My story begins upon seeing my ENT consultant; November 4th 2013. The endoscopy found there was a tumour blocking 95% of my airway. I was therefore immediately admitted to the ward, and had a tracheostomy to clear my airway the next day. In the week following I had an 11 hour operation to remove the tumour and surrounding lymph glands; this was a full laryngectomy in which a speech valve was fitted.
The operation went as planned and so two days later my cuff was deflated along with the removal of my drain. This process caused instant haemorrhaging. I was immediately put into theatre to undergo a lifesaving operation to stop the bleeding. This procedure lasted 8 hours in which I was left in a stable but critical state. This was thought to be caused by radiotherapy 13 years prior, in which the tissues of my throat were weakened. The haemorrhage had caused the formation of a hole in my trachea through which saliva continuously leaked into my lungs.
A week later it was decided that the wound was not closing and so I underwent major reconstructive surgery, lasting 6 hours. The operation consisted of tunnelling living chest muscle into my throat in order to cover the hole. This was followed by a skin graft, taken from my leg, to cover the outer, visible, portion of the open wound.
After being nil by mouth for the following 5 weeks, accompanied by another 5 hour operation to replace my feeding tube, I was eventually able to swallow pureed food. This meant I was viable for discharge on Christmas Eve.
The first time I spoke again after the initial operation with the speech and language team was a bit upsetting because my voice sounded so different to what I remembered. I am not ashamed to say that I cried, it was a big thing for me. As time went on it got easier, the team persevered with me although I thought I might contact the BBC to see if there was any jobs going as a Dalek on Dr Who. The other problem was visible, being very conscious of the scar and the white filter in my throat, that was my vanity, so I used to button up the collars on my shirts. As time has gone on I don’t bother with that anymore, people will look, and I suppose it’s a talking point if nothing else. The main thing is to be positive and look forward and I also found my true friends when they were needed.
I have never looked back. Positive thinking and a loving family have both aided me along the healing process and throughout my hospital experience. I am now back at work, running my own business and living life. Readjusting to normal life has been far from easy, and effects both my partner and myself. The highs and lows we experience have to be dealt with by both of us, together, and I am very fortunate in that my partner is very supportive and helps with my daily care.
The care I have received, both in and out of hospital, has been second to none. My first consultation was via private health care, but due to the necessity of my emergency tracheostomy, I was then forth treated on the NHS. Due to the care and treatment both my partner and I received, we have now cancelled my private health cover.
I owe my life to all the staff at the University hospital, Coventry, whom helped me; from the nurses to the surgeons, and I’m eternally grateful. I have had a second chance at life and am taking it with both hands.
It has now been over 8 months since my first operation, and I am continuously being told how well I look.
If you are going through a similar experience, and would like to contact Stewart for advice or even a chat; please contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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