An Emergency Colostomy Surgery
"You've got a leak in your bowel. Faecal matter is seeping into your body system, and septicemia is setting in. You have to have surgery within a few hours".
It was 9 pm at night, and it became an emergency! A surgical procedure was imminent. I still didn't understand what all this meant but from the look on my surgeon's face, I knew something was terribly wrong and I started to feel afraid.
The private hospital where I was seemed not to have a well-equipped operating theatre that needs such an emergency surgery that may require me being put in the intensive care unit and they had no ICU. Arrangements were quickly made to transfer me to the teaching hospital, where, not only is their ICU a highly equipped 'state of the art' unit, their professional monitoring was next to none.
I was hastily prepared for movement, securely strapped on to a stretcher and whisked down to a waiting ambulance.
The realization of the seriousness of the matter started to register in my head, then anxiety set in.
Am I Going To Die?
As the ambulance sped through the city and the paramedics ensured my comfort, we arrived at the New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton. My brother who incidentally was a paediatrician at the same hospital was there to meet us.
10.30pm and pre-op preparations was a frenzy like it was a matter of life and death. Tubes, intravenous devices, etc., were all fixed and attached by about 4 people, simultaneously. Suddenly, I started to feel weaker and weaker while the pain was becoming unbearable.
One nurse was trying to carefully pry off my false nails while another was looking for a vein. Two pricks along, while still searching for good veins, I was in anguish.
Then a nurse shouts, "let's leave that till she's under". Somewhere through the cobwebs of my mind, I thanked her.
Around 11 pm, they wheeled me down the corridor and rushed towards the operating theatre. The last thought to go through my confused mind was "is this it, am I going to die?"
Then everything went blank!
My Surgical Procedure
I was told much later that the surgery lasted about 4 hours. It must have been bad. When I came round, I wasn't really there. I could hear faraway voices and saw fleeting images of people but I still wasn't there.
Then I heard someone call my name, three or four times (I think). It was my surgeon. And though I still couldn't fathom what was going on, I know I heard my name.
I felt really heavy and constricted around my stomach like there was a ton of weight resting on my abdomen, like a huge 20kg weight of solid lead was placed on my tightly bound abdomen. I could barely breathe. My surgeon held my hand gently. "Are you okay?" I think I mumbled something or nodded; I can't remember.
I was out of surgery and in ICU though I didn't know that at the time. In fact, I wasn't really aware of much, neither was I aware of all the tubes, catheter, gadgets and other such things that I was hooked to or attached to me.
A Colostomy? I've Never Heard of That
I was informed that a colostomy surgical procedure had been carried out, apparently as a life-saving measure. I didn't know what a colostomy was, never heard of it, and didn't understand a thing about what they were on about. For the first three days in ICU, I still was unaware of my colostomy and though I had been told something, I didn't really know what it was that I was told.
Then after seven days, I was taken out of the ICU and transferred to a ward, with patients who had various kinds of ostomies or colon problems.
It was in this ward that I saw my colostomy bag affixed to my abdomen for the very first time.
Then I met a beautiful, patient, and kind lady who was my Stoma nurse. She carefully explained what my condition was all about, what the bag attached to my abdomen was, how to wear it, and how it worked.
That was when I burst into tears, finally understanding the colostomy surgery I had just undergone, and why I had to have a s**t bag.
I Was In Denial
She then took the bag off to show me my stoma. I nearly puked when I saw the raw cherry like button that was the outlet through which my faeces will be expelled. I absolutely did not want to see it, let alone care for it. My Stoma nurse fully understood how I felt so she introduced me to a young lady, a colostomy reversal patient who was about half my age.
She spoke to me about her own experience and how she lived with it. She assured me that I'll think nothing of it after a few weeks. She told me how nobody needs ever know I had a colostomy, except those I wanted to tell about it, how she still parties, wears her jeans, does all thing her age group does and how she continues to live her life as it was before her procedure.
She was an inspiration and was successful in making me start to accept my condition.
The Good News? It Was Reversible
My surgeon had told me my colostomy was reversible, but he also told me I'd have to wait at least a year before an ostomy reconnect.
Because my body had gone through so much trauma - two major operations within a week, my body needed to heal completely and I still had the hysterectomy wounds, the cut running from my lower chest to my lower abdomen.
Plus I was opened up in the same cut line for the colostomy operation, a few days after the hysterectomy surgery. However, this time, the cut area was not sutured back, but tacked together in a few spots and allowed to heal naturally. Looked gory? Yes.
My visitor, a fellow colostomy patient, was back in the hospital for a reversal surgery. She also had to wait a year. I later found out from my surgeon that he tries not perform a colostomy reversal in less than 12 months. Within 12 months, the body will have healed completely and will be ready and strong enough to withstand another major surgery. It made so much sense.
Physical and Emotional Recovery
My physical and emotional recovery was slow. It was a big challenge, learning how to use a colostomy bag and the other colostomy supplies. Over a week after moving into the ward, I was still not allowed any food because the stoma refused to start functioning.
Peristalsis must be confirmed through auscultation (listening to sounds with a stethoscope) for intestinal movements before food consumption comes into the picture.
I longed for food consumed through my mouth. Instead, I was 'fed' a thick whitish fluid, intravenously through a tube fixed into an artery at the base of my neck. It was a delicate procedure that apparently is prone to infection, but surprisingly, all went well with that aspect of my feeding. The only problem was you'd have to have it on for many hours, and it made moving around very clumsy.
Meanwhile, I was on painkillers that were self-regulated. I'll press a button, releasing the painkillers into my body, when the pain increased or became unbearable
Then one day I felt 'wind' passing out through the stoma. The sound felt like that indescribable sound that comes out from a baby's mouth.
My Stoma nurse seemed pleased and expected me to be as well. The organ is working she told me. This was the second hurdle to cross, the first being the colostomy surgery itself.
Was I pleased? I'm not sure I really was at the time. Now I'll have to put into practice what I've been taught by my stoma nurse. The good part, however, was that I was put back on solid foods, jello, and light broths to start with, but this was 'heavenly food' nonetheless.
For the first couple of days after the first wind was still expelled, there was nothing. It became a waiting game. Eventually, the awaited human waste started to seep out.
I had the colostomy bags changed and fitted for me the first few days after excrement into the bag. The nurses had to do that because when I first attempted it, I burst into tears. There was no way I could do this! No way and I didn't feel like trying.
Eventually, I did and soon became adept at changing my bag and caring for my stoma. So adept at it that it was amazing.
And before I left the hospital, after being on admission for about four weeks, I became confident about managing my colostomy, my stoma care, and I started to change the colostomy bag and clean my stoma in a matter of minutes.
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© 2010 Alobeda