Shit's about to get real...
Alright for those reading, I'm not going to spare the gory deets of the time I spent in hospital, this shit can be a bit full on for some and I absolutely don't want to offend or disturb anyone, so if you feel squeamish about reading medical stuff, maybe this blog post ain't the one for you! I won't be offended dw!
So first things first, my initial surgery was to investigate whether I had endometriosis. For those who don't know what this is, dw I kinda don't really either - you can read more on the link above. For someone who might have, kinda did have endo, I'm not very educated about it, but I can tell you the symptoms I experienced which I know vary vastly from woman to woman. It was 2010, I'd had pretty mild period pains up until then, but this time I had such bad pain that revealed itself only when I went to the bathroom (sorry there's no way to be cute about this). When I did it was literally like I was having pregnancy contractions (so I'm told). Like someone had stuck their hand inside me and tried to pull my intestines out. I almost threw up and fainted at the same time, all the colour drained from my face and all I could do was get in the foetal position in bed. Prior to this I'd had a few of these pains - like shooting up inside of me. I saw my gp who suspected it was endo and booked myself in for the investigatory surgery with one of the best gynaecologists in the city.
Fast forward to the surgery, it was a day procedure in and out, they found some scar tissue of the endo starting to form which was most likely kept at bay by the contraceptive pill. Then came a week of recovery before going back to get my stitches out. The weeks recovery was BAD but a coworker told me to expect that so I thought what I went through was normal. Took a bunch of pain killers and had a giant stomach that made me look about 7 months pregnant. I threw up, couldn't eat and eventually couldn't walk without being in agony. My breathing was short and I was feverish. When I went back in I was rushed to emergency surgery, the surgeon cut from just above my belly button to half way down my pubic bone. There was a tiny perforation in my bowel, so tiny they pulled my bowel out and flushed it in water to see tiny bubbles (like they do to find a puncture in a bike tyre). Apparently my internal organs were so close to shutting down from all the infection and literally shit floating around my body. If this isn't caught early, your organs start shutting down and you die. Simple as that, I was lucky to survive.
My recovery sucked! I was in intensive care for ages, couldn't eat so I had some kind of white liquid crap hooked up to me, this they had to feed into my vein in my arm down into my chest and yes I was awake when they did this. I was hooked up to every machine possible, I remember waking up in unimaginable pain, my sister assuring me I didn't have a colostomy bag which was a possibility. I couldn't get up so was showered in bed, I was in and out of consciousness, my water retention was so bad I couldn't bend my fingers to type on my phone.. everything, and I mean EVERYTHING blew up to 3 times the size (yep I'm talking about my fan). For someone who had a phobia of needles, I got over that quick smart. I had blood thinners every night, blood drawn 3-5 times a day, tubes inserted up my nose into my stomach, needles going into my back draining the fluid around my lungs.. basically everything shitty you could think of, I went through. The scar started to get infected so they had to come in and squeeze the pus out of the open wound - agony. As if that wasn't bad enough, one lung fluid draining morning they uncovered something in my chest which meant I'd have to get lung surgery next. By this stage it was Christmas, I was a 21 year old thinking I'd be going to falls festival for New Year's Eve and my planned trip to Vietnam, you can't blame me for the optimism!
Surgery numero 3
On New Year's Day at 830am I was taken into my 3rd surgery in 3 weeks to deal with the infection in my lungs which had also collapsed apparently. I woke up with three tubes hanging out of my chest between my ribs. These were draining the fluid out of there and now that I could walk again, I had to carry a little case with my with these tubes hanging out.. kind of inconvenient with the tubes, needles, piss bag and all but I learned to laugh about it. The tubes had to be replaced, then removed (usually a procedure performed awake but my amazing anaesthetist came in on Saturday morning to knock me out for that, for which I am eternally grateful). I got the hell outta there after a month and focussed on the road to recovery (around 1-2 years for the stomach thing and 1 year for the lungs).
I was bed ridden for about 5.5 weeks total, followed by a super slow recovery with my exercise being light walking. In 3-5 weeks there can be a 50% decrease in muscle strength due to immobilisation, so I lost a hell of a lot of muscle and strength.
Post surgery + exercise
I slowly started to reintroduce exercise back into my routine after about 6-8 months. I started out with running, because I was told I'd need to exercise in order to avoid chronic pain and it would help with the pain caused by scar tissue. I started training for a 15km fun run, so all I did for ages was pound pavement. I slowly built up with stop start running, I'd run till I was puffed and sore then walk then run again then walk, and built up my distance and endurance that way for a few months. I eventually started gaining the muscle back and ran the 15km fun run with such a sense of achievement. I was determined to feel strong and healthy, I remember envying my hospital visitors so much because they all looked fresh, healthy and tanned! I wanted to be that!
Years later I still have a few complications from the surgery. I have digestion issues, I get weird pains in certain parts of my body, I have nerve damage in my chest and get pretty paranoid when I get colds, but I'm stronger than I've ever been because I've consistently worked towards getting here. I listened to my body back then, which is something I'm not as good at now I must admit.
Going through a life threatening experience like that at such a young age is difficult, not once did I fully comprehend the fact that I came very close to dying, and I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it. It feels very surreal, but ultimately I feel lucky. Lucky to have survived, lucky to have experienced something that forces you to feel appreciation of the fact that I'm healthy now, healthy enough and mobile enough to move my body the way I want to.
A few things I'm asked quite a bit about my scar/ the whole ordeal:
- Did you sew the doctor? Nah, we looked into it, but the only way to win a case like that is to prove negligent aftercare which was to hard to do, it would have been years of court cases, lawyers and re-living it all, and accepting and letting go was a much better option rather than further traumatising my family and myself
- Do I use anything on my scar to reduce it? Not now. Initially I used a really expensive tiny thing of gel once I got out of hospital, but then I realised I'd never get rid of the scar and it was something to own and be proud of rather than trying to hide. Exercise helps, and getting blood flowing there again, so I used to rub it to warm it up and get the blood flowing there.
- How long did I wait to exercise after it all? I started running about 6-8 months afterwards, I didn't do any resistance type training for around a year after it all.
- Were there any exercises you had to modify in BBG? By the time I started BBG I had recovered properly. Some stuff still pulls the scar tissue, if it hurts, stop! Get professional advice from a healthcare practitioner.
Any questions, please leave them in the comments below, email me, DM on Instagram, whatever you feel most comfortable with! I'm so glad I can share this story with you all and I hope this has helped anyone out there going through any struggles pre/during/post surgery and beyond!