HEADS UP! This article contains adult language.
I was pulling into the car park of my apartment when the phone rang. I was excited, as I was for all phone calls in my car since it comes through my stereo, and even now I still find that feature exceedingly cool. I knew it was Leah when it interrupted my music, then the call connected.
“Don’t get scared or anything Scott, but an appointment for your reversal has come through. Are you there?”
I was still there, but I was shocked. “Yes, I am still here,” I responded. We spoke about it, and I was so excited. After the call, I sat in my car for about 20 minutes, with a huge grin on my face. Poois Vuitton (my stoma) and I were going to be parting ways. It felt weird after the initial shock had slowly faded away. He had been a part of me since May 2014. How would I adapt? Would it be easy returning to how I was before? Am I going to be able to make time in my day to go the loo? After all, it was mega convenient having my poo bag. Dodgy meal giving me the runs? Doesn’t matter. Curry with a massive kick? Meh, not an issue with a bag. A reversal meant that I'll have to wipe my own arse again. Not ideal.
I only had three weeks before the operation. In between the time of making the appointment and the surgery date itself, I needed to have a pre-operative assessment and a few trips to the blood lab, along with my usual week on/week off of work commitments. I felt somewhat overwhelmed, however, I prepared myself to be going into this surgery with short notice. Whilst doing bag changes, I kept reminding myself that this would soon be a thing of the past; I did have mixed feelings. On the one hand, this little bag of dump is why I am still alive, and on the other, it would be nice to revert to how I was previously when I did poop out of my bum. After all, this is what the bum area was intended for.
With each passing day, I grew more and more excited. Yet, the excitement wasn’t the only emotion that was cursing through my body. I was very scared and extremely anxious at times. I felt like a very delicate pane of glass that was on the cusp of shattering. By this time, I had the information from the hospital about the procedure and the risks of possible things that could go wrong. I found myself sitting in my bedroom, with these pamphlets, and each time I read them, the fear was instilling itself deep within me. Fear aside though, I also had a tremendous amount of hope and positivity in me. I reminded myself that in May 2014, I went through the hardest challenge of my own life and that this was a much better scenario. I'd be going for the surgery in a much better position. Previously when I was rushed into surgery, my body was defeated and ready to give up. This time around it was planned, so I knew what I needed to do for the best possible outcome. With that in mind, I was optimistic about the reversal. That’s not to say the worries faded, they were very much present, but they weren’t dominating my emotions.
I popped along for my pre-op, and of course, I smashed it. All I had to do now was show up, answer a few questions, and it was done. I did have a good talk with the enhanced recovery team, and they readied me for the healing process. Apparently, switching the bowel back on after it's been dormant is not a simple task. There would be strict diets, exercises and a whole list of things I would be able to do, and things I couldn’t do. Being prepared for this would end up being absolutely pivotal for my mental state down the line. Emotions play a huge role in our lives. They allow us to express our innermost feelings. They can answer a question without a single word being spoken, and they can also stop us dead in our tracks. There was a day when I broke down; I completely lost it. There were questions bouncing around in my head, and I was struggling to answer them. My biggest fear was that I would be put to sleep, and that would be the end.
When you're on your own, and there is no physical voice of reason, your mind can go to dark places you didn’t know existed. For absolutely no reason whatsoever, I just lost control. I was by myself in the living room and started to imagine the operation. My thoughts were dominated by fear of what could go wrong. I kept thinking of the statistics in the pamphlet. It was a silly figure, like 24% of patients have complications, yet that deeply unsettled me. I had already begun crying. I couldn’t stop these thoughts that had taken over, but thankfully they didn’t last long. I needed to speak with someone, and that opportunity was granted to me. I was able to get a lot off my chest about my concerns, and all it took was a friendly ear and some reassuring words to be back in a good place.
Then the operation got cancelled right before I was due to go in. It would be another four weeks away now.
I need you to imagine yourself in this position. You're scheduled for another life-changing operation. Each day it draws closer, the worries, the nerves, the anxiety, it all grows. So, there's a daily routine of worry, followed by the voice of reason saying, "Hey, come on you are going to be OK." The topsy turvy emotional roller coaster is a little bastard; not nice. When the date was so close, it was grasped away from me, and I found that really hard to take. I was angry. So terribly angry. I wanted to lash out, scream, do something to outwardly express my feeling. I nearly fell into "woe is me" mentality, but that didn’t happen, as I was able to speak with someone about it again. It was particularly hard because there wasn’t anyone to blame. The hospital was just too busy to get me in. It was at this time, that I had to park my feelings aside, gain some perspective, and not feel so damn victimized. When I had to be rushed into surgery in May 2014, I actually stopped some young lad from having his operation. Through no fault of his own, his operation was cancelled and he was forced to wait. I made that happen.
I have a great relationship with my sister, so I spoke to her about the postponement. She sorted me out and we decided it was fate, for one reason or another, and I wasn’t meant to have the operation at that time. Besides, I had stopped that little lad’s operation, now mine was being delayed. I was over it just like that, all thanks to a chat in a kitchen in Wolstanton with a big bucket of Starbucks. Within a very short amount of time, I went from uncontrollable anger, real visceral anger, to being completely at peace with the situation. Isn’t it amazing what sharing feelings with (positive) people can do hey? Remember that.
So, cheers to the next four weeks! The biggest inconvenience was going back to the hospital to pick up another bowel prep. I didn’t discuss this earlier, but for anybody who hasn’t had the absolute pleasure of a million health issues with your bowel, a bowel prep is what patients drink before an operation so the digestive track nice and clean; to completely flush you out, essentially a liquid laxative. The night before my surgery, I had to make up a jug of the stuff. Have you ever wallpapered a wall? You know, the paste-like jelly that looks like slop. Well, bowel prep is similar. And I had a jug of this to drink. Well, actually, four jugs over a 4-hour period. Amazing. Bowel prep drinks are horrific. Every mouthful is the worst. Plastering the word "vanilla" on the packet does not make it taste any better. I even tried to pinch my nose to yield the smell but this made me slobber it out of my mouth, and then somehow it forced its way out of my nose. I was also not allowed to eat, and for someone who's been overweight for 105% of their life, I was in a really hangry place. At times, I really do question myself. Sometimes I wonder how I manage to do adult stuff in my life. I still don’t know.
I now found myself on the morning of the operation. My alarm went off at 6am. I knew this because I had been awake since around 4am. I was a little nervous but I had things handled quite well. The prep stuff was still doing its thing. This was the day and I was ready! I had a bit of time to kill before going in, so I did the usual stuff we do nowadays; became engrossed in my phone. I spoke with a few people, read a few stories on the internet, and then I wrote a text: “I’m going down to theatre now, text you later x” is what I sent to my sister and mum. I put my phone away and was on my way. When I got to the theatre prep place, there was a nice guy named Lee who was part of the anesthesiologist team. We spoke a bit and discovered we shared a passion for F1 races. We spoke about the sport and who our favourite drivers were, but not long into our discussion the back of my mouth went warm and I could taste metal. I knew exactly what was going on.
When I awoke, I recognised my surroundings. By bizarre coincidence, it was the same recovery bay I was in from the May 2014 incident, but with a different nurse. Not even joking, I had the driest mouth ever, it was horrible. She had water ready for me and put the straw in my mouth so I took a small sip. It was heaven, absolute heaven. I allowed myself to become familiar with what was around me, as coming out of any anaesthetic is weird because you feel like your body is being pressed down, but then you feel sensations slowly returning to you. So I could physically tell my hearing was coming back, and my eyes were clearing up. I tried to move my legs but nothing was happening. I moved my fingers and they responded. Suddenly, I remembered I had been there for an operation to reverse Poois. I felt the lower left side of my tummy and I could feel he was gone, in its place was a thick dressing. Just above where Poois used to be was a tube coming out of me, and on the opposite side of my tummy was another tube. Then I felt the dreaded third tube. The one coming out of my didgery-doo. “For fucks sake” were the first words that came out of my mouth.
When I woke the next morning, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I had always intended to recover as fast so I could slip back into my normal ways again. The nurses came around and turfed me out of bed, and I got taken for a shower. I spent the rest of the day sitting in bed, just trying to relax. I had visitors and my spirits were high. I was tender as hell because my belly was inflated like a space hopper, and my insides were sore from being messed with. I made my way into the loo, and well, the gas came out. It hurt like a bitch!! Imagine, I hadn’t pushed a fart out for over two years. My bum was in shock and didn’t know what was going on! Unbeknown to me, the sound of 20 cubic litres coming out of a tiny exit hole creates somewhat of an obtrusive noise. A noise that was heard through the door by four nurses, so I had to let them know I was ok. I didn’t understand what all the commotion was about, I only had the biggest and the longest fart ever. It made me chuckle a bit though. Scrap that, it made me chuckle a lot. The next few days were relatively drama-free. I had a huge incontinence pad to sit on in case I had an accident. Not ashamed about it, this bum has been asleep for a while, so who cares if it messes up every now and again.
Before I knew it, I was told that I was able to go home. When I woke up in my own place the next day, I felt good. I felt re-charged. The sleep had sorted me out as well as a good sleep could. I remained in bed until around 11am, just laying down and thinking. It was one of those moments where random thoughts pop in your head. Nothing too strenuous, just stuff to keep the mind ticking over. After a shower (which took some time) I got dressed and made myself comfy in the living room, and I put Sky 1 on. I remember seeing the TV guide clock showing 2:05pm.
That’s when it happened.
With no warning, whilst I was sat down, I felt a pop inside my stomach. That may seem hard to believe, but I felt it. It was a deep popping sound, and the sound was accompanied by a hot burning pain. I could feel the pain spreading very fast all around my abdomen. The pain hit me like a bullet. I thought I had experienced pain, but this was on another level. I somehow got off the sofa (I say somehow because I am not exactly sure how I managed to do that) and found my way to the bathroom. I don’t know why I went to the bathroom, but I was there. I was wailing at times and all I could think of was “why me”… I also had no idea what to do. I was crying, I was shaking, and I do believe I was making noises that nobody would have recognised as being human; deep groans coming from my mouth but sounded like they emanated from in my gut. Truly bizarre sounds. I felt sick, I felt weak, I was scared, and then I was gone.
I sort of jolted when I came around, the movement when I woke only served to cause me great pain. I was in the bath. I was naked and I felt like I was in hell. I had the remnants of vomit on my chest and hands, and the tub had the result of my bowels inside it. Not an actual poop, but a combination of blood and watered stool. I must've been a little sick from both ends while in the bathroom. I immediately looked for my phone because I needed a hospital. I knew straight away that I needed another surgery. I couldn’t see my phone; as it happens, I had left it in the living room. I crawled into the living room, each movement causing a wave of pain through my body. I could see my phone on the floor so I grabbed it and immediately dialed 999.
“Ambulance, please. Me. The patient is me. I need to go the hospital. The Hartmann’s procedure I had has gone wrong. I am alone. Newcastle. I’m on the top floor. Please help send someone. I think I’m going to pass out. My arms feel numb. Please send someone. Please.”
Before I knew it, I had lines in me, I was in a gown, a catheter had been put in, and a mask was on. I begged for pain relief, and I kept being told I had already been given it and it would start soon. I didn’t feel it starting at all. Nothing. The pain was coming in waves, a continual pattern that lasted until I fell unconscious. But now I had a doctor with me who asked what had happened, and I just told him the reversal had popped, or gone wrong, it had to do with the reversal. He could see I was in a great deal of pain, and I asked for more pain relief. He reiterated that I had been given a lot, but clearly, it wasn’t working. He got some other drug and that started to go in my vein and within a few minutes, I could feel the edge coming off but there was still pain.
I was asked if I wanted to contact someone, and all I could do was repeat my sister’s phone number over and over in small blocks of numbers. Trying to say it in one breath was impossible. I cannot recall what happened immediately after this, my mind is a blank. The next thing I can recollect was hearing my sisters voice, followed shortly after by my mum and aunt. They were being filled in about what happened. I must've been put through some sort of scan, as I was now being told that the repair had torn, and waste was leaking into my stomach and all over my organs. This is what the burning sensation was that I had felt in the minutes following the initial pain at my apartment. My aunt was in charge of keeping my head cool with wet flannels, but every few minutes she needed to wet it again as I was burning up. I was told that I needed surgery straight away, and so within the space of a few minutes, I was getting ready to be wheeled to theatre. I was so thankful because the pain was too much now; I just wanted to be knocked out. I told them I wasn’t bothered what they did, just to fix me. My sister leaned over me.
“Listen to my voice Scott, listen to what I say. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth. In and out. Scott! Listen to me, breath in and out. Listen to my voice Scott, listen to it. Scott. SCOTT”
I couldn’t do what she said as it was just too much. I felt like giving up, I just needed to be pain-free. It’s hard, and damn frustrating when you are being told to do one of the most basic functions, we perform all the time, but I couldn’t take deep breaths, it hurt too much. It needed to be small sharp breaths. Soon I was on my way to the theatre, and when we got to the anaesthetic place, I recognised Lee. He was there for the last surgery, and he was here for the emergency one. I tried to explain what was going on, but I'm sure he knew anyway. I remember he said I had to get better soon because I needed to watch the last F1 race of the season.
Before I knew it, that warm metal taste was back in my throat. And I was gone.
I can’t tell you some euphoric experience that I went through here because it felt like I was put to sleep and then woken up straight away. That little sleep I had was a good 6-7 hour sleep. When I woke, I didn’t open my eyes, I just listened. I could hear the machine beeping out my heart rate. I could move my fingers so I checked the left side of my stomach. No bag.
Then I checked the right-hand side. There was a bag attached to me.
Article credit: Zeboobel