• Bekky May

The Stenting

Yes, two updates in under a week, but this one is just because many kindly people have asked, so I thought I’d write down the whole day, partly for your info, dear reader, and partly so I have a record of it.

The Stenting. Or to give it it’s formal title, Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).

Well, in a word it was “fine”. It wasn’t, but I am now stented (only the liver, mind you), and at home resting for a couple of days while hoping my jaundice not only goes, but goes quickly and my liver function returns to normal so I can get on the chemo again.

No, Tuesday was not fun. It was preceded by a terrible night’s sleep which didn’t help, involving a lot of pain and anxiety, but Bekky and I made it into hospital on time and I was changed and in a bed within about 45 minutes of arrival - unlike last time when we sat uncomfortably (and with others! Shock horror) in the waiting room for over 2 hours before being taken through.

Then it was the usual - Bekky helped me undress and get togged up in the NHS standard issue gown, a nurse did my cannula, blood test, etc, and then it was a question of twiddling thumbs for another hour or so before we were off, whisked through the remarkably empty hospital corridors to the radiology department. Another 40 minute wait in a kind of theatre/x-ray anti-chamber before being asked to walk through, sit on a futuristic-looking bed-type thing, with a sort of C-shaped x-ray poised above it, and....relax. Hmmmm.

Stock photo, but it gives you an idea of the set up

The room was fairly small and filled with machines and screens, including one that was facing me which, had I so desired, would almost certainly have shown me what the camera would be seeing within my innards. I tried to ignore it.

A heavily PPE’d chap approached me with a bottle and squirted a fairly foul-tasting numbing solution all over the back of my mouth and throat, and I was told to lie down on my left.

A green, circular “mouthguard” with a wide hole was then inserted into my mouth and which seemed to have something hanging off the back of it, leaving me gagging horribly for a minute or so while it felt like I had a bit of immovable grass tickling my tonsils. That was pretty unpleasant. And then the consultant squeezed various syringes of different liquids into my cannula and before I knew it, I was fast asleep. I’ve no idea how long for, but I definitely slept - could have been 10 minutes, could have been an hour.

I “came round” while the procedure was still taking place, which isn’t abnormal, but the aim was for the sedation to not allow me to remember any of the procedure at all, in theory, at least. Annoyingly I can remember all the bit I was awake for, and it too was pretty unpleasant. While you can’t “feel” the camera or tube inside you, you’re very aware there’s a finger-width tube rammed down your throat and you can definitely feel something not right inside you! I did quite a lot more gagging, and belching and retching but was largely under control and finally, after what felt like about 6 years, the tube was gently removed and things returned to normal. And then I fell asleep again, but not before I noticed a suppository pain-killer being delicately popped up my back passage which really was the icing on the cake.

Turns out they gave me the absolute maximum amount of sedative that they could as they could see it wasn’t working very well. It still didn’t work very well.

Bekky had spent all this time in the rather spartan waiting room so she walked back down to the Endoscopy Department with me, but I was out cold. She was then told to wait, again, in the waiting room there until I was ready to go - at least another hour. She has the patience of a flippin’ saint, that one. Not a word of complaint.

A half litre of saline was then drained into me over the course of the following hour, during which time I slowly regained a sort of semi-conciousness, but I spent that hour simply desperately wanting to go home. Finally, after what seemed like another 6 years and a cup of NHS tea, Bekky was authorised to come in to help me dress and I was wheeled out towards the car before being told I couldn’t quite leave yet as I hadn’t been debriefed (or whatever it’s actually called).

The lovely nurse who had sat at my head throughout the procedure and did her best to soothe my discomfort and writhings then duly debriefed us(!) - and it was, of course, actually really useful. It had all gone according to plan although only the liver stent had been fitted, not the duodenal one as it was deemed, at this stage at least, unnecessary. Which means I will need to be on a fairly “soft” diet for the foreseeable future - not quite a liquid diet but as liquid as possible. Tiresome and uninspiring but we’ll test boundaries a bit once things settle and there are a few things that I can have that I wouldn’t necessarily have expected - risotto, fish cakes, possibly even a sponge pud with custard! Bliss after the 100% liquid diet I’ve now been on for 10 days.

Anyway, I digress. Finally, finally we were allowed to go home. I don’t really remember the journey home but on arrival (it was about 5pm by now) I basically conked out on the sofa and was pretty much asleep until bedtime, about 3 hours earlier than usual for me, when I transferred to bed and slept for nearly 12 more hours. They clearly used the maximum amount of sedative that they could!

Yesterday was, by comparison to the days before, a good day. I am still yellow, I am still indescribably weak, but the pain in and around my liver has definitely dissipated already and mentally I feel brighter already too. Now it’s just a question of watching and waiting, and hoping liver function gets back to normal.

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