My Colostomy Story
The journey that culminated in having a stoma was fraught with many challenges. Literally, a journey spanning a couple of decades. It started off with fibroid growth . . . they had become large (doctors say 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 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? No one in their right mind, especially because of health concerns or conditions it may bring up.
The hysterectomy surgical procedure was performed successfully. Or so it seemed.
How it All Began
After about four days, the doctor on ward rounds looks at the medical charts hooked on to the bed's footboard, and there is a slight frown across her face.
Then a series of tests begin. Temperature was running high, weakness had set in, apparent recovery started to nose-dive. Blood cultures were taken, then the alarm bells started ringing.
Food intake was stopped, even before the blood culture results arrived. Then a scan of the abdominal area was taken. Images show a dark area spread around the lower digestive tract. It was a serious issue.
I was put on powerful antibiotics, intravenously. Then I started hallucinating, especially at night. Horrible dreams and images. Dreams of giant structures, moving to crush me. Images of dead bodies, mangled giant trucks and . It seemed I was "walking through the valley of the shadow of death", literarily.
Colostomy Surgery was Imminent
The surgeon comes up into the room. "You've got a leak in your bowel. Faecal matter is seeping into your body system, and septicaemia is setting in. You have to have surgery within a few hours".
It was 9pm at night, and an emergency surgical procedure was imminent. Not really knowing what anything meant, but reading it clearly in the doctors' faces, fear started to set in.
The private hospital seemed not to have a well equipped operating theatre that need such an emergency surgery. Intensive care may be required. They had no ICU. Arrangements were quickly made for a transfer to the teaching hospital, where the ICU is 'state of the art', and there would be a better and more professional monitoring.
Hastily prepared, and strapped on to a stretcher, we moved down to the waiting ambulance. The realisation of the seriousness of the matter started to register in my head, then anxiety set in.
. . . Am I Going To Die?
As the ambulance speeds through the city, and the paramedics ensure my comfort, we arrive at the state of the city's teaching hospital.
By 10.30pm, preparations for surgery reached a frenzy, after all, this is 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. The pain was becoming unbearable. One nurse was trying to carefully yank off my false nails. Another was looking for a vein. Two pricks along, while searching for good veins, I was in anguish.
A nurse shouts, "lets leave that till she's under". Somewhere through the cobwebs of my mind, I thank her. By 11pm, we started moving down the corridors, rushing towards the operating theatre. Whilst going under, the last thought going through my confused mind was "is this it?"
Then everything went blank!
The Ostomy Procedure
I was told much later that the colostomy surgery lasted about 4 hours. It must have been bad. When I came round, I wasn't really there. I could hear far away voices, and saw fleeting images of people. But I still wasn't there. Then I heard my name, three times, I think. It was my surgeon. I still couldn't fathom what was going on. But I heard my name.
And I felt a ton of weight on my abdomen. It felt like a huge 20kg weight of solid lead was placed on my tightly bound abdomen. I felt so constricted and heavy. I could barely breathe. My surgeon held my hand gently. "Are you okay?" I think I mumbled something, or nodded, but I can't remember.
I was out of surgery and in ICU. 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 thing that I was hooked to, or was attached to me.
A Colostomy . . . What's That?
I was informed that a colostomy surgical procedure had been carried out. Apparently, it was 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 the colostomy. I had been told, but I didn't really know what I was told.
Then after 7 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 first saw my colostomy bag, affixed to my abdomen. Then I met a beautiful lady, my Stoma nurse. She was sweet and kind, and told me what it was all about. What the colostomy bag was, what it was for and how to wear it. I burst into tears, finally understanding the colostomy surgery I had just undergone, and why I had to have a bag.
I nearly puked when I saw the stoma. The cherry like button, that was the outlet through which my waste will be expelled. I absolutely did not want to see it, let alone care for it. My Stoma nurse was very kind, and fully understood how I felt. She made a young lady, who was half my age, talk to me about her colostomy.
She was a wonderful young lady who assured me that I'll think nothing of it in a few weeks. She told me how nobody need ever know I had a colostomy, except those I wanted to know. She told me how she still parties, wears her jeans, does all thing her age group does. She was successful in making me start to accept my condition.
The Good News . . . It Was a Reversible Colostomy
My surgeon had told me my colostomy was reversible, but he also told me I'd have to wait a year. My body had gone through so much trauma, two major operations in six days. My body needed to heal completely. 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.
My visitor, a fellow colostomy patient, was back in 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.
A Slow But Steady Physical & Emotional Recovery
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 comes into the picture.
I longed for food consumed through my mouth. Instead I was 'fed' with 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 was 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, second hurdle crossed, the first being the colostomy surgery.
Was I pleased? I'm not sure I really was. That means the travails of using an ostomy bag has just commenced. 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 foods, jello and light broths to start with, but this was 'heavenly food' nonetheless.
For the first couple of days, it was wind that was still expelled. Eventually, the awaited human waste started to creep out. I had the colostomy bag changed and fitted for me. They had to do that because when I first attempted it, I burst into tears. There was no way I could do this! No way.
But eventually, I did. And I soon became adept at it. So adept, it was amazing. And before I left hospital, after being on admission for colostomy surgery four weeks, I became confident about managing my colostomy, my stoma care, and changing the colostomy bag in a matter of a few minutes.
© 2010 AloBeDa
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