Dealing with ileus post-ostomy surgery


In hospital
This was taken straight after I woke up from surgery at St James Hospital, Leeds. The morphine button was close at hand!

Having just had my ostomy surgery two weeks ago, the first and hardest obstacle in my experience to recovering is ileus.

For those that are not familiar ileus is a temporary paralysis of the bowels post op in protest to being man-handled during surgery.

I’ve found out that ileus is a complication that 20 per cent of bowel surgery patients have to unfortunately contend with and the symptoms of extreme nausea, bloating and physical sickness are not nice to have to put up with.

And unfortunately, there is very little that can be done about it other than essentially waiting for your bowels natural rhythms to re-awaken. If only there was a magic pill!

My ostomy surgery was two weeks ago now and I was really hoping I would avoid the trials of ileus complications, but deep down I knew that my bowels probably would take several days to wake up and so I braced myself for it. As this is what has happened in the past to me with previous stoma surgery shutting down my bowels for 10 long days.

So sure enough, my bowels went on strike again post op as kind of expected and this time took seven days to wake up. As a consequence, during this time I dealt with waves of horrible nausea, physical sickness, bloating, and generally feeling pretty dreadful. It’s one thing recovering from the surgery and effects of general anaesthetic, but when ileus is thrown into the mix it makes things way harder!

If it wasn’t for ileus, I really don’t think the surgery would be too bad to recover from in the grand scheme of things. As the actual incision pain is manageable with meds, but there is hardly anything simple that can be done to relieve ileus.

This time I managed to avoid an NG tube but at one point was actually considering electing for it to try and ease my bloating and constant nausea. Instead, I pretty much went nil-by-mouth for seven days whilst I waited for my bowels to wake up and my digestive system to kick start. Thank goodness for IV drips as I really wasn’t able to drink anything for about seven days.

Despite this representing my 6th bowel surgery, I do not find that this means things get any easier. If anything, having knowledge of what are the tricky bits are can increase apprehension I find. It’s safe to say that I am glad to be back at home, eating and generally now on an upward trajectory I hope.

I figure I have lost around one stone in weight and in a couple of days am due to have my staples removed at my local doctors.

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