Operation Stoma: Diverticulitis
Monday, the first day of the week of Christmas 2011, I wake up with the usual reluctance. I get what was to be my last meal before the calamity. Folded omelettes filled with chopped fried onion and pepper endowed with a generous portion of grated mature cheddar. It was delicious and my two young boys wholeheartedly agreed with me.
Two hours after the meal the cramping pains in my stomach began, and their intensity increases over the next couple of days. The painkillers I am taking lose their effect. Wednesday morning I rise early needing the bathroom. A temperature and nausea keep me busy for nearly an hour. The cramping pain is releasing jolts that whip to my rear almost seating me.
After the toilet trip I am too tired to mount the stairs so I seek solace on my small two seater settee. I almost instantly fall asleep. Three hours later I wake to the sounds of young feet and keen voices trying to stir me. I do feel much better but this temporary respite turns out to be an illusion an hour later when the pain returns with vigour and avarice.
I turn to the phone to seek advice from the National Health Service Helpline. After many questions and a return call from a nurse online they ask me to go to my doctor’s surgery. I was not pleased as I doubted my strength and having to endure the journey with more pain. Apparently I had not satisfied their need to send a doctor out to me.
My journey to the doctor’s is not normally long but my pace had slowed to a snail’s pace and I relied on the walls of the houses in the terraced street I lived in. The street bent into another. It was a long, long corner with one side road to cross. The doctor’s stands at the end. I inform the receptionist on arrival. Ten minutes later I am diagnosed with suspected appendicitis.
My brother arrives to take me to Whiston Hospital. The children are left with my sister-in-law. Parking spaces make it difficult for him to accompany me directly into Accident and Emergency. As I wait to hand a letter to the administration staff, I experience a nasty wince of pain which causes me to involuntary slap the counter. I am initially viewed with anger as impatient. I explain my folly which fortunately changes their countenance to empathy and I am ushered quickly through to an assessment cubicle.
Nurses flock to take information, my pulse, my blood and temperature. A doctor probes me, by pressing down asking me to tell him when it hurts. It hurts with pressure and when that pressure is released it hurts more. I also inform them that there is also a constant pain and sometimes a jolting. The diagnosis steps two up from suspected, to actual appendicitis, to it being ruptured. The last based on the return of the blood tests later showing evidence of poisoning. An x-ray later and I am informed I need an emergency operation.
I am hooked up.
I am fitted with a cannula, so they can administer the medication, take blood samples, and the intravenous drips. I hate needles but their discomfort is little compared to the catheter that is attached, a tube is inserted into my member to take my urine. It is very unsettling. A surgeon arrives informing me of how he will perform the operation. He tells me that I will also have to sign some consent forms.
They also decide to check me on a CT (computerised tomography) scan. This more detailed scanner reveals that my official diagnosis is diverticulitis. This is more serious than just appendicitis, as the incising cut needs to be bigger to fix the rupture that is emptying some of my body’s waste before it gets to my bowels. This is what is causing the blood poisoning which affects my temperature and some of my nausea. I am taken up to a ward, where I receive another visit by what becomes two surgeons that will operate on me and an anaesthetist who explains how I will be sedated.
I don’t wait long for the theatre where I am met by the already seen surgeons and anaesthetist and four support staff. They all introduce themselves. From my lying position on the hospital bed I look up at the kaleidoscopic faces and their incredible cordiality reminds me more of a formal dinner party. That thought soaks with me as I slip into sleep.
I wake to raised voices. One patient is shouting angrily at another patient. Later, I am to discover why but my immediate concern turns towards my current predicament. I pull back the sheet. Besides the catheter, and the cannula that links to the drips, I have a tube on the right of my stomach area just below the hips and above the genital area which spills to a bag that has blood in it. I am later told it is a drain bag. In the middle is a roadway of bandaging that covers a stapled cut that has been resealed. To the left lies another bag which contains my bowel that has been rerouted to the exterior of my skin.
This method of securing the bowel is called a stoma. The bowel as my youngest son calls it when he comes to visit, looks like a red tomato. I have been informed that this procedure can be reversed but it will have to wait for six months due to the inside of my body needing to be clean enough for it to be reinserted. Until the date of that operation I will have to tend to my own bag when I am released from the hospital. A stoma nurse teaches me how to care for it and will keep me stocked with the stuff necessary to keep it in good health.
My brother visits regularly and I receive visits from my sister and father. My sister and brother take turns to look after my two young boys. My father informs me that diverticulitis is common amongst the older men in our family having been a victim too. His father, my granddad, was more unlucky; he died from cancer of the bowel. Even though I have the discomfort of this ailment, I consider myself very lucky that is not cancer and that it is reversible, that my bowel has a future chance of successfully being put back where I prefer it to belong.
Christmas was not what I expected it to be. I wanted to see the children open their presents this Christmas but the operation and being bed bound made it impossible. The ward was unusually quiet on Christmas Day as it receives the least intake of patients throughout the year. After all who wants to be in hospital on this special day? However, I did receive a visit from a celebrity who hosts an event called Queenie’s Christmas. His name was Herbert Howe who is well known around Liverpool for his charitable acts which involve hosting an elaborate Christmas meal for 500 guests in the Liverpool Adelphi Hotel and in the evening he visited the hospital I was staying in and left a box of chocolates and warm regards for all patients.
Three days later, the drain tube and the bag the blood dripped into is removed, and also the catheter. The cannula is taken out and I can take regular medication and food. I am informed that a nurse will come to visit me to remove the staples a few days after I am discharged. Four days later, I feel the cold chill of the weather outside as my brother and my nephew take me home. A couple of hours later after returning home, I am reunited with my two boys. I want to hug them both hard and I try to do so avoiding any injury to the stoma I will have to carry for the next six months.
I would like to thank all for the great care I received by West Bank Medical Centre and Whiston Hospital. Especially Rob and Keith at the hospital and Lynn, the dinner lady who always remembered to shut the door of the single room I was eventually moved to. And not forgetting friends and family who took time out to help and support me, and still do. (Incidentally I was moved to a single room due to the infirmity and mental condition of a patient in the previous dormitory who did not know how testing he could be – the raised voices.)
Besides looking after the stoma I have also had to change my diet. A protein rich diet was typical of what I ate before. Now I have to eat more fibre. However, some fibre rich food can cause difficulties and pain in passing food waste. Also I have to be careful of small seeds such as those from the tomato which can also agitate diverticulitis. So please seek advice from your doctor first.