I’m back from an overnight stay in hospital, where I had a feeding tube or ‘peg’ fitted. This tube will allow me to consume nutrient rich milkshakes, should I become utterly unable to eat or drink during my periods of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
NOTE: There is a picture of the peg to accompany this post (I did say I would be 100% open and honest), but I don’t want it popping up on people’s Facebook feeds and Twitter timelines without some kind of warning. So, I’ve put a LINK to the photograph further down this page.
If you want to see what the peg looks like (don’t worry – it’s not disgusting, just something you should choose to see rather than have thrust upon you), simply click on that link.
In the meantime, here’s a picture of me in a hand-crocheted beanie hat, made especially by May Corfield. Thanks May!
Now, back to the peg…
I have to admit to being very nervous when I arrived on the ward, not least because the first thing the nurses did was hook me up to a drip filled with antibiotics.
What kind of procedure is so nasty that it comes with medicine in advance?
This one. This one does.
Once I’d taken the antibiotics on board, I was wheeled down to the operating theatre where I was gleefully informed that my peg would be fitted under local anaesthetic, and that I would be awake the whole time.
Can you imagine the fun I was having by this point.
It got funnier.
I had to lie back on the table while I had another drip fitted – this one full of sedatives – and the back of my throat was sprayed. Then the nurse produced an endoscope (one of those cameras that goes down your throat and into your stomach).
You see, everyone’s stomach is in a slightly different position – so they have to look inside in order to be able to accurately pinpoint it. It turns out that, because of a liver operation I had as a toddler, my stomach sits quite high in my body.
So, camera in – blowing air to allow access on the way down and into my stomach, where they switched on a bright light fixed to the end. That shone through my skin, showing the surgeon exactly where to cut.
And cut, he did.
Then, he produced a length of wire, which he inserted through the hole, into my stomach and over the head of the endoscope. The endoscope was then removed bringing the wire with it.
The camera came out, and I was now essentially threaded with one end of the wire jutting from my mouth, and the other from a hole in my stomach.
“This next bit isn’t going to be very pleasant,” said a nurse.
Hahahaha! This next bit!
Dear God, she was right!
The nurse attached one end of my peg (the feeding tube) to the wire sticking out of my mouth, and then the surgeon pulled hard on the other end.
With a sound I can only describe at GASCHLOINK!, the peg slid down my throat, through my upper body and emerged glistening out of my stomach.
They fitted my feeding tube into my stomach via my mouth!
A few adjustments later, and I was done. I spent 20 minutes or so in the recovery room, then wheeled back up to the ward.
But, the fun wasn’t over quite yet…
I hadn’t been able to eat or drink since 8am, and it was now 3pm. To say I was peckish was something of an understatement.
“You can have something to eat once we’re sure the peg has taken,” explained one of the nurses. “It should only take six hours or so.”
Yep. I lay in that bed with a throat like a sandy flip flop for another six hours.
Then, at 9pm, a doctor came along to test the peg.
Attaching a large syringe to the free end, he proceeded to pour 50ml of water into the gizmo which – thanks purely to effects of gravity – vanished straight into my stomach.
It was the weirdest sensation of my life!
But, it worked! They said I could eat again!
They brought me a mug of Bovril.
“No solids until the morning!”
Mind you, that was the most amazing mug of Bovril I’d ever had, second only to the second mug one of the nurses quietly slipped me an hour later when the doctor wasn’t looking!
So, that’s me with a peg fitted.
Want to see what it looks like?
Click here: Tommy’s peg (image will open in a new tab)
Yeah. Told you.
UPDATE: Before I was allowed home today, I was given some training on how to feed myself through the peg, should I become unable to eat or drink during my therapy.
One of the very important things I have to do is rinse it through with water once a day, just to make sure it’s running freely.
So, when I got home, I unclipped the end of the peg, attached the syringe and poured in 50ml of water.
Thanks to gravity, all went well for the first 30ml.
Then the liquid bubbled slightly…
…and the bastard started to run backwards!
The syringe was quickly filling up with horrible, semi-digested bits of Weetabix (my solid treat at breakfast), presumably swimming in my own, personal brand of digestive juices!
I screamed and quickly pushed the cap back in place.
I thought I was about to turn inside out. Or, at the very least, act like one of those old vacuum cleaners in comics; the ones that you could switch from ‘suck’ to ‘blow’.
All I could picture was my utterly deflated body lying in a room where everything was slowly dissolving around me!
One hasty ‘phone call to the hospital later, I was advised that I probably still had air in my stomach from the endoscopy yesterday. They said they probably should have warned me about that.
Yes, I think they probably should.