RECOVERY - Learning As I Go

I have posted this other places, but I decided it needed it's own "space" so to speak...

On April 13th I had an emergency bowel resection surgery (small intestine) for intestinal necrosis. My intestines had tied themselves in a knot and cut off the blood supply to a large portion of my digestive system. When I went to surgery they thought I just had an adhesion from a previous surgery (RNY gastric bypass), but when they got me opened up they realized the extent of the damage and removed 3 feet of my small intestine. They also had to remove the staples from my gastric bypass and reconnect the part of my intestine that had been cut loose in that surgery to create malabsorption, so I no longer have that to help me keep my weight healthy.

During surgery I went into respiratory distress. I almost died. And if they hadn't operated when they did I wouldn't have lived more than a few hours before the dead tissue and infection it caused killed me - I was already deep in septic shock by the time I went to the operating room. I don't remember most of a 3 day period - I remember being in pain on Friday evening, then I have only flashes of memory until I woke up in ICU with a respirator in my throat and my hands tied to the bed about noon on Monday. I was in the hospital 8 days - which was actually less time than the doctors thought I would need inpatient care. Some things healed quickly - I got on solid foods pretty fast and my incision closed w/in a week. Other things have taken much longer - my blood chemistry was all messed up and it's taken time to get it close to normal (some things still aren't in normal range or are barely in the range so that is something I'll continue struggling with). I get tired easily and my muscles are still sore close to the incision site - I guess the surface healed fast but the deep tissue is having trouble. I don't have any hernias or adhesions, though, which is good.

My surgeon and general care doctor couldn't really tell me how long it will take for me to heal completely, so I started looking things up online. At first I only found information by doctors that focused most on describing the surgery and on hospital care, maybe giving a little info on the first week or so of recovery at home. That information said, when it said anything, that full recovery occurs by 2 months. That really discouraged me, cause here I am 2 months out and I am far from fully recovered. Then I found some posts by patients who had similar surgery. None of them had my exact illness but they had open abdominal and bowel resection procedures. They all said the recovery is much longer than 2 months and can't really be rushed. Some hadn't fully recovered after a year or more, but all were making progress. That made me more hopeful and helped me feel more "normal."

I hope other people who have had surgery like this will share their stories, so people like me who are seeking information can find a more realistic viewpoint and so we can find support. There seem to be support groups for everything, but I can't find one for this.

dzgirl dzgirl
31-35, F
6 Responses Jun 23, 2008

I had a 10 inches of sigmoid intestine and part of rectum due to over five years of undiagnosed diverticulitis. That was on July 6. It is now October 3 and I am not fully recovered. My bowels are working fine and I can eat most foods without distress. Yet. My abdominal muscles are so weak. I have trouble sitting in regular chair or driving. We have been eating dinner sitting on the couch because the pain and fatigue is still too much after 10 minutes or so. It is very frustrating. I started exercising several weeks after surgery which was basically water walking and treading water. It has taken 5 weeks for me to be able to swim half a lap or walk on street for more than a few minutes. Any incline becomes instantly fatiguing. My doctor says that is normal especially since I have had a few surgeries c-section, gall bladder removal, total hysterectomy and now this. The 2-6 week recovery time I have come to realize is the optimistic one for previously totally healthy people. If you have been fighting a chronic condition like antibiotic resistant diverticulitis for 5 years it turns out you could take a year to get better. I am starting Physical Therapy on Monday to address my muscle weakness. I am also doing doctor recommended Reformer Pilates which has been miraculous in helping me feel better in just two weeks (4 sessions). I am frustrated that I can't go to a restaurant or to parties or family events right now because just the car ride is so difficult. It is hard to be patient with ourselves. Sometimes I feel like I have been sick so long I just want to be better already and I am irritated. I am glad I found your post. Good luck.

I just recently went through something similar. I was born with a twist in part of my intestine, which was discovered and resovled when I was 8 years old. Around my junior year of high school, I started having sever stomach pain and vomiting. The vomiting usually only lasted about a night, and the pain would last a few more days and then it would go away. This continued on and off for the next few years. Then I started my sophomore year in college this year and my first semester was spent battling these same symptoms, only they were getting worse and the "episodes" were happening more and more frequently. Finally, one night last month I was in immense pain and did not stop vomiting for a full 24 hours. The pain was unbearable; I was crawling to the bathroom because it hurt too much to walk. This was pain that I had not felt since before my first abdominal surgery. A friend rushed me to the ER where I went into surgery and they discovered that a part of my abdominal wall and old scar tissue from my previous surgery had wrapped itself around my small intestine and was constricting it. I am a student as well as a college athlete and I'm frustrated that I can't seem to find any information to help me physically recover and gain my level of fitness back and how long to expect myself to be recovering. I am exhausted all the time and missing a lot of school, which is very frustrating and stressful.

Thanks, I needed this. I too had something similar with a problem from that started from gastric sleeve that went to an infection, and then led to a kink in the stomach with stenosis, then stents that migrated to where no intake of food was possible. Nine months after the original surgery they suggested that a bypass was my only solution to relief from pain and digestive issues. In these nine months I was only able to make it to a full liquid diet so I was so ready. Due to the adhesions from the gastric sleeve and a prior surgery, an open operation was the only way they could go. Once they opened me up, they found that the stomach had twisted which accounted for some of my distress. It has been about 5 weeks now and I am still on vicodin for pain around the incision area internally. I can only sleep on my back because when sleeping on my side it feels like everything is shifting and it is painful. I went back to work but each day is a struggle of trying to manage the pain and exhaustion. I finally goggled my situation and found your blog. Thank you, I was not sure if I would ever feel normal again. You have given me hope, but now I need to learn patience.

ON February 2, I ended up in emergency surgery for a twisted colon. The pain that got me there was significant. I was told that if I had not come in so quickly, I could have died. That was fairly sobering. I am on the mend, here on this 21st day of February, but I am finding that the emotional impact of this near miss is more of an issue than the physical aspects of continued pain, difficulty in finding what I can eat without consequence, and fatigue. I am only 59. This came on without warning. It left me with the strong sense of my own mortality, and a question about what I might change or how I could approach my life differently. I have a deep faith in God, so there is really no fear of what comes next,. It has, however, caused me to begin to look at the way I am spending the time I have left here. I suspect that this will unfold for me, if I pay attention. I have no idea how one figures this out. I don't think I can. But I am hoping that I will be more sensitive to my body's cues when I am headed in the wrong direction, or doing things that others want me to do without thinking of the personal consequences. I want to feel that I am doing and being what I was put here to do and be.

I too had a resection due to adhesions from a previous surgery. My recovery was quick and, 8 months out, I am running a half marathon on Sunday. My only complaint is that I now have excessive belly fat which wasn't there before the surgery. It is not misshapen, but, for someone who is slim and in shape, it is out of place. In addition to running i take tai chi, yoga and pilates, and do OK at all these activities, so my core is not weak. I'm assuming that being sliced open vertically twice in the same spot has caused this, but i don't really know.

I know how you feel. I have had c-section and hysterectomy and color resection. My belly has weird shapes to it. I lost a lot of weight and have always exercised but there is nothing I can do short of more surgery (yuck) to fix the overhangs and puffiness around all the scars. No bikini for me, or sweater dresses or anything really clingy. It looks like have odd shaped pillows under my clothes.

I had abdominal surgery that started with a colon resection, result was peritonitis, then emergency surgery resulting in an ostomy bag for two months. The bag is gone now, and I have nasty scars on my belly. What is most troubling is that my "normal" belly is now grossly misshapen, protruding from the hip line to the several inches above the navel. Doctors tell me it is fat that has been repositioned, and they say it may eventually reposition itself. I never had the look of an underwear model, but this is ridiculous.<br />
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At least I am alive and otherwise recovered.