Operation Live – Bowel Surgery

Now it should be pretty obvious to any newcomer that I have had bowel surgery but not once but twice. I don’t actually watch much TV unless it is crime drama or true crime (Making a Murderer anyone?) I saw a lot of people talk about Operation Live and it being about bowel surgery. So the next day I went hunting on catch up for it as I was intrigued – especially since I have had my bowel operated on; although I firstly had a pan procolectomy to remove my large bowel and have a Jpouch formed out of my small bowel, then 8 years later I have the Jpouch removed and a permanent ileostomy formed. So as I watched it as any old school swot would do I wrote notes! This post is essentially those annotations fleshed out (I know I am hanging my head in shame too) to make a bit more sense of my reactions and thoughts.

Firstly the incision was the bit I really struggled to watch now I am not sure if this is purely because I have a thing about belly buttons and that they are vile creepy things or that I just am a bit squeamish when it comes to incisions I am not sure probably a bit of both but mainly the belly button. I thought a knew at least a wee bit more than the basics when it comes to your intestines which is another word for your bowels/gut but this really opened my eyes that there was way more to learn about them.

The fact they inflated the abdomen with carbon dioxide because that absorbs back into the body quicker was something I found intriguing let alone the fact they blow the whole cavity up so they had more space to work within was something that never occurred to me before. When you think about it though it really does make sense – that is a theme that I felt throughout the programme was you don’t really think about the small steps they do and how much of a difference it does to not only make their jobs easier to do but so our operation runs smoother. I already had a huge appreciation for my surgeon Mr Clark and the entire team but even more so after watching this; what I also really loved was throughout the episode they highlighted how important teamwork is to an operation running smoothly.

I found the placing of the ports made me fairly queasy albeit interesting especially as I think I had around three myself which I think they said was fairly standard. They must have been pretty damn sharp just to be pushed in through the abdomen but I guess when you are under general anaesthetic you aren’t going to feel anything and they have a purpose to allow the other surgical tools to be inserted into the cavity. Through these ports the gas is being pumped and allowed to escape continuously.

I found the differences between the large and small bowel quite fascinating in the fact that you can identify which was was which fairly easily – the large bowel is covered with a layer of protective fat and the small bowel isn’t. The sheer amount of fat around the large bowel was impressive. I have only seen the inside of my intestines and pouch from procedures and photos never the outside – mainly because it was the lining they were more concerned about. It was pretty cool seeing the heart beating inside the chest and that they pointed out the liver. Once upon a time I thought I could work in theatre and watching this made me think nope no I probably couldn’t. Mainly due to to the incisions but I think the actual operation would be okay in itself – I say that not being in the room obviously!

Everything they did was incredibly precise and that is really reassuring knowing that every gauze or swab as they called it they use to help cause some friction so they can move the bowel out of the way and it not essentially flop back on top of itself; is counted and recounted at the end to ensure nothing is left. When it came to the tool they used to cut away at the fat and the bowel I expected it to be a knife not essentially a clamp that vibrates 50,000 times per second which allows it to cut and seal at the same time.

I know this may sound stupid but it never once occurred to me that the bowel would/could be brought outside of your body to be operated on; I just presumed it was all done inside because my large bowel had already been removed in my first operation. No did I expect there to be a ring or tubing/plastic casing inserted and laid out for the bowel to be placed on the outside of your belly. I get that it is to ensure as sterile environment as possible to prevent any infection or in this case contamination of the tumour so new no new tumours would grow on healthy bowel.

They obviously wanted to reattach the two sections of large and small bowel back together with a fully functioning blood supply and doing this was another thing they had to be incredibly precise with, along with the removal of the fat between the two organs to allow the large bowel to be a “free organ” when it came to the removal of the tumour. Cutting and sealing of the intestine was a heck of a lot quicker than I imagined even with the use of that fancy clamp. I was in awe of the way they reattached the two sections of the bowel; they laid the two parts next to each other vertically like you would stack bricks. Then they opened the areas that were now touching keep imagining the stacking of the bricks on top of each other and closed the original openings.

I definitely didn’t expect the bowel to be “dropped” and shaked back in as it was even though it was done extremely carefully, but then again I didn’t expect it to be brought back out as it was either! Like I said before everything that was inserted has to be counted and they count everything again to ensure everything that went in has been removed before the stitches are started. If I am honest I didn’t expect the layers of muscle and skin to be stitched as they were. I obviously knew there were at least two sets the inner and outer stitches but I dunno what I expected really.

I have to admit I was annoyed that 00Steve’s friend at work had told him all about the episode and I kinda wanted to talk about bits that I thought were really clever or how things differed or not with my own surgeries. Watching this operation made me realise how ignorant I had been of things that happened to me during surgery and although I knew it required teamwork and a lot of planning; I guess i just didn’t expect it to be as it is. Did you watch Operation Live if so what did you think?

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