This is maybe not the best topic for a blog post, but I am fortunate to have a large cheering squad of friends and acquaintances who have been supporting me through all this. Some of them I may not get to see in person for awhile, yet I know they are interested in an update.
There isn’t a great, non-gross way to discuss colon surgery, so that’s what you’re getting into if you keep reading. Also, I’ll say upfront that I’m not looking for sympathy here. I’m going to be okay. This post is to help me have this story in one place for folks who ask, and so I don’t have to type it over and over.
Historical summery: In November 2015 I thought I had a stomach flu, but after several days of the pain seeming too strong and the fevers too high I went to the doctor and through a series of tests discovered I had diverticulitis. Diverticulitis is fairly common, but I’d passed that into what they call ‘complicated diverticulitis’ wherein the diverticuli had perforated and abscessed in my abdomen. I was hospitalized for several days and the abscess was drained.
I had a surgical consult because apparently once the colon is severely damaged by complicated diverticulitis it usually does not heal well, and further complication are very likely. Surgery was set for 2 to 3 months later to allow as much healing as possible. I got a second infection so surgery was postponed.
Well, at last my surgery came a couple weeks ago. The plan was to have robotic assisted laparoscopic surgery to remove the damaged portion of the colon, and reconnect the rest of the colon. Surgery was estimated to take 3 to 4 hours and I’d be in the hospital 4 or so day, and recovering over the next several weeks.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan. I was in surgery for over 7 hours because when the robot attempted to place staples to hold the remaining ends of colon together, they would rip apart. After a couple tries the surgeon had to open me further to stitch the intestines and test them by hand, and that help up. However, because of how fragile they seemed from tearing so easily she decided it was not safe to let that repaired area try to function right away.
She created an iliostomy, an opening in the ilium to the outside of my abdomen to let waste exit there into a ostomy bag so the colon can spend some time healing better. In 6 to 8 weeks, I will get a second surgery to close the stoma and let waste once again through to the colon which will hopefully be healed and ready.
I was naturally alarmed to wake up with a bag. However, my surgeon did an excellent job of preparing me for that possibility, so I wasn’t as blindsided as I might have been. At every appointment she would explain plan A, but every time, she also warned that things can always go wrong, and I should be ready. I think that went a long way to keeping me from panic as I woke up. I’m fortunately not a squeamish person, so dealing with the bag hasn’t been too awful.
So – onto recovery. The first few days (or so, I don’t have a clear memory of time passing as was was on a lot of drugs) went fine. Then I starting feeling sick. I was running a fever. I was nauseous and didn’t want to eat. None of these are expected or positive signs.
They put me back into the CT scanner to make sure the intestines were not coming apart again. They were fine, but there was a fluid pocket forming below the drain I had already, so it was too low to drain properly. They hoped the fluid would eventually make it into the drain, but started me on antibiotics and kept a close eye on me. Over the next few days I just got more sick. I was constantly nauseous. I started throwing up. The sweet, and caring nursing staff kept searching for other anti-nausea medication to try on me because nothing helped.
They sent me for yet another CT scan. hoping they could place a second drain and wouldn’t have to open me back up to clean me out. The fluid pocket had turned into a full blown abscess. The new drain worked though. After about a day, my nausea was gone and I was able to eat small amounts.
It was a pretty miserable experience, and I was in the hospital a week longer than expected, but my doctors were great and things could have been worse. I’m full of drains, but I’m home at last today and ready to start serious recovery. Until the next surgery. Ug.