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Emergency Surgery for Hernia Repair

About months ago I was diagnosed with a parastomal hernia, which had to have a name, and since my stoma is called Kermit, what else would it be called than Miss Piggy? I was hoping that Miss Piggy would not do what all other little pigs do – that is, to grow. She didn’t cause me too much trouble but I was aware of intermittent pain and discomfort in the area.

Saturday 28th January 2017

As usual before starting to cook the evening meal, I went upstairs to empty Kermit’s bag. Everything was normal, and I came down and started cooking, and we enjoyed a good meal of salmon and vegetables. During the day I had been aware of some pain in the area of Miss Piggy but didn’t take much notice of it. As soon as we’d finished eating I started getting griping pains in my stomach and said to my hubby that I thought I might be developing a stomach bug. He said he hoped I’d be all right for the following day, when I was supposed to be singing a solo during the church service. After supper, despite feeling poorly, I put out my guitar and other stuff in the hall, ready to load into the car in the morning.

When I went up to bed, to my surprise Kermit’s bag was empty. This is unheard of, because it always needs empting before bed.

During the night I started to feel worse and didn’t sleep well. In the middle of the night I got up and was sick. I still thought I had a stomach upset but was a bit concerned that there was still nothing in the bag.

Sunday 29th January 2017

When I woke up, early on Sunday morning, the bag was still empty, so I woke my hubby and said I thought I had probably got an obstruction.

He immediately told me to pack a bag because he was taking me straight to A&E to get this checked out. When I came out of hospital last time, I kept two bags constantly ready for any future hospital admission – one is a bag of stoma supplies to last a couple of weeks, and the other a washbag with everything I’d need for comfort and cleanliness. Recently I was beginning to wonder if I wasn’t being a bit paranoid still keeping these ready, but you never know what is around the corner, and I was glad I did – all I had to do was grab them, and pop them in my rucksack along with a few other things like my iPad (which proved invaluable), a nightdress (which I didn’t need – the hospital provides them), dressing gown and slippers, reading material (too ill to bother), puzzle book (ditto), my little platypus Humphrey and Nursie Bear to keep me company (invaluable)!

My stomach was continuing to be painful and I felt pretty awful.

When we arrived, being early Sunday morning (8.30 a.m.), A&E was relatively empty, and I was seen pretty quickly. I was given some Oramorph (oral morphine) for the pain and told to wait. I was eventually seen by a doctor who palpated my abdomen and took my history. I was moved to the A&E Assessment Ward and put in a side room with its own bathroom.

During the course of the day I vomited several more times and developed a very bad headache. Various doctors examined me and they all wanted to look at Kermit, which of course meant I had to replace the bag each time – I began to worry about running out of supplies!

First of all he was prodded and poked, with the doctor putting his finger in and exploring around to see if he could feel an obstruction. This didn’t exactly hurt – more discomfort and a sensation of pushing and shoving. He inserted a suppository but after a couple of minutes Kermit decided he didn’t like the taste of that AT ALL, and spat it out!!

The doctor returned with a long flexible rectal catheter which he proceeded to insert into Kermit. I blanched a bit at the idea, but he reassured me that I would feel this far less than his finger, which proved to be the case. He tried to flush me out with saline, with no result. He said he would leave the catheter in place and I could put a new bag on over it. By the next morning, Kermit had spat this out too, and it was all coiled up inside the bag – with still no output.

I was taken down to X-ray but the X-ray didn’t show anything.

At some stage on the Sunday or Monday I was transferred to McCallum Ward, which is really the gynae ward but they often use it for overflow patients – I’m a bit foggy about what happened when, so I’m not sure exactly when I was transferred. Again, I was in a single room. My hubby was with me constantly.

Monday 30th January 2017

The X-ray results being inconclusive, the doctor told me he was booking me in for a CT scan which would happen sometime during the day. However, the scanner was running continuously and very busy, and this did not happen. By the evening I was feeling considerably weaker, having eaten nothing since Saturday night, and vomiting quite a lot.

Again, I am a bit foggy about the exact sequence of events, but sometime during Monday or Tuesday, against my hopes that it wouldn’t be necessary, they inserted the dreaded naso-gastric tube, saying it was the standard remedy for intestinal blockages, and that once it was in, the pressure would be relieved and I would start to feel better.

I had an NG tube when I had my original bowel surgery back in 2015 but this was inserted while I was still under the anaesthetic so I was spared the torture of its insertion. For torture it was – on the first attempt I completely panicked and couldn’t breathe, so they removed it and encouraged me to relax, and when instructed, to drink as much as possible from the glass of water they provided, to help its passage down. The first bit, when it goes up and over the top at the back of your nose, was truly horrible, and even worse when it triggered the gag reflex – I drank as instructed, and eventually it was in. As soon as it was in place, I promptly threw up all the water I’d drunk, necessitating a gown and bedding change! Ah well…

It was taped in place and after a while things became more comfortable, especially after they aspirated a large quantity of fluid.

Tuesday 31st January 2017

The third day of not eating, although by this time I was on a drip to keep me nourished and hydrated. I was feeling very weak and poorly. All day we waited for the promised CT scan and by tea time I was worried that I’d be put off again, but the doctor came in again and said he was going to push it through, and I had it early evening.

In the small hours, they came in and woke me with the result of the scan, which showed that the obstruction was caused by a kink in the hernia, which required emergency surgery, and they were booking me in for the morning. Because it was an emergency I was not able to have Mr. Pullan, who did my original surgery, but would have Mr. Srinivas instead, who was very charming and reassuring. I was also seen by one of the other doctors, who I think was a registrar, called Erfan, whom I recognised instantly – as he did me – I told him he was the one who had removed my port. He was very charming and reassuring too.

From then on, it was nil by mouth, and the nurse also inserted a catheter and I was prepared for surgery, which I had been told would probably be at about 8 a.m.

Wednesday 1st February 2017

The operation took place at 11 a.m. I had been told it would probably take about an hour, and they were planning to make a small incision to the right of Kermit, where Miss Piggy was, and repair her from there. I was uncertain how things would be afterwards – some people end up having their stoma re-sited to the other side of their abdomen – I didn’t want this as it is very convenient where it is, and I was worried that they would mess about with Kermit, and I’d have to go through the whole post-op adjustment I did when he was first created, with him changing size and shape, and my body changing shape, with all the attendant leaks and bag fitting problems.

When I came round I was shocked how much pain I was in. I was reassured that Kermit was where he had been before; I had a regular clear hospital stoma bag on, and they had opened up my original incision, which was now longer than before, extending up above my tummy button.

After spending some time in the recovery ward I was transferred to Allerton Ward, where I had been before – I was in the bed immediately opposite the bed I’d been in before and felt quite at home!

I felt considerably worse than after my initial surgery. As before, I had the catheter, oxygen, and rectus sheath catheters for administration of local anaesthetic (one of these subsequently failed, but they maintained pain relief with the single remaining one), rehydration and nutrition drip, foot massaging boots (I love those!) and was on an air mattress. I also had morphine by PCA syringe pump and was pressing the button as often as I could – there’s a five minute delay to prevent you OD-ing and becoming addicted!

Over subsequent days

I am very foggy about what happened when, so I will now give an account of the remaining days in hospital.

It took me longer than before to be strong enough to get out of bed. I had my wheelchair which I was able to sit in for short periods initially, and this improved with time.

To start with I had bed-baths and had to be turned. I was very weak and in quite a lot of pain. I was soon on oral analgesia as well – paracetamol and tramadol.

My oxygen sats remained low and I was on oxygen for considerably longer than before but this did improve as I became more mobile; eventually I asked if I could have some periods of relief from the oxygen catheter as it was making my nose sore, and from then on I was able to leave it off completely as my sats had climbed to a satisfactory level and did not return to their previous low level.

Once the catheter was removed, I was able to use the commode, and required help with this. At some time during the time I had the catheter, I developed a UTI and was on 2 courses of antibiotics which lasted almost until I was discharged.

One night I was experiencing more severe abdominal pain and thought that perhaps I needed the commode – with the UTI and having had the catheter, my ability to sense whether or not I needed to pee was unreliable to say the least – as I sat on the commode the pain increased all up my left side, and was judged to be trapped wind. I suddenly started to feel very sick again – the tape securing the NG tube to my nose was slipping and I think the tube was moving slightly and stimulating my gag reflex. As I sat on the commode I vomited into a bowl – the most disgusting dark greeny-black glutinous substance that made me want to vomit all the more – they aspirated quite a lot and that did make me feel better, especially after they had re-secured the tube. The urging was extremely painful in the region of the wound, of course.

They gave me some cyclizine against the nausea, which had a very unpleasant side effect. According to the literature, this is cited as “rare – less than 1 percent.” Shortly after taking it, I noticed that the texture of the bedding and curtains was shifting and creating somewhat psychaedelic patterns, and then I noticed that the nurses had all grown grey beards! I was hallucinating out of my skull… The curtains were drawn around my cubicle. At some point I was helped back into bed. I didn’t really know where I was and thought I was in some sort of capsule. I became aware that several people from the stoma forum were there with me (which I knew was impossible as most of them are in America! – one I recognised but the others were uncertain – later when I mentioned this on the forum, the one I recognised said she was touched and flattered to have featured in my hallucination!!!). I also felt that there was something big going on and I was being deliberately kept out of the loop – talk about paranoia! Later, after they left me, a single nurse came back to check on me (she also had a beard!) and I asked her, “What on earth was that all about?” She looked mystified and asked what I meant. I immediately thought she was part of the great cover-up, and said that something was going on and nobody would tell me what it was. She said she thought I must have had some sort of bad dream, but I said I hadn’t been asleep. It soon emerged that I was hallucinating and they put a large note on my sheet to give me no more cyclizine! Slowly the hallucinations diminished, and all the nurses were highly amused to hear that they had grown beards – I gave them permission to dine out on it, and one said that her husband would get loads of mileage out of it – “Is that a little five o’clock shadow I see there, darling?” etc.!

Eventually they drew the curtains back, and I realised where I was, and that I hadn’t actually been anywhere else. The normal ward surroundings were infinitely reassuring.

As a result of this I was absolutely exhausted and excused having to sit out of the bed the following day.

At some point I managed to spill my washing water all over the foot end of the bed, soaking not only the bedding but the foot massaging boots as well – these were removed and hung over my chair to dry, and after this they disappeared, and nobody could find them, so I didn’t wear them any more. Sad to see them go!

I had a couple of accidents with Kermit, who when he began to wake up again as I started eating again, produced vast amounts of very liquid output, as he had done after my original operation. Early on, before I got wise to this, I rang the bell to ask the nurse for assistance in emptying the bag, and she said “I’ll be with you in a minute” and this proved to be more like half an hour, by which time I had a massive blow-out, soaking me, my gown, and all the bedding. What would have been a 5-minute job for the nurse turned out to be more like 20 minutes as she had to get me out of bed, change everything and virtually hose me down! All very exhausting, especially as it involved me having to put on yet another new bag.

The stoma nurse came up to see me and initially said that I shouldn’t use my normal convex bags for a while till the swelling in my abdomen had gone down, so I continued with the hospital ones – clear, high output bags. However, a couple of days later another stoma nurse said I should be fine with my normal bags, which I returned to with a will as I much prefer them. I have had no trouble with them since.

My medication at this time consisted of my normal omeprazol (for reflux) and rivaroxaban (anti-coagulant, which I have been on since my last oncology check CT scan revealed numerous small pulmonary emboli), initially a mild antibiotic for the UTI, which was replaced by amoxycillin (enormous horse pills!), paracetamol and tramadol for pain, loperamide to help Kermit’s output thicken up, and for a few days, some large fizzing tablets for electrolyte replacement.

However, after a few days, one evening the doctor said that my potassium levels were unusually high, and this would have to be treated. I think that this was because of the fizzing tablets I’d had – he did question that – but said that it would have to be dealt with. The standard treatment is to have an infusion of insulin which has the effect of forcing the potassium out of the bloodstream into the cells. However, because the main effect of insulin is to lower blood sugar, I also had to be infused with glucose. The insulin was infused via syringe driver and the glucose by normal drip. Because they had to monitor closely my blood sugar levels, they woke me every 15 minutes throughout the night to prick my fingers to test the blood with the strip in the machine that is used for diabetes. Because my veins were so poor (more later) they often had to make 2 or even 3 attempts to get any blood at all, so after a while my fingers were all very sore and I felt like a pincushion. After one treatment I was told that my potassium levels were still too high and I’d have to go through the whole thing again, so I had very little sleep, and neither did anyone else, with all the comings and goings, and bleeping machines etc.

Once it was all done I managed to get off to sleep and had the mother and father of all nightmares. I was absolutely rigid with terror and was apparently crying out, making horrendous noises. Eventually the nurses heard and tried to wake me without success. One of them noticed I had my noise-reducing earbuds in (a broken pair that I keep as earplugs) and removed one, and spoke in my ear while gently tapping my hand, and eventually I came out of it.

They told me later that the raised potassium levels in my bloodstream could have been responsible for this. I apologised to my room-mates in the morning, who were justifiably not happy after such a disturbed night – none of them were enjoying robust health, of course! Things became more cheerful later on, and my next-door neighbour said, “You are aware, of course, that there’s a full moon at present?” I said, “Meet the resident lunatic of Bay 12!” They forgave me for the disturbed night I’d given them, acknowledging that none of it had been my fault, and were sympathetic to my plight!

If I remember correctly it was during this awful event that I became aware of a pool of brownish-red liquid collecting in my tummy button and staining my gown and bedding. I freaked out, thinking, I simply haven’t got the energy to cope with a bag change… I called the nurse and when we examined the bag, it was fine. It turned out to be my wound leaking massive amounts of fluid. I nearly panicked, thinking it was all opening up, would become infected, I’d never get out of here….. She reassured me and said there was no sign of infection. She cleaned me up (yet again!) and put a dressing on it, which got soaked again fairly soon. This was changed every day or so and the wound was examined by the doctor and nurses. There were three small areas where it hadn’t completely healed.

Veins… When I started my chemo, I had specifically requested a port to minimise permanent damage to my veins caused by chemo, so I was surprised to find that they had been affected nevertheless. Every single cannula they put into me was very difficult to insert – they had to try many different sites before they achieved success, and then every single time the wretched thing failed within hours. I was getting pretty desperate by this time, wondering what else could possibly go wrong, and feeling utterly exhausted by the continual setbacks and feeling like a threadbare pincushion… Eventually they inserted a PICC line and the cannula woes were over.

This did cause minor problems of its own, though, because the normal nurse who did her rounds first thing, taking blood from us all, was not able to take blood from me because using the PICC line involved setting up a sterile field, which only certain nurses trained to do this could undertake, or the junior doctors. One morning after a particularly bad night I was not pleased to be woken up by the blood nurse, only to be told “Sorry, I woke you unnecessarily” when I murmured sleepily to her that I had a PICC line!!

I was very impressed with the process of taking blood through the PICC. The sterile packs were marvellous – obviously someone very clever has thought about this a lot; after opening the sealed plastic bag, the blue sheet wrapping the contents is unfolded and spread on the trolley, revealing its contents. On top is another pack containing sterile gloves. The pack is marked “Left” and “Right” and the position of the cuffs. The nurse pulls the two folded tabs of paper apart, revealing the gloves laid out in the right position, with their cuffs turned back, so that you pick them up by their insides, avoiding contaminating the sterile outside surface. Dr. Ian complained every time that these gloves were useless because they were too small for him – this became an opportunity for me to tease him! Once the gloves are on, sterile packs of strong alcohol are opened and sterile swabs used to clean the end of the PICC line – Dr. Ian said “you can never clean them enough” – and the saline is tipped into the small dish, and three syringes laid out. The first syringe is used to draw 10 ccs of blood from the PICC and this is laid aside to be discarded, being the blood that was in the tube. The second syringe is used to draw another 10 ccs which is what will be used. The final syringe is used to draw up the saline and injected into the PICC to flush the line. The end of the line is then cleaned again, and the whole pack gathered up and discarded, and the syringe of blood put into the tube for testing – these are vacuum tubes and Dr. Ian said that if you press the plunger on the syringe, you are in danger of spraying the whole cubicle with blood, necessitating the whole process having to be repeated! The tube draws the blood from the syringe by itself.

On one occasion Dr. Ian had two medical students with him, and explained to them exactly what he was doing, teaching them the procedure. On the next day, one of them did the procedure under his instruction – it took twice as long as normal but I didn’t mind, as it was an educational experience for me, too! At one point I said, “You have to clean that with alcohol,” and Ian said “Don’t give her all the answers!” She laughed and said that I knew more about it than she did… Afterwards she thanked me very much for allowing her to practice on me! It felt good to be a small part of her training.

As I gradually improved and was able to move around more, I was able to get myself into the wheelchair without assistance, which meant I could get to the loo and wash and empty Kermit’s bag without any assistance. This made a huge difference to how I felt as I regained my independence and didn’t have to keep ringing my nurse call bell. I was also able to move around the ward and chat with my fellow room-mates, as I had done on my first stay in hospital.

Throughout my stay I found it impossible to read – to start with my eyes wouldn’t focus and the image kept jumping around – a combination of anaesthetic and morphine, I suspect, and also my body’s way of forcing me to rest. Concentration was impossible, too. I spent a lot of time dozing, and catching up with night-time lost sleep, when despite using earplugs, there was constant noise, and constant wakings for obs to be taken etc. On several occasions when I was woken for this, I would sleepily offer my arm for the blood pressure, and have to be woken up again for them to insert the thermometer into my mouth! During the day, to cancel out the noise and give me something else to concentrate on, I decided to find some nice music to listen to on Youtube. I was so, so glad that I had got my iPad when I did, a few months ago – it was so convenient in hospital, being a lot more compact than a laptop, and there was Internet access too, although not on a secure network. I found whole concert-length videos on Youtube, of superb quality both sound and picture, and listened to several Beethoven symphonies and concertos and many choral works, for instance Handel’s Messiah from start to finish, and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion which goes on for about 3 hours – OK, I did keep dropping off, but to what an accompaniment! Finally I found the entire set of six Bach Brandenburg Concertos performed by a young German chamber orchestra in the magnificent setting of a German castle and I listened to these repeatedly. I was transported to a different world with this music. At other times I watched numerous TED talks which were fascinating, and not too long to be too taxing for my reduced concentration levels! I wasn’t able to do much in the way of emails and blog posts but managed to keep people up to date with my progress, and my hubby held the fort at home and texted everyone regularly with progress reports. He also took all my cards home after I’d opened them as they always fall on the floor in hospital and there isn’t enough room for them, and arranged all my flowers beautifully so they were ready to delight me on my return home.

Towards the end of my stay they seemed to think I was ready to go home, despite the fact that I hadn’t walked at all for nearly 3 weeks. The physios said they would come and get me walking with the frame, but they didn’t come, so two nurses got me going down the corridor – one holding my arm and the other following closely behind with the wheelchair. It was a shuffle rather than a walk. The next day, still no physios, and the nurses were too busy to help me, so no walk that day. On the final day, the doctor said I could go home the next day, the physios having certified me fit to go, which I questioned, saying that they hadn’t even seen me, so how could they know – there had been no sign of them since the early days when they were encouraging me to get out of bed! He said they had reported that I had “achieved my original baseline, i.e. I could safely transfer from bed to wheelchair and was washing and toileting independently.” I said this was nonsense – my original baseline was a whole lot better than that – I was walking well with crutches and only using the wheelchair when out and about!

Dr. Ian said that once I was home I would start walking a lot faster than if I remained in hospital, because I would need to be moving around a lot more, so the discharge date was fixed for the next day.

Thursday 16th February 2017

Discharge day! My hubby came in after lunch to prepare me, by which time I was already dressed. It felt strange to wear clothes again after so long.

The afternoon stretched ahead of us, just like last time. As usual, we were waiting for my drugs to come up from the pharmacy – that always takes simply ages! The physios turned up eventually but didn’t see me walk – they said I could take the frame I’d been using, and that was that. Then I had to wait for hours till a nurse was free to remove my PICC line.

We were still waiting for the drugs at tea time, and a nurse came in and asked if we wouldn’t mind sitting in the day room because they needed my bed for someone else! I was all packed up and ready to go, so off we went, and when we got there, my supper arrived! In the morning when they’d taken the meal orders for the day, I’d said I was going home in the afternoon but they said to order supper anyway in case of delay – better that they had a spare meal going begging than that I should go hungry! So I ate that and my hubby said he’d prepare something for himself when we got home. Eventually my drugs arrived and we were free to go.

Out into the cold fresh air for the first time for nearly three weeks – it was like wine! It was dark and it was proving to be quite a cold night so my hubby got me wrapped up warm in the car and we went straight home. When we arrived he got me straight to bed.

Days at Home

Since then I have been slowly recovering at home. Dr. Ian has been proved right – I am definitely walking better now, walking instead of shuffling. Over the coming days my hubby has helped me wash and dress and I am now able to do this for myself without help. I continue to be very, very tired and shaky and feel not a little spaced out. My hubby is doing all the meals, and bringing me breakfast in bed, after which I have a leisurely get-up. On the first morning home he helped me as I had my first shower (I couldn’t shower in hospital because the PICC line had to be kept dry) and washed my awful hair, which made me feel better, but totally exhausted me. Back to bed with the hair drier and I stayed there for the rest of the day!

My wound continued to weep. The day after my discharge I phoned the surgery and asked for the district nurse to call as I was too weak to go out. She called quite quickly and re-dressed the wound, again reassuring me there was no sign of infection. Since then I have had 3 visits, several days apart, with another fixed for the end of this week. Each time they have put a special iodine dressing on it to help dry it out, and the hole at the top is gradually closing now. I have developed quite a large swelling at the bottom end of the wound which appears to be full of fluid – quite a lot has drained out but it’s still looking big – larger again today than before. They are keeping an eye on it. Over the past couple of days it seems to have dried out with no further weeping but I’m a bit concerned about that lump.

All the nurses have said that it is bound to take longer to heal up than the first time for several reasons. Firstly, it is a new wound along existing scar tissue from the old one – although it does now extend further up than before – above my tummy button. Also, I had emergency surgery and this is a huge assault on anybody’s body, and the more so for me with my existing M.E. which gives me the disadvantage of starting at a much lower baseline. Then I had 3 days without eating, and a lot of vomiting, making me very weak and poorly before the onslaught of surgery, and finally, having had all that chemo has compromised my body’s ability to heal. The nurse today said that after emergency surgery the recovery period is very long and slow, and it was still very early days, and I must be patient and give my body the chance to heal. It will take as long as it takes.

The Future

I have no idea how long I have to remain on the low residue diet. Fairly soon after surgery I was encouraged to start taking fluids – for the first day I was on clear fluids (clear soup, jelly, etc.) and then I was on the free fluids diet (soup without lumps, jelly, ice cream etc.) and then fairly soon after that, on the low residue diet (everything bland and white, no fibre). They said when I was discharged that I would be followed up by the physios and by the dietician and I’d be able to ask her about the diet. However, so far, not a peep from the hospital at all, which is rather surprising because they usually phone a day or two after discharge to check that you are doing OK.

I hope to be able to start eating normally again soon! Also, that my strength will return sufficiently for me to be able to take over the cooking again so that we can start eating real food instead of constant ready meals – my hubby is doing very well but I do miss home cooking!

Further Surgery

Immediately after the operation I was told that what they’d hoped would be a simple procedure taking no longer than an hour, to repair the hernia, turned out instead to be a marathon of three hours, involving open surgery. They found massive amounts of adhesions – “it was quite a mess in there,” he said, and about a litre and a half of fluid. All they could do was a temporary patch up of the hernia, repairing it with sutures, a method of repair that is almost guaranteed to fail in time. They said I would be hearing from the hospital in due course, fixing an appointment to see my original surgeon, Mr. Pullan, with a view to further surgery to do a more permanent repair on the hernia with mesh around the stoma, once this lot had healed up and I was fit enough to withstand it.

A couple of days ago the appointment arrived, and I am due to see him in outpatients at the end of April, which will be about three months post-surgery. He will most likely book me in fairly soon after that to perform this surgery. I have been doing a bit of research online to try and find out what approach he might take. My main concern is that he doesn’t interfere with Kermit, because I do not want to go back to square one, with a large stoma that shrinks in size fairly rapidly after surgery, involving problems with fitting the bag, skin irritation, etc. I have settled into a very good routine with Kermit and do not want this disturbed; my bags are cut to my correct template by the supply firm I get everything from. I am also concerned that the entry incision may be where the flange of the bag has to stick to my skin and I do not want this. I am hoping that he will open up part of the existing scar and approach it from the left, and slip the mesh around Kermit without upsetting him!

I thought that if I research the different approaches, I will be better informed when I see him, and understand in advance the pros and cons of the various approaches, and be able to discuss with him in a more informed way what I want, and be able to compromise with his differing views if that is the case – I am sure he will address my concerns and reassure me where necessary.

So now we wait. I hope I soon feel a lot better and stronger, and am able soon to pick up the strands of my life. What a good thing we don’t know what’s immediately around the corner. That Saturday night I had no idea what lay ahead – all that sickness, major emergency surgery and nearly three weeks in hospital! I thought they would just poke Kermit out and send me home the same day! How wrong I was!

This has been a devastating ordeal – far worse than in 2015, which was actually more major, and I had the cancer to deal with as well. This time I felt a lot less positive, probably because I was already so ground down with weakness and illness, and the pain was very much worse, too. I had times of utter desperation, with the NG tube, the sickness, the hallucinations, the insulin treatment, the UTI…

On the positive side, the nurses and doctors were all so very kind and supportive, and saw me through the various crises. They were all too busy and I had to exercise patience when my immediate needs were not met quickly but that’s the same for everyone, and you have to take it and realise that there’s always someone worse off than yourself. There were a lot of very poorly people in the ward, which is a very busy ward – gastro-intestinal and colo-rectal problems can be extremely serious and life-threatening. I also had plenty of lovely visitors, and the chaplaincy team were endlessly supportive, visiting me most days, bringing me Communion on Sundays etc. I had so many flowers and cards, and messages of love and support.

My two friends from my first stay in Allerton Ward – we are the Allerton Three – and have remained firm friends since we all met in there, both came to visit several times, and once together, and one of the other patients’ visitors took a photo of the three of us – the Allerton Three back together on Allerton Ward, even if I was the only one in a bed – Sue’s bed, as it turned out! When Sue first got my email telling her where I was, she replied, “What on earth are you doing in there WITHOUT US?!!!” Lol!

Once this has all been sorted out I shall probably look back on this as a positive and necessary experience, and be able to move on with my life with more confidence that the hernia will not return, and as long as I am careful (no heavy lifting, chewing my food well, etc.) I should have no further obstructions. This is not an experience I want to repeat at any cost!!

Thank God for family, friends, loving support, our excellent NHS, living so conveniently near our wonderful hospital, a comfortable home and all the other blessings in my life.

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