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since May 2004

We are all aware that problems can reoccur after severe surgery but I was not ready for what happened next! Early in November 2004, I noticed a nagging "heaviness" in the lower abdomen. Constipated? Well, I had been having some unusual problems with irrigating, the bowel clamping up and preventing infusion or at least that is what I thought.

We were planning to go to Christchurch New Zealand Where our Son-in -Law was on a Sabbatical leave from the University of Calgary, Canada, to be with him, my Daughter and their family for Christmas. I put this "pain" to the back of my mind saying to myself, "don't be a wimp" it will go away by itself. The pain persisted and did increase in intensity to become a real nuisance. The doctor gave me painkillers! This was the worst form of therapy as it turned out.

We went to New Zealand, and I persevered with the irrigating and the pain, but finally I was feeling bloated immediately after meals and then the vomiting started. On arriving home I tried to make an appointment with the Doctor, but it was Christmas Holidays, it is not the time to get sick! Eventually, I did see the G.P., and my Surgeon.
I was sent to a Gastroenterologist who, after performing a Gastroscopy, diagnosed Gastroperesis. This was bad news because the stomach was not doing what it was supposed to do. "Why not" I asked but no one could or would say. By this time I was vomiting every morning at about 0300 hrs and with chronic pain.

I had a routine visit to my Professor of Rhumatology on March 1st, 2005, that I could barely attend. Fortunately I did because being a Hospital Staff Professor, he was in a position to admit me to the hospital and have me assessed by their Chief Gastroenterologist. After CT scans and x-rays, I was transferred to St George Private Hospital for immediate surgery to divide some chronic adhesions resulting from the original bowel surgery. The adhesions had completely blocked the small bowel. During this operation it was found that the small bowel had collapsed into the cavity left from the removal of the Rectum and associated organs due to the colorectal cancer. Because of this, a section of small bowel had been radiated during the cancer treatment killing the nerves that control the bowel movements, in that section. This appears to the body as an obstruction. Any food eaten was backing up from both the adhesions and this now "dead" section of bowel. In turn, the stomach closed down too and is still very slow acting today.

Five weeks later I was discharged from hospital rather uneasy about my future. I was to have light, low fibre meals plus medication to keep the organs moving constantly so as to force the food through the "bad" section.

Since then, I have been improving, adhering rigidly to the diet sheets given to me and with fastidious attention to my medications. This attitude is vital for the rest of my life apparently. I have my "off" days, days where I don't feel well, can't eat because of a nauseous feeling. This is bad of course as eating almost constantly, the little but often kind of thing, is very important.

Irrigation has been suspended because the bowel movements have to be monitored for the time being. It is the indicator as to what is happening. I cannot wait to irrigate again to regain that measure of control.

Once again, I must say that my Wife Beverley has been my strength. All of this has been very hard on her and still she looked after me in more ways than I could count. She really has had the wrong end of the vow "In sickness and in Health, for better or for worse". I love her dearly.

I wonder what is next?

Douglas Rees

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