Button Change

Every 3 months I have my feeding tube taken out and a new one put in. (it sounds worse than what it actually is).

Last night was the first night I changed my tube myself without a nurse assisting or even just being there. It was just me, and my kind of nervous dad. He and my mum have been trying to persuade me to book a nurse to come to our home to assist me in changing it, as I’ve always done for the last 6 years however I wanted to do it myself this time. (plus I was scared of contacting the nurse I had last time as she was a bit scary and basically quizzed me on everything I was doing whilst doing it – I felt like I was doing an exam on top of a practical!! ๐Ÿ˜‚)

Anyway, I felt confident that I could do it myself! I just needed one person with me to pass me the stuff. There’s not much that can go wrong.

When I’ve told people that I have my tube changed every 3 months or so, they normally cringe a bit and ask if it hurts. 1, I know it sounds quite…. Icky? (couldn’t think of another word๐Ÿ˜‚) but it’s really not that bad and 2, no… It doesnt hurt. It can be a bit sore but I’ve found a technique to help with that.

It’s not as bad as you might think. A nurse once described it to me as “taking out an earing and putting a new one in but without the back part” and it is, technically.

Above is a photo of all the equipment I use to change the button. (again… It looks scarier than what it actually is). I must say, it is all sterile and everything. Me and my dad (who was the one passing me the stuff) washed our hands thoroughly too – don’t worry we know about hygiene and sterile stuff from our experience of hospitals! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜‚

Now I’m going to explain to you the parts I use (I don’t actually use all of it – I don’t need to)

This is cool, boiled water. I boil the water up in a kettle and pour it into a mug or cup or whatever and leave it for a while for it to cool down. I can’t remember the full reason why we do this, but I know it’s more clean and sterile to be put in the balloon of the button that way. We always do this when I change the water in the button every week too.

These are two syringes. One is filled up to its max of 5 mil – ready to put into the new balloon once changed. And one is empty and will be used to take the water out of the old balloon.

When changing the water in the balloon (weekly), I know if the balloon is fraying by the colour or consitency of the water… If the water is cloudy and/or a funny colour then I know I need to change the button soon.

Now this is the important bit…. The actual tube. I’m sorry I didn’t get a close enough photo (I forgot๐Ÿ˜‚).

I’ve found a photo online… Source unknown…

So yeah… That’s what it looks like in its full form. And as you can probably see from my photo… Its so small!

The balloon… As you can see from this picture… Holds the tube in place inside. It doesn’t actually go that far into the stomach (as many people assume), well my one doesn’t anyway. It only covers the top stomach lining.

And it just slots into the small hole in my stomach. A small bit of plastic. My own belly button. And it’s the only belly button I’ve got.

So that’s all the equipment used to take an old button out and put a new one in. Now you’ve got all the info on each part.. Let me explain the whole procedure in steps…

1) I get the equipment ready and wash my hands (obviously..) I also test the new tube’s balloon by filling it up with water and taking the water out again. I need to make sure the balloon has no leaks or anything that could affect the position of the tube or tube itself.

2) I lay down in a comfortable position. (laying down is the best position as you’re muscles are more relaxed and not tense)

3) I get passed over the empty syringe and connect it to the little nozzle on the side of the tube. I then take out all the water in the balloon (should be 5 mil)

4) I disconnect the syringe and hold the tube in place. Its unlikely but there is a chance the tube could just pop out. I want to make sure I have the new tube in hand just in case. (it depends on the person but I have been told there has been some cases where the hole in the stomach has automatically closed once a tube isn’t present… And I can’t risk that as that means having another procedure to have another hole put in)

5) I start my breathing technique. I breathe in…. And out… And in… And out… And so on.. Until I feel ready to take it out. I take it out as I breathe out. This is a technique that I was introduced to a couple of years ago. It makes it less sore to pull out as your muscles relax as you breathe out.

6) Once its out.. My stomach makes weird noises (as expected…. Last night it sounded like my stomach was blowing a raspberry๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜‚) and I get passed the new tube and pop it straight in. It literally just slides in.

7) I then get passed the syringe with 5 mil of water in and connect it to the side nozzle on the tube. I slowly fill the balloon of the tube with water.

8) I then give it a quick, gentle twist to make sure its secure enough but also free to move a little.

And that’s it. All done. The actual taking the button out and putting a new one in, takes a few seconds. It’s really not that bad…. But saying that, I’ve had to learn to adapt to it for the last 6 years.

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Behind the scenes

I’ve said before…many times.. That I basically have an invisible illness. A lot of people would not know what I’ve been through if I never said anything.

I hide it well I suppose. There’s a few common, every day, symptoms that people may see me have. For example.. I might hold my back as I’m having a bit of back pain (although I don’t always like to admit it) or my unstoppable hiccups which appear out of the blue and are funny at first but can get pretty annoying๐Ÿ˜‚

But.. There’s also a few that people don’t see me suffer from. Because I hide it well from others.

There’s one particular symptom or cause of condition that I don’t talk about often. It’s because im not too sure how to explain it and plus… I’ve been a bit embarrassed about it I guess. But today I’m going to share with you what happens behind the scenes, when I’m at home (sometimes out and about but that is very very rare). The only people who really know about it and support me through it is my mum, dad and brother…. Because they live with me and so I can’t really hide it from them.

Okay… Now I’m going to stop rambling and get on with it๐Ÿ˜‚ Basically… You’ve heard me talk about my ‘bad spells’ before, but I’ve mainly explained what I’ve been like on a bad day. I don’t talk about these “fits” that I have.

I’ve literally only just recovered from one of my regular ‘fits’ which is one of the reasons why I felt like I want to talk about it now… Whilst it’s all fresh in my mind.

I think the easiest way of explaining this to explain what has literally just happened.

So… I was sitting down on the sofa with my family eating our dinner. We’d finished and took our plates out. As i sat, letting my dinner get down I started to feel funny… I felt a bit faint, my chest was tightening and I started to feel sick. I knew what was coming…. And I’m sorry in advance if it gets a bit too.. Eurgh… ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜‚

I had to retch. Not vomit… But retch. I can’t physically vomit anyway. (because of the surgery I’ve had). I then went into a state of repetition retching. I couldn’t stop. I also started shaking and my body was… Tensing and Pulsing (not sure if that’s the right word). I was also starting to feel hot. I know it would be over in a few minutes and I’ll be fine… I just had to persevere with it… In fact the more I retched… The better I felt over time.

Once the retching had stopped, my body had relaxed and I had started to cool down. I did some simple breathing exercises to calm down… And now I’m absolutely fine! Whilst this was happening my mum was around if I really needed her but she, like the rest of the family, know that all they need to do is let me get on with it. I’ve learnt to control it so it doesn’t last long. I know what to do.

This normally happens when I’m at home fortunately. If I’m out and about and I feel a bad fit/spell coming on I tend to try my hardest to conceal it. Although sometimes that’s not always possible..

But yeah… I just thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes. Its not something I bring up often and it’s not something I enjoy talking about as it reminds me that I have a weakness. But… Talking about it here… Has made me realise its not a weakness… Its just a challenge that I always overcome ๐Ÿ˜

My appendix got stolen!

Well…. Thats the way me and my family see it anyway haha!

Let me explain..

Around this time 6 years ago I was in and out of Kings having surgery and different procedures. Obviously at the time we were just focusing on what was happening and making sure I recovered. I knew I was having my organs moved and I knew that I was having a stomach wrap to shrink my stomach. But I didn’t think any organs were going to be taken out.

Anway fast forward a few years, where I’m stable and starting to be able to live a normal life… I was living my life focusing on the recovery when… I found out that apparently I didn’t have my appendix anymore!

Obviously it’s nothing to worry about. Appendixes aren’t used anymore and it’s quite common to have them removed – especially with people who have to have surgery in that area.

So I’m not worried about it at all. It’s just funny that i wasn’t told that they were removing.. Or had removed my appendix. I found out a few years later.

Me and my family joke how it was ‘stolen’ haha! ๐Ÿ˜‚

So if you see my appendix anywhere… Give us a call! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜‚

Hope at last and … Gangnam style?

I’m a few days late but this post is going to be about what happened this month 6 years ago..

I think the easiest way is to share my statuses and explain them the best I can, so first of all, here are my facebook statuses from March 2013… (By the way – I did have the exact date for each of these but I’ve lost them๐Ÿ˜‚ but they are in order! Haha)

So… this status above. For some reason, in my head they discovered my stomach was large in September 2012 … but by this status, maybe they discovered it later on down the line…

I remember having the tube inserted during x-ray (I was awake). They had to do it under x-ray because of the shape and size of my stomach. It wasn’t pleasant to say the least!

And yes… by this point I was very well known in the x-Ray department. As soon as I arrived I didn’t even have to say my name – they knew me so well and just was like “hey Katie!”๐Ÿ˜‚.

It was also by this point, where I’d had enough of having time of school… I was bored and missing my friends. I was also missing normality.

And this is where Gangnam style comes in… ah. This story still makes me chuckle๐Ÿ˜‚.

So… yeah. Also this status also mentions the time when my surgeon and his team ‘discovered the problem’ – which again, in my mind I thought that was discovered in September 2012 … obviously not๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ˜‚. But then again, this may have been an additional problem?๐Ÿค”

So they found that by inserting a balloon inside of me… they could open up the top stomach valve which was almost so tightly shut .. so much so food was struggling to go down.

I remember being wheeled back to my ward after being in recovery and seeing my surgeon and his team standing outside my door… all smiling at me and my dad. It was weird … but a good weird….

When I find out why they were standing outside and what they had discovered – it felt like a massive relief! I was so happy that there was a reason as to why I had been struggling the way I had been – it wasn’t my fault! There was a problem there! And this problem could now possibly be solved!

Oh and the ‘Gangnam style’ situation …. I can still, to this day see my surgeon and his team dancing around the operating table to it…

I remember this PH Test… I had that tube down one nostril and my feeding tube down the other nostril … it was like my nose was a bloody charging socket! ๐Ÿคฃ

I can’t actually remember the results of this test … I just remember how uncomfortable it felt..

Confidence

First of all I’d just like to say … again … I’m sorry it’s been so long.

Mentally I haven’t been in the right frame of mind. And I’ve been trying to decide and prioritise certain things in my life. I’ve been trying to focus on the things that mean something to me in hopes that it will take my mind off the thoughts in my head.

I’ve recently realised I need help. Help to understand what I’ve been through and what I’m going through. And I’ve went on to get that help.

The last few weeks have been a bit rocky but more recently I’ve started to feel more positive again. One of the things I struggle with is confidence. Confidence in myself. Mentally and physically.

Physically, my main worry is the way my stomach looks. It’s not necessarily to do with the scars. (Which a lot of people assume is the main worry). I’ve always had a scar on my stomach. I’m used to them. It’s the shape of my stomach. The way it sticks out on one side.

Due to the amount of major surgery I’ve had – I’ve now got no stomach muscle on my left side meaning my stomach has a ‘hernia’ effect to it. It sticks out more than usual.

I do wear support sometimes – mainly when I wear dresses or if I’m really bloated. But not always, as it does get a bit uncomfortable. A little while back at work, I was asked if I was “having a baby”. Now you’d probably think I’d be offended … but I wasn’t. In fact I found it bloody hilarious! (sorry for the language) I think it’s because I always thought I look pregnant – because from a certain angle it does look like I have a bump. And even though I found it funny at the time – overall Its made me wonder what people actually think. Like, if I was to walk around in one of those crop tops or something – clearly showing off my stomach – what would people think? Would they be disgusted? Would they feel sorry for me? What would they think?

I don’t know why but I think one thing that I think will help me with my confidence with regards to my stomach, is if I shared a photo of it. Just so it’s out there. I guess part of me is hoping that someone else with a similar stomach to mine (I know everyone is unique and different so won’t be exact) will pop up and maybe give me some advice.

So yeah, here it is –

It’s probably the most flattering angle I could find๐Ÿ˜‚. I’m sorry the quality isn’t great – my phone is rubbish. But yeah. That’s my stomach๐Ÿ˜‚. I also think it’ll be interesting to show anyone reading this who have read/know of my story an actual physical representation of what I’ve been through.

Also, I’m sorry if some of this doesn’t make sense – I’m a little bit tired haha.

Ideas

This is a quick post to ask for suggestions about what you, as a reader, would be interested in reading about on this blog.

Unless something significant happens in my life, I don’t really have much to say currently. I could carry on with my story but the next part is the big chunky bit about the year 2013 when a lot happened with regards to having many many operations and my life changing. But ideally I’d like to start that in January – as that would mark 6 years.

Is there anything you’d like to know about me, anything you think you would be interested in finding out about me and my story? Maybe there’s some advice you think I could give?

Let me know by commenting on this or, as I will be sharing on social media, on any of my social media platforms.

Thank you,

Katie x

6 years continued + update on recent events

Hi! I know we’re in the middle of October now, well actually near the end, but I thought I’d complete the “6 years continued” story. To be honest there’s not much more to say, but I’ll tell you what happened the days leading up to me being discharged and what happened after I was discharged. (If you need a reminder of what’s happened up to this point, please check out my previous blog posts with “6 years continued” in the title)

As well as this, I will be updating you on recent events in my life. Quite significant things. To me anyway.

So, last time I mentioned the x-ray I had, the conclusion the doctors came to from seeing my notes, and briefly mentioned the picc line I had inserted.

Because, by that point, I could hardly eat anything – my new consultant believed a picc line would be most useful for me to have. If you don’t know what a picc line is, it’s basically a long tube that goes through a vein in, normally, your arm, to your heart. Or near your heart. It is a form of nutrition. But obviously, only used when people are seriously unwell.

Having this meant I didn’t have to worry about the fact I couldn’t eat and so was loosing a lot of weight and nutrients. This would help build me up whilst I was in hospital. At this stage I also had an NG tube (a tube that goes up my nose and down into my stomach). Gradually, I started having tube feeds. So a milk-like substance with all the nutrients and vitamins I needed was pumped into my stomach without me having to do anything. Little did I know, this was to become a regular routine of mine. I was at Kings for about 2 or 3 weeks (I can’t remember exactly)

During the last week or so I was just resting really. Understandably I had to, but it was hard because I was away from home. Yes, I had my dad with me. But my mum and brother wasn’t with me. They visited a few times, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t the same. I missed Home. I missed my friends. I even missed school.

The time came when my consultant was happy for me to be discharged, from King’s at least. He told us that they do need to operate however I still need to become a bit stronger, so he advised me to keep the picc line and NG tube.

I was then transferred from King’s to my local hospital. I stayed there for a couple of weeks. (I think, it might have been a bit longer) During this time I rested, had my picc line flushed every so often and began having regular tube feeds. And because I was now only about 10/15 minutes away from home, I was able to have many visitors. And Dad was able to go home and have a proper rest (because it was a tiring, stressful time for him too).

It was nice, in a way, but it wasn’t my proper home. I wanted my own bed. I wanted normality. I think at this point, I started to wonder, will ever have normality again?

Eventually I was aloud home for day visits. Haha, sounds like it was prison or something. The reason for this, is because I was having my ‘feeds’ at night. And so, during the day, I was free to do whatever. There was nothing for anyone to do to me during the day. So they decided that I could spend my days at home. And they eventually even said I could go back to school (which, by this point, I was thrilled about!)

I was quite fortunate that my school was sooo understanding and supportive. Me, Dad and mum went for a meeting with the assistant head at the time. We explained what had happened and what is planned to happen. Obviously, I had my tube in, on show, too and they took this into consideration, understanding that ideally I couldn’t be in the busy school corridors at break/lunch times and during lesson changes. They decided that I would be best going to a room called ‘AP’ (Alternative Provision – I think). It’s a room where I could do my lessons, have a teacher come down every so often to talk to me and give me some work to do. That sort of thing. They also decided I should be on short days. So i’d only be in for a few hours a day. This way I wouldn’t tire myself out too much.

So a regular day for me during that time, would be that I would wake up in hospital. I’d get up, be disconnected, go have a wash, get ready etc. Then mum would pick me up and take me to school. I would then stay for a few hours then be picked up and taken home. Then during the evening, I would be taken back to the hospital, get settled in and be connected ready for bed.

Eventually, the staff felt that me and my parents were ready to learn how to set up the pump. You have to be trained up on it. It’s quite simple so me and my parents caught on quite quick. When the staff acknowledged that we all knew what we were doing. We all knew about hygiene etc, I was allowed home permanently! I could have my feed at home. I could sleep in my own bed – yay!

We were all so happy! Finally – after what felt like months and months – normality! To be honest, after this, each day was the same. I’d get up, disconnect myself, get ready, go to school for a few hours and come home. I would then go to bed, in my own bed. That’s it. During my time at school, as well as what I previously said, eventually friends would come in to see me and I would also pluck the courage to go to some of my lessons. I thought – yes I’ve got a tube in my nose, so? It doesn’t bother me anymore. Yes people stared. But I just ignored them. That’s all I could do really.

Anyway, it got to November and, I remember this moment quite well, the post arrived one morning. I had just come back from shopping with a friend. It was addressed to my parents I think. But I knew it was about me, it had Kings college hospital on the envelope. This was it. This was the date of my operation. I opened it. I was right. “Katie has been booked for her operation on Friday 18th January 2013”. I looked at it. I felt a bit of excitement – because I knew that this operation could really help me as I was really ill (although the reality of how ill I was hadn’t hit me properly yet). Then all the nerves came at once. I cried. I was shaking. This felt real. I was having an operation. A big operation. I was going under the knife. I was having my organs moved around. Would I make it? What happens if things go wrong? I was scared. I hugged mum and Dad. Of course, I knew, we all knew, I had to have this surgery. But it’s scary. For all of us, but especially a 15 year old girl with her life ahead of her.

Below is a photo of me with all of my equipment. I think it was taken for an art project. I did a project on medical equipment. I found medical art and that and researched them. I drew a copy of this photo. (I thought it was interesting at the time) Sorry, I look a bit miserable – I don’t know why haha๐Ÿ˜‚

Okay so, nicer things now! I also said in this blog I will mention what I’ve been up to recently. You’ve probably noticed in a couple of my posts, that I’ve mentioned that I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression a bit in the past. I have good and bad days – physically and mentally! However recently, in both ways, I’ve been having many good days. I’ve been feeling positive, confident and quite motivated actually. I’ve challenged myself and taken on things that I would normally hesitate at and avoid.

These things include; going to a job interview and starting driving lessons! It may seem like normal things to many people – but to me. That’s two massive achievements!

Another thing, which I have surprised myself with – is that I’ve started taking up baking as a hobby!

Now, you will find out in detail why I, and my family are quite surprised by this, in future posts but let’s just say, my relationship with food has never been good. I’ve had times in my life when I can’t even be around food. But you’ll find out all about that in due time. So, yeah I absolutely love baking! It makes me happy and it’s a way that helps me show my creative trait.

That is all for now. Sorry it’s been so long! X