All done! What my last (and hopefully final) hospital stay was like

I was in for my rectum removal surgery on Nov 7th, 2013 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. After having stayed in a nearby hotel the night before, things were quite easy going in.

I arrived at the hospital just before 6 am and went into the admitting office. There were about four patients before me and my wait was only about 15 minutes.

From there, I went to another waiting room where they quickly took me in and got me into some fancy robes (they weren’t all that fancy, but everyone who had them on had a good chuckle).

After my robes were on and my belongings were put into an assigned locker, I went into a nurses office to answer questions about any allergies, when I last ate, etc., then I was given an assortment of drugs for pain and inflammation. I soon went back to the waiting room, where I met a nice, middle-aged man who told me a bit about why he was there.

I soon went back to the waiting room, where I met a nice, middle-aged man who told me a bit about why he was there.

He explained that he’d been in for surgery three times already, and went through the standard chemo regiment in the past year because of cancer.

This time the doctors would be removing his colon and he was getting an ostomy put in. I told him about my experience with an ostomy and assured him that it’s really not at all as bad as you’d expect. He didn’t seem concerned about it, considering that it would save his life. We spoke a bit more, and it was time for me to be moved into another room.

We spoke a bit more and it was time for me to be moved into another room.

This next waiting room wasn’t the standard type; It was large and had several sets of reclining chairs, as well as hospital beds.

In that room, I was met by at least one nurse and more importantly, one of the anesthetists on the surgical team. It was important for me to talk to one because my last surgery left me very drowsy for WEEKS after it was over and I suspected that the anesthetics had a lot to do with it. I was hoping that my input could give them something different to try this time around.

After several more minutes of waiting, my surgeon, Dr. Robin McLeod, came in to see how I was doing. I really appreciate her coming to see me before the procedure as her calmness really allowed me to be calm as well.

Shortly after, a nurse escorted me to the operating room, which is like walking into the cockpit of an advanced spaceship. The technology simply oozes from that room, with high-end monitors and state of the art medical equipment, any geek would pay to have a tour of that place.

Prep time was quick. I laid on a modified bed and got tubes hooked up to my arms. I was given a drug to prepare me to go under – the drug caused everything I heard to sound “tinny”, it was pretty cool. Then I thanked everyone in advance and went to sleep.

Me and my Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Me and my trusty Samsung Galaxy Note 2

The recovery room stay was a bit of a haze. What I do remember is feeling good. There really wasn’t much pain to complain about either. Several nurses came in to see how I was doing and the anesthetist I spoke with earlier came in to update me. He said that during the procedure my pulse shot up in the 150’s and they had to monitor me for about a half hour before proceeding.

They had some kind of sensor on my head to record my brain activity, and by doing this, they were able to keep me under using a smaller dose of drugs. This would be significant as my post-op drowsiness has been minimal to none.

I wasn’t moved out of recovery until about 5 PM that afternoon, which was quite a bit longer than usual. I don’t remember too much as they moved me from recovery to my hospital room, but I do remember asking if we could do the Harlem Shake. I wish a video was taken during this time – apparently, I was laughing, singing and having a great time.

Day 2 – Nov 8, 2013

I call it “the grenade”…
I call it “the grenade”…

By day two I had several tubes sticking out from my body :

  • Oxygen through my nose, which was removed in the morning.
  • A small “grenade” which collected fluid from my abdomen. This container was emptied several times a day.
  • A catheter to eliminate urine.
  • IV for fluids and medication (both anti-nausea and pain).
  • A “vac” tube was added too, from my bum.
Wound VAC
The “VAC”

The vac required that the existing packing from my bum be removed and the wound cleaned.

Then a special foam packing was added and the vac tube was placed in it so to allow for 24-hour suction. To be honest, this was easy and didn’t hurt at all, despite the adhesive dressing used to keep the suction contained.

I was quite surprised by (and grateful for) the lack of discomfort.

There were a few students observing the process. I’ve learned that being sick, especially with an IBD can be embarrassing IF you allow it to be. I’ve learned a long time ago that things are much easier to deal with if you go with the flow.

Later in the day, I had more students come to test their knowledge on how to assess a patient by taking my pulse and checking for fluid in the lungs. Being that I was in a teaching hospital and was feeling good, I had no issues with being a test patient for students who needed me.

Day 3 – Nov 9, 2013

Nothing substantial happened today. Still on a liquid diet. I was taken off the IV and morphine pump. The pump medication was replaced by oral morphine and Tylenol.

While my pain was still relatively low, I started to have a lot of abdominal distension and bloating in the evening. This lasted all night.

Day 4 – Nov 10, 2013

My bloating continued overnight and into the morning. It took a lot of walking and sitting upright for some gas to move and leave through the stoma.

Chewing gum for no more than 10 minutes for a maximum three times a day helps with this too and is part of the enhanced recovery program that the hospital employs.

My liquid diet continued today and my catheter was finally removed.

I was able to empty my ostomy bag a few times today. The output was a sticky brown fluid, and without solid food.

I didn’t expect much more than that. Emptying my pouch when the contents were so liquid was challenging, so I started using gelling sachets in the form of Trio Diamond’s by ConvaTec, which helped considerably.

I did more walking, and by the evening, gas was no longer an issue.

Day 5 – Nov 11 ,2013

Overnight sleep was a bit better than in the previous few days. Lots of dreams.

Doctors came around this morning and said that I could start solid food today, which was a nice thing to hear. They also said they’ll remove the abdominal drain at some point today.

Hospital snack
It works.

I had oatmeal for breakfast, which was followed by very loud stomach growling. Also had soy milk, v8 and orange juice on the tray.

Arranging the vac for home care has been tough. My insurance doesn’t cover it and there’s a waiting list to get one at home. The unit in the hospital is for the hospital, so that’s not even an option.

We did another vac dressing change, which is usually done every third day.

It wasn’t nearly as easy as the first time, likely because I wasn’t so drugged this time around.

Removing the adhesive part is always hard when you have body hair, and even though I was shaved during the surgery, it still pulls on the skin and small hairs. My wound was measured as being 9cm long x 4cm wide x 4 cm deep, and I’ll be interested in seeing how quickly that number shrinks as things heal.

There is talk that I’ll be released tomorrow. I’ve already called the home care organization to make sure that we coordinate this properly.

Day 6 – Nov 12, 2013

Had a rough night with a lot of tossing and turning. Every night you are woken up by a nurse who has to take your vials and give you pain meds. That alone isn’t a huge problem, but add in general discomfort and a restful night shouldn’t be expected.

Was discharged at 11 am. Lots of phone calls to make sure I have a nurse visit me at home this afternoon.

Not vegan, no thanks
Thanks, but turkey isn’t vegan.

Overall, I was quite happy with this stay. I hope it’s my last hospital stay, but knowing how cruel Crohn’s disease can be, I am crossing my fingers that I won’t be seeing of one for a long time.  

If I had one complaint, it’s the food – or rather, the inability for the kitchen to know what a vegan diet is or even what “no animal products” means… I was served several milk containers, creamy soups, an egg salad sandwich (which was replaced with a roll containing eggs…) and a turkey roast.  

After asking at least a half-dozen times about this problem, I would always get something with animals in it.  Thankfully, they had V8.

I’m grateful to all the staff at Mount Sinai Hospital, with extra props going out to my nurses Lisa and Julie, who both offered gentle care with a humorous side. And a huge thanks to Dr. Robin McLeod – you’ve changed my life beyond my wildest dreams. I am forever in debt for what you have given back to be.

I hope that if anyone ever has to go into the hospital, that their stay is quick and comfortable.

4 thoughts on “All done! What my last (and hopefully final) hospital stay was like”

  1. Hello Eric,
    I’m following your blog and I have to say you make a great job! It´s so important to educate and inform patients, which is not always the concern of medical staff (how I experienced it). So I´m at a point of thinking if a proctectomy would improve my life quality. Did you gain your strength and experienced less fatigue after your colon and anus was removed?
    Best wishes from Germany!

    • Hi Sophie!

      I had gained back a lot of strength and energy after my ostomy surgery, which was only several months before my proctectomy, so there wasn’t much else to gain. I felt great going into surgery so I wouldn’t have noticed much difference.

      If you’re “going in sick”, then you’ll probably feel much better after your recovery.

  2. Thank you! I just recieved my home vac unit and it’ll be put to use beginning tomorrow. The last several days without a vac have not been fun.

    I’ll be posting about my recovery as things move forward.

  3. Congratulations! Good luck with the wound vac. Also, as a student, thank you for letting students poke and prod you. I have learned more from my patients than from any preceptor. I wish you a speedy recovery!


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