Victoria’s Story – No Filter on Surgery #2

My name is Victoria Ranalli. I am 24 years old and have been battling ulcerative colitis since I was 17. I had my entire colon removed about 3 months ago at the Cleveland Clinic after it stopped functioning. About 2 weeks ago I had my second surgery, of the three, to form my J-Pouch. I went into this surgery knowing it was going to be the toughest one to recover from. I knew once this was over, I was just one step away from closing my ostomy forever.

After 4 hours of surgery, everything went perfectly. My surgeon said I had a beautiful J-pouch and she was anxious for my recovery. I was up and walking the next day, eating “clear liquids” and quickly upgraded to a “soft diet”.

Everything seemed to be going well.

My stoma started functioning immediately, I was holding down my food and even showered the 2nd day after. My surgery was on a Monday and by Thursday they were ready to send me home. I planned to wait until morning for both of my parents to speak with my surgeon one last time before heading back to Canton for good. Little did I know, that night my health was going to take a turn for the worst.

I developed what was called an “illeus” after surgery; meaning my bowels were still “asleep” from surgery. A mixture of anesthesia and too many heavy pain medications were the cause. The illeus was undetected because I was having stoma output, but with all the pain and discomfort I was having, a CT scan confirmed that was the case.

My stomach continued to produce bile but could not empty it into my small intestine since it was not properly functioning. This is when the worst and best thing happened. An NG tube hooked up to suction was inserted into my nose which went down my throat and into my stomach to empty the bile into a canister. The suction decompressed my stomach while my bowels weren’t functioning and emptied the bile¬†was still being produced. The only way to wake your bowels up after something like that is gravity. I stopped taking all pain medication and walked as many laps around the halls as I could. It was not easy by any means.

The tube was painful. Constantly swallowing, moving and talking with something gagging you every second is miserable. I threw up constantly sometimes every 10-15 minutes for hours. It’s hard not to put so much emphasis on the NG tube because of how awful it was. It felt like constant torture for the entire week I had it. The only thing that kept me going was positivity. I knew that tube was saving me. It did its’ job and did exactly what it was supposed to do. I hated it every second and every day I had it. Besides the gagging; it made me feel so much better. My abdomen was no longer distended and rock hard and my bowels were slowly waking up.

I blew through two to three IV’s in one day. Eventually, I had a Picc line implanted that made everything a whole lot easier. This was amazing. It sounds scary but made everything so simple. I had IV nutrition “TPN” through my Picc line for a few days to feed my body the nutrition it needed. I no longer was being poked and prodded.

I had two iron transfusions, multiple IV bags of potassium, several bolus bags of IV fluids, bag after bag of Phenergan and round the clock doses of Zofran for nausea. I had endless support from the best doctors in the country and unconditional amounts of love from family and friends.

I reached out to others for support to stay positive through what was supposed to be a couple day stay in the hospital which led to two weeks. I let the feelings I had out constantly. I kept nothing bottled up. I laughed, I cried, I got angry, and I felt bad for myself many times. But I never gave up! I continued to push myself past my breaking point. I told myself every day that things will get better. I continued to listen to my doctors and cooperate with nurses and do everything I could to get through one day at a time.

Eventually, the rough nights got easier. My bowels started to wake up. I was able to get my NG tube out. I was able to introduce “real” food and finally was able to go home!

No matter what life throws at you, things WILL get better. The second surgery is tough whether it goes perfectly or if you have complications. But staying positive and taking it day by day will get you to where you need to be. “Never let a bad day make you feel like you have a bad life.”

Stay positive. IBD is a daily struggle. Colitis is a constant battle. But your life is what you make of it. It’s not always easy to keep a smile on your face. Especially when you look “filtered” on the outside.

Positivity is the key to your own happiness. You’re not alone in this battle! It can always be worse!

This is my life with IBD right now, unfiltered.

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The left image is my “unfiltered” photo recovering from surgery at home. The right is my “unfiltered” time in the hospital with my NG tube.