This time last year (I had to say it!) was my 2nd wedding anniversary…….. I was also fast asleep in a medically induced coma, or heavily sedated if you want the pink and fluffy version!
So, what put me there? Early in 2016, I had progressively worsening problems with swallowing solids and liquids. After many tests, a number of different consultants and a couple of unscheduled hospital admissions, I was finally diagnosed with ‘Achalasia’. It’s a rare auto-immune disease and in simple terms it means the oesophagus doesn’t work properly. Food and drink get stuck and I constantly found myself regurgitating what I’d just eaten or drunk, a bit like a bird trying to feed its young!!
After finally receiving a diagnosis and after a few more tests, I was scheduled for surgery. There is no cure for Achalasia. It is now with me for life and I still don’t know why it decided to take up residence in my body. However, there are treatments that can be carried out to ease the associated problems. In my case, it was decided that a ‘Hellers Myotomy’ would be best. During this procedure, by laparoscopic means (key hole), a cut is made at the bottom of the oesophagus at the lower sphincter (LES), which stops the oesophagus from contracting. In theory, anything swallowed just falls straight down. Alongside my ‘HM’, I was given a ‘partial wrap’. The LES is cut during the HM and therefore there is nothing to stop the acid and stomach contents from coming back up, so part of the stomach is wrapped around the base of the oesophagus to prevent any ‘splashback’. I don’t know if it’s as bad as it sounds!!
As with all surgery……there are risks. As explained by the anaesthetist, things can always go wrong and in my case, the risk was a tear to the oesophagus during the procedure…………..can you see where I’m going with this!! I trundled down to surgery in my fetching gown and happily climbed onto the bed. I may be weird but I quite enjoy the feeling of drifting off when you receive a general anaesthetic and so I wasn’t worried about the op. There was a lot of banter in the pre-theatre room which helped to relax me and I was looking forward to being able to eat in a couple of days without regurgitating like a seagull. And so off I went, into the land of nod……
This was my last memory. I have no memory between 21st November and 2nd December but I’m able to piece things together through a couple of random photos’ I’d apparently taken and from what I’ve been told by family. I’ve been told that the procedure went well and despite being slightly high on morphine, I was quite glowing! A friend apparently visited and very kindly brought me biscuits, which incidentally I NEVER got to eat! I was drinking water, had soup and was taking oral morphine so I imagine I must’ve been relatively ok as I even managed to take this rather fetching photo on the 22nd!
But then things went downhill. I was in increasing pain but I believe my cries for help went unnoticed. On the morning of the 23rd, I was in absolute agony, crying for my husband (not like me!!). He told me that the hospital rang him and told him that I was asking for him but upon arrival, I was asleep having had a high dose of morphine and he decided to let me rest. What staff had failed to recognise was that my oesophagus had ruptured. Everything that I’d eaten and drunk in the 36hrs since surgery had spilled out into my abdominal cavity, along with the medication. Once the severity of my whaling had been realised, I was rushed for a CT scan and then into emergency surgery. Strangely, I have memories of being in unbelievable pain, rolled from one side to another and not being taken seriously. I remember having a CT scan and not being able to breathe but I have no idea of when, or if, this happened.
During the emergency surgery, my abdomen was cleaned and flushed with 10 litres of fluid. I had fluid on my lung and my kidneys began to give up. The tear was within the ‘wrap’ part, carried out in the original procedure, at the bottom of the oesophagus. Ironically, this was one of the ‘rare’ risks the anaesthetist warned me about in my pre-op chat! The wrap was un-done and the tear partially repaired. I was then placed in a medically induced coma………sleeping right through my 2nd wedding anniversary on 25th November.
From there on in, I know nothing. I know that my husband received a phone call from my consultant shortly after the surgery to explain what had happened and what the situation was. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for my husband, mum and daughter to see me lying there. (having visited the ICU recently, I know what I would have looked like it and it must have been horrific) but I do know that I felt incredibly guilty for a good while, for putting them through that. My mum temporarily moved into our home and the 3 of them visited daily. I can imagine it must’ve been quite boring, just watching me with my eyes shut. But apparently my nurse(s) were lovely. They washed and plaited my hair and there were frequent conversations about the length of my eyelashes!
What I can’t tell you is when my deliriums began or ended but I can tell you what they involved………