Five months. That’s how long I’ve been incapacitated so far on account of my own body. To start with it was just a pain around my belly button that wouldn’t go away. That turned out to be an umbilical hernia. I lived with that for a few months before I had an operation to put it right. Then followed a lengthy period of recovery from the operation, a period that seemed to go on far longer than I was expecting. As it turns out, I’m still not fixed after all that.
To explain, let me share with you a little of the detail of what they actually did when they operated on me (I’ll try to keep it brief for those who don’t like watching Casualty). The problem was a small tear or hole in my abdominal tissue, just under my belly button, which was allowing the fatty tissue underneath to poke through and get slightly strangulated, causing some considerable pain. I was under doctor’s orders not to lift anything, not to do anything strenuous, and basically to take it easy and do a little as possible until it was fixed. The operation involved a general anaesthetic, a small incision above my belly button so they could get to the hernia, a few stitches to close up the hole, a few more stitches to close up the hole they’d made, and a hefty dose of painkillers to see me through the ordeal. Simple. Except that more than two months down the line I’m still in just as much pain and discomfort as I was two weeks after the operation.
I’ve been back to the hospital several times, trying to persuade them that something’s not right, and they finally got round to doing an ultrasound scan to look at the area. My surgeon was initially mystified as to why I might be in pain, because as far as he could see everything was fine. The scan showed that I had a slight inflamation, technically known as a granuloma, around the internal sutures. That’s not meant to happen.
During the operation they used two different types of suture (which is a medical term for a needle and thread). The ones on the outside, sealing up the external hole that they cut to get at the hernia in the first place, were dissolvable stitches. I was told they would disappear on their own within about 2-3 weeks. Actually they took twice that long, but that’s the NHS for you. The internal sutures, on the other hand, were non-dissolvable, as they had to be stronger and more permanent so that the hernia didn’t spring back open again. They’re deliberately made of a man-made material that won’t be rejected by the human body. Except mine, apparently.
Yes, I’m one of those tiny percent of people whose bodies see the suture and say “Whoah, there! What on earth is that doing there? I’ll have to get rid of that.” And so my body’s defences did what they could to try to isolate and kill off the foreign body, surrounding it with extra tissue. That’s the granuloma. It’s a little spherical lump next to the scar tissue where my hernia used to be. And if I lift anything, or walk anywhere, or stand for too long, it hurts. It seems the movement of the stomach muscles agitates the granuloma and causes my discomfort, meaning I’m still unable to do very much even after all this time. How utterly frustrating.
My surgeon wasn’t too sympathetic, last time I saw him. He found the whole thing hilarious, and told me that if anyone was to blame it was my own body. I didn’t see the funny side of that.
So I’m having another operation, next month, to remove the little lump. Apparently that will do the trick. My body has, on the whole, accepted the internal suture, so they have no plans to take that out and replace it with something else. It’ll be a smaller operation, so I’ll only be off work for a few days. The end is in sight (again), and hopefully by Christmas I should be starting to get my life back together again. In the meantime, I’ll just have to carry on imagining rough and tumble play time with Samuel, rather than actually doing it.