So as it’s Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness week, and I decided it is as good a time as any to recap my own IBD story. I’m going to start writing, it might get split over a few posts, but here goes…
In early 2005, I noticed some blood in the bowl when I went to the toilet. Not a lot, but a bit. I’d been diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) the year before, but didn’t have any of those symptoms. I thought it was probably haemorrhoids and got some over the counter cream, but when 3 months later it hadn’t stopped, I went to the GP. They did some tests, blood and stool I think, and I was referred for a colonoscopy – a camera up the bum.
Aside from the preparation for that being fairly horrific (top tip, if you ever have it, take the day off work) the camera test was OK, I was sent away and a week or so later went back to the GP and was told I had ulcerative colitis and was given some suppositories. I don’t remember seeing a hospital consultant, or being given any information – if I was I certainly didn’t properly take it in or appreciate what it meant to have this chronic condition.This was now May.
In August, I was working supporting young people on a residential. I wasn’t getting much sleep because they did like to stay up late trying to start relationships and smoke out of the windows, the young scamps. I was getting some horrible crampy pains, but the IBS medication was helping. On the Friday I went to the GP and was given some steroid foam enemas. Off I went.
That Saturday I supported a group of young people to go to York. I remember on my lunch break gulping down a Burger King and then spending a long time in their toilet with cramping and diarrhoea. I don’t remember the Sunday (I probably slept a lot) but on the Monday morning I was fit for nothing. My mother took me to the GP who looked at me (looked, not examined) and wrote a letter to get me admitted to the local hospital.
So in the hospital they upped the steroid and gave them to me IV, as well as pain relief. They didn’t work. On the worse day I went to the toilet 13 times in the day, as well as over night. I was losing weight, my belly was distended. As a last gasp they tried Cyclosporine which is used as an anti-rejection drug after transplant (it’s a strong immunosuppressant).
That didn’t work either. The surgeon came around one Sunday, my belly was measured and was still swollen. I was told I was at risk of developing toxic mega-colon and by bowel perforating, and I was put on the surgical list. I was visited by a stoma nurse, a cross was put on my abdomen and I was wheeled down to theatre. I’d been in the hospital about 3 weeks at this point. I asked for a shark bite finish.
Recovery – Part 1
I woke up in the surgical recovery unit – just below intensive care. I had a nurse by my bed pretty much 24 hours a day. I had a drain, maybe two, a catheter, a naso-gastric tube, an epidural (I think). Oh, and a big long scar right down my front closed with staples. And a stoma, a little red thing poking out of me into a clear plastic bag.
Despite all this, I felt better. I’d had a metre and a half of diseased organ removed from my body. After a few days I was moved back to the ward, and things were going OK. I had lost a lot of weight by this point so was being fed through a drip (TPN) as I wasn’t yet able to tolerate food, and had just started having water again. unfortunately I developed septicaemia from the TPN needle and there was a probable kink in my bowel. In a matter of hours I went from OK to very sick, and was taken back to theatre, re-opened up and then stapled back together again. Cue another stay in surgical recovery.
Recovery – Part 2
I was moved back to the ward again, and a few days later a doctor came around and drew the curtain around my bed. He told me I had MRSA – detected when I was swabbed post op the second time. I knew very little about it and thought I might die – but it is treatable with really string, vein burning antibitoics. So I had those, and a nasal cream and a special body wash. I had to be barrier nursed, and all my visitors had to don aprons and gloves to come and see me too.
The MRSA was contained, I started eating and drinking again. By the time I left the hospital after 7 weeks I was 3 stone lighter than when I went in – I must have been lighter again at some point during my stay. I don’t have many photos from that time, but I attended my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award presentation a few months after being discharged, and as you can I see I still look a bit thin.
And so I was off into the big wide world to learn to live with a stoma.