When things don’t go quite according to plan


Having surgery is a rollercoaster ride at the best of times, but what if things don’t go smoothly? how does that feel? it can be quite a challenge to keep positive. Was it something you did? or didn’t do? Was it something someone else did or didn’t do? It doesn’t matter what caused it, this is where you are and you have to get on with it.

All surgeries come with risk, and some more than others, bowel surgery in particular is a surgery with many risks, wound dehiscence ( where the wound breaks down in some way and the scar may open). This complication is strange as it isn’t a question of just stitching you back up, you need to have the wound packed over possibly many months to heal from the inside out. My abdominal wound opened up at the bottom and it took 6 months to fully heal , to view CLICK HERE 

Weirdly it looked very painful but wasn’t really painful at all, and although the finished scar is not as neat as i had hoped, it looks like another belly button as it dints in too, but it healed well without infection.

This most recent surgery has some wound dehiscence , but because of where it is I won’t be putting you through the image. It seems to be closing quicker than the previous one.

I suppose my two most life altering complications were the rectal stump blowout ( in short, rectal stump blowout is a dreaded complication of an often already complicated patient scenario that causes pelvic sepsis )

The stump that was left in situ to be removed at a later date when I was more stable decided to blow its stitches causing pelvic sepsis. I had to have a rectal catheter placed through the burst stump into my pelvic cavity to drain the gunk that was gathered there. Lovely.

I would say it was one of the most uncomfortable things ( excluding or same as an NG tube) that I had. There is a balloon at the top that gets inflated after the tube has been placed, but whenever I sat or moved awkwardly, the damn thing brushed against something inside and caused the most excruciating pain for quite a few minutes. Unfortunately for me, the nurses didn’t really know the pain it might cause and kept insisting I sit out of bed now and again. I eventually spoke to a consultant who needed to reinsert it and he understood my issue and said I couldn’t sit with it, It was all quite traumatic, I had the drain for a good couple of months. This complication in turn caused the fistula and ongoing bottom complications that are still ongoing today but hopefully sorted with this  latest surgery.

The other complication is with Tomas the stoma.

I know, he is lovely and cute and all that, and I probably would have died without him, but he is a complete pest at times. It started very early in my stoma journey in hospital. When Kate my stoma nurse and I discovered that poo was coming out of the bottom of my stoma where it meets my skin.


As you can see, this can be a big nuisance for many reasons

  1. The stoma can be quite watery or busier at different times and this can cause the bag to lift as it loses stickiness.
  2. This as you can imagine, causes leakage onto the skin
  3. And this in turn causes sore skin and incessant itching in that area.
  4. It is difficult to change my bag standing up because I can’t put anything under the spout to catch poo as it comes out onto skin as well anyway.
  5. I am constantly in a battle with my skin to keep it becoming a real problem, and I like to air it as much as possible when I change it, so it isn’t a quick change for me, it is time consuming.
  6. I have the dilemma of deciding on more surgery to move the stoma to the other side of abdomen and hope I don’t get more issues doing that.
  7. There are probably more but having a brain fog moment

All I can say is this, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, things do improve, and although it might not be the life you had hoped for, this new life brings new friends and new beginnings and maybe a life that’s worth living.

That leads me nicely ( ok plugging my daughters band Marty) to a song my daughter wrote for the band Marty, and I listened to it and thought it had some great words of encouragement if you are having a tough time coming out the other end of illness.

If you would like to follow the band you can find them on most social media sites @thebandmarty



No help for the families of IBD and stoma surgery patients?

I realised after the fact that my family just had to get on with it all without any real medical  support, the support was all for us patients, and yes we needed it, plenty of it, but what of our families?

Most of us have been unwell on and off for years, and I don’t mean just a bit off, I mean full on housebound, bed bound, unable to attend events kind of ill. The year before my surgery I was a mess and my poor family rallied round and did things without me. I missed concerts that my daughter was in, quality time with my son when he was home from university, and my husband did everything and was marvellous. I had friends who did the running around for me too. Not everyone is as lucky and I cannot imagine how hard it must be for anybody who has to go through it alone. This would also apply for any type of chronic illness too.

My husband, wider family and friends watched me deteriorate over the year without proper support from anyone. The gastro team kept suggesting that although I had severe left sided disease I was also a bit depressed and should snap out of it. This was awful for me and my husband , because I thought he would believe them ( and he almost did, as they were the experts after all ) and I started to doubt myself, even though I was having temperature spikes, loosing a lot of blood and was constantly being sick. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t being helped.

God only knows what my family thought. Yes I was ill, but was I as ill as I seemed? They had to wrestle with what they were seeing and what was being told to them. I had to wrestle with the feelings of illness and the thought that I was losing my mind.

Eventually my husband ignored the team and took me to A & E where I was admitted and was told by my surgeon that I needed a total colectomy within 72 hours ( it ended up being the next day, a Sunday). I remember my kids coming to see me before surgery was decided and I knew they must have been terrified even though we had discussed surgery within our family many times. My son said it would be the best thing and I would get off all those nasty drugs that I was given for the IBD. He was right of course, that was a good factor to consider.

As you can imagine, there were questions about why I had been left.  But they never really got answered.

After surgery I was very poorly with complications and my husband came every day for nearly three months with me in tears every time. We spent our 20yrs anniversary on the ward, I was going to try and get to the Costa downstairs as our anniversary date( we live the high life ) but couldn’t face it. The ward had bought me a cuddly toy and anniversary card to cheer me up .

It took it’s toll on my family, and although I knew this, I was too self absorbed with my own problems to realise. Whenever I cried he said he felt that all eyes were on him and that they would think he must have done something to make me upset as I  only got upset when he came. But in reality of course this wasn’t the case and the other patients knew I was in a dark place and very ill and often upset throughout the day, it just all floods out when a loved one comes to see you.  The doctors don’t really have the time to sit with relatives and explain everything so they only hear second hand from the patients themselves and that can get twisted like Chinese whispers.  I wasn’t doing very well so he arranged a visit from my sister in London as a surprise to see if she could help with my mood and get me moving more. I remember  seeing her peek around the curtain and again I cried. This was becoming ridiculous. She talked me into getting in the wheelchair and taking a trip to Costa with them all. This was a military procedure as I had a rectal catheter in and couldn’t get very comfortable without a mass of pillows in strategic places, blankets etc.

I promised her I would try and get up every day, and I did. I wanted to do it for my family. I realised that I had been so self absorbed with my pain and worries I hadn’t even thought about my family’s feelings, I felt awful for this. It was the hardest months for us all. Even after I was discharged the journey wasn’t over. My husband would take me out in the wheelchair by the river , and each day we would get a little further and I would get out and walk back. There were times when I would be sick at the side of the path and I said on numerous occasions that I thought I would never be the same , would never be able to walk the whole path, would never nip to the pub for a quick drink with him after work (this one sounds weird to put in but this was something that we enjoyed and I missed). I wonder if he thought the same. He certainly never said, he just said that of course we would and things would get better. He was absolutely right but he must have had doubts.

In order for me to be allowed home he volunteered to empty and measure my rectal catheter twice a day, he would make sure I drank and ate enough, take my pills and generally be my total carer until I was well. He was my total rock but really got no support . He even packed my wound on several occasions so that they would allow me to go away for a few days. He is a tough cookie so many people think it didn’t affect him, but I saw the odd time when he could have done with someone out of our circle to talk to, but there wasn’t really anywhere specific to the needs of relatives in this situation. I have read many a story like mine with people who are in hospital for many weeks/months and their families just have to cope with all the ups and downs.

My friends had also left visiting times in tears seeing me in such a bad way. Everyone cared so much but they also could have done with some kind of support network. Maybe some information about what was happening and why, or a support group within the hospital for relatives and friends of those who have complicated illnesses or surgeries. I know this costs money and, to be honest, I would love to start something like this with the support of the wards, but I have no proper medical background so don’t think it would be allowed.

But I do have the experience, and that could be enough.

How my ulcerative colitis started

I remember always having some sickness and bowel issues as a child. I would often be very very constipated and be sitting on the toilet for hours until I had seat marks embedded into my legs. I also had sickness bouts every few months, they would come on for a few hours and then I would be right as rain again.

Thinking back, this could have had something to do with the diagnosis of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) many years later.

I am also very sure that a stressful situation started my first proper flare. I was going to see my sister in London the next day, but stupidly went out the night before with my purse in my handbag, in the purse was just over a hundred pounds and my train tickets, bank cards , photos and other special things.

I went to the busy bar to get a drink with my two friends and when I went to get my purse out it had gone and my bag was wide open. A wave of mixed emotions followed. I was so upset and angry and just didn’t know what to do. We went outside and there were some policemen who helped me to call the bank and cancel my card, they said I was the fourth person that hour.

I went home upset all night and my dad sorted out more train tickets ( we did eventually get the money back from them for the original ones) and I still went to London. I started to feel generally not myself, I got loose stools and when I looked in the mirror I thought my eyes looked sunken and dark.

I got home a few days later and things deteriorated from there. I started to be sick , I had an awful pain where my appendix was and I was struggling to make it in time to the toilet. The doctor came out and said he thought I had appendicitis and needed to go to hospital.  ( This is not uncommon , it can mimic appendicitis) I had never ever been in hospital let alone had any surgery so was petrified. I got there and the doctor examined me. He said because of the diarrhoea he didn’t think it was my appendix and they would do a few tests and I would be admitted. The sickness, pain and diarrhoea were terrible and I thought I was dying. It was taking a while for a diagnosis and I had to have many tests. I was bleeding a lot too which was scary and I just thought ” I have cancer”. I was on a drip and often needed the toilet urgently which would cause accidents as I couldn’t get there quickly enough with the stand and drip in tow. It felt degrading and humiliating, although no nurse ever minded, I minded, I was a young woman who shouldn’t be soiling herself and need looking after.

I was put on intravenous steroids and fluids and couldn’t eat with the sickness. I was advised I might need a naso gastric tube to stop me being sick and I refused I was so scared. I was started on Olsalazine but remember at the time I wasn’t advised that I should be taking it indefinitely, so when those were finished I didnt’ get anymore and became ill again.

I started to respond to the meds and they also told me I have IBD but they were not sure if it was Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis. ( They never really knew at all because they called it indeterminate colitis after that as it could be Crohns disease even now ) I spent some years in and out of hospital with this awful disease, with many people not understanding how severely ill you can be with it. Many think that IBS is similar but I can safely say they are nothing alike. When I am in remission I have IBS so that will tell you something about it. IBD can kill you as I nearly found out last year. I am in no way saying IBS isn’t horrible, but it is not IBD.

My life was not how I imagined it should be, the illness was ruining my life, I was having flares at times when I should be well, for example when I was about to have my babies I would flare, and those flares lasted for a good few weeks after the birth. Most christmas’ were the same and I remember missing one Christmas day with my family and being stuck in bed. I was in hospital when my children were very small which was awful. Going for meals would sometimes end with me going home early because I would feel unwell.

I do think that although the surgery for me and my family was very traumatic, I can go out and enjoy my life now more than I ever could before. I have my off days but if I really think about it, it is nothing compared to the off days with an UC flare.


Talking toilets…an inconvenience

Toilets are a necessity for everyone, but if they are dirty, in disrepair or just downright odd this is a nightmare too, especially for someone with a stoma or a bowel condition like Crohns disease or ulcerative colitis . We spend a fair bit of time in them so it is very important.

Take the one in the photo for example. Look closely and you can see a very odd toilet layout. In the reflection of the tiles you can see the bowl right ? now look where the loo roll is……. yep 5ft above your head. What the hell is that about? This was in a Wetherspoons in Camden. I wouldn’t mind but the loo roll dispenser has to be the most annoying one ever too. I have seen some strange or filthy toilets in my time but never one where the loo roll was so out of reach. I was so bewildered by this, that I decided to tweet Wetherspoons about it. They replied and said that a lot of toilets were set up like this, I disagree I have been to a few and none of them were set up like this. If there are others, I feel it means they have  a complete lack of interest in their customers and they should be embarrassed.

I have decided to check out some others, and name and shame or congratulate the owners. In fact if anyone would like to join in and send me any pics of toilets good and bad, I might do a poll or toilet wall, and send the owners a “Tomas trophy” for best and worst.

I know that people can use them and cause a mess.

But on the other hand staff should check them regularly for their customers. This loo was ok but the floor was dreadful, you don’t want your trouser leg in that when you pull your bottoms down.

What about the wonky loo seat? Not nice for most folk, but for us ostomates who sit right back on the seat to empty our bags its awful.

And if anyone has pee’d on it……..

You might say that we could be the dirty ones because we empty our poo into the loo regularly, but let me assure you that most of us are super careful and super aware of what we are doing and where it will go, and because we clean the bags etc we clean where we have been as well. The last thing we want is for someone to use the loo after us, and know what we have been doing. In particular, if we are at a friends and need to use the loo, their is  no way in the world that I want to leave any evidence that I have a bag ( even if they know)

I prefer the disabled toilets, yes I am allowed to use them and yes, if anyone dares question me I will tell them why I am allowed to use them, and possibly I might even show them. These seem to be cleaner because they are not used as often I suppose, and they are bigger for us to sort ourselves out properly, although most of these don’t have a decent shelf to put essentials on, so if anyone is reading this who has toilets, be a dear and stick a shelf up.

How about this in Japan?

Toilets for Ostomates

 Necessity of Toilets for Ostomates

Many Japanese ostomates are hesitant to leave home and have active lives in the community because they worry about how they will empty their pouches or handle leakage problems should they occur away from home. It is particularly stressful and instills panic to deal with leakage of stool or urine while in public. In a JOA survey, 50% of ostomates reported these helpless feelings.
Therefore, it can be said that the availability of public toilet facilities to meet ostomates’ needs is the key to their sense of well-being and rehabilitation in the community.

(Can you  imagine our government going this far? This is fantastic to see, I just happened to come across it when googling.) There is more…

a) Toilet
b) Small-sized sink with a warm water nozzle (for discarding stool in the pouch and washing in an upright position)
c) Wash stand
d) Medium-sized sink with a mirror and a hand held warm water shower (for washing or changing the wafer, and for rinsing and cleaning the peristomal skin)
e) Large and deep sink (for washing soiled clothes, etc.)

4) Preparation of the Environment
– Clear instructions on how to use each facility and its equipment
– Control of access to the toilet room. Easy access and use by ostomates is the basic premise, but safeguards against use by unauthorized persons are also important, especially at transportation   terminals.
– Signage indicating the availability of ostomate facilities should be clearly visible at the entrance   of each toilet room.

The installation and practical use of toilets for ostomates in Japan is just beginning, and we are in the process of trial and error to establish an optimum facility. To attain this goal, ostomates must be responsible for cooperating with the related authorities, owner organizations, and facility developers on all stages from planning to use and improvement.

It is expected that with increased availability of toilets for ostomates throughout the country, the rehabilitation of ostomates into the community will be accelerated, providing a better Quality of Life for Japanese ostomates.
It is also hoped that through this initiative, public awareness of ostomates’ problems will be enhanced.


This just blew me away……..

3) The ease of using the facilities and equipment must be examined in view of the flow of an ostomate’s body movements and various changes of posture required from the start to the end of caring for his problem (such as changing the entire pouching system, standing, sitting, etc).

Click here to read the full article

How amazing if this were to happen in our lifetime, no one with any disability would have to worry about going out incase of problems ever again. The other amazing thing is that they have rolled this out over many parts of Japan but we don’t even have one on colorectal wards let alone anywhere else.