My story – Will this pain ever end?
My life in pain.
For as long as I can remember I’ve lived in some sort of pain or discomfort. I was about 19-20 when it all started. I’d finally given up, dropped out of University and moved home. I then managed to overcome a year-long mental health condition, that’s a story for another day, and get back to normality. I’d bought a flat, was working full-time as a gardener and life was good.
One day at work I remember bashing my ribs off the lawnmower and later that day being sick. For years after that I struggled with sickness after eating, severe reflux and pain across my ribs and chest. I was back and forth to see doctors without really getting much answers. Test after test the doctors slowly began to understand what was causing so much pain. I had a hiatus hernia, severe reflux, heartburn, I would be sick after eating and pain in my ribs. The doctors finally concluded I had a condition called Heartburn and Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease or GORD for short.
This condition was managed and controlled by medication for years. Until slowly the symptoms got worse until in 2011 they could no longer be controlled by medication. The next step was surgery. A laparoscopic 270 toupet fundoplication, or keyhole fundoplication wrap. I was told by my surgeon that the procedure over time might need redone or loosen off to allow a recurrence of my symptoms. However, the pros outweighed the cons so I decided to go ahead with the procedure.
The surgery was performed in November of 2011 and in my eyes was a complete success. To this day I’ve not had one episode of reflux, been sick or even burped. To read more about this you can check out my post Hospitals, my love-hate relationship.
What can’t go up must go down…
So the operation was a success but with that success came a whole host of other problems. My pain in my ribs had gone but was replaced with pain in my abdomen and bowel. This is a common side effect of the type of operation I had. However, I didn’t expect it to be as overwhelming as it was. So for the last 6 years I’ve lived with Irritable Bowel Syndrome pain and severe flare ups probably around 3 or 4 times a year.
Again over these 6 years I was on medication to try control the IBS. Nothing I tried seemed to work. I would get pain, cramps, constipation, diarrhea and bloating almost every day. Slowly building up throughout the day. Those reading this with similar problems will know that the gas produced has to get out somehow. So if it can’t go up it must go down. For some that might be very embarrassing but I embraced it. Looking at each little pass of gas as a success. Each evening I would slowly deflate and begin the process the next day.
The flare ups arrived when I became blocked up and couldn’t pass gas. If this happened I could spend days or weeks in constant pain trying anything and everything to alleviate the pain. Without much success and generally common medications just adding to the problem but blocking me up even further. Then I’d need to take medication to stop me being blocked up and eventually you were going round in a vicious cycle.
I learned to control and limit my flare ups by changing my diet and not doing too much physical work. Both of those things were and still are the biggest factors in my life.
My most recent pain.
That brings me into my most recent issues and pain. The pain all began in May 2017 and is still ongoing. I was driving home from work one day and almost instantly, completely out of the blue, I couldn’t breath. I called home struggling to speak and called NHS 24. Thankfully I was only minutes from home so I did get home but was soon taken by ambulance into hospital. From that day I’ve been in constant pain. I wake up in pain and I get sharp shooting pains around my chest and ribs. I also get spasms in my oesophagus and a very strange sharp hiccup thing that is much stronger than a normal hiccup that causes a clamping pain on my oesophagus.
Nobody has been able to come with a reason or diagnosis for my current pain. I’ve been admitted to hospital for weeks on end. Had countless tests; an endoscopy, barium swallow, ultrasound and a CT scan. All of which came back inconclusive with no obvious signs of anything wrong. I’ve been on the strongest medication for pain. Lost over 2 stone in weight, put on a puree diet and given ensure drinks to supplement my diet. Nothing helped.
As a last resort I was offered more exploratory surgery to have a look at the previous surgery I’d had. That was done on the 7th September where my surgeon didn’t find anything obvious that might be causing the pain. He made a professional call and decided to undo my previous fundoplication wrap back to its normal position. I’m currently 3 weeks post operation and I’m still in the exact same pain as I was before the surgery.
What’s next for me?
As it was only exploratory surgery I knew there was never any guarantees that it was going to fix me so I can’t be too despondent. I just wish I could get a diagnosis or even just some answers would do.
I’m still in constant debilitating pain since the surgery. Everything is exactly the same, it honestly feels like I’ve never had surgery. Thankfully after having the wrap undone I’m not getting a recurrence of the reflux and sickness that I had in 2011. I don’t think I’d be able to cope with reflux and sickness on top of all my other pain. Six months of debilitating pain added to my years of pain before really has taken out of me. I try to stay positive but there is only so much I can take.
I’m back into see my surgeon for a follow-up in a few weeks. From there who knows what will happen. My guess is more tests and hopefully some answers. I’ll keep you all posted.
Thanks for reading.
This real life Dad xx