By: Noelle Schuyler

Surgery Recovery- now what?!

I’ve always been someone who is prone to unique complications when it comes to my Crohn’s disease. Weird side effect of a new medication? It’s likely I’ll experience it. Odd surgical complication? I’m there!

I spent the week following Thanksgiving this past year prepping for my upcoming stoma revision. I’ve never had a scheduled surgery to prepare for, and it was great! For once I was able to get my life in order with the help of my supportive family and friends it felt like there was nothing that could surprise me, as I had thought of all possible scenarios. I went into my surgery confident that this would only make life better and I would bounce back in a matter of weeks.

The surgery was great! My new stoma was working as it should, and I was healing well and recovering at home. It was a big surgery, and with big surgeries come big pain. I knew to expect this but didn’t realize how much the narrative had changed around pain management since my original ostomy surgery ten years prior.

I was sent home with a small prescription for pain medicine with the directive to try and use less and less each day and rely on over the counter pain management more. Well let me tell you, it was a struggle! I’ve always considered myself as someone with an incredibly high pain tolerance, but this time I felt like every time I spoke to my doctor I was begging for more medication. This took a huge toll on me mentally, as I just couldn’t understand why everything still seemed to hurt.

In fact, on days when the pain should’ve been getting better, it almost felt worse.

Things all came to a head two weeks after my surgery date when one day at home out of nowhere I felt like I got hit by a truck. Not just a little ache and pain here, but full body discomfort that was totally debilitating.

Four hours later as fast it came on, it was gone. I thought it was weird but I was just relieved it had passed and didn’t think much of it. Well it happened again a couple days later, and by the third time I knew I had let this go on too long and reached out to my surgeon.

Heading into the ER I had a feeling I knew what I was dealing with thanks to Dr. Google and experiences from friends and family; a kidney stone. Low and behold, there it was on the CT scan. And of course, I maintained my go big or go home history with a stone so large that not only could it not pass by itself, but it had begun to block my ureter compromising my kidney. That first day of debilitating pain? Yeah, that was when I was passing the stone out of my kidney; ugh.

My new team of doctors in the urology department got me into surgery quickly to place a stent and allow my kidney to heal before they would remove the stent. I’ll be honest, life with a tube from your kidney to your bladder isn’t exactly comfortable, but it’s manageable. I know everyone has different experiences with stents. In my mind, I was one of the lucky few who handled it really well.

A few weeks later I had another surgery, this time to remove the stone and place a new stent. This stent was very temporary though and could be removed at home (terrifying to hear, trust me!) in a few days. I’ll spare you the detail about the removal, but I will say it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, and I felt like an absolute rock star when it was done! I mean, I had just completed a medical procedure on myself at home; pretty cool!

Remember when I said I thought the stent wasn’t so bad and I was one of the lucky few? Well the second it was out I got the most immense pain/discomfort relief and realized that had been the culprit all along! What I thought were surgical aches and pains were no more and it was the best feeling! Since that morning, I have not had to take any pain medication.

So, what’s the point of this long drawn out story? What does it mean for my future? To be honest, I don’t even know yet. There are a few different potential causes for kidney stones, and I will have some further testing to see why mine occurred. Everyone has told me it was coincidental and had nothing to do with my recent huge surgery, but I’m not so sure!

I promise to update with results and share what lifestyle changes are recommended, but until then I continue to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I fear that chronic dehydration may have been the cause in my case, but if so, at least there’s something I can do about it!

Have you ever had a totally unexpected complication? How did you cope? For me this entire experience was very humbling, and a reminder to slow down and listen to my body a bit more.