Manbag#13 – a 6 month reflection
I thought I’d go back in time and look at how I felt at the time of my operation and indeed how the operation came about. Six months down the line it is easier to look back and review how I felt with the benefit of some time and space. When I wrote the original pieces they were of the moment.
The reason for my operation was physical. There are many reasons why an individual might end up with a stoma. Some of the more common are bowel cancer, bladder cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohns Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, diverticulus or an obstruction to the bladder or bowel. In my case it was an obstruction caused by a twisted colon. The medical term is Volvulus, when a loop of the colon twists round itself to create an obstruction. There are various symptoms, constipation, blood in your stools, abdominal pain, bloating and vomiting.
In my case it started 4 years ago, I would have short periods of constipation, cramps and just a clear mucus coming out when I tried to go to the toilet. It would normally last for 3/4 days and then everything would return to normal. For once, I was actually sensible and went to the doctors. I was prodded by the GP and referred to the local hospital, I saw another doctor who stuck various tubes up my bum. Nothing was found, I was then sent for a Barium Enema, again nothing was found, although a comment was made that I had a very long Sigmoid colon. Just a useless fact that I might be able to drop in to a boring conversation at some point in the future. Finally I had a Sigmoidoscopy, where a camera is inserted up your rectum to look at the lower part of your colon via the Sigmoid colon, hence the name. Again nothing major was found just a couple of polyps that were non threatening. So, I had a clean bill of health and it was left at that, the periods of constipation continued but were really an inconvenience that occurred up to 6 times a year.
Then in 2017 the cramps would get worse, causing me to double up, but they still lasted for 3/4 days. I had a couple of periods when I did feel bloated, as if I had a large amount of trapped wind. I just needed a good fart to get rid of it, but all that came out was clear mucus. My annual health check was due at the end of November and I’d decided that I would say something as it was becoming painful rather than just inconvenient, however that was overtaken by events.
The final incident started in a similar fashion to the others e.g. constipation, mucus, cramps, but now the cramps were even worse, stopping me in my tracks to the extent that people noticed.
As well as the feeling of trapped wind my stomach began to swell. I tried to go for a run 36 hours before I was admitted to hospital and I was aware that I zipped my top round a pronounced curve in my belly. I couldn’t believe that I could have put on any weight that quickly so I weighed myself, my weight was the same. The run didn’t last long because by now I was just so uncomfortable. I had a bath after the run and as I lay there, I could barely see my toes over the curve of my belly. When I pressed the skin was as taught as a drum. Tympanic was the word the registrar used when I was examined in the hospital. It literally means resembling or acting like a drum. After the bath I went in to my local bar, the lad behind the bar said, ‘Bloody hell Col you’ve put on weight.’
By now it just got worse, instead of intermittent cramps it was a constant pain, with spasms of real agony. I couldn’t sleep on the Thursday night I was now in constant agony. Hospital beckoned, x rays were inconclusive while I was in A & E, but when admitted to the ward the Registrar was sure that it was a Volvulus. A final scan confirmed it. The initial solution was quite simple, if a little uncomfortable.
A tube is inserted up your bum, the idea is to thread it through the twist in your colon, this will (a) allow the air and waste to come through in to a bag attached to the tube and (b) hopefully allow the colon to untwist. As the tube is inserted I could almost feel my colon untwisting, there was a huge surge of air and crap that was pressing down from my side of the twist, the registrar was literally less that a foot away from a possible deluge of shit on the other side of the twist. As the tube made it’s way through the relief was instant. The tube was in, around a foot inside me. It was going to stay in there for 24 hours, the hope being that my colon would remain untwisted once the tube was removed. I filled the first bag inside 90 minutes and a second was attached, I can’t pretend that it was anything but an uncomfortable 24 hours. I could lie on one side and to transfer to the other required the help of a nurse to move the tube and bag underneath me as I lifted myself up to change sides.
Come Sunday morning, my belly had returned to it’s normal size, the cramps and pain had gone. I still felt uncomfortable but it was way better than it had been. The tube was removed and it was just a question of waiting to see what happened next. It all seemed fine at first, I could go to the toilet and stuff came out, my stomach wasn’t swollen. But after about 10 hours I was back to mucus only, feeling uncomfortable, cramps. So another tube was inserted, there was only a minor feeling of relief and the bag stayed stubbornly empty.
24 hours later the decision was made to operate and the rest as they say is history. As I was prepped for the operation I lay on the bed, Gill sat next to me. I lifted my gown, stretching across my stomach was a 4 inch wide tube, my swollen colon. After the operation the surgeon said that my colon was so swollen that as they made the incision it rose out of the gap like a scene from Alien.
So given that I’d had a bunch of tests, cameras having a look up my arse why wasn’t it spotted? It’s quite simple really. That long Sigmoid colon of mine was only intermittently twisting and then a few days later untwisting itself. Whenever I had seen the GP, consultants, had all the tests it was in it’s untwisted, looking the same as everybody else’s colon state. Just one of those things.
Next time – reflecting on the first few days post operation.
Thanks for reading