For anyone considering, or nearing the date of, an ileostomy, I thought I’d share my pre-op experience. This is just to give you an idea of what you may expect, though of course every hospital and type of surgery is different.

As the call about the surgery was only a week before the date, the notification for the pre-op was quite last minute too. I didn’t receive a letter about it or any information on what would happen, so I assumed it would be very similar to the last two pre-op assessments I’d had. This turned out to be far more in depth and lengthy, and it was a lot to process mentally. Fortunately, I’d done a bit of reading up online of the surgery, including having read of personal experiences and being fortunate enough to have some lovely ladies being kind enough to answer some of my I’m-sorry-this-sounds-so-silly questions! At this point, even at pre-op, I had never really felt that this was happening to me. I was going through the motions, being practical, trying to keep my feelings to one side and pretend like it was someone else that they were talking about. I didn’t do this on purpose, I just struggled to get my head around it.

My pre-op appointment, from the time I was seen, lasted nearly 2 hours. It was 2 days before my surgery.

Firstly, I saw a nurse. She went through some of the paperwork and a very long list of health questions. We looked at what medications I’m on (name, dosage, frequency), and I told her what I could go without versus what I would need to bring in to the hospital with me. She told me a little about what would happen on the day in terms of going in, waiting, going to a ward to change, to being released to another ward after I’d spent time in the recovery room. She showed me the diagram of the colon and briefly recapped what would happen (ie. the part of the small intestine that would be brought to the surface).

Then the stoma nurse came in. As I’d already seen a stoma nurse a couple of weeks previously (when this was more of a far-off possibility to explore, rather than something I really thought would ever happen!) she didn’t have to go through as much with me. She gave me a box that had some leaflets in, some sample bags to take a look at, that kind of thing.

Then I was marked up. I lay down so she could see my abdomen and she marked roughly where she thought a good spot would be. They have you sit up and stand up to make sure it looks like a good place for the bag to sit in either of those positions (ie. above the waistband of your jeans, not in a crease of belly fat when you sit). But what about the pen wearing off, or washing off? I don’t want the stoma coming out of my belly button because the pen mark has smudged! Fear not – I was given a permanent marker to use to make sure it stayed put! 

X Marked Up

Next, it was on to blood tests, blood pressure and weight.

Then, back to the original nurse I had seen. This is where we went through the prep details.

She gave me a run down of the instructions regarding when to stop eating, what fluids I could drink, and when to stop drinking altogether (2 hrs before my arrival time to hospital). I was given a liquid to use for showering the evening before surgery and again on the morning before leaving for the hospital. You need to wash your body in it twice and your hair in it once each time. There’s a nose gel that you have to delicately shove up your nostrils. And there are a bunch of recovery drinks; as you can’t eat for a good while before surgery, these are designed to keep your body healthy and give you energy to stop you flagging before you go in, and, they claim, help with recovery afterwards too. I thought they sounded like a miracle drink when she was ‘selling’ them to me after the look of concern on my face at having to drink so many! No bowel prep was mentioned, and she said it isn’t usually done with an ileostomy. Thankfully, my surgeon had already had this discussion with me; it was agreed I’d need it and that it would be a rather fruitless exercise without it, so I got a bunch of lovely Citramag to take too.

I ended up leaving with a huge carrier bag of stuff. It felt like my birthday, except none of the gifts were ones I wanted!

I then made my to the car for the hour and a half drive home, running through in my head my schedule of things to do and, whilst still not accepting it was happening to me, strangely overwhelmed with feelings of regret of the things I’ve never done and anger at the situation having reached this point, which I instead directed on to the traffic as I cursed my way through traffic jams all the way home.

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