Richard Alford Story

I think my friends & family always thought my lifestyle would eventually kill me but in the end a simple birth defect got me.

About two & a half years ago, I came home from work, like any other day. I cooked my wife & I some tea & settled down for the evening to watch TV. It was then I started to get stomach pains, nothing that bad at first, but then it got worse. I thought it was just a bad bit of bacon & food poisoning so I went upstairs, thinking I would be sick, then it would be all done. It was not to be, I was getting more & more pain, sweating & when I started coughing up blood, my poor wife phoned 999. The ambulance got to me in no time at all but by that time I was in & out of consciousness. From this point, I don’t remember a thing (luckily enough for me). I have to go with what my wife tells me. I was rushed into hospital & straight to an operating theatre.

I was suffering from a simple Umbilical Hernia that I’d had since I was a child, but this had twisted around a piece of my bowel & killed it due to lack of blood, then splitting the bowel, depositing a load of faeces into my belly. This caused Sepsis & that was more or less it for me. The surgeon fought for a couple of hours not remove the damaged bowel but due to me being obese, my heart stopped four times but they somehow managed to get me going again but this left me in a coma & they didn’t expect me to wake up. At this point, my wife & family were called in to say goodbye, I was left on the operating table open as they needed to get to my heart just in case. My poor wife had to come in & say goodbye to me as the surgeon didn’t think I’d make it through the night. My poor 80 year old mum was even dragged up from South Devon.

No one is sure why or how, but I made it through the night. They sowed my up & I spent ten days in intensive care in a coma.

The first thing I remember is waking up & feeling nothing, literally. All I could do is look around, I was attached to the so many machines but this didn’t register, what panicked me was not being able to move my arms or legs. At this point they put me under again, this time with drugs. I was woken up a couple of days later but I had a bit of a bad time coming down from the drugs, apparently I thought I was dead & everyone was angels, but this is quite normal, so I was told. After that came a very steep learning curve, in quick succession I found I had an Ileostomy that would be permanent, I had brain damage & had to learn how to speak, walk & feed myself again.

I spent 9 weeks in hospital but thanks to my beautiful wife Sharon & the nurses, doctors & Occupational Therapy team I survived. I had a few problems with my stoma, as I couldn’t move very well it leaked faeces into my operation wound which caused an infection. I then had to learn how to walk carrying a machine around, sucking the gunk out of my wound. One nasty point was when they were trying me on stairs, I am not a person to give up, so I was pushing myself a bit. I was happy as I’d managed 5 stairs but my wound split under the pressure & deposited a load of puss & blood all over the poor OT & stairs, I’m glad I didn’t have to clean that up.

Eventually, I was as good as I was going to be, I was given my “marching “ orders & sent home. I was still a bit of a wreck. I couldn’t walk very well, I couldn’t eat much & my brain was still giving me a few problems. On top of all this, I had a “good old” leaky stoma to deal with. Like all of us, the first few month’s were a whirlwind of leaks & bad seals, as well as not being able to move very well. Thank goodness for my wife & family, otherwise I think my world would be totally different now.

To make a long story short “er”, I am now as well as I’m going to be. My stoma is under “control “ lol, I had to give up work & we lost our lovely house by the sea. We are now in a housing association disabled bungalow & my long suffering wife is my carer, but I am alive, I am happy & I have kept my sense of humour lol.

I will finish my story now (thankfully lol) with huge thanks to my wife & family, all the staff, nurses, doctors, surgeons & O.T.’s at North Devon District Hospital as without them, I wouldn’t be here to meet my new grandson, Tommy. I am grateful everyday that I survived this little blip in my life, it’s been a difficult couple of years as before all my problems, my beautiful wife went through Ovarian Cancer & wasn’t expected to survive but, once again, thanks to the NHS, she now has the “pleasure” of being my carer lol. I now live a very quiet, peaceful live, you could almost say I have dropped out of society but I love my life, my stoma is settled, I have had a few problems but the NHS has got me through all of them & I love my quiet life, full of lovely grandchildren & family.

My advice to anyone who, for whatever reason, ends up with an Ileostomy, is to seek as much advice as possible, the Stoma Heroes Facebook page is brilliant, try as many samples as you can, you will eventually find a product that suits you. Even in the two & a half years I’ve had my stoma, the bags & other essentials have come on in leaps & bounds. Try to stay strong, its difficult but you will get through it. The most important thing is, keep your sense of humour.

Thank you for reading & good luck.

Richard Alford.

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