Sunday, December 23, 2007

Colostomy Surgery - The Middle

I woke up in the ICU. Now don't get me wrong, being in the hospital sucks, and I don't wish the ICU upon anyone, but being in the ICU is where it's at. My own personal nurse at my side 24-7. Pain meds were only a few words away.

I wasn't allowed to have fluids or food orally. I wasn't hungry...not in the least. But boy was I ever thirsty. My personal nurse was allowed to tease me with a couple of tiny ice cubes and the occasional moist sponge mouth swab, but other than that, not much.

It wasn't until I left the ICU that I really realized the depth of what had happened. It was the first time I saw my stomach. I didn't see much as there was a large bandage that led from the top of my stomach all the way down to below my belly button. When I touched it, I could feel the staples that were holding my stomach together. But that isn't what startled me the most. What startled me the most was the bag attached to the left side of my stomach and the fleshy round bump that I could see through the tranparent bag. That fleshy bump which was about 5 centimeters in diameter was a stoma.

Because of the damage done to my bowel, the surgeon had to cut the damaged portion of my bowel out completely. The top half of my bowel was surgically stitched to the side of my stomach...hence the reason for the bag. For the next 6 months...this bag would be my method of...well.....doing a number 2.

I was mortified. I was especially mortified to think that this could be a permanent thing. I mean, do I not have enough on my plate as it is?

A nurse who specialized in teaching people how to take care of their stomas and colostomies came in. She taught me, my father, and my sister how to change the bag. It was so sensitive. The stoma was very fleshy and sensitive, and if it rubbed the wrong way it would bleed. Not profusely, but it would bleed. And it hurt. And you can't just 'put a bandaid on it'. There was a round sticker thing that I had to put on my stomach around the stoma. The sticker had clasps to which the bag would attach. Imagine a fleshy, sensitive part of your body having to be subjected to a sticky, abrasive adhesive that had to removed every few days. Since my skin is already sensitive, that stupid adhesive was very harsh on my skin and I had many cuts and sores underneath that damned sticker.

As if that wasn't bad enough, when it was time to remove my staples, the nurses didn't wait long enough for the incision to heal. As soon as the last painful staple was removed, my wound just popped right back open. It didn't hurt, but I felt it, and I did gasp, especially when I saw it. I was lying there, staring at a huge hole in my stomach. It looked as if I just had a c-section. I could see the yellow coloured fat in my stomach. At this point, the doctor said that the wound couldn't just be restitched up because then there would be a gap inbetween the stitched up part and the bottom. So, everyday the nurse would come and pack the wound with gauze. That was supposed to heal the wound from the bottom up.

How much do you appreciate the simple things until their taken away? Changing the bag, in my opinion, was such a big production. It took like 15 minutes. And doing it when I wasn't at home? Forget about it! But I had no control over my bowels for the whole duration of having that bag on, so it was really difficult for me. I had to wear clothes that camouflaged my stomach so people wouldn't see the bag. I was always very self conscious about the bag falling off or something....luckly that never happened.

When I think back, it's hard to believe that I had to have that bag from September of '06 up until March of '07. It wasn't cheap, either. The bags were expensive. It cost me upwards of $80 for 10 bags. Plus I had to buy the stickers, special skin cream to act as a barrier between my skin and the stickers, special bags to dispose of the used bags.... luckily my insurance through work paid for it. But unless you have a permanent colostomy bag, the gov won't assist you in paying for it. Sucks if you don't have money/private insurance and you're stuck with a colostomy...even if it's temporary. I had to get the gov to write a special letter that I could submit to my insurance company before they would pay, stating that this cost was not covered.

I remember my surgery to remove the bag was scheduled for like March 3rd or something like that. I also remember them calling me the day before to tell me that they had to postpone my surgery until the 9th because an emergency came up. I cried. I just knew something like that would happen. At the same time, I was lucky. Other surgeries had been scheduled for that day as well, and they had been pushed to the end of April. I managed to ration my remaining colostomy bags just right so that I'd have enough until March 3rd. I had to scam some extra bags off of the hospital in order to not have to go out and buy a whole new box.

Before the actual surgery, I remember my surgeon telling me that sometimes when they actually get in there, there is sometimes something else wrong. In that case, they'd have to put the stoma on the other side of my stomach...but they really wouldn't know until they opened me up.

After the surgery, I was taken to the recovery room. Apparently my surgeon came in and had a conversation with me....I remember nothing of the sort. But basically he came in to tell me that the surgery went well. But since I don't remember that, when I actually woke up, I remember patting myself down to make sure there were no more bags! LOL luckily their weren't.

I went home about 2 days later. So done and done, right? Wrong.

The doctors didn't wait for me to actually have a bowel movement the "normal way" before sending me home. Almost 2 weeks later...I still hadn't had one.

2 weeks = INTENSE PAIN! Back to emergency I went.

When I got back to emergency, some doctor said to me that she was going to put me on stool softeners or something, and I should be ok in about 72 hours. So...basically, you guys are giving me dose after dose of morphine which ISN'T working, and you're going to send me home to be in pain for 3+ days and hopefully by then this stool softening regime should work?

Another (senior) doctor came in and vetoed that idea right away.

I stayed in the hospital for about a week. The doctors were worried that they would have to open me up again to fix things, but luckily things started to work again without surgical intervention.

I'm happy it's all done and overwith. But I still have a huge ugly disfiguring scar on my stomach. I spoke to my doctor just this past Tuesday and asked him to refer me to a plastic surgeon. He told me that a plastic surgeon just moved into the office next to him (lucky for me...?) and that he'd speak to that surgeon and get back to me in the new year. So after that is all done and over with and I get my stomach fixed, I'll write Colostomy Surgery - The End. I'll even post before, middle, and after pictures.

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