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When it comes to your digestive system, no one really wants the details

December 2011
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The title says everything here, I think. That being said, a given a certain degree of squeamishness and calls of “TMI,” I discovered last night that a few more details may be in order.

I was slightly curious of the perception of my state when one of the local papers contacted me about possibly doing a story on my problems a few weeks ago. I declined, since I couldn’t possibly see any angle that would make the story interesting. Now, I see where they may have been heading. The conversation last night suggested that they may try to contact me again. The reasons given were to cover my problems from my botched surgery and the fact that it had to be done here because the territorial government wouldn’t cover the cost of sending me south to have it done. I’m not sure how that rumour got started, but maybe I should clarify a few points in case others have misconstrued my surgical adventures of the summer. Here are the two main facts you should know before we go any further:

  1. My first surgery was not botched. I had a resection leak, as it does in 5% of all resections, because the point were the colon was rejoined didn’t heal. No, the doctor was not at fault. Think of it in these terms. If Alex screwed up the first operation, why would I be looking forward to him doing my final surgery next week?
  2. The idea of being sent outside has never been brought up. Honestly, I’m quite proud that we have the capability to treat our own citizens for a broad range of surgical procedures here, rather than having to rely on some other jurisdiction to do it for us. Even if I was sent out, and incidentally, I’m glad I wasn’t for logistical reasons if nothing else, chances are I would have had the same surgeon, since he has a practice here and in Vancouver (note the nice segue to point number 1).

The main points above should illustrate how things are. Now, with them being said, here comes the details. Those who aren’t interested should probably stop reading now. I mention that since one of my brothers gets a bit antsy if either Clara or I mention the word “colonoscopy” on Facebook, since that’s “inappropriate.” I tend to point out the the main underlying causes of my problem are a) it can be hereditary and b) being over 40. On a personal note, I think point “b” beats the crap out of not making it to 40.

My problem started with a condition called diverticulosis. This is where, either from inheriting it or living long enough, your colon grows little pouches. Since my father has had much the same surgery I had and my older brother has had the same issue, I’m suspecting it’s inherited. If these pouches become inflamed, you have diverticulits. When this happens, the pouches can grow and seek vascular tissue to connect to in other parts of the abdominal cavity. Like the ad used to say, reach out and touch someone. My colon got really friendly and reached out and touched a bunch of things. One of those was my bladder. It poked a hole, forming a connection between the bladder and the colon, also known as a coenteric fistula.

This, while reasonably rare, and more common in women than men, is a bad thing. As one doctor mentioned, if left untreated can be “kind of fatal.” Basically, your urinary tract is a sterile system and introducing bacteria that don’t belong there provides a constant illustration of the idea of the bladder and kidney infections from Hell. This, by the way, is the main reason why I lost 40 pounds between June and the end of August.

My first surgery, which took longer than expected, was to remove the inflamed portion of the colon, about 7 inches, patch the hole in my bladder and pack abdominal fat between the bladder and colon to prevent it from recurring. This was quite successful even though I did require more surgery. Where the colon was resected, however, did not totally heal, leaving me a leak the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen. Needless to say, having the contents of your colon leaking into the abdominal cavity is another bad thing, so I had surgery to repair that a week later. Given the leak, my surgeons opted to give my colon a little vacation.

As part of the second surgery, I had a loop ileostomy done, where part of the small intestine is pulled through the wall of your abdomen. This leaves you using an ostomy device to collect the small intestine’s contents. Needless to say, this is an inconvenient and annoying situation and more high maintenance than a 1980s vintage Volvo was. Ignoring the more obvious issues, the dietary restrictions alone are enough to drive me crazy. Given the propensity of any mechanical system to eventually fail, accidents occur with the appliance and these aren’t a lot of fun to deal with either. I also realise, though, that there are many people in my shoes who do not have the advantage of having this being a temporary situation because of either colon cancer or far more serious colon afflictions than mine.

So, next week, for those curious, I’m off to have my ileostomy reversed. If you read my blog post from three weeks ago, I had a sigmoidoscopy and got to see my wonderfully healed colon from the inside… on television no less. I’m looking forward to the end of my problems, to say the least of the situation.

So these, in slightly less than a thousand words, are the full details of my surgical endeavours. Hopefully, those not really wanting this level of detail stopped reading earlier…

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4 Comments

  1. Cheryl says:

    TMI…. But we love you and are glad you are getting better.

  2. I thought it was all very interesting – and you never know when sharing your experience might help someone else, so on behalf that yet-to-be-identified someone else, “Thanks!”

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