Mum tells me that the very first thing I said when I awoke from surgery was, "What have they done to me?"
Here is a brief description of what 'they' did:
- Cut me from just below my sternum to the top of my pubic bone, taking care to cut around my belly button rather than straight through it.
- Removed the diseased (ruptured) section of my intestines which included the end of my small intestine, the terminal ileum, and the end of my large intestine; approx 30cm of bowel in total.
- Spent three hours cleaning out my abdomen caused by severe peritonitis (all the shit that had come out of my ruptured intestines was swimming around my body; this can be fatal).
- Rather than sew my intestines back together, the top end of my large intestine was clamped shut and the end of my small intestine was pushed through a 6cm slit that was cut through the skin near my belly button. This drastic move was taken because, at that stage, my intestines were not strong enough to be sewn back together.
- My layers of muscle and skin were sewn and stapled back together, and an ileostomy bag was fitted over my stoma (the opening formed on my belly). This bag would now collect my waste, coming directly from the small intestine. So it was partially digested food, not poo. (By comparison, a colostomy bag collects formed poo and is positioned further down, connecting to the large intestine)
- And last but not least, four small 'drains' were cut around the main incision which collected fluids from the swelling of the surgery.
'They' had finally found what was wrong with me; Crohn's Disease. The reason they couldn't find it through all the tests was because most doctors cannot get their colonoscopes to travel that far up the colon.
It's difficult to put into words how I felt. Like I'd been run over by a truck, or been king hit a dozen times I suppose. Of course friends and family kept coming to visit me in hospital and I didn't need a mirror to know how bad I looked; I could tell from their faces. I was lying there with a mouth full of cold sores (remember all that fevering), no colour in my face, and not much meat on my already thin frame. I know their hearts were in the right place but I just wanted to be left alone. I didn't want to be on display like an animal in a zoo. I was trying to come to terms with what had happened and what lay ahead for me. And the bag! The BAG ON MY BELLY!
I had gone from a 25 year old woman who had a positive body image, loved dancing, and was starting a life with a new boyfriend...to a frail, sick, ugly old woman who had a BAG HANGING OFF HER BELLY, and a massive scar running straight down her middle. I don't have enemies in my life, only people I don't like. I don't wish for any of those people, no matter how much they shit me, to go through that. I remember snippets of the delights of post surgery life, such as having the 'drains' pulled out that had bonded with my flesh (without anaesthetic), getting a new catheter inserted (without anaesthetic) because the old one was removed too soon (mmm that's a special pain), and getting my cannula flushed with some sort of fluid that felt like a ball bearing running up my veins. Not to mention having my ileostomy bag changed, or getting used to seeing the inside of my intestine sticking out of my belly when I was in the shower. I just kept thinking, "why me?"
Wasn't this type of thing supposed to happen to OTHER people?
Writing all this down has made me aware that I've never really talked about it before. I didn't have a reason to go into this much detail until now. There are many reasons for sharing this story with you:
1. I want to prevent others from going down the same path as me
2. I want to offer hope to others already on this path (I will write cheerier blogs after this one)
3. I'd like as many people as possible to think about what they are feeding their own bodies
4. I'd like to encourage parents to think about how they are nourishing their children because healthy habits are best started early
If you can relate to anything I'm saying I'd love to hear from you. Or if you think that my message will resonate with someone you love, please share this blog with them. The more people connected the better. I look forward to growing this online community of health freeks.