Embracing Pyloric Stenosis

Recently I celebrated and thanked God for another fulfilling, productive year as I celebrated my 75th birthday with family and friends. Then today (6th October 2020), just 10 days later, I remembered with gratitude to God that I’ve been with you all for all these years… and that I’m still doing well and without medication throughout a longish, healthy and much blessed and satisfying life.

So, what’s so special about 6th October 1945?

Like many of you reading this, I almost didn’t make it past 10 days out in the world. Had I (or perhaps you, the reader) been born when my Dad was in 1913, the stomach blockage (pyloric stenosis (“PS”), or projectile vomiting) I developed soon after my arrival would have taken me to a horrible and drawn-out death by starvation and organ failure.

Even in 1945, up to slightly over half the PS babies operated on died from anesthetic complications, post-operative shock, wound rupture, infection, botched surgery, and other “accidents” and “misfortunes”, depending on the surgeon’s skill and the relevant hospital protocols. Safe anesthesia for infants under 2 was a somewhat rare commodity, depending on the doctor’s experience and whether it was even felt necessary. Until the late 1980s it was widely believed that babies don’t feel or remember pain.

How much my parents knew of all this I’ll never know. I do know they were educated and worked with people, making them fairly knowledgeable and aware.

Whatever, the entire PS experience must have been an absolutely horrible time for my War-weary but expectant Mum and Dad. They never wanted to talk about it with me – and that (plus I believe those first weeks of my life) have affected me deeply. What certainly did traumatise my parents was what followed the spectacular but scary vomiting that heralded my PS:

  • the family doctor was clueless about what ailed me (Mum’s midwife came to the rescue just in time),
  • clearly primitive infant surgery by today’s standards, and
  • 2 weeks of maternal separation and hospital isolation as the newly discovered penicillin was kept for returning soldiers. So Mum took the steam tram daily to deliver milk to the hospital.

So my start in life wasn’t great –
but look at me a few months later . . .

But then in 1951 my parents’ pain returned when I became old enough (age 5 – 6) to open hostilities over my eye-catching old-surgery-style scar. How to understand and help our children manage their demons was a field then still undreamt of.

However, my long life’s many and rich experiences have taught me a lot, and I can now handle being uncoordinated, over-sensitive (psych- and gastric-wise), and having a superficially though obviously damaged body.

Here are some of the life lessons I have gleaned from my PS story . . .

1. It’s made me realize that life is a gift from before I can remember. As Psalm 139 puts it: even before I was born, You knew me! I’ve tried to channel my life to show love and care for God as I know God, for the people he puts on my path, and for my small but significant part of planet Earth.

2. It underlines and reminds me daily of what we all (should) know, that we’re imperfect but that with a little (and sometimes a lot of) help we can all live a rich life.

3. It reminds me not to judge others lightly, as many of us carry complex, often life-affecting “secrets” (physical and emotional wounds and scars) that have helped shape us but which many people would not (or don’t seem to) understand.

4. What made me once feel like a damaged, unwanted-attention-prone freak in earlier years now unites me in story, understanding, and some ongoing issues with a worldwide “one-of” community. None of us needs be alone. Reach out to others as we each deal with life in our broken world.

You can find a fuller account under the “My Story” tab on the page header – or click here.