Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So I hate my fucking colostomy

Warning: This is really gross.

When the doctors came to me that Saturday afternoon and told me I was probably going to need surgery, I got weepy. It wasn't the surgery itself that brought tears to my eyes—though knowing that my belly was about to be sliced open wasn't exactly comforting—but what the docs told me was waiting on the other side: a colostomy bag.

Surgery scared me. The colostomy offended me.

There was my vanity, first off all. Who gets colostomies after all? Old guys, that's who, grampas who've had their sexual day in the sun and don't have to worry about looking good and being attractive to the opposite sex. (I'm married and faithful, but I don't want to be repulsive to other women; this made me feel like I'd be repulsive to both my wife and other women.) Young, virile men don't have colostomies. I'm not young exactly—I'm 38—but I suspected the surgery was a too-early arrival in the precincts of the elderly.

Beyond that, though, the problem was literally visceral: Part of my insides would be hanging outside. I'd be carrying a bag of shit on my gut. It would be like walking around as an extra from a zombie movie, only all the time. Or all the time until it's reversed, which I'm told will happen in the first couple of months.

Truth be told, I didn't do very well the first couple of times the nurses emptied the colostomy bag while I was in the hospital. The fact of clearing out my guts through my gut made me lightheaded; the smell made it worse. The nurses told me that I'd have to start emptying my own bag; even more, I'd have to change it myself once I went home—actually wiping my intestines clean before adhering a new bag to myself.

I felt ... petulant.

Complicating matters was the fact that the colostomy wasn't the only hole in my gut. When I went into the hospital—and here is where I might be guilty of oversharing—I hadn't pooped for two weeks. I was distended, my entire gastrointestinal system inflamed to the point of cutting off the blood supply to vital organs. I was so distended, in fact, that when surgeons tried to make the first colostomy hole in me—at the top of my belly, just under my sternum—it didn't work: they couldn't access my intestine. So they tried again an inch down from there, and managed to open up the pipes. I'm told I popped like a zit, two weeks of pressure buildup in my insides suddenly finding a quick, messy release.

The result of the first incision, though, is that I have two holes in my gut: the colostomy, and what I like to call the "superfluous wound." It's about an inch deep and an inch wide, and requires daily dressing. And the nurses told me that this, too, would require my personal care. The prospect filled me with dread.

Fast forward to this morning. I woke up at 6:16 am and—as has become my habit—felt under my shirt to see if the bag had filled overnight and needed emptying. Something worse had happened: It ruptured on the top side; waste was pooling on my chest and around my wound.

We called the nurse's office. One would be coming at 9, my wife was told. But I might want to clean up and dress everything myself before she got there, if I could.

The choice was to replace my colostomy bag and wound dressing, or sit around a couple of hours and let filth leak into my wound. It didn't seem like a real choice.

So I did what I had to do, with the assistance of my wife. First I cleaned my wound, extracting soupy gauze from the hole and packing fresh stuff in, then covering it up with medical tape. Then we found a fresh colostomy bag and cut a hole in it to match the size of my stoma. It was gross. But I was clear-headed—I even took a photo of the whole mess to show the nurse, just in case some visual help was needed later on.

So I'm proud that I could handle situations I'd dreaded. Sometimes you find you're capable of more than you realized because you're forced to do more than you want to.

On the other hand, the incident only exacerbated my anger about parts of the surgery that no doubt saved my life. I hate my fucking colostomy, and I can't wait for it to be fixed.

10 comments:

phillygrrl said...

Courage! We're all rooting for you!

mitzibel said...

Painful, humiliating, and disgusting. And it's also saved your life. That doesn't mean you don't have the right to feel all sorts of negativity about it, embarrassed and furious and devastated. But you're alive, thanks to the fact that we live in an age where they can actually cut a hole in your gut and pull some intestine out. Wow, put it that way, it sounds very much like torture. But torture, you live through. And for the gross and excruciating procedure that's keeping you on my planet for a while longer, I'm grateful. In fact, I'll be a little extra grateful for you, so you don't feel the obligation to be so much so yourself ;)

brendancalling said...

"I can't wait for it to be fixed."

At least it's temporary, judging by this comment. Give thanks for that.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I actually said "ewww" out loud at one point while reading this. But really, I'm pulling for you, and looking forward to the day when you can happily announce that your insides and their contents are back where they belong.

twiggle said...

"And for the gross and excruciating procedure that's keeping you on my planet for a while longer, I'm grateful. In fact, I'll be a little extra grateful for you, so you don't feel the obligation to be so much so yourself ;)"

I couldn't say it better.

On the bright side, chicks dig guys with scars. ;)

Anonymous said...

You didn't say if your colostemy was temporary or permanent. Mine was 3 yrs, ago, fortuntatly temporary. It does get easier. I pray you have the experience of looking back at this time in your life with a sense of humor and appreciation of what is possible.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. I'm almost 3 months in with mine. I have about 5 months to go. I'm 21 years old. I got one due to a hollow point bullet hitting me on my lower left side. It could've been worse I know. But I hate my fuckin colostomy bag too! And I can't wait to get it fixed.

Arkayeff said...

I have been there. I lost my gut in 2009. The self image thing is not easy. I expect I am one of the old guys you mention, but the desire to be potentially attractive is human and not ageist. It may even be a survival instinct for the race.

I can only say, that hating it doesn't help. Your biggest organ is your brain

Arkayeff
http://theknifeyousee.blogspot.co.uk/

robertmarc1 said...

know one likes the thing at all but life could be a whole lot worse. I have one and i'm not old at all and i can honestly say"I HATE IT".

Anonymous said...

It doesn't make you unattractive. I'm a 23 year old (not unattractive) girl, no colostomy, and it wouldn't turn me off a potential date. Putting up with something like that so patiently makes you attractive...as someone said upthread, chicks dig guys with scars. I know that's a big, unnecessary part of the anger and worry. xx