I came to in a fog after the first operation. With the help of
nurses, the hospitalist, the surgeon, and personal "exploration" I pieced
together my condition. Artificial support consisted of
o IV for nourishment, hydration, pain medication and other meds (e.g., antibiotics)
o catheter for urine drainage
o colostomy for feces removal
o cecostomy for drainage of contamination from the cecum
o NG tube for drainage of contamination from the stomach
The IV (intravenous) was controlled by a pump that regulated the speed of
the various drips. It also provided a "happy button" for the patient to
add a shot of morphine at any time up to every 10 minutes as required for pain.
The catheter and cecostomy were tubes that led to plastic bags and were
The colostomy (detailed below) was effectively a plastic bag that caught
anything that came out of the colon.
The NG tube (naso-gastric - nose to stomach - detailed later under "Bad
Spots") was attached to a pump that applied gentle suction.
I learned that a colon cancer had been removed and that my colon had been
redirected at the upper point of the removal to and through my abdomen. At
the lower point of the removal the balance of the colon leading to the rectum
was inactivated by suture.
Directions to me were to do everything possible to regain my strength so
that I could have a subsequent operation to reattach the colon to the rectum.
The catheter was very quickly removed and the urinary system immediately
returned to normal.
The object of the NG tube is to drain off material in the stomach that was
left over from the original blockage. That tube was removed as soon as it
was determined that nothing further was being discharged. Of course while
that was in place, I was allowed nothing by mouth.
The object of the cecostomy is to drain off material in the cecum that was
left over from the original blockage. That tube was similarly removed as
soon as it was determined that nothing further was being discharged. A
simple bandage was placed over the tiny hole in the abdomen and that healed
The object of the colostomy is to give the patient's digestive system time
to recover from the blockage and from the removal operation. The colostomy
stayed with me until the reattachment surgery.
I was allowed nothing by mouth for several days after the surgery.
The IV supplied nourishment, hydration, and medication. After removal of
the NG tube, a clear liquid diet, full liquid diet and finally a normal diet,
with the added ability to take pain and other meds orally, obviated the need for
I think it was two days after the operation that therapists had me up and
walking. It was quite a scene with two attendants, my Christmas tree with
all the bags and bottles, a wheelchair in case I needed it and a walker for
stability. From that day on I was up walking every day, but shedding
"ornaments" made it less of a spectacle each day.
The initial dressing on the big wound was replaced with a vacuum bandage
(detailed later under "Bad Spots") for a couple days and then it varied between
a wet-dry bandage and wound gel, depending on the preference of the RN on duty.
The wet-dry consisted of gauze saturated with saline solution covered by dry
gauze covered by a less porous dressing and then adhesive. The other
option consisted of a liberal covering of a sterile material called wound gel
with gauze, etc. as with the wet-dry. I preferred the wound gel approach,
but both of them were better than the vacuum bandage.
I was in hospital for thirteen days. My middle son JR arrived in
time to collect me from the hospital, take me home, and provide the care and
assistance I needed for nearly a month. My youngest son Stuart arrived a
couple days later and helped out with the first few days of adjustment. In
addition, my HMO provided home health nurses who dropped in to check vitals,
help out with wound and colostomy care, and advise. I was well cared for!
Both of my sons managed to keep working during their stay in Maui nei.
They each had their laptops and cell phones. The only bottleneck was the
three of us sharing dial up.
I was weak as a kitten when I first got home. I popped pain pills
every day. My appetite was good, but I lacked the energy to eat more than
just enough to get by. Personal hygiene (showering, cleaning the wounds,
changing the dressings, dealing with the colostomy bag) took lots of time.
I had regular doctor appointments, but riding in the car was awkward and
uncomfortable. Fifteen minute walks were about the limit, but I did them.
Gradually, all of these things improved.
The recovery period actually continued right up to preparation for the
second operation. By that time, the wounds were well healed, pain had
subsided, my strength had pretty well returned, I had regained a few of the 20
pounds lost, the flaming jock-itch I picked up in hospital had been tamed, I was
walking 45 minutes nearly every day, I had accepted the colostomy bag as a way
of life, and mentally I was ready for the next step. The reattachment
surgery was done 88 days from the discovery/removal surgery.