Meet the patients

Alan Swan, 73, Hythe

After supper one evening in June 2010, I collapsed in my bedroom.

My wife called the NHS helpline and paramedics arrived within ten minutes, summoned an ambulance and I was in the emergency department at Southampton General 20 minutes later.

The medical teams found that I had a major bowel obstruction, the cause being a blood clot blocking the blood supply to the small intestine. The situation was serious. During the first operation, surgeons discovered gangrene had developed and, in the following days, I underwent four major operations which saw the removal of 1.5 metres of intestine.

I spent some time in intensive care before moving to the high dependency unit and finally E8. I was fed using a line in my chest with a system called total parental nutrition (TPN), where food is prepared in a liquid form in the laboratory and fed into the body for periods of 12 to 24 hours daily.

I ate no food for the next eight months and recovery was slow – but positive. I was discharged in December but remained on TPN at home. My bedroom was transformed into a mini-ward, with medical supplies, a fridge containing the bagged food and twice-daily nursing visits.

Four months later, I had recovered enough to face reconstructive surgery which involved the reconnection of the intestines and the removal of the stoma tube, after which I was able to eat normal food. Initially meals were small and soft, since my bowels had to wake up after a nine month “sleep”.

I have now regained much of my body weight and I exercise daily, garden, fish, walk in the forest and even play some golf.

My story is a miracle and I now know it is a reflection of what is achieved daily by our NHS and, in this case, Southampton General Hospital.

The immediate on-call response, the hospital’s actions in ED and the skill and professionalism of the medical, surgical and nutritional teams saved my life, while the ongoing support I continue to receive from the chaplaincy is exceptional.

A magnificent team at all levels.

First published in Connect issue 30.

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