I had a perforated intestine, peritonitis, and sepsis. I didn’t really know what all of that meant, but I understood that I was in trouble, as evidenced by the speed of the medical team, their quiet focus, and the sheer efficiency of the process. The ER doctor informed me in a very calm, low tone that this was a very serious situation and that they were prepping me for surgery. I’m still amazed at his delivery. He confirmed the presence of a BIG, BIG problem, and somehow he was reassuring. It was only after surgery that I learned the extent of the danger I had been in: it was a potentially life threatening situation.
I cannot thoroughly describe the gratitude and thankfulness I have for the skill, efficiency and compassion of the Mercy Medical team. Surgery was successful, and 60 centimeters of my small intestine (that’s the equivalent of 22 inches, or nearly 2 feet) were removed. They flushed me with 5 liters of saline solution to cleanse my system from the leakage. I haven’t had the fortitude to read the medical records for detailed specifics. Vea has… so this is a summary of what she’s read and what doctors/nurses reported. Prior to surgery, the surgeon had prepared me for the potential of an ostomy pouch (a bag that is attached externally to collect bodily waste) that would be reversible after 6-8 weeks. Fortunately, that outcome was avoidable.
My first words out of the operating room were “I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, but I feel so much better than I have in months”. I remember the ICU nurse laughing and suggesting that my painkillers were doing their job. But there was a deeper truth. I knew in that moment that I was already better than I’ve been in a long, long time. I could feel the difference at a cellular level. I still do.
My next words … “can I have my phone?” Ha ha! I love that we live in an age of instant connectivity. It’s a little crazy to think that I informed friends across the country through a facebook update from the ICU, but that’s exactly what I did. I’m sharing the details here and now as part of my recovery. It’s healing to be able to look back and say, “I went through that, and I survived”. It’s about accepting the illness while also owning the strength, courage and resilience that these life experiences have grown in me. I want to be identified not as a sick person, but as a strong person. A courageous person who can face my reality with my head held high.