Fighting the Tube

When I woke up Sunday morning, I knew something was terribly wrong. I could hardly stand up the nausea was so bad. I tried my best to manage. John was out of town but my mom was corralling our wild 3 year old.

By dinner time, I was vomiting profusely and it was the same as it was before surgery. We made a call to the surgeon’s office who wanted me to come straight in for the minimum of fluids but it would be likely that I would be readmitted. The quicker we tried to get everything packed and ready to go to the hospital, the wilder Abby seemed to get. It was if she was a ping pong ball bouncing through the house.

Thankfully a dear friend was able to come pick her up so mom and I could head to the hospital. I was to completely by-pass ER and head to 5 East to get admitted. It was nice to see the nursing staff again but as one of the nurses put it, it would have been better if we were seeing each other in Wal-mart versus the hospital again.

The first order of business was an xray to check for an obstruction before getting settled into my room which happened to be just across the hall from the room I left just 24 hours before. The lab tech had no success getting a vein for blood work so he had to get a sample from my finger (which is totally not fun). From my previous stay, I was pretty famous for having the crappiest veins possible so none of the nurses on the floor wanted to give it a shot so they called ICU to do the IV which landed in my neck. So not a great experience but it did its job to keep me hydrated and medicated.

The xray came back showing an obstruction. The site where my bowels were reconnected was not working properly causing a blockage. They were hoping to avoid surgery so we started out watching and waiting.

The first step they wanted to make was inserting an NG tube to remove any liquid from my stomach as well as preventing anything from making the obstruction worse.  My nurse warned me that the procedure was far from comfortable but it would be quick and would be really beneficial in helping clear the blockage. It didn’t go quite as planned.

She tried four times with no success as the tube kept getting knotted up (which isnot a nice feeling). It felt as if I was choking and could not get any air. So glad my mom was there to hold my hand. When she couldn’t get the tube placed, she called ICU. He tried an additional three or four tries with the same result. By this time, my nose and throat were extremely irritated and started to bleed. Each time they tried to insert the tube it felt like I was drowning in my own blood and saliva. It was honestly one of the scariest things I had ever, ever experience. My nurse and ICU gave up. There was something anatomically that was preventing the tube from being inserted properly.

By this time I was completely worn out physically and emotionally. I couldn’t stop crying and my nose and throat felt like they were on fire. My mom was also overwhelmed from everything that had taken place in the past two hours. My nurse gave me some more pain medicine to help me wind down and be able to rest. It was close to midnight when we turned off the lights.

It was as if the doctor on call knew that we were finally calmed down when he barged into the room determined that he would be able to insert the NG tube within moments. The torture resumed. He tried an additional four times. The bleeding had become pretty heavy which added to the feeling of drowning. I could not control the tears or the shaking. My mom was kneeling at the foot of my bed crying. Even the nurse had tears in her eyes. After the fourth try, he agreed with the previous nurses who had attempted the placement in that something was wrong anatomically preventing the tube to be placed.

He left the room to continue his rounds while I was left shaking and crying. Over the last eight years, I have had a gazillion different tests and procedures and while there were definitely some painful ones, this takes the cake. It was painful not only physically but mentally and emotionally. The thought of ever needing one in the future makes me sick to my stomach and causes me to replay those scary moments in my mind.

Around 1am, we were able to get settled down…again. As we turned off the light, I was thankful knowing that when I woke up my doctor would be handling my care and knew that I would be in better (and more compassionate) hands.

 

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    • It was most definitely the worst thing I’ve ever been through! Supposedly it is supposed to be a really quick and relatively easy (yet uncomfortable) procedure to go through but of course I can never do things the easy way! LOL

  1. I am so sorry you had to go through that! I used to be a nurse and remember having to insert an NG tube in someone, it wasn’t pleasant for either of us, but most definitely not the patient. They NEVER should have tried it on you that many times while you were in such misery. I hate hearing stories like this. That pain and suffering could have been avoided if not for some people letting go of their ego’s . I hope you have gotten some relief and are feeling better! You are a strong woman!

    • I most definitely think ego was a part of the situation. The doctor wasn’t my primary – just the surgeon that happened to be on-call when I was readmitted – was definitely egotistical and had this whole “I can do anything better” mentality. He forced the nurses to keep trying and then came in himself when they said they were going to quit trying because of an obvious anatomical issue preventing placement and because of care of the patient. He just wouldn’t accept it until he practically murdered me himself. My primary doctor would have been FURIOUS had he known what was going on.

  2. Wow, that is some kind of scary. I had that “drowning” feeling once when the OR nurse mixed up the order of my meds and gave me the ones to paralyze my throat muscles (for intubation) first instead of the “knock you out” ones first. It was about 30 seconds of gasping and flailing (which seemed like minutes) while the nurses told me that it was ok, I was still breathing but it felt bad. No matter what they said I flailed until I was unconscious. But that only lasted 30 sec. to a minute. I can’t imagine going through what you went through over and over. You are one STRONG woman!!

    • I can’t even imagine what that must have felt like! Yikes! My mom kept asking if there was anything they could give me to help at least partially sedate me since obviously my body’s reaction to the trauma was adding to the inability to place the tube but they said it was typically not procedure since the vast majority of the time it is a quick procedure but seriously this lasted over an hour and a half. I think I will be scarred for life!

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  4. I’m so sorry to hear about this awful experience! I had emergency surgery for a small bowel obstruction 2 months ago, and the attempts to insert the NG tube was 1 of the worst part of the whole thing– tho not as horrible as your experience of this! The first 2x they tried to get a student to insert it; I also have something anatomical which seems to make it more difficult. I also have a fear about things in/around my throat- I don’t even like wearing turtlenecks– as well as a really strong gag reflex. By the end of the first attempt I was in a full blown panic attack. At this point they give me some ativan, which really helped me calm down– they should have done this before trying to insert the tube!! The actual expert tried the third time &was able to get it in, but it was still not easy and I felt like I was choking on a piece of apple in my throat. Then they took me right to surgery, and after the surgery the pain meds made me not really aware of the tube thank goodness…
    The most important thing I learned is: we have the right as patients to refuse a procedure. I especially would never let a doctor attempt to insert a tube, if the nurses were unable to do it, because they are almost always the least practiced at these kinds of things! Yet it is really hard to refuse something because we feel so powerless in these situations… we can support each other at taking our power back, though.

    Thank you for having the courage to write about this, and I wish you healing. I too have major chronic illnesses issues and am Still recovering from this surgery I’m trying to figure out what caused the obstruction

  5. Oops,hit Publish before finishing by mistake! Anyway the “regular” doctors said they do not know what caused the bowel obstruction, so I am still trying to figure it out. My naturopathic doctor thinks it’s some kind of autoimmune issue… it was such a horrible experience that I really pray I don’t go through it again, but I was fortunate in that the ER that I went to a level 1 trauma center and a teaching hospital; even though they did make the mistake of sending me home the first time I showed up with the pain ( at that point the obstruction was not showing on the CT scan), when I came back in even worse shape 3 days later, they did a repeat CT scan and identified both the obstruction and a twist in the blood vessels (called a bowel whirl). They insisted I needed surgery immediately, so only had to take out a very very small amount of bowel. In the research I have done since then, I have learned that 25 percent of people with small bowel obstructions die if surgery is not done within 36 hours!! So I feel fortunate that I live in a city (Tucson) where there is this kind of diagnostic capability & trauma/emergency surgery available. Thank you, Spirit!!!
    Wishing you on going healing

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  7. Oh hell no! That’s so horrible, I feel your agony. I just had an emergency intestinal surgery in April, from which my recovery was real shitty. I was puking bile the first few days and couldn’t not pass gas. I was super nauseous and in immense pain. Zofran, phenergan, morphine, norco and tramadol were my friends. My nurse (seems to have been a nurse for years) wanted to insert an NG tube to get some of the air out. The first try was the last try, I shot out more bile, my gag reflex went into overdrive, and I pissed on myself. She was getting a bit stressed out, so I yelled at her to take it out while crying. I told her there was NO WAY I’d let her make another attempt, she told me that I’d have to endure more puking. Said “that’s fine with me” (not really), and suffered another day and a half. I found this thread while looking around for stuff about these evil things, LOL!

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  9. I was involved in a cycle accident and obstructed my colon..they had to do emergency surgery in the re and remove 5 parts up to 80% of my colon. I am now 8 days out of the hospital and have a Frankenstein stitch similar to yours. I have been trying to look online for post op help on what to expect bit have not had any luck