My Stoma Story.. My First Night in Hospital. 

My Stoma Story.. My First Night in Hospital. 

I had hoped to update regularly whilst in hospital. Unfortunately the signal on the wards where I was staying was absolutely terrible; so that wasn’t possible. I couldn’t even FaceTime my kids regularly. Instead I took lots of pictures to document my stay, now I finally feel up to sharing My Stoma Story with you via a series of blogs; starting with my first night in hospital… 

Day 1: 13.6.17.

Rather than turning up the morning of my operation, as I did with my hysterectomy, it was decided at my pre op I should arrive at hospital the day before my surgery. Due to my health issues my surgeon and I thought it best I do a bowel prep in order to clear me out ready for life with a stoma. As horrible as that was, I’m so glad I did it and I’d recommend anyone else take the same approach. Clearing out meant I could concentrate on getting used to my new stoma without having the pain and difficulty of getting any remaining stool out of my colon. It was this clearout, and my need to remain hydrated throughout (thank you POTS) that landed me in hospital a day early. 

I’m not going to lie, I arrived at the hospital completely terrified. But that calmed as soon as I was on the ward and settled. The nurses were friendly and the other ladies in my room seemed really nice. There was four of us and we chatted most of the afternoon away. My husband and son stayed to settle me in before leaving for the school run, it was then the serious business of preparing for my operation began. 


First off the stoma nurse arrived, she drew two ominous black dots on my bloated stomach. One of these would become my new stoma, we wouldn’t know which until after surgery. It suddenly dawned on me that after the surgery my stomach would never be the same again. It’s strange to look down on your stomach and know that in less than 24 hours your entire anatomy will work in a completely different way. That this relatively ‘simple’ surgery would change your life drastically. I looked down at those dots for a long time, contemplating the journey ahead. Little did I realise quite how much things would change. 

Marks are put on both sides of the abdomen in case internal scarring prevents the bowel from being pulled through to the surface in one particular spot. The same part of the bowel will be pulled through regardless of which side it comes out at. 

Even though these marks just look quite haphazard, they’re actually pretty carefully placed. The nurse had me sat down and stood up, I also wore my favourite jeans in order to try and avoid their wasteband. The nurse will try her best to mark the surgery site so it is easy to access whilst being comfortable with your usual wardrobe. Obviously placement can never be guaranteed though, it all depends on what the doctor finds inside. 


To try and take my mind off the daunting task ahead of me I arrived at hospital with a bundle of goodies. My friend had kindly bought me a colouring book and pencils, I’d also filled my iPad with all the remotely interesting free books I could find. But most importantly I had a plastic cup which had been lovingly decorated by my daughter. Not only the cup, but the box too. Love hearts, kisses and words of love adorned each side of the box. I read them over and over, reminding myself constantly of the people who I was truly doing this for. 

Of course I wanted to feel better in myself. But it was my need to be more involved and present for my little family that really drove me to have this operation. My husband and children are my world and I want to be as well as possible for them. 


Lunch arrived at around twelve thirty. My nerves were running riot and the meal they offered me did not appeal. I couldn’t even force down this soggy short bread and ice cream. Luckily I still had a pastry left over from breakfast which was just tasty enough to be worth feeling nauseous for. If only I’d known that within minutes of my meal I’d have my cannula placed and be told I was no longer allowed anything solid; I may have thought differently about my lunch! 



Two hours later and it was time to start the dreaded Picolax. For anyone who hasn’t tried it, this stuff is basically liquid dynamite! Created to clear out the bowel quickly and efficiently, most people choose to sit as close to a toilet as possible when they take it! The nurses on the ward, and some of the patients, looked at me with pity as I struggled to gulp down the putrid mix. To me there is little on this planet that tastes worse than Picolax, I literally feel it hitting my stomach and starting to pummel its way through my bowel. Keeping this stuff down is definitely not the easiest task for me! 

Soon those looks of pity turned into confusion. Why wasn’t I running to the toilet? An hour passed. Then two. Three. Four. It was almost five hours before the Picolax had ANY effect. Even then it was not the bowl shattering poonami they were expecting. ‘Luckily’ they had more Picolax for me to drink.  By round two I was exhausted and looking nine months pregnant. My POTS meds had worn off and I was walking like a weird chicken zombie hybrid. This was turning into a long night. 

As I speed shudder shuffled to the loo for the umpteenth time the lady from the bed opposite me chimed up, ‘You know I couldn’t understand why you called your husband your carer when you arrived. But looking at you know I completely get it.’ Thanks. For anyone thinking of pointing out my inadequacies in future, regardless of motive, please don’t. 

The night wore on; even with my earplugs, cushion and sleep mask, I was in no way able to sleep. Yet it wasn’t my stomach tying  itself in knots or the possibility of a river of molten lava spewing forth from my nether regions without warning that was the issue; unfortunately I’m pretty used to those symptoms. No, the issue was my nerves over my impending operation, aggravated by a series of conversations I had had throughout the evening with my bedfellows. 

You see, the lady opposite me had stomas. Stomas which she didn’t exactly love. In fact, she believes many of her current health issues relate back to her previous stoma surgeries. (Due to my preoccupation with my own problems, hunger and exhaustion, I didn’t fully understand the timeline of her declining health. However, it did seem to me that her main issues pre dated the stomas.) Though I felt sad for her that she held so much resentment and mistrust towards doctors, I tried hard not to let her experiences colour my own. 

What I did find upsetting was when she bragged about chastising another patient for having her ostomy bag on show. Telling all of us in earshot how disgusting it was and how she feels the new movement to try and normalise stomas just encourages people to stare. Which they will, because it’s weird and disgusting. 

Her words really shook me. To the point I closed my curtains and sobbed silently to myself. Totally oblivious the woman carried on talking about how gross it was of anyone to see a bag, even with a cover on. We should all respect others and keep it hidden! Another patient popped her head around the curtain and sat with me a while. She had seen my upset, and even though she wasn’t quite sure what a stoma was, she wanted to help. ‘Ignore her’, she said. ‘It’s her age, she’s a prude, people won’t really think like that.’ I nodded in agreement. Wiped my tears and told her I was fine. 

But I wasn’t fine. 

The very next day I’d be having surgery to have one of those ‘disgusting’ bags. I knew that thanks to my issues with pain relief I wouldn’t be able to stand anything over my tummy, my bag would be on show. My see through bag that was surely much worse than a regular fabric covered one. Would she be on my ward then? Would she chastise me too, at a time I’m most vulnerable? My mind wandered further into the future. To my holidays and summertime. Should I hide my bag? Would a cover not be enough? Would people really stop and stare like the woman had said? She had lived it. So surely she knew? Or was she just paranoid thanks to already hating her extra appendiges? 

Question after question swirled through my mind. Worry after worry. Too tired to colour I attempted to take my mind off things with mindless games on my phone. I tried to block out the worries that crept in and gnawed at me. I tried, and I failed. 


Like with all other difficult nights I’ve lived through, the darkness eventually passed. As the sun rose I finally closed my eyes and managed to catch a few precious hours of sleep. It was then, as I closed my eyes to try and make the hours pass faster, that I vowed to myself I wouldn’t let anyone’s issues define me. Nobody else’s opinion will affect what I wear and how I live my life. In a matter of hours I would be getting operated on. An operation I was sure would improve my life. No way would I let anyone else’s negativity impact me. Yes, my nerves were still there. But now my determination had returned, for that I was stronger. 

To anyone else facing surgery and going through similar emotions as me, I say this: Fear is not a sign of weakness. To find something terrifying to the point of sobbing your heart out yet still go ahead with it is a sign of true strength, not weakness. Never beat yourself up for being afraid or upset. Just work through it and continue on your path with determination. 

To be continued… 
* Please note that my experiences in hospital may not reflect your own. I am simply documenting my journey in the hopes of spreading awareness and alleviating any fears I may be able to. 

Check back soon to hear all about surgery day and my early recovery. 

A desperate plea… 

Below is an email I sent this morning to a specialist I saw last year. It’s not professional. It’s not the right way to go about things. But it’s real. It’s my life. It’s the level of desperate I’m now at. I’m not sharing this for sympathy. I’m sharing it to highlight the thousands of people out there who are just like me, living  with these problems. Sharing this isn’t easy. It’s hard not to be embarrassed and disgusted with myself. These are issues often kept behind closed doors. But I’m opening them. I refused to be ashamed. It’s not my fault I have to live like this. 

If someone told you they had a prolapse, would you think it a big deal? Would you expect it to seep into every aspect of their lives? Would you realise that it could be on their mind of every second of every minute of every day? Probably not. Well… maybe this may open your eyes to what it’s really like…

Hello Dr ##1##, 


I’m sorry to contact you directly, but I’m unsure what to do. I feel I have to take things into my own hands. 


I have had my surgery in October with Dr ##2##. She addressed the cystocele and prolapsed uterus by performing a vaginal hysterectomy and anterior prolapse repair. No mesh. 


However she refused to touch my rectocele, which continues to get worse and worse. I now cannot pass wind without pressing on my perineum, or bulge within my vagina. The only time I pass any stool is when my laxatives cause me to have violent and painful loose stool. However some of this always collects in the pockets of bowel and quickly hardens and blocks it. Mostly I have to manually remove my stool. This involves putting a thumb inside my vagina and two fingers in a v around my anus (which when I need a motion bulges out to varying degrees). 


I manipulate the whole area in order to push the stool out, as my lower section of bowel doesn’t push at all. Often times I then have to insert a digit into my back passage to try and help the process along. Inside is a large cavern. It feels almost flying saucer shaped. (Sorry that’s all I could think of to describe it) I have to sweep my finger around to collect stool and mucus. Above this area it seems to become tighter again, but still won’t push, though the muscles around do clench. Since my surgery however there also seems to be a large grissly bulge protruding into that upper area. 


Unless the laxatives cause me to have severe cramping I very rarely can tell if I need to pass a motion anymore. The only things that alert me are bloating, a heavy feeling, and being unable to urinate. This also happens with the large amounts of trapped wind I get. You don’t realise how much you must naturally pass throughout the day until you can’t do it anymore and it’s all stuck. Let me tell you, there’s a lot! I could power a wind farm. The only way I can tell which it is is to feel whether my bulge is full of gas or stool. Then get it out. 


Every single time I go to the toilet is an ordeal. I’m left feeling in pain, bruised and without any dignity. Because of my POTS and EDS the positions I get myself in often cause my joints to hurt and sublux. My legs go completely numb and my heart fluctuates. I also get hot sweats and dizziness. All this combined means my husband often has no choice but to supervise me on the toilet and help me back to bed. I can be on there an hour or more at a time, and bed is always where I end up. It takes so much out of me. Plus, I never go just once. Often there’s at least three trips to actually get the entire stool out. 


I have ended up in tears, wishing for an ostomy over this life. How crazy is that? I know it’s crazy. But I just cannot go on like this. 


The only thing that Dr ##3## can think of is regular irrigation. Possibly even weekly, from now until kingdom come, to get my bowel cleared and hope that in between I feel ok. He said he doesn’t believe I have crohns. There’s no sign of it on any recent test. But he told me, if it’s IBS it’s the strangest and most aggressive type he’s ever seen. 


Please will you help me. Dr ##2## was lovely. But you are the best in colorectal surgery. I know I’m a complicated case. I followed your instructions. I saw a different doctor. I did everything you told me to. Now, months down the line, the problem I came in with is just getting worse and worse. You wrote to me saying if I was still having problems to get back in touch. Whilst writing this letter I got a call back from a Secratary. She told me my GP must write in and I have to wait all over again. I feel like I’ve been waiting forever. I feel like the main issue I need help with was pushed aside and I’m just left here to suffer. Now to hear I’m starting from scratch is devastating. 


My in laws have booked to take us to Disney in early 2018. They’ve already put it back two years because of my health. They can’t move it again. How do I tell my kids I can’t go because I can’t go to the toilet like a human being and it’s ruining my life? I struggle to even wear clothes due to the extreme bloating. How do I tell them that after all the waiting and the surgery I am right to the back of the pack again? 


I know I’m just another face in a sea of patients begging for your help. But I took your advice. Please, now will you try to help me? I’m not too proud to beg. 


If you got to the end of this letter I appreciate it. Most doctors would bin it immediately. I really am sorry for contacting you directly. But desperate times and all that. Also, Dr ##2## really was lovely and treat me very well. She just hasn’t fixed the thing that most impacts my life. 


Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated. 

Regards,

J

Please. If you know of anyone with these problems, don’t make fun or make light. Be aware of the fact that these issues can make you feel sub human and worthless. If, like me, you are going through this. Don’t just sit back and wait in line. Dig your heels in and kick up a fuss. Push hard for the treatment you need!! 

If by some miracle any Doctors happen to read this blog. Well, to you I ask this. Please try to understand that prolapse can impact a persons entire life. Many people in support groups Im in are teetering on the edge of a complete breakdown. Treat us with respect and care. But also with a sense of urgency. The longer we live like this, the less human we feel. 

Fingers crossed for food poisoning. 

Fingers crossed for food poisoning. 

So, recently I went on holiday with my family. We spent a lovely but exhausting week at the seaside in a static caravan. Honestly, I really enjoyed it; but even with rest and wheelchair use it took everything out of me. This became more literal on the Thursday when my stomach started playing up. Literally EVERYTHING was coming out of me, via the rear exit. 

These bouts of crippling pain and bowel evacuation hit me in the early hours of the morning. I woke in the night and after rolling around like a landed seal for a while I gave up and sprinted (more waddled, I’m heavily pregnant) to the teeny tiny bathroom. What ensued will haunt me for life. Three hours of bouts where my body felt like it was literally trying to turn itself inside out. Best of all this cycle repeated for the remainder of the holiday, well past heading home. 

On the Monday I could take it no longer. I called my doctor. In their wisdom they professed it just be campylobacter, and I was ordered to provide them with a sample. Now I don’t want to go into too much detail, but harvesting that sample was quite possibly THE worst experience of my entire life. Bar none. (And I’ve had cameras inserted into almost every produce of my body.) But, like the trooper I am, I did it. My husband, bless his heart, was tasked with delivering said specimen to the surgery. A task only made worth it by the look of repulsion on the receptionists face when he handed it over. 

So, my sample was in, and all that was left for me to do was hope. But here’s the strange part. Unlike most, I was hoping that I DID have the dreaded bug! Crazy right?! Wrong. 

If I had foodpoisoning then it would mean a week or do on antibiotics and it would be gone. Poof!! I’m your face bugs, you’ve been eradicated!! But if not? Well, then it means my body was just doing its usual trick of torturing me. As for treatment? Well that would be none existent. I’d just have to ride it out. 

Results day arrived. Like a nervous teen awaiting exam results I called the surgery. NEGATIVE. No bugs here! There’s nothing messing up my bowel other than my bowel. I was, and still am, gutted. Maybe because she was worried about my other conditions, maybe because my bowel cramps were now causing bear constant braxton hicks, or maybe to placate me, she called me to the surgery. There she poked and prodded and tried to be reassuring. I’m doing all the right things (I know). My baby is probably aggravating my bowel (fantastic, that’s just another two months of hell then). Hopefully it’ll settle once he’s here (I hate the word hopefully). But what it boiled down to was this. There was really nothing she could do. 

So here I am. Living with it. Riding out the waves of cramps and tightenings and daydreaming about only having food poisoning. Oh, how sweet it would be to have a problem that could actually be fixed!