With the NG tube out of my body and my newfound ability to eat solid foods without vomiting, there was chatter amongst the doctors about releasing me from hospital. A couple of issues still persisted, however. First, now that my ileostomy was working, it was putting out too much. The average output from an ileostomy is about one litre a day. I was closer to three. Second, I had a pain in my ass. Literally. I felt soreness in my butt when I walked and when I sat down. The doctors dismissed the latter as “normal.” Just my body adjusting to the newly constructed pelvic pouch, they said.
My outputs began to decrease through a combination of Metamucil and Gastrolyte – an electrolyte replacement powder that I mixed with water. The Metamucil was terrible, but I quite enjoyed the Gastrolyte. It had a salty yet lemony taste to it. The pain in the ass persisted. Even so, Wednesday, May 22 was set to be my release date. However, on the Tuesday night, I developed a fever, a red flag that I likely had an infection in my body and that I’d have to remain in hospital. It turns out the pain in my ass was not normal. A CT scan revealed that there was fluid leaking into the pelvic pouch AND I an abscess, a buildup and pus, had developed inside me. So what’s the answer? Why, more tubes of course!
Soon after my CT scan, doctors inserted a rectal tube to drain the fluid buildup in the pelvic pouch. Since I’m no stranger to colonoscopies and endoscopies and other instances of things being shoved up my ass, I wasn’t overly concerned with the actual insertion. It was very much like any other endoscopy I’ve had. The difference is the fucking tube stayed in. No fun.
The next day I had another tube put in. This one was a bit more of a process. This was a percutaneous tube, one inserted into my body through a needle-puncture of the skin, rather than through one of the body’s existing holes. I was medication to ease the pain and sort-of-but-not-quite knock me out. The tube went into the top of my right butt cheek and down into the abscess. Back on my body’s surface, the tube drained into a plastic bag strapped around my right thigh.
But wait! There’s more! While the tubes in my butt drained the fluid buildup in the pelvic pouch and the abscess, a strange thing happened. My ileostomy output slowed down to the point where I wasn’t passing much, if anything, into the ostomy bag. Again, the solution was (you guessed it) another tube. This time it was a yellow plastic catheter inserted into my ileostomy to relieve the backup.
So now, let’s review. A catheter in my ileostomy, an IV in my left arm, a rectal tube in you know where, and a percutaneous tube in my right butt cheek. I didn’t feel human. I felt like a broken piece of machinery. Oh, there’s this problem with you, so we’ll just ram a pipe into you. Oh, there’s another problem, guess we’ll ram another pipe in there. It’s not that the doctors weren’t caring or sympathetic, but it felt I was being given mechanical interventions, not medicine.
All the tubes made everything difficult. Sitting was painful. Standing was painful. Walking was painful. Sleeping was near impossible. And while in bed, the smallest motion required work. The rectal tube drained into a bag that I clipped to the side of my bed. I wanted to lie on my left side, I would clip the bag to the right side of the bed, and vice-versa, so I wouldn’t be lying on the tube, and possibly interrupt the drainage. If I wanted to change positions in bed, I had to move the bag as well. If I had to get up to empty my ostomy bag, which I did have to do since the catheter was doing its job, I had to unclip the rectal tube’s drainage bag from the bed, attach the bag to my IV pole, unplug the IV machine from its electrical outlet and wheel the IV pole with me to the bathroom. Like I said, everything was difficult.
I had the catheter removed from my ileostomy after a couple of days. It looked as though the little blockage of whatever it was had cleared, and things in that area at least were functioning again. The rectal tube was in for almost five days. When the rectal tube first went in I thought maybe I would get used to it as time passed. In fact, it became more and more painful. I was in terrible pain at night when I tried to sleep, I couldn’t stand or walk for very long, and I always had to lean to my left when I sat in a chair or in bed (remember the percutaneous tube was in the right butt cheek). I was in agony by the time I got the welcome news that the rectal tube could be removed. Overall, I’d say the rectal tube was worse than the NG tube, and without a doubt it was the worst part of my hospital stay.
Rectal tube out, ileostomy cathether out, IV and percutaneous tube still in, and ileostomy outputs once again above normal, about 1.5 litres a day. Things were getting a little better after a stretch of torment, and there was once again chatter about a release, but I tried not to get my hopes up.
Image via Constellium