Ellie’s story: How an unexpected operation led to new opportunities
Just as I was starting secondary school in 2009 I developed a nasty stomach ache. To begin with I thought it was just a virus but it didn’t pass and a nurse who came to the house suggested I needed to go to hospital right away.
My Mum drove me to our local hospital and I was wheeled in to a room to await an operation, it had now been decided that I had a grumbling appendix.
The last thing I remember was putting on the gas mask in theatre, expecting to wake up there just an hour or two later, without my appendix of course. However, I actually woke up several days later in a completely new environment. Unbeknownst to me, my operation had not gone as planned. Due to the unexpected complexity and seriousness of my initial operation, I had been brought to Liverpool to Alder Hey a more specialist hospital with my stomach just temporarily held together!
My parents were waiting by me when I woke up on Ward K3, though I was particularly disorientated and confused when they told me that a few days had passed since I was last properly awake; during my time on the Intensive Care Unit I had been sedated in order to reduce the stress of the experience.
Doctors confirmed that my grumbling appendix hadn’t been caught in time, it had actually burst open and infected the surrounding area. When I finally woke up on the ward, I was most concerned to find that I now had two stomas on my stomach. This was due to the unexpected problems that the doctors had encountered during my operation, which meant that they also had to remove two 10 inch sections of my bowel. The stomas were put in place to allow my bowel to recover before I would hopefully be stitched back together properly.
I found it very difficult to get used to my stomas and so I had to remain hopeful that Dr Matthew Jones had set a realistic date for the reversal operation. All I could do was make the most of all the attention and gifts I was getting; I didn’t see the positive side of this until I was nearly better. I was also quite concerned at the thought of missing Christmas, particularly as I had just missed both Halloween and Bonfire Night!
My family have always been particularly fit and well; just a week or two before I was rushed into hospital I was competing in a local cross-country running competition! We initially found the whole experience very shocking and difficult to deal with, particularly as we live in Ellesmere Port, which is quite a distance from Alder Hey. Luckily, once I was settled in on Ward K3, my parents were given a room in Ronald McDonald House, which meant that I could have at least one of them with me during my stay.
Unfortunately, this must have been hard for my siblings also, as I really stole the attention of my parents for a good month or two.
During my stay in Alder Hey, I also underwent two additional operations, which entailed the addition of ‘Wilbur, my special friend’. This was a central line through which I could be fed and medicated. After my traumatic first operation, I was very concerned at the thought of going back under anaesthetic, though thankfully this procedure got easier for me each time.
It’s been five years since my stay in hospital and I have now fully recovered. However, I do still have many memories from my time in Alder Hey; here are some of the more positive ones:
I remember being terrified to have anything done to me, be it finger pricks, blood tests, cannulas, etc, but I gradually learned that they weren’t so bad. By the end of my stay I was confident with all of the procedures.
I remember watching other children come and go on Ward K3, as I sat in the corner bed for what seemed like forever. I made friends with various patients, including cute little babies and toddlers, along with a couple of older ones nearer to my age. Under the supervision of Julie the play nurse, we were able to do lots of arts and crafts.
I remember having to be nil-by-mouth for weeks and being drip-fed TPN food. Gradually I was able to reintroduce bits of food, but when I tried some jelly tots my stomas didn’t respond well; this put me off again for a while!
I remember one day, as I was beginning to recover, I was trying to open a stubborn tub of cotton buds with my Mum. I eventually pulled the lid off, but the tub popped open and the buds spilt all over the place. I laughed at this for so long that I eventually cried because it hurt my stomach too much!
By the time I had recovered from my final operation, I was definitely ready to leave Alder Hey; I was extremely relieved when I was finally told that I would be home in plenty of time for Christmas!
Although this may sound unlikely, when I think about the time since my scary stay in hospital, I would almost say that it was, in fact, an extremely worthwhile experience for me. My time in Alder Hey has led to many exciting opportunities for both me and my family, which initially began when I became a member of the Children and Young People’s Forum.
After a visit to my ward, I was asked to join the Forum. I was really nervous to go along, but my Mum pushed me down in my wheelchair and I persuaded her to stay with me. Since this first meeting of mine back in 2009, I have attended regular meetings with the Forum and become very involved with their work around Alder Hey.
The Forum has given me lots of opportunities to gain new experiences. For example, I’ve travelled to London for an interactive UNICEF conference, interviewed applicants for important roles at Alder Hey, which enabled us to ask questions of our own and to show the adults our own opinion on the situation, which is very important in a children’s hospital such as Alder Hey. We even got to create our very own graffiti murals for the walls of the hospital in the ZAP Graffiti workshop which was fantastic.
There have also been many achievements within the Forum, most notably the production of a Pain Booklet for future patients in Alder Hey and the filming of a Magic Moments video about hygiene. We were also able to get involved with some design and planning of the new hospital, which we are very excited to see open. From listening to initial ideas from numerous bidders, to helping choose the ICT system for the new build and trying out different materials that may be used, we have been involved in the process from the very beginning.
Another element of the Forum is their connection with Liverpool School’s Parliament. Each year two members of the Forum are elected as a Junior Lord Mayor and a Young Lord Mayor of Liverpool. This enables them to choose a month in which they will shadow the Lord Mayor at some of the more exciting events in their diary. After a bit of encouragement, I finally put myself forward to be one of the Young Lord Mayors last year and I completed my month in office; July 2014.
I wasn’t very confident at first and unsure of what I was going to be doing; however, I can now say that it was an incredibly busy and exciting month. I definitely feel that I chose a good month to be a Young Lord Mayor in July, as it gave me something to look forward to as I completed my stressful GCSE exams in May and June this year. Also, July provided lots of wonderful weather, which helped make the month even more enjoyable.
I was able to attend many events with Lord Mayor Councillor Erica Kemp and Lady Mayoress Rachel Plant. I was also grateful for the opportunity to meet ex-Lord Mayor Councillor Gary Millar at a number of the events, as it was he who inaugurated the current ‘mini-Mayors’ last October.
Some of the events have been much smaller than others, such as school fairs and award ceremonies, however they were just as exciting as the bigger events, such as watching MD Productions’ ‘Emotions’ show and attending World Merit Day. My final event of the month was a visit to see the Giant Grandmother in St. George’s Hall, which really was impressive!
Here I was able to meet up with other Forum members, who were also visiting the Giant. This was a great opportunity as they were able to see me as the Young Lord Mayor, which I hope will encourage some of them to put themselves forward next year for this exciting role.
Also, I was able to show how grateful I am towards Alder Hey, as it is the Forum which has predominantly enabled me to turn my scary hospital stay in to a really worthwhile and beneficial opportunity for both myself and my family.