The surgeon’s narrative of the surgery has shown up in my online records (translated from Swedish):
Patient under general anaesthetic, flat position. Surgery area washed and dried sterile. Inspected the plate [the grafted area], which looks good, distally somewhat narrowed so we decided to include some skin. At the join between the distal plate and his urethra it’s also slightly fibrotic. Incision with scalpel along the long side of the transplant down to the corpora. Then incision across circa four millimeters distally from the join between the distal edge of the transplant and his own urethra. Cut through the fibrotic area and could excise the fibrosis with a little skin. Then incision across proximally. Stitched the urethra with 5/0 BioSyn running suture. Joined together well over a 12 Ch catheter. Mobilised subcutaneous tissue to cover the row of sutures. No tension in tissue. No twisting. Stitched the skin in two layers, first two individual subcutaneous stitches, finished with intracutaneous MonoCryl running suture. Applied dressing, penis upwards and light dressing on it.
It took me a long time to get to sleep, I think I eventually dozed off around midnight. Then I was woken up by pain from an erection around 2 am. I’d managed to get the nurse to leave one dose of oxycodone by my bed so I could take it immediately and it lasted for the rest of the night.
As usual I got woken up at 6 am to have my temperature taken and then didn’t get breakfast until after 8 am. At rounds they told me that I’d be getting discharged later today. I had to contact my husband so that he could arrange coming to collect me.
The rest of the day was mostly spent hanging around the dayroom. They have surprisingly hard and uncomfortable chairs for a ward where patients often have tender nether regions.
I finally got to meet the surgeon after lunch. He seemed happy with how the surgery had gone. I’m to go back in a couple of weeks to have the catheter removed.
The two-hour drive home was uneventful but almost as soon as I got in the door I had a really strong bladder spasm. Then a little bit later I had one that was so strong it managed to squeeze some urine out around the catheter. I’m hoping the effect of the tolterodine is still building up. I’m avoiding caffeine for a bit anyway, since that can apparently make bladder spasms worse.
I took the train through yesterday for my admission appointment at the hospital. They’d told me I’d be admitted to the ward but it turns out there wasn’t a bed available so they booked me into a hotel in town. That worked out well since I’m sure I slept much better than I would have in the hospital.
At 06:45 this morning the taxi picked me up and it was the now-familiar routine of preparation then being wheeled down to the operating theatre.
This time I didn’t get left in recovery as long, so I was at the ward in time for lunch. I’d made a point of asking the recovery staff to ask them to keep some for me. For some reason I never feel ill after general anaesthetic but I’m usually ravenous after the fast.
I wasn’t in so much pain this time, I just have to call the nurse to ask for more pain relief when I start to be able to feel the stabbing pains through the ache in my scrotum. I think the stabbing pain might be as things shift about down there, it’s one of those body parts that’s seldom still for long.
Lunch was a stew made with doner kebab meat, not something I’d ever had before, it was OK. The crêpes with fresh fruit during the afternoon were actually quite nice though. Dinner was allegedly moussaka but I couldn’t find any aubergine and very little meat.
No sign of a doctor all day. I’d been hoping to ask why I only had a urethral catheter, when I was expecting to have a supra-pubic as well. I’ll have to wait and ask in the morning.
One problem with not seeing a doctor was that I couldn’t discuss pain relief and when I asked one of the nurses she insisted it was too late to make any changes to what had been ordered for me. Of course that meant that they hadn’t given me any slow-release painkillers, apparently being awoken unnecessarily by intense pain during the night isn’t something they care about. I did manage to get Tolterodine to deal with the bladder spasms without the usual arguments though.
My husband drove through after work to keep me company for a while and help me argue with the nurse. Getting adequate long-lasting pain relief for the nights is another point I’ll have to bring up during rounds tomorrow.
So now I’m settling down for the night, hoping my room mate won’t be too noisy.
Tomorrow I’ll be taking the train to the hospital where I had the first stage of my two-stage urethroplasty. After quite a long wait I’m finally getting the second stage surgery.
Also, someone called Rebecca contacted me through the form on this blog but my reply got bounced back because there was a mistake in the address. So if you’re reading this Rebecca, please try again, I’m not ignoring you.
I finally had my follow-up visit to the urology clinic, to see how things are going six months after stage one of my urethroplasty.
They did uroflowmetry, which looked good, and the surgeon had a quick look at the graft. She thinks it has healed nicely and is ready for stage two.
Unfortunately she’s going to be off sick for a while in the coming months, so I might get my operation in the next month or so, or maybe after Christmas. In any case it’ll be about two or three days in hospital and a catheter for a couple of weeks.
Here’s what it looks like now.
Apart from that there’s nothing much to report. I’m still getting the odd tiny bit of bleeding from the part where the urethra comes out from the head of my penis and joins the graft but that’s apparently nothing to worry about.
I recently got an email from a reader of this blog, who’s having stage 1 of a two-stage urethroplasty soon. He was asked some questions about the recovery from the surgery and that made me think it would be useful to write a summary of how it went for me.
- First five days after surgery: bed rest, barely allowed to move from bed. The surgeon was very keen that the graft not be disturbed. Pain from the stitches and general bruising to the penis, and from the graft site in my cheek. Some aching from bruising to my scrotum. Able to comfortably sit up in bed immediately.
- Second week: resting at home, movement very restricted. Still allowing the graft to settle in, until the surgeon could check it. Penis pain still quite bad at night but well managed with painkillers. Occasional pain during the day. Frequently using local anaesthetic gel to manage cheek pain. Able to walk normally but being deliberately careful.
- Third week: back to work. Cheek pain gone. Still needing painkillers to sleep through the night, reducing use during the day. Walking normally but not long distances. Catheters removed, having to pee quite often and urgently.
- Fourth and fifth weeks: more walking. No need for painkillers during the day and eventually not at night either. Walking quite a lot, especially during a trip to Portugal. Frequency of peeing back to normal but still often quite urgent.
- Sixth week: able to exercise again. Everything pretty much back to normal apart from having to sit down to pee.
My current status is that all the visible stitches have fallen out. There may still be some under the skin as I can feel a few lumps. I even have some sensation in the graft now, although it feels weird (in a way that’s impossible to describe).
I learned the other night that it’s a mistake to try to use a portaloo that has no lights, at night, after several beers. I didn’t want to sit down to pee (the thing was disgusting) and I managed to misalign the funnel I carry for that kind of emergency. As a result I had to walk home in slightly damp shorts.
Still no major changes. The stitches are dissolving gradually, only a few are left but one of them in particular seems to be digging in a bit and causing an occasional spot of blood.
This is what it looks like this week.
Since the dressing came off I’ve been using male incontinence pads under my normal underwear. Fortunately I haven’t had any problems with incontinence but there was some seepage from the wound. That’s pretty much stopped now but I want to keep the wound clean and also hold my penis pointing upwards and prevent rubbing.
One good thing since the post-surgery swelling died down is that the curving of my penis when it’s erect is gone. It’s now back to how it used to look, apart from the gaping wound on the underside.
After having had the catheter for so long I was expecting more trouble with retraining my bladder. At first I was having to run to the toilet quite often, and urgently, but that seems to have passed now.
Not much change since last week. The stitches are still gradually coming out. Almost all of the stitches round the edge of the graft seem to be gone, along with the ones going from the graft up towards my foreskin. There are still a few of the stitches holding the graft down and they seem to be causing a little bit of irritation and bleeding just now; I hope they’ll dissolve soon. The ones in my scrotum also seem to be hanging on, although they’re not giving me any trouble.
No pain but some occasional slight discomfort when the stitches pull.
This week’s photo.
Here’s the latest picture of the healing wound.
Quite a few of the stitches have fallen out or disappeared, although they seem to be causing bruising before they give up. The graft itself is still looking nice and pink and isn’t seeping as much as it was. The best part is that I can now sleep through the night without any painkillers. I’m still seeing some blood spotting from time to time but it’s very little and now seldom.
According to the surgeon I should be able to resume most activities about six weeks after surgery. That’s next week but if the stitches are still there or there’s any bleeding I’ll have to put off swimming a bit longer. At least I’ll be able to start going to the gym again and working off some of the flab I’ve accumulated during my enforced idleness.
The graft is still looking good, as you can see in the pictures here. My cheek has now completely healed over and the two stitches have disappeared. The scarring in my cheek is still a little bit prominent but I know that will gradually go away with time.
Some of the stitches in my penis seem to have already fallen out, some of the others look looser. I’ve sent an email to the surgeon asking when I can resume various activities (exercise and sex, for example) and if I’ll be allowed to swim.
I’m free of catheters!
After a short wait at the hospital the surgeon removed all the dressings and removed both catheters. There are some before and after pictures here.
So it seems like the graft is looking good, all pink and healthy. The surgeon was initially a bit concerned about infection because of the whitish stuff around the edges but there’s no irritation and she decided it’s just the usual result of having a catheter in and no washing for a week.
Now I can pee sort of normally. I have to sit down and the pee either shoots along the underside of my penis or dribbles down my scrotum but for the first time since October I can actually pee.
I also realised another unpleasant part of not being able to wash properly for almost three weeks, the head of my penis was covered in smegma. Fortunately it was quite dry and not smelly. A quick wash fixed that problem.
My next visit to the hospital (barring unforeseen developments) will be in September, to assess the graft before the second-stage surgery a month later.
The local anaesthetic worked for the pain in my cheek. The pain was so bad that it was feeling as if my teeth and jaw were also aching. Doses of xylocaine gel before meals, before going to bed and whenever the pain got too bad helped enormously.
Fortunately the nerve seems to have healed up a bit. I get the occasional ache but nothing so severe and I’m now only using the xylocaine before brushing my teeth.
Erections are still painful but the pain is well controlled by the slow-release painkillers. Pain during the day is now at the point where I can forget to take my paracetamol without it making a huge difference.
One current problem is the smell from the dressing. The surgeon warned me it would start to smell unpleasant but this is worse than I could have expected. I suppose it’s a combination of dried blood and exudate from the wound plus all the things that you normally wash away from your crotch and penis. The smell is best described as appalling. On the plus side it doesn’t smell like anything is rotting, so I’m not worried about it.
So, I just have to wait until tomorrow to find out how the graft is doing. It’ll be a huge olfactory relief just to get a new dressing and a bit of a wash down there.
Later today it will have been a week since my urethroplasty surgery. I’m now back home and sleeping much better, even if my activity is still very restricted (on doctor’s orders).
This time I seem to have managed to successfully communicate to the doctors that my main problem is with painful erections and now that I have some slow-release opioids I can sleep through the night without those disturbing me.
Unfortunately now my cheek is giving me trouble. It has tended to ache occasionally since the surgery but the last couple of days the level of pain has been getting much worse. It comes and goes and doesn’t really seem to be helped by any of the painkillers (paracetamol, ibuprofen or morphine).
Last night I kept getting really terrible pain if I rolled onto my left side. I could feel the weight of my wounded right cheek settling onto my teeth and it was unbearable. Morphine didn’t help, I just had to wait for the wave of pain to pass. Brushing the teeth in the right side of my mouth is impossible.
My husband (he’s a doctor) has suggested that it could be being caused by a damaged nerve in my cheek. We’re going to try local anaesthetic gel, to see if that will help at all.
My final night in the hospital was probably the best since surgery. I’d set alarms to wake me up to take morphine so that it wouldn’t wear off completely during the night, that seemed to be a success.
Just after breakfast the surgeon came round and removed the dressing on my penis. Apparently everything is looking good, you can see that the graft is looking pink and healthy through the gel dressing in the photos. So I’m to come back through in a week so that she can have another look and I can get rid of at least one of the catheters.
Actually getting discharged took most of the rest of the day. A nurse turned up with a load of discharge paperwork. I refused the catheter bags they were offering since I’ve already got a good stock of ones that I know I can get on with. Then a junior doctor came to discuss prescriptions for drugs to take home.
The admin staff on the ward were kind enough to arrange for transport from home to the hospital for next week’s visit, since I can’t drive or take public transport. Dealing with the part of our county council that handles that stuff is usually unpleasant.
So I finally got away from the ward and stopped at the pharmacy in the hospital to pick up my prescriptions. Except the junior doctor had forgotten to submit them (electronically). My husband went and spoke with him and fixed that. Next we discovered that he hadn’t remembered all of the drugs, but the pharmacist called him and sorted that out.
I still couldn’t pick up the last of the drugs because some delay in the system meant that the pharmacist couldn’t see that prescription, so we decided to pick them up on our way home.
The drive home was fairly comfortable, some pain on rough sections of road but nothing too bad. My cheek and jaw were starting to hurt again though.
For the next week I’m pretty much trapped at home and to keep activity to a minimum. I may have a go at working from home but I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to sit at a desk.
This time it was a pretty mixed night. It started very badly, with constant disruptions from my roommate. It seemed he kept tangling, kinking and pulling out his various tubes. So the nurses would arrive, turn on the lights and start speaking to him extremely loudly. He also had his CPAP machine, which was surprisingly quiet. Unfortunately it sounds like a vacuum cleaner if you pull off the mask and leave it running, which he kept doing.
The poor old soul’s on his last legs and a bit confused, so I can’t be too annoyed. On the other hand it would be nice if he wasn’t in a room with me.
Later in the night I managed to sleep fairly solidly, without disruptions or pain. Unfortunately by about 04:30 all the painkillers had left my body and it was time for the most painful erection yet. It really felt like something was going to burst. Fortunately the (male) nurse on duty was very quick to bring paracetamol and morphine.
So now that the fog has lifted the sun is shining into my room and this will hopefully be my last full day in the hospital (this time).
A much better night. I’d worked out that the morphine tablets last two or three hours. So I took one about half an hour before going to sleep. Before falling asleep I managed to get an erection, desperately trying to think about other things but without any effect.
During the night I asked for more morphine when I felt I needed it and actually got an OK night’s sleep.
The doctor at rounds said she’d remind the nurses to just leave the morphine tablets with me, so I don’t have to keep calling them during the night.
Washed and got dressed and then spent the rest of the morning working out how to defeat the stupid filtering on the hospital’s internet. As well as blocking websites they try to block anything apart from web browsing and it seems like their DNS is pretty broken too. For example today I suddenly got DNS errors for this site. Actually it seems like all .uk sites get DNS errors.
After lunch my husband came to visit and took me out for a bit of a spin in a wheelchair. Although sitting upright isn’t all that comfortable yet it was great to get a decent cup of coffee and go for a stroll/roll along the river. He also helped me wash my hair, which was sorely needed.
I started off the night dozing fitfully but eventually managed to get to sleep properly but interrupted by painful erections. At one point I called for a nurse, she came, ignored me, peered at my roommate and then left (I tried to call out but too hoarse). I pressed the button again and she eventually came back and started fiddling with my roommate’s catheter tubing. I said excuse me and she told me to wait until she was finished. Eventually she came over to my bed and I told her I was in quite severe pain. Of course I had to call and remind her again before she actually turned up with some morphine.
After breakfast and rounds I got up and had a wash, which made me feel a lot more human. The nurses changed my bedding so I wasn’t lying in my own bloodstains and shaved-off pubic hair any more. I got dressed in the hospital day clothes, that make you look like a convict.
I had a lot of trouble staying awake, so I dozed for a bit, having very weird half-awake dreams.
Lunch was isterband, which was OK but unfortunately slightly spicy and irritating to my cheek.
Dozed some more in the afternoon. Had some coffee but it wasn’t enough to keep me awake.
The evening was spent on Skype calls and Hangouts chats with family.