The more astute of you may have noticed that I have not updated this blog for quite some time now. Firstly, please accept my apologies for the tardiness. Secondly, an excuse. I have been unwell. Again.
For those interested in the gory details, I have been feeling unwell since early April. In mid-May I finally went to the doctor. He was unsure what was wrong and prescribed a broad-spectrum antibiotic. I took the antibiotic for a day and that night I was in severe abdominal pain. Really severe pain. I was also vomiting uncontrollably. All this meant I had been unable to sleep. I called my doctor and explained my symptoms. After a second telephonic consultation he was convinced I needed hospitalisation.
Off I went to hospital. I arrived at casualty (the emergency room) and was immediately given pain medication and subjected a battery of tests. It was determined that I had a large gall stone and that my gall bladder was somewhat rotten. I was admitted to hospital and scheduled for surgery that night.
After being forgotten about by the casualty staff (as I had been admitted I was no longer their problem) and then lost by hospital administration, I was finally despatched to the ward. I had no sooner arrived than I was wheeled off to surgery. Sadly, due to two previous abdominal surgeries I had had as a baby, I had extensive scar tissue in my abdomen and the surgeon was unable to do the keyhole surgery that is normally used in these circumstances. Instead I was cut from just below my breast bone to just above my pubic area. A rather large cut.
I awoke, in a fair bit of pain, in ICU. I was told I could not eat or drink. But I did have a morphine pump that I could self-administer whenever I wished. I was also on other intravenous pain medication. I drifted in and out of sleep for the rest of the night and was awoken at 4 am by the nurse who needed to give me a bed bath. The next day progressed well enough and I was feeling ok. The doctor said I could start sipping water. Things were looking up. The next day I awoke feeling good. I was given some physiotherapy and went on a short walk (the first time I was allowed out of bed). The doctor said I could start drinking clear fluids. Yay!
By lunchtime things were looking bleak. I was in pain and I was nauseous. Then later that night the vomiting started. Uncontrollable vomiting. The ICU nurses administered as many anti-nausea drugs as they could. Nothing worked. The doctor was called and he ordered a gastro-nasal-tube this is a tube that is inserted in your nose, slides down your throat and into your stomach. Imagine how awful that sounds. It feels worse. But it did start sucking up all sorts of fluids and gasses and saved me having to vomit them out and saved the nurses from having to deal with me and the fluids. I was not allowed to eat or drink.
For 36 hours I had the tube in my nose and then I started to feel better again. In the meantime, I had been for more scans and it was determined that I needed a follow up procedure. So just as I started feeling better off I was whisked to theatre. Fortunately, no cutting was involved. I was given an anaesthetic and a new tube, this time with a camera was slid down my throat, into my stomach and then into my intestines. They found that the tube taking bile from the liver to the intestine was not in fact reaching the intestine, so they constructed an artificial tube (that will need to be removed in a few weeks’ time) so that the body could create a new tube of its own around the artificial one. I awoke after surgery. Once again in a bit of pain as they had put a lot of gas inside me to allow them to work.
The next day I was feeling much better. After another day in ICU I was finally sent to a general ward. ICU is not fun. The lights are on almost 24 hours a day. Every one of the 14 patients in the unit is attached to all sorts of alarms and there is a constant background noise of beeps and other alarms of varying intensity. The place is generally noisy, and it is hard to sleep.
Life in the general ward was better and after a number of days of not being allowed to eat or drink I was gradually moved from water, to clear fluids, to mixed fluids and finally to solids. I was finally discharged, but not before a nurse removed the staples holding my wound together before they should have been removed. This resulted in my wound separating and I almost sure a far worse scar than I would otherwise have had. I guess my career as a lingerie and bikini model is well and truly over!
I was very happy to return home and enjoyed a night at home. All was well the next day and I was enjoying life at home, eating decent food and being able to sleep. Then that night I was once again struck by severe abdominal pain and uncontrollable vomiting. I was up all night and finally conceded at around 7 am that it was time to get medical help. So back to the hospital we went.
Casualty. Intravenous pain medication. A second gastro-nasal-tube. Blood tests. X-rays. Ultrasounds. I was admitted to hospital with a suspected intestinal obstruction. A CT scan the following morning confirmed this diagnosis. All this time I was once again unable to eat or drink. I honestly recall almost nothing of those first few days. I know I was in pain and I know that I was given a cocktail of pain medication including pethidine. The doctor said he was very unwilling to operate on me again and that the best course of action was to wait a few days and see if the obstruction might resolve itself. This was music to my ears. I did not think yet another operation was in any way desirable. Finally, after over 48 hours of enjoying the tube down my nose I was released from its grasp and given some sips of water to drink. This was heaven as by now I had developed a sore throat because of the tube irritating my throat, I had a post nasal drip and I was, despite the drip, dehydrated and my mouth was very dry. The next day I was seen by a dietician. It was determined that I had lost so much weight that I was in danger of being medically considered underweight. So, I was given fortified protein drinks to go along with my mixed fluid diet. I was tolerating everything rather well and I was finally allowed to eat normally. I calculated that of the 60 meals I should have eaten over the course of my hospitalisations, I had only had 18 meals and those included the fluid meals. No wonder I lost weight.
I returned home, and all was well for a week. Then last Friday I started feeling nauseous again and had some stomach cramps. I had no intention of returning to hospital. So, I immediately put myself on a mixed fluids diet. The first few days were a bit iffy, but I started to feel better and by today (Wednesday) I am feeling well enough to risk eating some solids again. I spoke to the doctor at my regular post-operative check-up and he concurs that self-managing this may be best, provided the symptoms are manageable.
I am unable to eat anything too interesting let alone exciting, so chili is off my menu for a while, but it shouldn’t be off yours. Why not give these a try? They are yummy.
Fortunately, the wound is healing well and apart from the recurring obstructions I am doing much better. I am not in any pain anymore and I should be able to return to ‘normal’ functioning very soon. I am still somewhat underweight, and I am still a little weak. Perhaps this is to be expected given the weight loss.
So, dear readers, that is why I have not been writing much. Not much happens in a hospital bed that is worthy of putting virtual pen to virtual paper and even if something noteworthy did happen I simply lacked the energy to write anything down.
I was very grateful for the laser hair removal I have undergone on my torso as this has made changing dressings on the wound a far less painful experience than it would otherwise have been. Sadly I have not been able to shave or epilate since being admitted and the body hair is rather dire, so the dysphoria is far from ideal…
This will hopefully be reversed in the coming weeks and I may be able to bring you some more missives about my adventures and other thoughts soon. I hope you are all well and I hope to see you around here again soon.