Ok, here goes....
It started at the end of November with what felt like indigestion followed by vomiting.
I went home from work thinking I'd eaten something dodgy. The next day I felt better but when I had my early morning pee, it was brown.
I went to the GP walk in surgery and pee'd in a tiny bottle and gave some blood. They told me they'd call when they got the results. Less than 3 hours later, they called and told me to come and collect a letter and then go straight to A&E. At that point I started shitting myself.
I went to A&E, gave them the letter and they immediately took blood then I sat in the waiting room while they ran tests.
After about 2 hours they came for me, put me on a trolley and shot me full of fluids and antibiotics. They said I was close to multiple organ failure and if I'd not come straight in, I would most likely have died during the night. That was near death number 1.
Later that night I had a CT done which revealed exactly what was going on. A gallstone had gone into my pancreas and caused necrotising pancreatitis. Essentially killed part of my pancreas and caused it to swell. I had no idea how much the pancreas actually does until that point or how damaging an effect it can have on the other organs.
After 8 days on multiple drips filled with multiple things plus a tube up my willy which wasn't fun, I was much improved. My blood tests were normalising and I felt fine so I was discharged with a referral for surgery at a later date to remove my gallbladder to prevent it happening again.
I was home for about a week and felt better. I was going to return to work the next day. Then I had another attack of pain and vomiting. It was far worse than the first time. I thought I was going to die. We called an ambulance and I was taken straight through A&E to the surgical assessment unit. I was again pumped full of various fluids. The doctors decided I needed surgery urgently but I needed more specialist care than they could give so they arranged for me to be transferred to QMC in Nottingham which has the UK's best pancreas department.
When the ambulance arrived, I overheard the nurse tell the driver to blue light it as fast as he could. I said goodbye to Mrs RB and cried a little bit.
I arrived at QMC and was given another CT and was told I'd be operated on the next morning.
The surgeon, who I later found out was the best pancreatic surgeon in the country, went through all the things that could kill me or leave me worse than I was and then the lights went out.
I woke up in intensive care feeling numb and drugged. The surgeon came to see me and told me things had gone as well as they could considering he'd never seen so many abscesses on a pancreas and if my heart wasn't as strong as it is, I'd probably have died on the operating table. That was near death number 2 and I was still very, very sick.
I don't remember much of the next few days or weeks due to the drugs and fever from infection. The next event I remember was a doctor telling me he had to take out the staples that they closed my wound with.
Apparently, I'd developed an infection under the staples. I asked if my innards would spilll out and was told that I was sewn up securely below the skin, it was just the skin part and it wouldn't even bleed much. My incision was 30cm long with a lot of staples. He removed them while I was awake, it was not fun.
They then realised that it wasn't just an infection but a fistula had formed between the wound and my pancreas. This was one of the complications I was warned about. Essentially the wound on what was left of my pancreas had connected itself to the wound in my abdomen muscle wall and skin. Pancreatic fluid was leaking out of my belly.
Keeping the wound clean and dressed while up to 1L per day of digestive enzymes leaked out of it became a huge fight and really tested the ingenuity of the medical staff. For a long time, the skin around the wound was red raw from being essentially eaten by digestive enzymes. Slowly, the wound started closing from the edges in and got to the point where they could use a wound pouch, which is similar to a stoma bag. It just went over the fistula and kept the fluid off the rest of the wound which helped it heal. The wound still hasn't fully closed. I still have a dressing on it although the fistula does seem to have closed now.
After 4 weeks in intensive care, I was downgraded to just high dependency. I was there for about 2 hours. I was being fed through a tube that went up my nose, down my throat, beyond my stomach and into my jejunum. I also had a second tube that acted as a drain and stuff from my jejunum came out of my nose pipe into a bag.
I'd just settled into the high dependency ward when very quickly, the drain bag suddenly filled up and I immediately vomited violently. Unfortunately, I was breathing in at the time and got what doctors call, aspiration pneumonia. Everything went black and that was my clinical death. Fortunately, as I was in a high dependency ward, I woke up back in intensive care with a tracheostomy and a ventilator for company.
I spent another 3 weeks on the ventilator. It was an utterly miserable time. I didn't tolerate the tracheostomy well at all. I was constantly coughing which isn't ideal with a foot long open wound across your middle. They typically wean people off tracheostomies by slowly changing the pipe thing for different ones but in my case, the second I didn't need the ventilator, they took out the trachy pipe and dressed the hole. I felt much better.
It was at this point that I was told that due to the number and type of antibiotics I'd been given to keep me alive, I'd developed C-Diff. C-Diff is a Bactria in your gut that most people have but in small numbers, kept in check by those good bacteria in those expensive little yogurt pots. My good bacteria had been killed by the antibiotics and the C-Diff had multiplied. I was moved to an isolation room because it's the new scary thing in hospitals apparently. The symptoms are wonderful, you shit brown water without warning about 20 times a day.
By this time, I'd spent so long immobile that my leg muscles had become too weak for me to stand. So what do you do with someone with an almost non stop brown fountain who can't get to a toilet? You shove a pipe up their arse of course. Just like a catheter up your willy but much, much bigger and up your bum. I had 4 in total because they kept failing. In the end they gave in trying.
It was now the end of January and medically, I was stable and recovering despite the fistula causing infection after infection. So I was transferred back to the hospital near home.
After a few weeks they said I could start eating with my mouth again, I was elated. I spent the next four months bouncing backwards and forwards with infections and life threatening electrolyte imbalances but slowly getting better. I started physio which was and still is a slow process when so much muscle mass had been lost. I got to the point where I was convinced I would never get out of hospital and became depressed. The nurses spotted this immediately and I was referred to the mental health team. They were shocked that it hadn't happened sooner but quickly determined that it was not serious and a few chats later, I was on my way back up again.
At the end of May, I was medically discharged and transferred to a local community hospital for pure physio rehab. At the end of June, I could walk with crutches and was finally sent home.
At this point, I'm not diabetic but due to my pancreas being half missing, I'm at a much higher risk of developing it later.
I do have to take pills with meals as I don't produce enough digestive enzymes to break down certain fats.
I adore the NHS.
I was in the care of dozens of doctors, nurses and health carers, all of whom were overworked, underpaid and generally treated like slaves but not one of them was ever in a bad mood with me, even when cleaning up my shit or washing my balls. They never gave less than 100% effort. They are all amazing.
A slight majority of a statistically worthless sample size agree.