Dear intestines, so, this is it, huh?
OK, I lied.
It’s been three months.
That’s right. I’ve officially been ileostomy-free for three whole months. To be honest, it feels great to say that, but it also hasn’t been the easiest recovery in the world. In fact, I’d say it’s been the hardest of my three surgeries. Let me explain…
The hospital stay
Waking up without an ileostomy was extremely odd. I remember, leading up to the day of surgery, I was pretty sure when the time came post-operation to lift my shirt, see my stomach-sans-stoma and bawl my eyes out.
Well, I didn’t cry.
Don’t get me wrong, it was an intense moment. But, between the nausea (for some reason, I get really nauseous soon after I wake up from anesthesia, whether it’s because the surgery itself, the anesthesia itself or the pain medication), grogginess and pain I was in, my first thought wasn’t necessarily “Oh my goodness! No stoma! SWEET!” It was more like “Holy crap, it’s gone. Thank you, God. Now, what’s next?”
- Managing pain.
- Having my first bowel movement in, like, forever.
(1) With the handy-dandy pain button by my side, the pain wasn’t terrible, although, as I mentioned before, the nausea seemed to get worse when I would press it, so I tried to be conservative with it.
(2) Let’s not talk about that. I peed, yes… eventually.
(3) This was a biggie. If it all came out OK, that meant there were no major complications with the surgery. And, thankfully, on the first or second day, it did. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. “Whoa…” I said aloud. It was like, in 10 months, I forgot what that felt like…
- For those of you who are wondering, it feels basically the same as a regular, healthy person.
(4) Of course, right after surgery, nobody feels 100 percent, so the pain and soreness, difficulty urinating, etc. are normal. The real issues started to arise, however, when I was bumped up to a full liquid diet.
You see, my third surgery consisted of reversing my ileostomy and diverting the plumbing, for lack of a better term, down to my pouch for the new system to officially take over. So, when they closed up my ostomy, it was swollen and narrow for several days after surgery. And a swollen, narrow piece of intestine + food = not good.
Gas and liquids would get lodged in that particular area and cause pain, discomfort, nausea and, eventually, vomiting.
Long, gross, painful story short, it took about a week for the gas pains and nausea to alleviate. By then, I was walking regularly, rarely pressing the pain button and able to tolerate a full liquid diet.
(5) Then, it was time to be discharged–perhaps for the final time.
So many emotions swirled through my head at that moment. I was thankful for my surgeon, the other attending and resident doctors and nurses, but I was ecstatic to go home and sleep in my own bed. I also felt relieved that, after years of dealing with this disease, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn’t help but feel, however, like I was leaving a portion of myself and my history there.
- Staying at the hospital certainly isn’t an ideal experience–I know that–but the people you encounter and the care they put forth is like no other. I would almost, dare I say it, miss it.
… I had to say it, didn’t I?