On Father's Day 2018 I went for my usual walk, arrived back home for a morning coffee, then headed out to the workshop. The next thing I knew, I had this seething pain in my abdomen. I went straight back inside and said to my wife she had better take me up to the Murray Bridge Hospital Emergency Department and really that was the last thing I remember for the next 5 weeks. When I finally came to, I was in the RAH ICU. I learned that the pain was caused by a perforated bowel, which led to surgery (Hartmann’s procedure) to remove a piece of colon. The two ends of bowel were not joined back together because it was deemed too risky. Instead I had a colostomy.
To this day that period of my life is just a blur. I have since been told of all the family and friends that came to visit, but I still have no recollection of this. The only clear memory I have of that period like it was yesterday is that I was so tired and that I needed to get some sleep, then shutting my eyes and thinking that if I go to sleep, they will let me die. I guess your mind must do strange things when you're not too flash.
After a few weeks I can faintly remember having the physios trying to make me take deep breaths, blowing little coloured balls in the air and not having enough strength to do so, trying to shower sitting in a chair, learning how to walk with a frame. Through all of that the one thing I realised is if you persevere long enough, eventually your body will mend.
Then it was back to Murray Bridge Hospital to recuperate and build up a little strength, then off home and in a few weeks being almost independent and being able to help my wife in small ways. Partners are sometimes the forgotten heroes of these unforeseen events, which place an untold burden on them and during which, for all intents and purposes, they are caring for an invalid.
On August 5th I shall be having a colonoscopy to see if it is safe to reverse the Hartmann’s procedure and join the two ends of the bowel back together, which would mean I will no longer need a stoma bag. Fingers crossed!
I feel that I am very fortunate to have a second chance at life with the marvellous contribution of all concerned, from the local doctor who sent me straight to the RAH, to the surgeons who put me back together, the fabulous medicos in ICU and all of the medical and associated staff at both hospitals who made my recovery possible. I am eternally grateful.
This story first appeared in the Survive and Thrive Newsletter #2 July 2020. We thank Barry for giving us permission to share this story on the My Life After ICU website.