As a chaplain and then as I patient I came to learn about bowel surgery.
I had gone in for minor surgery on a Thursday and ended up with a colostomy on Monday. My bowel had been perforated and I had been lying in my own sewage for four days.
It takes about a week for the intestines to heal enough so that one can eat and drink. How does the medical staff know that the bowel has healed. Ahh. That's so easy. It passes gas -- the southern kind.
There I was, lying in bed in the iconic blue hospital gown that never fits or covers what it is supposed to cover, hooked up to an IV drip, a morphine drip and attached to a catheter which was hanging over the bed for all to see. I had drains sticking out of my sides and, of course, my colostomy bag, my new friend. One of my children had asked me if fashion called for my shoes or my dress to match my bag. But I digress.
Can you imagine lying in bed and praying to pass gas? My entire worldview was focused on this one simple biological act that we all take for granted and actually are embarrassed by unexpected puffs of wind. All my energy, all my thoughts, every ounce of my being was focused on -- well, you know.
Several times a day, a nurse would come into my room, place her stethoscope on my belly and listen, intently. She was searching for the growl in my bowel that would let her know that the healing process had begun. I would lie very still, holding my breath to prevent any ambient sound. She would close her eyes, move the stethoscope around, searching for signs of life. It reminded me of days long past when my obstetrician would place his stethoscope on my belly, also searching for signs of life. Each day I would concentrate on my bowel, willing it to grumble or rumble, or even whimper, to give me any sign that it was rising out of its slumber.
I remember the feel of the first twitch, like a tiny bubble bursting in my intestine. I pushed the call button and when the nurse came over my intercom I shouted the good news. I needed her to come in with her stethoscope and listen. Yes, there were signs of life. My bowel was gearing up for something. Hopefully it would be something big.
It took a while, but finally, success. Gas passed and filled my colostomy bag. Now that is fascinating. The bag fills up like a balloon, depending of course on the amount of air. And it stays full until you open it and release all the collected puffs of wind.
I guess the moral of this story is that we must all learn to appreciate the little things in life.