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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Harriet's Stoma Reversal Operation - The Worst Case Scenario.

Being a cup half full kind of person I genuinely thought that Harriet's reversal operation would go something like this: 

Go to hospital.

Have operation.

Baby fixed.

Come home.

What an idiot...

Apologies for dragging this out but I would like to think that any other parent in the same situation would want to know all the details - I know that I would. 

When we went down to recovery to collect Harriet she looked so pale lying there. I had to laugh as she was on her side and the nurse that had been sitting with her said she had tried several times to lie her on her back but she just kept forcing herself back over. In the end she had given up and just let her! Unbelievable. We got her back up to the ward and she seemed comfortable as she was hooked up to a morphine machine. She was asleep most of the time but spent the night crying out in pain every ten to fifteen minutes. Thankfully she didn't need any extra oxygen and all of her observations looked good. She remained nil by mouth, which in the beginning was easy as she was heavily sedated from the intravenous pain relief. 

Saturday passed without incident and despite still looking a little puffy and pale everything seemed to be good. Being a weekend, none of our usual doctors were around and later that night Harriet's temperature spiked. The nurse sent for the resident HSO who immediately suspected an infection of some sort and wanted to take bloods for analysis. When he tried to find a vein she barely flinched which he later said was when alarm bells rang. The surgeon who had assisted in her surgery appeared (straight from theatre still in scrubs at one in the morning!) and he began to discuss possible causes of infection, one being that her bowel was leaking at the join and that Harriet would have to return to theatre immediately. Needless to say I was distraught. This was not part of the plan. 

Firstly they would try antibiotics overnight to see if that reduced her temperature. The wound site looked so inflamed and angry, and she was so pale and listless. The doctors were clearly very concerned and there was absolutely nothing I could do to help. I just sat by her bedside the whole night praying she would pick up and thankfully she did. By morning her colour had returned a little and the wound looked better. Throughout that Sunday she started to slowly wake up, her morphine was reduced, she played with some toys and things seemed to be looking up. Harriet continued this way all through Monday and some of Tuesday but all the while we were still waiting for that elusive first dirty nappy. As nothing was happening, her tummy was starting to become very distended and by the time the CF team came mid-morning on Tuesday they were visibly concerned at just how swollen she had become. The surgeons on the other hand assured us that this was all normal and we just had to be patient. The CF team wanted a routine chest X-ray so we headed down there at lunch time. On our way out the radiographer ran out after us and asked us to come back. The consultant down there had spotted something and said that Harriet needed an abdominal X-ray immediately.

By this stage Harriet's tummy was so big that all of her internal organs were getting squashed and breathing was becoming very difficult for her. We returned to our room to hear the outcome of the X-rays, not really expecting much if anything at all. The surgeon returned and from looking at the X-ray broke the news that he had now changed his mind and felt that the best way forward at this point was going to theatre again. Now. This was all beginning to feel like a nightmare. What on earth had been seen that had caused such a dramatic U-turn in events? 

We were given a few different scenarios ranging from okay to horrific - always what you want to hear - and we faced the walk down to theatre again. The only saving grace here was that it all happened so fast. Basically, we were facing what we had been told only that morning would be a worst case scenario. During our wait while she was in theatre I really struggled to think positive as I would normally. I discussed it with Chris and said I was sick of always concentrating on the good and focussing on a positive outcome because every time I have been left floored and totally unprepared for what we have been left to deal with. Maybe I should at least allow myself to consider the worst case scenarios instead of dismissing them so readily.  To this end I then convinced myself she would return from theatre with her stoma again and that she would have it for life. Probably a bit over the top looking back but at the time I was certainly not in control of my emotions! 

Finally the surgeon came back and told us that the cause of her distension was her cystic fibrosis and he had now treated the problem. He had to go in again to rule out all possibilities and the blockage she had suffered again was down to CF. If this was to happen in the future they have ways to unblock without resorting to surgery. As if all this wasn't enough they had inserted a long line into her chest by making an incision in her neck. It looked horrendous but meant they could give her nutrients (TPN) and take blood without having to continuously use her as a pin cushion which was obviously never pleasant. 

We were now back to square one in terms of recovery and the next day was spent with Harriet mostly sleeping off two anaesthetics and boatloads of morphine. Then, finally, two days post-op we got there - the first ever dirty nappy! What a relief after everything that had gone on. And I am pleased to say, like any other baby, she's not stopped since! In terms of her weight, she gained over two kilos in fluid and literally looked like some had inflated her! Again, after a few days and a lot of wet nappies, this subsided. Throughout all of this Harriet had no problems or issues chest-wise which was another bonus. 

Spending a holiday weekend in hospital was not fun but there were a few perks. We got to meet some of the Newcastle Falcons rugby team who came in dishing out lots of chocolate and Easter eggs. The hospital had that many donated eggs I was getting them on a daily basis (goodbye old clothes) and the staff on our ward were all so lovely which made things so much more bearable. 

On Easter Sunday we got our first laugh and smile out of her for over a week. She had come back to us and gradually became the happy little baby we were used to. Her milk was reintroduced, in very small volumes at first, and again I faced something that I hadn't expected. She was now ravenous! I had next to no sleep for two nights as she was given tiny amounts of milk every three hours. It did get better as the volumes went up but it was very hard in the beginning. Once she got close to her usual milk volumes I began to wear everyone down and eventually they let us go home mere days after her second surgery! Not bad all things considered. 

It is amazing to see the stages of recovery happening before your eyes and despite things not going quite to plan we got there eventually. I really hope this helps parents facing similar circumstances. I would definitely have liked to have been a little prepared for what might have happened but hindsight is a wonderful thing. It's done, we got through it and so will many others. 

Comment below if you have any questions or get in touch via my social media profiles Facebook or Twitter. Please do not hesitate if you want to discuss anything mentioned in this blog post. 


  1. Thank you, we think so too! X

  2. oh what a beautiful little girl - How scary for you. She sounds so determined. Best wishes to your lovely little baby x

  3. Thanks Casa. It has been a difficult time but all over and done with now and she's doing really well. Xx