Saturday, 28th February
The day after the operation is hazy, obscured by a morphine fog. I am not in as much pain as I expected, but given the high doses of opiates coursing through my veins, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’ve got tubes up my nose, a tube coming out my pelvis, one in my arm, and one up my tadger (late 19th Century slang for penis.) I feel I now share some affinity with Pinocchio, Muffin the Mule, the cast of Thunderbirds and any puppet whose life is hindered by strings. My belly is incredibly swollen and bloated, like I’m about to give birth to a wok. Oh, and there’s a stoma bag stuck to my tum. That’s a new addition.
Sunday, 1st March
I am beginning to get an idea of what it must have been like in the 19th Century opium dens of Limehouse. Best lay off the morphine, I think. I am very weak. Even the smallest task is a massive effort. Just taking a sip of water saps me of strength. Writing a simple text requires all my concentration. And the nurse expects me to get out of bed and sit in my chair. No chance, the chair is well over 2ft away. It’d be like crossing the Sahara; I’d never make it alive. My bag is still empty, but I haven’t eaten anything to fill it since Thursday night. I have no appetite.
Monday, 2nd March
Definitely time to knock the morphine on the head otherwise I’m going to need a stint in The Priory as soon as I leave here. Nothing stronger than paracetamol from now on. Some tubes are removed, freeing me up to have a sit down shower in my en suite bathroom. I feel a bit sorry for myself perched naked on a plastic seat struggling to find the strength to even wash, and a few tears mingle in with the shower water. Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror doesn’t help. I suddenly feel a bit young for all this. The stoma nurse shows me how to change my bag and I see the stoma for the first time. Now I definitely feel a bit young for all this. It’s not a pretty sight; an angry raw gaping oval wound, bordered with thick black stitches. I feel much less weepy once the bag is back on and covering it. Still can’t face food, sipping water is proving hard enough.
Tuesday, 3rd March
During the night the bag fills up and starts to leak gravy-like poo. All I need now is a couple of slices of bread to mop it up. I buzz the nurse to change the bag. I’m not quite up to that particular task just yet. The smell really is unpleasant. Defintely not an 'Aah, Bisto...' moment. As the nurse gently cleans me up, for about the millionth time I marvel at what an incredible job they do. Nurses are amazing. Fact. Every morning 3 magpies visit me outside my window: ‘1 for sorrow, 2 for joy, 3 for a girl.’ After the magpies, it’s the turn of the doctors: ‘1 for optimism, 2 for doubt, 3 for hovering at the back with a clipboard.’ The surgical team are pleased with my progress and want to get me home on Friday, the gastro lot still aren’t convinced I’ve had the correct operation. I’m with the surgical team on this one.
Wednesday, 4th March
Since the operation I’ve not been able to read, listen to music, watch a DVD or write. I can’t concentrate on anything. As a result time really drags. Shaving my beard off uses up half an hour, 3 disposable razors and quite a lot of my strength. But it’s worth it; I no longer look like Rasputin’s scruffier brother. Under the supervision of the stoma nurse I change my bag for the first time. Some poo oozes out of the stoma and lands with a schlopp on my slippers. Suddenly the realities of life with a hole in my belly start to sink in. My stomach also feels painful and blocked up. The nurses encourage me to walk around, but I have no strength. I need to eat something to give me energy. Asparagus soup probably isn’t the wisest choice, and I’m soon filling a yellow bowl with green sick. An anti-sickness injection perks me up and I spend an hour jabbering on the phone to my girlfriend about my future world domination. Aren’t drugs marvellous?
Thursday, 5th March
Why do drugs have to wear off? I feel rubbish and the stoma nurse agrees I look rubbish. She’s has serious doubts that I’m ready to go home. There is some speculation that I may have the Chestnut Ward diarrhoea bug. I have a temperature and I continue to regularly fill my yellow bowl. Late afternoon I drift off into a deep sleep and a few hours later I awake a different man. I feel much, much better. My mum has since claimed my recovery was an act of God, as she had been praying for me Thursday afternoon. So with the good Lord apparently by my side, I take a stroll around the ward. The nurses look genuinely pleased to see me up and about. Praise be, I am a modern day Jesus returning from 40 days and nights in the wilderness. Or something.
Friday, 6th March
I am well enough to be moved out of my room and into Primrose Ward proper. The doctors agree I can go home Saturday. And in what feels like something of a turnaround my gastro consultant now thinks the surgeons were right to give me a colostomy instead of an ileostomy. I hope he’s right. After my first breakfast in a week I walk to the shop and buy some sweets and a magazine. My last day is uneventful. I know there’s still a long way to go, but for the first time I feel like I’m heading in the right direction. My bag is working properly and I’m getting the hang of emptying and changing it. After 2 weeks I’m ready for my own bed.
Saturday, 7th March
My parents arrive in the morning to take me home. We step out of Whipps Cross into a bright Spring day. My mum and dad carry all my stuff leaving me with just the one bag; the one on my stomach.