I wasn’t prepared
I wasn’t prepared for how traumatic a bladder augmentation surgery could be, but as a bonus I discovered a powerful way to reduce pain and anxiety.
The three hour surgery involves cutting you open from the belly button, taking a 25cm piece of your intestine out and stitching it into your bladder to make it bigger. The desired outcome is a less reactive bladder and therefore less chance of incontinence and kidney damage.
Initially, the bowel shuts down from the trauma and any food eaten is rejected. Any cough, vomit, laugh or sneeze is excruciatingly painful.
The new piece of intestine in the augmented bladder also sheds its lining which tends to block catheters so a supra-pubic catheter (coming out of your stomach) is inserted to act as an overflow should the main urethral catheter block. It has to be flushed regularly to reduce this risk. 😳
Fluid from the would is drained from another tube near the wound and often this contains urine from the bladder, until the stitching seals up. (After surgery there were 5 tubes from the stomach area and two drip lines)
The whole experience was reminiscent of the initial spinal cord injury trauma, with nurses turning you every hour to manage pressure areas (which did develop) and taking your vitals every couple of hours, day and night.
After eating on day three, I vomited. With my bowels blocked there was only one way for the food to go. Unfortunately, the pressure needed to expel food from my stomach caused an intensely sharp snap of pain and I swore I’d ripped my stomach sutures open! I shared this with the surgeon but it was dismissed.
At day 7, the fog of pain medication and nausea lifted and I posted a photo on instagram (see below) to say that I had turned the corner.
The rude awakening
At 3am the next morning I woke with a raging fever and the most intense pain I can ever remember experiencing. There were no painkillers that helped, not even the strong stuff. An ambulance was called and I was transferred to the emergency department at the public hospital where they had a CT scanner to investigate what was causing all this pain.
Every bump in the road on the way to the hospital caused intense pain. Then a strange thing suddenly happened.
I knew from surfing experience that struggling against a force way more powerful than you can quickly deplete your energy. When the surf takes you under or in a rip, the best thing to do is surrender until you surface or come out of the rip.
In the ambulance I started chanting silently in my head, “Surrender, Surrender, Surrender” knowing that the pain and anxiety would pass eventually.
Whenever I felt a wave of pain or anxiety, I told myself to surrender.
As it turned out, I had in fact ripped the internal stitching of my suture line when I vomited. With my bowels blocked, my intestines were pressing up against the raw internal wound with only my skin stitching preventing my guts from spilling out. This caused the intense pain.
For the remaining 6 days in hospital, whenever there was pain, incontinence, vomiting, disturbances at night, arrogant doctors, inexperienced nurses fumbling with needles, or any number of hospital inconveniences, I simply repeated my mantra. “Surrender, surrender, surrender.”
Next time you’re facing something intense in your life, ask yourself the question, “Can I control this? Am I best to surrender until it passes and save my energy?” Give it a try, it worked for me.
Here’s to the greater than life, and to surrendering.
P.S. If you’re interested in more details on the bladder augmentation surgery, please feel free to email me.