Warning – this post is entirely about my ass, things going into it, and things coming out of it… You’ve been warned.
I recently ‘celebrated’ a year since my diagnosis. Not with champagne and caviar. Not with a cuban cigar and a 30yo single Malt. No, I celebrated with a rubber hose being inserted into my anus and my bowels being flooded with contrast dye while they took photos.
On Friday I had a Gastrografin Enema, which was about as fun as it sounds. Essentially, it’s a leak test, and is the final step to make sure that it is safe to go ahead with reconnecting my small intestine, pushing it back inside where it belongs, and stitching me back up.
You’d think I’d be used to things going up my ass by now. At least two fingers have gone up there, a camera, and a stapler, and that’s what I’m aware of. But(t) for the fingers however, I’ve been asleep for the remainder and so have been blissfully unaware of the discomfort. I wasn’t so fortunate on Friday.
There are two types of contrast material that they use to check the anastomosis; Barium and Gastrgrafin. Barium is the usual contrast of choice, but Gastrografin is preferable in cases such as mine where there is a risk (albeit tiny) of there being a leak. You see, Barium leaking into the abdominal cavity is bad news. Like, medical emergency bad news, whereas if some Gastrografin leaks out, it’s more ‘meh – unfortunate but it won’t kill you’.
I was met by Cameron, the Radiation Technician and Neisha, a student in the last year of her degree and shown into a room that looked like it was off the set of ‘Hostel’. On an aside, why is that whenever I have to drop my pants and have a medical procedure, there is always a hot chick?? Anyways, I digress.
They went through what was going to happen in cheery tones, trying to skirt around the issue that they were both going to see my anoos. Any dignity I had left after finger tests, colonoscopies, rectal surgery, sponge baths, CT scans disappeared like a fart in the wind.
Then came Ross the Radiologist (note the alliteration), a fellow who looked far too young to (a) be sticking anything in my anoos; and (b) be anywhere but the paediatric ward of a hospital. Fortunately, he confirmed what I had hoped, that they would be doing the abridged version of the test today, as they were principally interested in the anastomosis site, as opposed to checking the entire 5ft of my large colon. This pleased me greatly, as it meant I only had to turn from my side to my back and not a full 360*.
Before I knew it, I felt the cold stickiness of the lube and the foley catheter at my balloon-knot and then heard Ross say “gentle pressure, gentle pressure, and we’re in”. Having not had anything pass by the turd-cutter for some seven months, it was a strange sensation.
Ross then helpfully prepared me for the pending onslaught with the comforting words “now comes the uncomfortable part”. With that they began flooding Miguel’s former home with a combination of contrast and air to distend my bowel and put it under pressure to test it’s structural integrity. My flinching, grimacing face and single tear rolling down my face as I yelped “I think that’s about enough” brought with it the comforting pat on the head from another nurse who had managed to sneak into the room while my pants were down. “You’re doing well, darling” she said, like I had a choice to be there at all.
They turned the screen so that I could see the contrast material flow into, and throughout my large intestine. Of most interest was being able to see first hand the anastomosis site, which came with an added surprise.
You may remember I described the anastomosis procedure in an earlier post. I had always assumed that my surgeon did what is called a simple end-to-end anastomosis which means they take the healthy part of my large intestine, and staple it to the end of the healthy part of my rectum and Bob’s your uncle, all done. Kind of like removing the muffler and instead having a straight flow exhaust. What I saw was a custom made rectum, fabricated by my surgeon by doubling the end of my large intestine back on itself and cutting it to create a pouch that would serve as a new rectum. It may not mean much to you guys but it has huge potential for me down the track. Having a shit warehouse again means that I hopefully won’t have to spend as much time on the throne once things are hooked up. The reason being that the large intestine is almost constantly moving by a process of peristalsis. Imagine a caterpillar crawling and that’s kind of what it’s like. It constantly moves to push waste along. If it were an end-to-end/straight through, then my digestive system would simply continue pushing waste until it hit what was left of my rectum, and I would have little time to find a latrine before shit literally got real. This way, things may be a little kinder, but only time will tell.
Many images were taken, and Ross helpfully pointed out various parts of my anatomy that we could see on screen. Next thing you know, Harry came in, because clearly there weren’t enough people in the room while I had a garden hose up my date, and he confirmed that all was well and my torture session was over.
I then scampered to the loo/change room and bore down, opening the flood gates and recreating Niagara Falls with my ass. After what seemed like an hour, but was in reality a few minutes, I slipped a gigantic cotton gauze pad that resembled a sanitary pad for an elephant into my pants and went to talk to Ross to get the good news.
No leaks, no strictures (tightening of the bowel), and from what they could tell, no adhesions (sometimes during surgery the bowel can ‘stick’ to a different part of the peritoneum and cause pain/complications down the track). I was sent home with a cheery smile that we both knew meant “I hope I never have to be that close to your anoos again”. That makes two of us Ross.
Having survived the next few hours, I have a new found respect for women who encounter cramps on a monthly basis. For the blokes out there, imagine being constipated for a week, and the turd is pressing both on your asshole and the top of the pipe. And then imagine someone punches you in the stomach, which breaks up the turd, and leaves a small gap which is immediately filled with air. And then imagine that someone grabs your intestines and gives you a chinese burn. That’s almost what it felt like.
I managed to make it home (and indeed through the next couple of days) without shitting my pants, or leaking any contrast fluid. That may not sound like much of an accomplishment but for someone who hasn’t used their anoos muscles for seven months, it’s equivalent to winning the Nobel Prize for Shiteracy.
Anyways, I survived, and as has been the case with all of my medical adventures so far, was bloody interesting, albeit a literal pain the ass and something that I never want to go through again.
Next step is to see my new surgeon and get a date to be put back together.
Until next time, be kind to your colons, and each other.