Surgery – my ileostomy choices

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.

Choice 1

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.

Choice 2

“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)

Choice 3

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.

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