I used to belong to a writer’s club. One activity was to write about an experience or place you have been, focussing on the detail, especially the sensory detail, whilst trying to elicit a human response to your experience from your audience. I chose to write about the morning leading up to my temporary loop ileostomy surgery. I wrote this a couple of weeks after the surgery. Re-reading it now, I still clearly remember all the details and emotions I was feeling on that day.
My stomach is in knots, heart pounding a million miles an hour as I enter the heavy double doors into the day of surgery admission area. I feel clammy, a slight sweat on my forehead, and my mouth is dry. It’s the complete opposite to most of my other day surgery admission experiences, where we would be waiting around for hours, doing crosswords, patiently twiddling our thumbs, dragging out the inevitable. Today the surgeon’s first case has been cancelled, so now they are waiting for me.
There is a sense of urgency. I barely have time to take in my surroundings as the efficient nurses hurry me behind a curtain to undress, slap on the blood pressure monitor, pinch clip on my finger to measure my heart rate, and thermometer in the ear for my temperature. The head nurse rattles off her check list of questions, which by now I have almost memorised. “Are you allergic to anything? Do you have any metal implants? Do you wear dentures?”. No, no, no I answer, as another nurse forcefully and with purpose pulls up the trend setting compression stockings that just don’t want to go on.
In the background, Michael is on the phone to mum, who went to find a car park, trying to explain where she has to go to meet us. Poor mum is going to be in a panic. She is used to the long waits too where we know what to expect, rather than all this rushing and conundrum. I hear a patient behind the curtain next to me caterwauling about something. People are running about this way and that. They page the stoma nurse who has to mark the spot on my stomach for the surgeon, and I barely have time to show her the level of my average pant waistline before I am whisked off by one of the hospital staff assistants. I am pulled along on the narrow, hard, white hospital bed, down the stark bending corridors, with the stoma nurse still talking hurriedly to me, and mum and Michael running along next to the bed beside me looking somewhat frazzled and nervous. We stop briefly, so that mum and Michael can give me a kiss and wish me luck, before they disappear around the corner as I am moved on. I see them waving and mouthing the words I love you. My heart drops a little once they are out of sight and I feel somewhat alone. Their tentative looks and all this rushing don’t help my nerves.
Then, all of a sudden I am in the pre-op area. I am the only patient there, and everything is calm and quiet. There is a slight hum coming from the nurses and surgeon’s assistants in the corner. A few machines beep in the distance, probably monitoring somebody’s heartrate. Everything is white and bright. The room is clean and sterile, as a hospital should be. There is that hospital smell penetrating the air, which is hard to describe – a faint disinfectant type odour mixed with something else. Not bad, but not nice either. The big clock on the wall reads just after midday. It is slightly chilly under my skimpy light weight gown. The air conditioning in hospitals always seems to be set too cold.
As I lay there staring up at the ceiling, over comes Shevy. Doctor P I should say. His presence alone is calming, and I feel more at ease already. He has this aura about him. Mum would be disappointed she didn’t get to see him earlier, as she has a bit of a secret crush! His beautiful smile and his penetrating eyes. You can’t get anything past him. He would see right through you. When he looks at you, it’s like he can see deep into your soul. He doesn’t speak, but waits for you to say something first. Sometimes it can be a bit off putting, but I understand why he does it, and I think it’s part of his appeal and what makes him a good doctor. We talk softly and he asks if I have any questions before we go in. I have nothing to ask. I feel well prepared, and I know I am in capable hands.
Next over comes the anaesthetist – another familiar face. Is it sad that I almost feel like part of the furniture in this place now? I know most of the nurses in 2 South by name, with this being my 4th admission in the last 2 years. All the wonderful nurses who have been so supportive and sentient to my needs during my stays here, and I know will help me get through again this time. There is a slight sting in my lower left arm as Doctor B gives me some local anaesthetic before easefully and painlessly inserting the cannula. I listen carefully as he explains about the PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia) that I will be hooked up to after the procedure. Essentially I will be self-administering my own morphine pain relief! I am given a shot of hydro-cortisone and I feel a cold rush as it goes through the cannula site. Then the first dose of anaesthetic goes in, and it is not long until I start feeling very relaxed. I am no longer nervous or concerned. My surroundings start to blur.
So here I am. Ready. It’s about to happen. No turning back now. I know things are going to be very different for me when I wake up from surgery. One cannot fathom what this disease has put me through over the past few years. Have I made the right decision? Only time will tell….
Unfortunately, the temporary loop ileostomy which was hoped would rest my bowels to allow the Crohn’s inflammation a chance to heal did not work for me. Around 5 months after this I had a pan proctocolectomy with permanent end ileostomy, and I’m now doing great!