"Emergency Bowel Surgery"

About: Whipps Cross University Hospital / General surgery Whipps Cross University Hospital / Trauma and orthopaedics

(as the patient),

On one Saturday, at the beginning of January I went to Whipps Cross A & E with severe abdominal pain. As soon as I had given them my details I went straight to ‘Majors’ and within minutes someone came and took me to a cubicle. A nurse came and took my blood pressure / temperature straight away and shortly afterwards an assessment was performed by a doctor. Although I had thought it was a strangulated hernia, they told me it was something more serious because my stomach was sore wherever they pressed it. I was given IV pain killers and anti-biotics and moved to another room. It was only a short while before a consultant and his registrar came to examine me and explain that the area around my intestine was septic and outline several things that could be causing this. They explained that I would need a CT scan to show what had caused the condition and then surgery to rectify it. My CT scan and surgery were to take place the following day because I am on blood thinners and it would be better to wait 24 hours. I was made extremely comfortable and given more IV pain killers / anti-biotics and fluids because I had to be nil by mouth in preparation for surgery the following day. The speed at which I was dealt with was absolutely amazing which goes to show that if you go to A & E and it is a real emergency you are dealt with quickly and efficiently. All of the staff were extremely professional, introducing themselves and explaining what was wrong and what was going to happen in words I could understand. I was a bit frightened but they helped me to remain calm and reassured me that I was right to go to A & E and that everything would be resolved the following day.

The following day I had my CT scan as planned and once they had the results the surgical team came to see me again. Now they were able to tell me that my large intestine had burst causing the surrounding area to go septic and that there was also a tumour in my large intestine. They explained that I needed immediate surgery to remove the part of my large intestine that had burst / contained the tumour and then rejoin it. (They also pointed out that if they could not rejoin my intestine I would need a ‘bag’ for a few months afterwards but this would only be a temporary measure) They stated that there was another complication because they would also have to remove an A4 piece of mesh that I had over my stomach from a hernia repair several years ago because this would have become infected. At this point I was beginning to panic but the registrar was very reassuring explaining that he and the consultant performed this sort of surgery every day and that there was nothing to worry about. I was seen by an anaesthetist shortly afterwards who was also very supportive and helped allay my fears, My husband was called in and shortly afterwards I was taken to theatre. Everyone in the pre-op room was extremely supportive when they saw how worried I was and before I knew it, I was out!

The next thing I remember (6 hours later! ) I was waking from the anaesthetic in ICU. I felt very confused and frightened at this point but could hear nurses speaking in soothing but encouraging voices and I eventually regained full consciousness. A nurse explained where I was and gave me special swabs to moisten my mouth so I could talk. The nurse assigned to me was very kind, attentive and reassuring and was constantly checking that my vitals were normal and also chatted to me about my family to put me at ease. Doctors came to explain that the operation was a success and had gone as planned and added that I did not need a 'bag'. They were very positive and reassuring and put me totally at ease. After about 20 hours in ICU I was transferred to Rowan Surgical Ward.

My memory of the first two days on Rowan Ward are still a bit hazy, what I do remember is that I had a bad reaction to the pain medication I was taking and kept hallucinating / having nightmares which caused me to feel paranoid. I actually thought that some of the hospital staff were trying to deliberately hurt me and whenever I was left alone I wanted to try and escape. Although I can laugh about this now, at the time it felt very real! The nurses on the ward were extremely tolerant of my erratic behaviour and persevered with their duties with a smile and positive encouragement. My pain medication was changed and I eventually returned to my normal self. I kept apologising to everyone for my ‘crazy’ behaviour over the next few days but everyone reassured me that it is not unusual to have a bad reaction to pain medication and made me feel less embarrassed / guilty.

I spent a total of 8 days on Rowan Ward and I can honestly say that for the duration of my stay all of the staff I came into contact with: - porters, cleaners, auxilliary staff, nurses, physiotherapists and doctors were all extremely professional. They performed their jobs efficiently and effectively and more importantly they were always friendly, kind and supportive to me and everyone else on the ward. The level of care I received on Rowan Ward and indeed Whipps Cross Hospital as a whole was second to none and I feel proud to live in a country that has such an excellent National Health Service which we must all fight to preserve!

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