I’m not easily distrac … ooh, SHINY thing …

The Unexpected Exorcism of St Bagnes the Bilious: Part 1

A selection of medical items for maintaining surgical drains

Warning: This is going to be long tale (even by my standards) so I’m going to break it up into two or three parts. It will also contain some medical stuff that the squeamish might find a bit…icky? If you’re ready for all that, make yourself comfortable and dive in…

Yo-oh Heave Ho!

Those of you who have been following my recent adventures either here or on Facebook will recognise the above photograph as the small mountain of medical supplies that I have had to keep on hand in order to look after my percutaneous cholecystostomy. Or gallbladder drain if you can’t cope with a tongue-twister at this time of day.

You will also know that the last few weeks have been rather, er, interesting, shall we say?

A couple of weeks ago, while the wonderful district nurses were changing the dressing over the drain, we discovered that the original stitch that held the tube in place had torn out and the drain had slipped a centimetre or so out from where it was supposed to be. Luckily for me, it was still working so could be assumed still to be in place far enough to continue doing its job. Also, my GP is a dab hand with a needle and thread and managed to put in a new stitch to hold things and all was good again. Well, give or take the pain of being stitched (even with a local anaesthetic) but you can’t make omelettes without breaking a few eggs, etc.

Anyway…a week later (last Thursday, in fact) I had just had another scheduled dressing change and been back home for an hour or two. While walking around the house, I managed to snag the tube on an item of furniture. I was walking quite quickly and actually dragged the furniture along with me. Of course, as Isaac Newton tells us, every action has an equal and opposite reaction and the weight of the furniture proceeded to drag the tube another couple of centimetres out of my body. The dressing (which included a special gadget to help hold everything in place for just such eventualities as this) did its job as well as it could, but the experience was still painful. Very painful. If you live within a few hundred miles of south-west Scotland and heard a spine-chilling scream carried to you on the wind, it was probably me. Sorry about that.

At this point, I was fairly sure I had torn the new stitch out of my body. However, the dressing was still holding things in place and the pain began to subside a little. The drain was also still working so I thought I’d just give it a bit of time before getting all panic-stricken about it.

A wasted journey

That was fine until Saturday morning when it was still stinging a lot and I thought that there had been a little further outward movement. So a trip to the local A&E unit ensued. After a couple of hours, a doctor and nurse came to take a look. They removed the external dressing pad and then stopped when they got to the drain-holding gadget underneath (a thing called a DrainFix dressing). In order to check out the stitching and the drain site itself, they would need to remove that. Unfortunately (and very surprisingly) they didn’t have any of those in the hospital. Nor did they have any other kind of drain-securing dressing. In the absence of that, the doctor wasn’t prepared to remove the dressing and take a look, since they wouldn’t be able to re-dress it. Which was fair enough but a bit annoying since I actually had a small stock of DrainFix dressings at home that the district nurses used for dressing changes. If I’d known that a hospital – and one with an actual A&E department – wasn’t going to have any, I could have taken one along with me. As it was, I was given the option of either heading for A&E at Dumfries (80 miles away) or just waiting until Monday when I would be seeing the district nurses again and could get my GP to check it out. So I waited it out, being very careful with myself and monitoring the drain tube closely for any further movement.

On Monday, I went for the usual dressing change and told the nurse what had happened. I’d already forewarned the GP surgery about it, so the doctor (a locum in this case) was ready to take a look. To our surprise, we found that the stitch had actually held but the drain tube had managed to slip through it. The net result was that the drain was now 3 or 4 centimetres further out of my body than it was when it was first put in. While it still seemed to be working, I had been having a few problems with it over the weekend (leaking, not flushing out properly in the mornings, bleeding, etc.) and that amount of movement definitely falls into the “Uh-oh! This is getting rather worrying” category.

Luckily, I was already scheduled to be at the hospital in Dumfries on Tuesday afternoon for an MRI scan so the doc phoned the hospital and spoke to a duty surgeon about the whole thing. They agreed that it needed to be checked out by a surgeon so it was arranged that I would present myself for surgical assessment on Tuesday morning. It would mean an early start (80 miles away, remember?) but it did at least mean that the whole thing would get checked out properly. So far so good…

[ Now, tune in to Part 2 for the next boring – er, I mean, thrilling – instalment! ]

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