Liver Resection – A diary of recovery
In August 2006, I had an MRI scan and a growth was identified on the right hand side of my liver. A week later I saw a specialist who explained that I would need surgery to remove it. They suspected that it was a rare tumour which was benign, however it was encroaching on a blood vessel and could give me problems in later life, so it was best to remove it. I was told that it would be quite a major operation, but I was unsure as to how major at this point.
A couple of weeks later a I met with the surgeon who went over the history again and detailed what had been found and why they had to remove it. The way it would be removed would be to cut the blood supply off to one side of my liver and then remove the whole of this side. Being told this shocked me a bit, but I was a bit more relaxed when it was explained that the liver would actually grow back. The operation would take around 5 hours and I would spend a few hours in a High dependency unit before returning to the ward, and would spent between 7 and 10 days in hospital. I would be off work for around 6 – 8 weeks, which I thought a bit much as I was fairly fit, and I believed I could make a recovery quicker than this.
The operation would take place in September and I would receive a letter confirming the date.
Before the Operation
Wed 13 th September
The letter arrived. I was to report to the ward at midday on Sunday 17 th, 4 days away. I would only have 2 days left at work. I was expecting a bit more notice, but with it being this soon, I did not have any time to sit and worry about what was happening.
Friday 15 th September
I had to report to the hospital for a pre operation assessment. Firstly I met with the Anesthetist who explained a bit more of what would happen.
On the morning of the operation I would be taken to a room where all of the preparation would take place. I would be given an Epidural, which is where a tube is inserted into my back to supply morphine directly to the area where there will be pain. It will be in place for around 4 days. Other tubes would be inserted into me, and a sensor inserted into my neck and a scanner used to position it just above my lung, to enable monitoring during the operation.
The incision I would have would be right across the abdomen, which took me back a bit as I was expecting a much smaller cut. I would also be the first operation of the day, starting at 8.
We also spoke about the recovery and he said it could be 6 months before I have fully recovered, but in the initial recovery the last thing they wanted was for me to lie on a sofa watching daytime TV. I assured him that that would be the last thing I would want to do.
I then had my blood pressure and temperature taken by a nurse who also filled a form out about me. Then I had to go and have some blood taken, before meeting with a member of the surgeon’s team. She checked my abdomen and passed me fit for the operation.
Sunday 17 th September
I called the Hospital to make sure they were ready for me, which they said they were. Helen drove me in at around 12. When I arrived in the ward, the bed was ready and I waited around for half a hour before being formally admitted. I had nothing to do so we went and sat in the hospital restaurant for a few hours. My mother turned up for an hour and she was very worried. I was left in the hospital just before 6, which is when the hospital food came around, which I tucked into as I would have to go nil by mouth from midnight.
I had a visit from the surgeon’s team who felt my abdomen, followed by a visit from the surgeon a little later. I had to sign the consent forms, and to do so the risks had to be explained. There was a mortality rate of 3% overall, which would be a lot lower for someone of my age. A 15% risk of complications, such as bile leaking afterwards which would cause problems, and a risk of needing a blood transfusion. He then explained about the operation, in the morning I would be taken to the preparation room at 8, and the preparation would take two hours. The operation would take 5 hours after that. I realised that this would add a couple of hours to the time that mum and Helen were expecting me to be out of theatre and could cause them anxiety.
The surgeon explained that this would be the riskiest thing I had ever undertaken in my life, providing I didn’t do extreme rock climbing. I did think back to the back climb I had to do unroped in the alps two years ago, at 4,000 meters, and thought that that was probably riskier. I signed all of the forms and asked who he felt about the operation, being comforted by the response that he was looking forward to it as it was an interesting technical challenge. Another plus point was the fact that my liver would take only two weeks to grow back, which surprised me.
I got into bed and started to watch the TV around 8. The ward was sectioned off into rooms which contained 6 beds arranged in two rows of three facing each other. Each bed had a flat screen TV on a long arm, enabling it to be positioned anywhere around the bed. The TV also provided radio and a telephone, however it was expensive at £3.50 a day just to watch the TV channels, which were the main 5, plus the BBC and ITV freeview channels. The phone was expensive to use, especially for someone making an incoming call.
As I was settling into bed, I was moved to another room in the ward. The one I was in initially was next to the main desk in the ward, and was where they put the patients that needed the closest monitoring. The room I was moved to was quieter and they said I would be able to sleep better.
I watched the only film on that night, legally blonde 2, which almost put me to sleep, but sadly didn’t. I had a very sleepless night, which was punctuated by the regular monitoring of my blood pressure, pulse and temperature. At midnight my water jug was removed and I lay there the whole night thinking.
Week One – Operation and Initial Recovery
Monday 18 th September
I had been awake all night, literally just looking at the clock, which seemed to be moving very slowly. The catering staff started coming around at about 6, but I wasn’t allowed anything. A nurse came around, measured me for the DVT socks, and gave me a gown to change into once I had showered. I was given some soap which was not perfumed and used it to wash my hair and body. I then went back to bed to await being taken down to the operating theatres.
A guy in a theatre gown cam at around 8:15 and started chatting away. He was going to take me down to theatre, once my records had been found. Another guy came about 10 minutes later and we chatted about football, the military and travel while they found my records. I was after 8:30 when I started to move, and the conversation carried on all the way down to the theatres. The main part of their job was to take a patients mind off what was about to happen, which they did very well.
I was taken into a room where I was to be moved onto an operating trolley. All of the patients having operations were doing the same, I was surprised by the amount of patients so I asked how many theatres there were, to be told that there were 14, many more than the two or three I thought there would be. I moved onto the trolley and was taken into the preparation room next to the theatre. The anaesthetist was there and they started the prep. I had a drip put into both arms then they started with the epidural, for which I had to sit up and to the right. I asked how big the tube was, and it was very tiny when they showed me. All the time we talked about travel non stop, and it turned out the anaesthetist had also travelled in Malawi. Mid conversation, as the prep work continued I was asked to move back fully onto the trolley. As my legs went on and I turned to the left a mask went over my face and I felt the gas going into my body, a brief second of haziness and everything went black.
I felt my leg shaking and opened my eyes to see a nurse shaking my leg. She looked at me and said that my mother had called and asked how I was, they had told her I was fine. I took my oxygen mask off and thanked her before putting the mask on and closing my eyes. My first thought was thank god I’m alive, I made it OK. I drifted in and out of sleep over the next hour, but was aware that it was evening. I was next woken by a nurse who shook my shoulder and told me that I was doing really well she showed me the button I could use to put some morphine in my system via the epidural if needed. I had a visit that night from Helen and my mum and became more aware of my state.
I had the following stuck in my body:
There was a dressing over my stomach, where the incision had been made, all the way across. I was in a little pain, but the morphine made a big difference, especially when I used the button. I had been connected to machines which monitored all of my vital signs. One thing I found odd was that I had two large square patches shaved on my thighs. I had been shaved on my arms and chest where tubes and dressings were being put, but these two patches, which were about 10 square cm in size did not seem to have been touched.
I had visits from the surgeon and other doctors during the evening and became more awake as the evening went on. I had a little sleep that night but spent a lot of it looking at the clock again.
Tuesday 19 th September
The first full day in HDU. The unit has a nurse assigned to every patient and vital signs are monitored constantly with temperature and blood pressure being taken every hour. I was assigned 2 male nurses, one was from the cardiac unit and was just gaining an insight into the HDU. I kept getting told that I was too well that day. I had a visit from the surgery team during the day, the anaesthetist visited and various other doctors, many of whom I never saw again. The drain bags were checked, all were OK, although the stomach bag was empty. I was told that I was able to take sips of water.
In the afternoon I had a chest X-ray which was painful as I had to roll onto my side to allow the plate to be put under me.
I had a visit from a physio in the afternoon. She gave me some exercises to do. I had to take deep breaths regularly to ensure my lungs opened up properly. If I didn’t take deep breathes, the lower part of my lung could contract. I also had to regularly move my legs and cough to produce flem. This and the breathing hurt.
The tube for a drip that was in my right arm was removed. This was quite painful and had restricted the movement in my right arm. I could move my arm once the tape holding the tube was off, but it was painful.
Mum came in the afternoon and Helen in the evening, however I fell asleep when both were there.
In the evening the surgeon visited, and said that they hadn’t had the histography back, but I should be prepared for this operation just being the start, it is possible that I would need a lot more follow up actions, and that I could be at the start of an adventure, but my main concern is to recover well from this operation.
The tumour was touching my adrenal gland and my diaphragm as a precaution they removed the adrenal gland and part of my diaphragm, but it would grow back. All I could think is that it must have looked pretty bad when they removed it, but I wouldn’t get too concerned until the histography is known and would concentrate on getting better. I do think the amount of pain killers I was on made the conversation seem like a dream.
At 7:30 the shift changed and a nurse was looking after me who also came from Plympton. She brought me a cup of ice, which was the best thing I had ever tasted. It quenched my thirst immediately. I was given a bed bath, change of gown and a shave later that evening which made me feel a lot better. She move me onto my left hand side, the side which had not been operated on, in order to do part of this and the bag attached to my nose tube filled up with a green bitty liquid and a lot of air. It brought a little relief to some of the pain, so the bag was emptied and I moved to the left and filled it up again.
I slept a little better that night, although I was disturbed by all of the beeping in the unit, which was not only the normal pulse monitoring but various alarms going off constantly, and a patient called John acting up all night. The fact that he was called john meant that every time they called his name, I awoke.
Wednesday 20 th September
I spent a lot less time clock watching in the morning, but was still tired due to the poor sleep I had had. I was assigned another nurse at the shift change over. The nurse had told me that I was supposed to have moved back to the ward yesterday, however they didn’t have any space. I was OK with this as I was getting a lot of care in the unit, but the noise in the unit was disturbing my sleep and it was starting to irritate me. The constant beeping seemed to get louder and every alarm that went off, which was at least every 10 minutes lasted longer.
A couple of times during the day I would move to the left to drain my stomach, and had another X-Ray in the morning. I was having an ultrasound scan in the afternoon to see if my liver had started clotting as part of the regeneration process.
In the morning my dressing was changed, the nurse said the wound looked like a shark bite, which I didn’t know was a good or bad thing. I didn’t look at the wound anyway.
The scan was scheduled for 2pm onwards, so from 10am I wasn’t allowed any liquid. I was allowed to suck on a damp swab every half an hour, but the whole experience was a torment as I was very thirsty and had flem building up. I had coughed in the morning and brought up some flem which brought some relief but it was also painful to cough.
During the day I had visits from various doctors, many of whom I had not seen before. Helen popped in while I was waiting for the scan. 2pm came and went, she had left just before 2. then 3pm came, and the nurse called the scan unit to find out if they were ready for me, they were not. Around 3:40 a porter came to take me up to the unit, which was two floors up on the main floor of the hospital. I was wheeled through areas filled with people who were just visiting patients which seemed weird, and was my first sight of normality. When I arrived at the unit they mentioned that I didn’t need to be nil by mouth for my scan, it was only when the pancreas needed to be scanned that it was essential, but they told everyone to go nil by mouth just in case. This was annoying, but all I wanted to do was have the scan get back to the unit and have a glass of ice. The scan only took around 10 minutes, and the doctor didn’t appear to know what he was looking for. All he said that I had half my liver missing, which is something I knew already. I was then wheeled back to the unit and had a fantastic cup of ice.
I mentioned about the noise to the nurse, and she said she would try and get some ear plugs. A group of doctors came by and said they were surprised I was still here. I told them that the ward didn’t have a bed and they suggested I call the Patient Advice Line. I got a phone from a nurse and called, but the answer phone was on so I left a message.
Around 6 another patient came in next to me who had had a liver resection, and appeared to be in a lot of pain. As a result of the new arrival there was an increase in noise and bustle as nurses attended to her. It was then the nurse looking after me returned with ear plugs she had managed to get from another unit. I was very grateful for these, popped them in and fell asleep very quickly.
I awoke about 8. The team from last night were working now. The nurse I had form last night told me that I would be going back to the ward at 10. They had tried to tell me before the shift change however I was fast asleep. This was great news. I slept a bit more and woke before 10, however it was another two hours before the porters came to take me to the ward. When I left the HDU I waved a big goodbye and thank you to the staff.
Thursday 21 st September
The ward was a lot quieter. I was in the same position as I was when I was first admitted. The man in the bed next to me said he was surprised to see me out of the HDU so soon as I was completely out of it when I arrived. I vaguely remembered him.
I was left alone most of the night, only to have my stats checked every few hours by an auxiliary nurse. I did sleep a lot better and felt slightly better in the morning. Breakfast came around at 8, but I was still on sips of water. I was visited by the surgeon who asked if I had had any bowel movements yet, as this would determine when I could eat, but I hadn’t.
My chest drain was removed during the day, and the hole was sealed with a stitch. The pain control team also visited, and asked about the epidural. I said I was in a lot of pain around the operating area, so they checked the positioning of the tube, but it was in the perfect spot, so it was brining relief. They said that the epidural would be removed tomorrow, which was a bit daunting as I would be in a lot more pain.
The tube in my neck was removed which was a relief, but they still needed the two in my left arm for injections and the drip feed. During the day I had visits form more doctors, the pharmacist, and the physio who got me out of bed and into the chair next to my bed. This was comfortable, but the painful part was moving from the chair into the bed. It also allowed me to talk to the other patients. The man in the bed next to me was from Scotland, where he ran a lodge. He used to be in IT, and we spoke about each other’s work. This was the only place he could have the operation he needed, which must have been very inconvenient as he it was hard for visitors to travel the distance.
I had my dressing changed in the afternoon, and a wash and a shave from the nurse, which left me feeling a lot better. I asked for some ice, which I was given, however later on was told that I shouldn’t have had any as the ice making machine hadn’t been certified for human consumption.
My cousin visited in the afternoon, bringing a magazine and some nibbles, which I couldn’t eat, and mum and Helen came later. I wasn’t falling asleep when they were here so much now and they got me a TV card so I wouldn’t be bored.
In the early evening I felt the urge to move my bowels, so I was brought a bed pan at first, which I couldn’t use, then later a komode. Whilst trying to use this, two of my friends arrived, so I got off and back into bed. The brought an apple, and a copy of loaded magazine.
In the evening I settled down, watching dragons den amongst other things. Sleep that night was a little better, although still disturbed to have my stats checked.
Friday 22 nd September
I passed wind in the morning, which was a relief and a sign that things were starting to work. My surgeon told me I could start eating from tomorrow, and could have hot drinks today. Hot drinks came around every two hours and I had a jug of water which I could fill a cup up with anytime I wanted.
In the morning the epidural, catheter and liver drain were removed. I was not happy about the catheter as this would mean that I would have to get up to go to the toilet, which would be very uncomfortable, however bed bottles were provided to avoid this. Although the liver drain was removed, they still put a bag over the hole as there still would be fluid draining off.
As a result of the epidural being removed I was given a dose of oral morphine, which essentially put me straight to sleep. I was also taking pain killers orally now, but only half the recommended dose of paracetemol as it could damage my liver. Later I was asked if I wanted another dose of oral morphine, but asked for a smaller dose as I was put to sleep with the other one.
The rest of the day passed without much incident, I had three more friends visit plus Helen and mum. The evening was spent watching TV.
Saturday 23 rd September
This morning I ate for the first time, although it wasn’t very much. Cornflakes in the morning, a light lunch of something barely edible which I was told was an omelette and allegedly cream potato and some sort of gammon in the evening. I was feeling better again today, my drip feed was removed and I was essentially mobile again.
One of the other patients got me a Guardian when he went down to get the papers. The physio came to see me, helped me up onto me feet and asked me to walk over to the window which was about 10 metres away. I made it over, but it was slow and painful, and a restriction in movement I have never experienced before. It was also quite tiring, and I lay in the bed afterwards. In the afternoon, I went for a slightly longer walk, of around 15 metres. One of the patients told me that it was good to walk to the corridor just outside the ward where there was a fresh breeze. I did this in the afternoon, and it was very refreshing.
I tried to use the toilet in the afternoon, but couldn’t get anything out, which was frustrating.
Had another dressing change, and I am still not looking at the wound, especially as I saw the wound of another patient who had just had his staples removed, and decided that I don’t need to see mine for a long time.
I had my normal visitors in the afternoon and evening. I spent the night watching TV again, although fell asleep around 8 O’Clock with the TV still on.
Sunday 24 th September
Feeling better today and more mobile. In the morning I managed to walk to the hospital shop and buy a newspaper. The shop was on the 6 th floor and I was on the seventh, so I had to walk to the lifts, which were around 30 metres away, then when on the 6 th floor walk from the lifts to the shop, about another 30 metres. The most difficult part was waiting for the lift, which seemed to take an eternity and standing up waiting for them was a drain.
Later in the morning my bowels moved, which was a fantastic relief and quite memorable as it was like popping a champagne cork. Unfortunately it was like opening flood gates and meant that I spent a lot of the day to and from the toilet.
Today was also a bit of a nightmare as every time I nodded off, someone would wake me up, be it to take my readings, offer me a cup of tea, asking what drugs I was taking, or just generally trying to stop me from sleeping.
I did have a visit from someone from the pharmacy who said they were getting my drugs ready for me now, so I wouldn’t have to wait for them when I am discharged tomorrow. The wait for the prescription from the pharmacy was generally the biggest hold up.
The surgeon visited in the late afternoon and said I could go home now if I wanted, I was OK, just looking a little sweaty, or I could wait until tomorrow. I said I’d wait until the morning when everything would be ready for me.
The evening was spent the same as most, watching TV until falling asleep.
Week Two – Discharge to Home Care
Monday 25 th September
The hospital food is very unappealing, although I did have a piece of toast with my breakfast.
In the morning the final tube was removed from my body, this was the remaining drip in my left arm, which had been used for injections. After this was out I went to have a shower, well a hair wash and all over body wash. My hair hadn’t been washed for 8 days now and was very dirty.
I had to be careful shaving as there were four puncture wounds on my throat were tubes must have been inserted during the operation, and removed before I awoke. Once shaved, I washed my hair which involved me leaning into the shower, trying to keep my dressing dry, and did result in a lot of water on the floor of the room.
I was also able to remove the DVT socks, which was a pleasant experience and once I’d done a full body wash I felt a lot more human again.
My dressing was changed again and I spent a few hours sitting on the bed waiting for the pharmacy to get my prescription ready. The notion that they would have been ready yesterday was obviously a pipe dream. I was also given a letter for the nurse who would change my dressing in my local surgery.
I had two more visitors in the early afternoon, bringing a large bunch of grapes, and mum and Helen came to pick me up at around 2. I got dressed into clothes again, for the first time in 8 days and had a little walk around. At 3:30 the drugs still not had come, so mum checked with an admin friend of hers how long they would be, I was told at least another hour, so we arranged fro mum’s friend to pick them up so I could leave immediately.
The walk to the lift was straight forward, however the wait for the lift was extremely long. Mum had popped up to see her friend, and we arranged to meet her in the lobby. Once the lift had come and we were on the 6 th floor it was a very slow walk to the lobby. I sat in a chair to wait for mum to come down, and after 20 minutes I asked Helen to pop outside to see if she was there. She was, the wait for the lift was so long that she had overtaken us.
I then made the final walk to the outside, and getting outside was like having a sensory overload, the extra noises, feelings and smells which had been absent for the last 8 days was invigorating. I was helped into the car and had a 20 minute drive to my mother’s house, where I would spend the next couple of weeks recovering.
Once in the house I lay on the sofa and slept for a while, which was fairly easy as it was so peaceful compared to the hospital. I went up to bed to lay down, only to be disturbed by building work next door, but this was shut out by closing the windows. The bed was a bit too comfortable compared to the hospital bed and it was a little more painful as my body settled into positions I hadn’t been in since the operation and just was not used to.
I managed to eat a piece of gammon in the evening and some grapes, which gave me a bit of stomach pain as they were acidic plus I had plenty of water. I had to build up the pillows to give me some support and stop me lying prone, which was very painful, and I managed to get some sleep, although I was waking up every two hours or so for a toilet break and to sit up for a while.
Tuesday 26 th September
I awoke at about 7, my niece stays at mum’s every morning until she is ready to go to nursery. She saw me and asked why I was staying here, but at 8 helped mum bring my daily drugs up to me.
I had a breakfast of muesli, cornflakes and banana before getting dressed and sitting on the sofa.
I had to go back to the hospital for continuous monitoring of my statistics and to have some blood tests. Helen took me in for 11, I was dropped off at the entrance, walked in and sat in a chair in the lobby, about half way to the lifts to wait for Helen to park up and join me. The walk was still a slow affair, but I was quicker than Monday.
I had to return to the ward, which is aftercare that the surgeon wanted, however the ward wasn’t particularly happy with as it took resources away from the patients that they had to look after. My blood was taken along with temperature, pulse and blood pressure, which took around an hour as I had to wait for a nurse to become free.
They needed to find me a bed so they could change my dressing, and did so after around half an hour and half an hour later I had a new dressing and two of the clips in my would had been removed. Clips were what were used instead of stitches, and were essentially like staples. The rest of the clips would be removed tomorrow in my doctor’s surgery.
We left at around 1 and I was moving even quicker on the way out, although still wouldn’t give a snail a very good race.
I spent a little time in the garden in the evening before I watched another DVD then going to bed for another night of broken sleep.
Wednesday 27 th September
I was up at the same time as every morning, around 7:30 and settling into a routine of having daily drug dosage, then breakfast reading the paper. Mum washed my hair this morning, and I managed to get into the bath to have a shallow wash before getting dressed. Things were staring to get easier
In the afternoon we went to my surgery in Plympton to have my clips removed. I gave the nurse the letter from the hospital which she read. The letter said that the clips were due to come out on Monday not today, so there was nothing she could do.
I was going to the hospital tomorrow so I would get it sorted then. I booked another appointment for Friday to get the dressing changed. Before going back, we popped into my house to pick up a few things. It had only been empty for 10 days but already felt a bit musty.
The rest of the afternoon was spent resting and the evening was spent watching a DVD before I went to bed at around 10 for another night of broken sleep.
Thursday 28 th September
Normal morning with another shallow bath. I had to pop into the hospital for normal monitoring this morning and to get something sorted out about the clips.
This time I was taken into a side room where a Royal Marine nurse removed the clips. Their removal reduced some of the discomfort I had around the wound. The wound was healing well in the middle but the end bits had not sealed and were very messy.
The dressing was only put on the messy parts, leaving the middle exposed to the air, which I was a little uncomfortable with, especially as there had been some leakage onto my clothes.
I had a visit from a few of the surgery team who wanted to see how I was doing. They asked about the histography but none had been received yet, they said I was due to be discussed in the weekly team meeting that afternoon so may feel my ears burning.
In afternoon I slept on the sofa and had a phone call in the evening from a friend about a skiing trip in February. I was feeling good and very happy with my progress so agreed to go. I was eating three meals a day now and had regular bowel movements so was confident I would be recovered in a few weeks. In the evening I settled down to watch TV, extras was very funny and it actually hurt to laugh. I went to bed at about 10. I was sleeping for longer, although it was still only just over two hours before I woke each time, and still needed to spent some time sitting upright in the middle of the night.
Friday 29 th September
I had a surgery appointment for my dressing this morning, where a full dressing was put on again. The nurse said I should come back on Monday for a new dressing. I popped home again afterwards before another afternoon on the sofa, only taking a break to lay on the bed for an hour.
DVD again in the evening, before retiring.
Saturday 30 th September
In the morning Helen drove me Tesco, which was about 10 miles away up the A38. I managed to walk around OK, but slowly. Stopped off in my house on way back. I made lunch when we returned.
The rest of the day was a fairly quiet, with the afternoon spent watching the football scores come in and the a DVD in evening
Sunday 1 st October
In the morning myself and Helen walked to the little shopping centre that was about ¾ of a mile away. I was slow, but I didn’t have any problems with the distance.
She went out to buy me some lunch when we returned. I spent the afternoon on the sofa and watched TV in bed during the evening.
Week Three – Relapse and back to Hospital
Monday 2 nd October
In the morning had the usual monitoring and went to surgery to have dressing changed in the afternoon, also saw my doctor who gave me a sick note. He was going to do it for 8 weeks, but I was feeling so positive that I would be healed quicker than that, that I asked him only to do 6 and if I needed more I would revisit.
I also asked about the diclofenic painkillers which ran out at lunchtime. He said to use ibuprofen if I needed any pain relief.
Tuesday 3 rd October
Fairly uneventful morning, afternoon spent on sofa again. Started getting pains in abdomen in the early evening, didn’t each much and later on was not able to find a comfortable position to sit or lie in without being in absolute agony.
Tied to go for walk to see if that would ease the pain, but didn’t get further than 20 metres before I had to turn back. By 7:30 the pain was so bad that I asked to be dropped into A&E.
After speaking to the admissions clerk I was fast tracked into a bed in the A&E ward. A nurse took all my stats and put a drip tube into my left arm. I had an oxygen mask which brought relief. I got into a gown and managed to lay on the bed. A doctor came and saw me about an hour later, he felt me abdomen and said there was a lot of wind there and that I would need a scan to determine the problem. That would take place tomorrow and in the mean time I would be moved into the Surgical assessment unit.
A nurse came and saw me a while afterwards and gave me some oral morphine. It was around midnight when I was moved to the SAU on the 4 th floor. The unit was fairly quiet and softly lit. I was tended to by a nurse all night and had been placed on a drip feed. I managed to sleep OK that night but not for very long.
Wednesday 4 th October
In the morning I didn’t manage to eat much. I was later visited by a doctor doing rounds with a group of students. They asked about my histography and another doctor said that they believed by tumour to be the primary tumour but they were waiting for confirmation.
In the late morning I was moved to another ward on the same floor. I was surprised to see two people from Plympton on the ward. I was given painkillers and monitored all day. I had visitors in the afternoon. Helen was not happy as she didn’t know until this morning that I had been readmitted, however I didn’t want her to worry all night so it was best that way.
My dressing was changed on the ward, I ensured that my appointment with the nurse in my surgery had been cancelled.
I was told that my CT scan wouldn’t be until tomorrow at 2pm. The pain had gone down but this was probably due to the painkillers, I was back on diclofenic and having regular doses of oral morphine.
In the evening I was spotted by my surgical team, who did not know I had been readmitted. They were supposed to have been told as a priority, but were not. They examined me and noticed a lot of abdominal tension, but said would wait until the scan results to decide on what action was needed. The surgeon asked how I was eating, and I said I wasn’t really as I didn’t like the food. He asked Helen to bring food in for me.
Later it was a case of TV then sleep, the normal evening in Hospital.
Thursday 5 th October
I was nil by mouth again for four hours before the scan, however it wasn’t as bad as the last time I had to endure it.
The porter was on time to take me to the scan and I went straight in when I arrived. Th scan took around 10 minutes and I returned to the ward where I had two huge rolls Helen had brought in for me. I could only manage one.
The scan results indicated a large build up of wind in the abdomen and a build up of fluid on the liver and in the lungs, both of which were a result of the operation and would be removed naturally by the body over time. There was no real action to take apart from let nature take it’s course.
They were concerned about a temperature spike I had had, so wanted to keep me in for another night.
That night was a normal evening in hospital, i.e. woken up to have blood pressure and temperature taken every few hours.
Friday 6 th October – Good News indeed.
I had a visit from the surgeon in the morning. They had the histography back. I had what they expected and of all the tumours I could have had it was the best type. The operation had gotten rid of it all, it wouldn’t have spread to or from anywhere else in the body and they couldn’t see any follow up action to take. I was delighted, and relived to find out that I was originally diagnosed correctly.
A nurse came and changed my dressing, this time putting a waterproof cover on so I could have a shower. She also put a pack of dressings together for me to give the district nurse when she came, organised the district nurse visit for Sunday and an appointment in my surgery on Tuesday to have the dressing changed.
I had a shave and shower about 10:30, and was very refreshed, the cleanest I had been for three weeks. I then started to play the waiting game, waiting for pharmacy to get my prescription ready so I could go home.
I walked around, going outside the ward a couple of times into the fresh air. Walking was more painful and far more arduous than it was a week ago but I needed to do it as it would reduce the trapped wind.
Helen came to pick me up at 4, but the prescription wasn’t ready until just after 4:30. I slowly walked out of the hospital, although didn’t need to stop and rest on the way out.
I was back in the peace and quiet again. I had a light evening meal and went to bed to rest early. I still had a lot of trapped wind and sleep was painful, although for the first time I managed to sleep on my side a little rather than on my back.
Saturday 7 th October
I went out for a small walk of around 100 metres today, but it was painful to go any further. In the afternoon I lay on the sofa watching a dismal England performance against Macedonia.
Then it was early to bed for another uncomfortable night.
Sunday 8 th October
The District nurse came in the morning and changed my dressing. I said about the trapped wind and she suggested drinking peppermint tea, which was fortunate as I had some with me.
I started drinking it as soon as she left expecting an immediate result, but that was not forthcoming. It was off to bed early again that night and another night on my side, but I noticed that I was passing more wind than previously, so the tea must be working.
Sleep is still very broken throughout the night.
Week Four – Back Home
Monday 9 th October
The pain is easing a lot now and I have stopped taking the diclofenic which could have contributed to the pain. In the morning I went into the hospital to continue my monitoring.
I spent some time in the garden in the afternoon and had a better night’s sleep.
Tuesday 10 th October
Another day of slight improvement.
Wednesday 11 th October
This morning I was well enough to visit work spending an hour talking to staff and catching up on things.
In the afternoon I finally returned home, having a small tidy up and going through my post firstly, before having a rest on the sofa.
A trip food shopping in the evening meant that normal life was returning gradually. Sleep was easier in my own bed, although still broken every couple of hours.
Thursday 12 th October
I started walking up to the local town centre each day from today. It would normally take less than 10 minutes, however in my present condition took nearly 30 minutes, which was frustrating, however necessary. I made a visit to the surgery to get my dressing changed, which was something I would have to do every other day for the next few weeks.
I was given a prescription for my dressings, which I had to pick up from the pharmacy. I had 3 different items on the prescription so had to pay for all 3, nearly £20, which hopefully would last for the entirety of getting my dressing changed. I then made the long (time wise) walk home.
I made the journey to the town centre twice as I had a hair cut in a salon in the afternoon, figuring that they would take more care over not getting any hair in my wound than the barbers I normally went. They also washed my hair.
Friday 13 th October
I made a longer walk this morning, down to the local police station. In the morning I had received a letter from London transport, claiming I had been driving in a bus lane in Shoreditch on the 7 th October at 23:30. A picture was attached of a car with my number plate on it, but it wasn’t the right make or model of car. Besides this, there were so many other reasons why I couldn’t have been in that bus lane at that time. The police couldn’t do anything as it was outside their jurisdiction.
The walk home involved going up a short but very steep hill, which I managed without any difficulty. The afternoon was spent resting.
Saturday & Sunday
I had the normal walk in the morning, resting in the afternoon. In the evening I was taken out for a meal, which I could only eat a small portion of. I wasn’t really ready to go out socially, as I was very sensitive to cigarette smoke, and the chairs were not that comfortable, so just wanted to go home and rest.
Sunday I didn’t leave the house, and started to get gas build up again in the evening, which was painful. Fortunately it was not as painful as the previous incident, and I was able to sleep stretched out on my side which eased the pain.
Week Five and beyond – Slow return to normality
The week passed slowly, the days are fairly boring and are all very similar, with a slow walk, made less boring by my Ipod, to the town centre in the morning, to get a paper, visit the library or get my dressing changed every other, followed by rest in the afternoon. Now and again I would bump into someone I knew which was good, and invariably they did not know about the operation, and got a full blown account.
Later in the week, I put another fleece sheet over my mattress to soften the bed a bit more, however it was too soft and I didn’t sleep very well as a result. Removal of the fleece returned sleep to normal. I was also sleeping longer without any gaps, only waking after 4 hours or so, however when I did wake, it did take around half an hour to get back to sleep.
Week six saw improvements in leaps and bounds. On a warm and sunny afternoon at the start of the week I went on the longest walk so far. I went nearly 3 miles, and the start involved a long climb up the steepest lane in the area.
The walk was really pleasant, and I was really tired in the evening. I also experienced a massive loosening of the bowels. I had been having regular bowel movements, but less seemed to be coming out than I was eating. After the walk, I dislodged all of the build up, and reduced the discomfort I felt around the operation area quite a lot. From then on I didn’t experience another build up.
I also stopped taking all medication during the week, and felt better due to it. I didn’t need any painkillers any more as I wasn’t in pain any more, just a bit of discomfort around the wound, and experiencing what could only be described as the sensation of having a string tied around my stomach.
I was walking a lot faster this week and fir the first time since the operation actually overtook someone. I was so used to being overtaken by everyone, including old ladies with walking sticks.
I managed to spend time with friends socially, although not for long and I still wasn’t up for visiting a pub yet, which would be far too smokey and would have an increased chance of being bumped into around the wound area.
At the end of the week I was signed off for another two weeks as my wound hadn’t healed yet, although the nurse said it was making very good progress. I was getting bored at home and was looking forward to returning to work. When the highlight of the day is deal or no deal, it is very sad indeed.
The week was much the same as the previous, although it started with a long walk of around 4 miles, which was very tiring but felt very good. Most of the week was spent getting back into doing reading for work and a presentation, intermingled with the regular walks and falling asleep in the afternoons, generally while a DVD is on, as daytime TV would even drive me insane falling asleep to it.
The major event happened during the middle of the week when it became really painful to walk, and move in certain positions. The pain was directly on the wound. When I had the dressing changed next, a large jagged scab came off in that area, so must have been loose and digging in so causing the pain. After the change the pain did not return.
I am walking at normal pace now and do not get out of breath whilst walking, although walking up steps is still tiring. I am also sleeping right through the night now, but I still get tired during the day. i guess internal healing takes a lot of energy.
Good news when my dressing was changed at the weekend, only a small piece was now required, rather than the full dressing across the whole stomach. The piece needing covering was still a bit gooey, but healing well, and was on my lower right above the liver. I had my first chance to see the wound undressed in a mirror, and know exactly what the nurse who said it looked like a shark bite meant. It was a semi circular cut across my whole stomach, and did resemble what it would look like if a large shark had tried to bite me in half, not pleasant, but when healed would be an impressive war wound to display.
Having much of the dressing off eased the discomfort, but it still felt like I had a piece of rope around my stomach which was being pulled tight, although now the rope was less taut.
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