Note: I’m totally fine, and this little episode was more hilarious than anything — but if you’re the squeamish type when it comes to gut-related anatomy, it’s probably best if you skip this post.
It’s amazing what the human body does, and how it can have a mind of its own sometimes. A few nights ago, at about 10:00 p.m., I went to empty my ileostomy bag and felt something strange. I use a two-piece appliance that allows you to unhook the bag without having to remove the whole contraption, so I took the bag partway off and peeked inside.
I later learned that what I saw is very common and virtually never dangerous, but at the time, I almost passed out from the sight of it. My stoma — typically a little nub or button of small intestine that protrudes from my lower abdomen no more than half an inch — had pushed its way through my abdomen wall and was extending, quite swollen in diameter as well, a good 3-4 inches out of my body. This is what’s known as a prolapsed stoma.
If you’ve never seen your guts hanging out of your stomach, it’s something to behold — and not in a good way. Fortunately my wife is a saint and managed to keep my hysterical panic from turning into something worse. I was basically pacing around the house clutching my head and squeaking high-pitched gibberish about my entire small intestine falling on the floor any minute.
First we got my amazing sister-in-law Kim, the most knowledgeable nurse we know, on the phone, and she calmed us both down a ton, explaining that this kind of thing happens all the time and — despite looking quite horrifying — isn’t life-threatening or even cause for alarm, much less the trip to the ER I thought I had in store. I called UH to let them know, and a nurse there told me the same thing, suggesting I call Dr. Dietz (my surgeon) in the morning. The next day, when I spoke to him, he said that if it happens again, lying on one’s back usually gets the thing back inside relatively quickly. “You can even gently guide it back in, if it needs some help,” he said. Well how bout that.
Since then, it’s happened a few times per day, but lying down really does work. I realized I have a certain posture when I’m working at my computer, sort of hunched forward, that applies downward pressure on that part of my stomach. I have no proof, but it seems to help when I don’t sit like that. I also have a sneaking suspicion that the original prolapse happened because I got a little careless about lifting things. I never picked up Addie, but I definitely pushed the envelope with objects around the house. A good lesson, I suppose: I never felt like I was straining, but I wasn’t taking into account just how weak my lower abdomen had become with a giant hole in it.
Anyway, that was my Adventure of the Week. Kirk Cousins picked up a win on Monday Night Football, so this week I’ll give him and his Vikings the nod over me and my guts. You can’t win ‘em all.