Around 2003 I had an ileostomy – at Stirling Royal Infirmary in Scotland. The surgeon confidently told me he was the best in Scotland – I presume they all tell that to all their patients. Having said that, he made a very neat job and I couldn’t have felt more prepared for what lay ahead.
Whether to have the surgery or not. By this time I had had many bouts of Crohn’s pain and illness combined with all the consequences most readers will know all too well. For me, I was coming to the end of my tether. While Prednisolone was pretty fantastic while I had it, Asacol or Azothioprine didn’t seem to be much cop as a maintenance dose.
So I guess I was pretty open to doing something rather than waiting for the next bout of illness to afflict me.
My surgeon sat my wife and I down and explained that such was the scarring and therefore narrowing of my gut I was at risk of a blockage and in that blunt way that some medical experts have, he outlined that if that occurred, say, on an island with no hospital, I would die.
Choice 1 had suddenly become quite loaded.
“Just” an ileostomy or removal of the whole bang shoot right down to and including the rectum. Images in my mind of my bum like the sewn up mouth of a favourite teddy bear.
“There are a lot of tiny nerves down in that area,” the surgeon went on. “And while I am one of the best, if not the best in Scotland, there is a very small risk of impotence”
So that sort of decided Choice 2. (Though as things have panned out, I could have avoided a whole lot of pain and inpatient surgery, by just saying yes)
I cannot remember all the arguments that informed Choice 3 – to make the op reversible or not. But I do remember that going for a permanent solution seemed the best – and mentally I think that was certainly wise. I have spoken to many others whose minds are fixated on getting the stoma removed and themselves made “whole” again.
I don’t think that does your mind any good. Or to look at it another way, (since how dare I comment on another’s mental processes), for me the immediate acceptance that the ileostomy was with me for ever, I think made the whole recovery process easier.
And the recovery process is tough enough both physically and mentally without complicating what’s kicking about your head.
So a date was set and my wife and I switched our diet to one of soft bread and soup, (in case we prompted a blockage), and concentrated on making me as fit as possible for surgery. I continued to work – including two hours commuting each day – and life sort of diddled along.
Decisions taken – bring it on. Sort of.