Today is release day for me and after 12 days in hospital (11 if excluding the night before) I thought I would reflect on what I was told would happen and what actually happened. As day-to-day care from nursing staff in hospitals can vary widely, I will keep it just to the surgery, how long I was in hospital for and aftercare from doctors, stoma nurses and physio.

How The Surgery Would Be Performed

From my first meeting with my surgeon way back on September 24th, 2018 I was told that based on my weight and the fact that I had not had abdominal surgery he would most likely perform the surgery laparoscopically. This is the favoured choice as it reduces recovery time.

Prior to going into theatre the plan was still the same but I was warned that after they enter the abdomen they may decided that they need to make an incision based on what they discover inside. 

Post-surgery I was told that an incision was needed above my pubic bone due to the discovery of a second fistula. The additional scar didn’t concern me in the slightest and wouldn’t be visible even when swimming. 

How Long I Would Be In Hospital

Again during my first meeting I was told that I could expect to be in hospital for around 7-10 days. This timeframe can change either way, particularly being extended due to the nature of how the bowels work.

In the long wait between electing to have surgery and having it, you can’t help searching to see how accurate that timeframe is. It’s difficult to find timeframes as surgeries can vary and the American resources are largely useless as they quote timeframes as low as 3-5 days! Five days after surgery my bowel still wasn’t working and you won’t be discharged by the surgeon until he knows his new bum is working.

Seven days after the procedure I would have been ready to go home but unfortunately developed a stubborn infection that took five days to shift so I couldn’t be discharged until they were satisfied that it was gone and my body had recovered from it.

My Aftercare

I’ve only experienced minor surgery such as perianal abscesses before which were either treated within a day or involved a single night stay so I didn’t experience much aftercare. Being in for a much longer time meant a lot more involvement with the surgical team, registrars and junior doctors. 

My surgeon was superb throughout the whole process and made an effort to see me on a regular basis sometimes twice a day and there was definitely much more involvement as soon as the infection took control. On one day I saw three other doctors throughout the day in addition to my surgeon.  

Treatment was spot on and whilst I was in 5 extra days with the infection, they had to try more common/traditional antibiotics first before bringing out the big guns.

Stoma Nurses

The stoma nurses, all of whom I had met prior to being admitted were on hand every morning to check on the progress of the stoma (if it hasn’t started working) and when it is working, showing you how to change the bag followed by supervising you changing it. They’re based a short distance from the ward so are on hand throughout each day.

Prior to the surgery I had met them twice, once to be measured up for the location of the new bum and another time for them to discuss their role. The surgeon is only interested in ensuring that his handiwork works and that you are medically fit. The stoma nurses are there to ensure that you can independently look after your stoma. The process is very straightforward so it didn’t take long for them to be convinced that I could look after my new bum.

Physio Team

From surgery day + 1 the physio team are quickly on hand to encourage you out of bed on to get on your feet as soon as possible based on your physical abilities. Like a stoma nurse, they’re independent of the surgeon and even if you are medically fit, you have to demonstrate that you can move independently. After some walking around the ward and climbing some stairs over a few days I got their approval.

Overall

Apart from the unexpected issue with the infection everything went to plan and was as expected. That didn’t mean I enjoyed my time here. It’s uncomfortable, the days are long and the nights are even longer. 

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Diagnosed with IBD in 2002, I have experienced the usual ups and downs of having a chronic disease and tried numerous medications but the time finally came in 2018 to elect to have surgery to improve my life.

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