Last November, I was taken into the city hospital on the emergency surgery list. I had my colon removed on Bonfire Night, and began my life again. This time, I had an Ostomy.
By that point, I had exhausted every treatment option available for my ulcerative colitis. After a scary reaction to infliximab, my medical team and I came to the conclusion that surgery was the only way forward, if I didn’t want to live a life of crippling pain all but chained to the toilet. I was so sick that I looked forward to my disemboweling with excitement.
The surgery went very well and I was up out of bed the next day. The physiotherapists took me on walks around the hospital and the stoma nurses taught me how to manage my new hardware. The only thing was, I wasn’t tolerating food well. Regardless, I was discharged less than two weeks after my surgery and went home.
I spent five nights at home in my cozy new house, with my very young kitten, my husband and my mom who had traveled from the States to help me recover (she’s a physical therapist, and a darn good one). I still couldn’t eat anything; I would have two small bites of something delicious, and suffer intense pain in my abdomen. The slightest physical exertion would leave me dripping in sweat, unsteady and weak. Something wasn’t quite right.
Saturday morning, after vomiting twice in less than an hour, my sister-in-law took me to the hospital. I couldn’t walk, so I was taken in a wheelchair to the Assessment suite and waited a long time before I was seen by anyone. When I was finally checked out, the doctor had one look at me and could tell I was dehydrated, an easy thing to happen when one is missing their colon. I was given a bed on the general surgery ward straight away.
It took roughly six hours before they could get a cannula in me on the ward because I was so desiccated. My inflammation markers were astronomically high, there was blood in my stoma output and I still couldn’t eat. Those days are kind of a blur because I was so poorly. Soon, I lost the ability to walk, which wasn’t a top priority as I wore a drain coming out of my stoma bag to collect the high volume of output, as well as a catheter, and numerous IVs for fluids and other supplements. I was given an NG tube to release the bile that had built up in my stomach, and eventually I had a TPN line put in so I could get the nutrients my body needed.
I spent a total of two months in the hospital from the time I had my surgery to my final discharge just shy of Christmas. I spent more time in the hospital than I did in my new house. I was fed by TPN for over two weeks, and battled infection, sepsis, ileus, bag leaks, lack of sleep, and bad hospital television. I needed my first blood transfusion when one night, after everyone else had gone to bed, what the doctors suspect was a blood vessel burst in my small intestine and I lost roughly four quarts of blood. I had never been so scared in my entire life, but thanks to the junior doctor who responded to the nurse’s call, the surgeons and anesthetists, the nurses and the healthcare staff, I came through it just fine.
There are no cures for ulcerative colitis. The fact that I have two autoimmune diseases means that I could be at risk of developing other illnesses. I don’t write about my surgery and its challenges to scare anyone. I was a very rare case; just ask my doctors. I would do the whole thing over again, because my quality of life is so much better than this time last year. For a lot of ostomates, their stoma saved their life, and I think that mine did as well. As the saying goes, “No colon, still rollin’.”