Small Bowel Resection Procedure – The Surgery That Literally Saved My Life
A small bowel resection procedure is performed to repair damage to the small intestine, when perforations or tears or to large for the body to heal normally. Because of the blockage and tears I had in mine, this was the only way to repair it. This began one of the roughest roads in my recovery from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
As I wrote in my last post, they had started an NG pump, to remove stool that was poisoning my system. The doctors on staff wanted to wait before doing any small bowel resection procedure, to see if the tear in the small intestine would heal itself. The next step, was to see if my body could handle food, without the issues I had experienced before.
The initial idea, was to give me liquid foods first, then eventually move to other foods, if the tear was healing itself. Well, someone had made an error, and the first meal they gave me was solid food that was chopped up. They refer to this as “mechanically soft”, because it is chopped up by hand. Typically, this is given to people who have trouble chewing or swallowing.
Thinking it was ok to eat, I did. Within 20 minutes, I began to feel pains in my stomach. And not like the pains I had before. These pains where so bad, it felt like a bowling ball was trying to push through my stomach. I literally felt like my stomach was going to explode!
I ended up on my knees in a ball on the floor. I called the nurse and she came in quickly, then asked how bad the pain was. She could see from my face, that the pain was excruciating. She got ahold of the doctor in charge, and he prescribed Morphine for the pain. The nurse put it in my IV, and within a few minutes, I was fine.
Later that night, I was taken down to the O.R., and prepped for surgery. I was supposed to have my small bowel resection procedure the next day. First, I would go through an Ommaya reservoir placement procedure. That will be the subject of my next post.
Anyway, after the Ommaya placement, the General Surgery staff came to see me in the SICU (Surgical Intensive Care Unit) and said they needed to do my “small bowel resection procedure” immediately. So, within the hour, I was taken back to surgery.
I awoke in my SICU bed, with my nurse checking me to see how I was doing. I was also surprised by my husband, who was currently attending culinary school in San Diego, and was given the week off to come and see me. He was there also to listen to and ask the doctors and nurses questions. I was pretty doped up from pain meds, so most of the stuff coming out of my mouth was jibberish.
I woke up with a catheter installed, so I would automatically urinate, and also so they could measure the amount, to make sure my body was urinating enough. The surgeon had made an incision all the way from below the sternum, to just below the stomach. He said he had cleaned out a few liters of stool that had leaked out into my body. They cleaned and washed everything out with a saline solution, and completely packed the area with antibiotics.
The surgical wound was stitched with disolvable stitches, and stapled. During the small bowel resection procedure, they removed 21 cm of the small intestine, with the tear, and joined together the remaining sections. The small intestine is about 20 feet long, so there’s plenty left over.
In order to let everything heal properly, I was also given an ileostomy. This is where the ileum, which is the end of the small intestine that attaches to the colon, is pulled outside the body. Basically, I would wear an ostomy bag, which would collect stool outside the body. This would happen automatically, as everything moves through the small intestine involutarily. I would have the ileostomy until all chemo and radiation treatments where finished. The ileostomy will be the subject of a future post.
During the procedure, one of the hospital’s oncologists was on site, checking for any signs of cancer. It turns out that the cancer had spread to the stomach, and caused the blockage and perforation.
This began the roughest road in my recovery. If I had not gotten to the hospital when I did, there was a good chance my small intestine would have completely ruptured. In fact, some of the surgeons thought I would not make it much long past the surgery. They’ve seen people with similar conditions, who didn’t make it more than a few months.
Well, I’m glad to say that, they were wrong. For this, I have to thank the surgeons and the rest of the hospital staff, who helped me through my small bowel resection procedure.