Going through a major operation such as the one I did, an ileostomy, sure brings along some perspective. D-Day was on April 25 — a day of liberation in Italy and the same date of my surgery, as a friend pointed out when wishing me freedom from pain and regaining my life.
The day itself was somewhat uneventful if one can put it that way. I was lucky enough to have the procedure start two hours earlier than anticipated, way better than others in my ward who was taken down in the afternoon instead of the morning. I was in pretty high spirits until the bed started rolling, at which point, a bit of anxiety set in. Luckily, my iPod was on hand as I cranked up the volume on my chosen song (Don't Stop Me Now by Queen) and began singing to myself, much to the amusement of the orderlies wheeling me down to theatre.
The anesthetists were phenomenal. Dr. Noel Borg asked me what my favourite cocktail was (Long Island Iced Tea for the record) and said he was mixing up a special order for me while Dr. Constantin Mashion (hope I got that right!) began cracking jokes left, right and centre. I was laughing as they wheeled me into the operating theatre — surely the best medicine. After that, I obviously don’t remember much. But the very first thing I asked while in the recovery room was whether the operation was performed laparoscopically or not... and the reply was YES!!! I couldn’t believe it, in fact, I’m pretty sure I asked a million more times. My husband said my first words to him were that they had succeeded with key-hole surgery. What’s clear was that my surgeon, Dr. Charles Cini, had performed a miracle, he’s a genius. The operation went off without a hitch and, despite my weight and the fact that I’ve been on steroids for eight years from ulcerative colitis, he avoided opening up my abdomen and proceeded with what seemed to be a textbook laparoscopic procedure. I’m in awe and will be forevermore.
One day after surgery dawned and the pain was definitely there; very present, very uncomfortable, very real. And yet, I was awake, had no drains, no cuts to the abdomen, a functioning stoma, catheter removed, and (miracle of miracles) I was managing to get out of bed to go to the bathroom. Don’t get me wrong, it was very, very, very hard to do. It felt like what I imagine a non-functioning elderly person feels like every day. Just pulling myself into a sitting position on the bed felt like I was scaling Everest (not that I’d ever do that!). Every little movement suddenly became a major accomplishment. I began to really appreciate the tiniest things in life with each new boundary shattered and celebrated. Now for the next milestones on the road to becoming whole again — brushing my hair, getting out of bed alone, washing while sitting on a chair in the bathroom, and standing up from a chair without feeling any pain.
Being in the hospital also gave me further insight into other matters which aren’t surprising but still had an impact on me. Such as the incredible medical stories told by the fellow warriors in my ward, the friends who called or showed up (and those who don’t), and just today, how happy I am that it is me lying here in this bed and not my three-year-old son. Today I took a longer walk, down the corridors of the ward next door which just happens to be Fairyland, the ward dedicated to children. My son has already had minor (very minor, but still under general anesthetic) intervention and will have to repeat this regularly for a while, so walking through Fairyland brought tears to my eyes. All the more, as I thought of the parents who were there, whose kids were admitted for much more serious reasons.
There is clearly going to be a huge change in my life now. Quite apart from the immediate – recovering from ostomy surgery and getting back on my feet as a 41-year-old woman, wife, and mother – I now have a new appendage that is to all effects and purposes part of me. My stoma is working well, which means that my small intestine is now functioning as the main output for waste through a hole in my abdomen. The ostomy bag is another matter. I'm still trying to figure out the best pouching system and products for my body type — it'll be a learning process. I’m already having to get used to new feelings, movements, and sounds in the abdomen as my body processes food, and of course, I’m still learning the ropes of how to care for a stoma. Bottom line is, this ileostomy should give me my life back and once recovered, I should be able to do anything any able-bodied person can and wants to do. And for this, I am eternally grateful.
I can’t end without a shout out to my phenomenal gastrointestinal consultant, Dr. Pierre Ellul and his great team including Dr. Martina Muscat. If all doctors were like him, what a happier world this would be! He guided me through this surgical decision with patience, care, empathy, and conviction.
Article credit: whatever Mia thinks