Email from Connie

The last few posts here have looked again at what can result from infant surgery in the long-term, this against the effects on me and others I know of the pyloric stenosis we had as a baby .

I received a long email in response to these posts, with the request to publish it here.

Hello, my name is Connie Harrison; I am 63 years old and I had pyloric stenosis surgery when I was 10 weeks old.  This was in 1948, at least that was what my Father told me, and that is all he told me.  I’ve no one to ask now as my Father and Mother are both deceased, as are any others that might have some information.  I can only relate how the surgery may have affected my life up until now.

It is interesting to me that I never thought much about the surgery that left a scar on my abdomen from the bottom of my sternum to the top of my navel.  It was just always there and I guess it really never concerned me.  It was only until a few weeks ago when I woke up one morning with the thought in my head, “I wonder if the surgery I had at 10 weeks has somehow traumatized me?”  

I had been receiving regular acupuncture for digestive problems and the acupuncturist had been needling around my scar.  Two or three times a week she would insert about 20 needles in my abdomen around the scar and I would rest for an hour or more.  So to wake up one morning with that thought in my head right out of the blue: was very thought provoking and I wondered right away, was it the acupuncture that had caused the thought.  Had to be, I’d never ever thought anything close to that, and the scar was on my mind.

I immediately started looking around on the internet and that is when I found your website.  Needless to say, since I was diagnosed last year with PTSD and all the things that go with it (as well as lifelong depression), I was astonished to find so many things in common with what I read on the web site.  I have always, always had the feeling that there was something that happened to me as a child that I could not remember… so I am thinking the early infant surgery may be the answer.  It really remains to be seen as I have had a lot of trauma in my life.  Abandonment by my Mother and Father, my Grandmother, death by suicide (my father), separation from my Mother due to illness when I was 3 years old, and as an adult an abusive 1st marriage, my son’s drug and alcohol problem at a young age, and my daughter’s crippling RA (rheumatoid arthritis).  Yes, many traumas… but still a lingering thought that would not go away, what else, what else?

So I know this is not much but it is definitely something for me to think on. It is unfortunate that I have no records, nor do I know where the surgery was performed.

I do think, however, that the acupuncture woke something up deep in my brain that caused me to wake up thinking about something that had never crossed my mind, nor would have in a million years.  And of course the Holy Spirit had everything to do with it!

Thank you Fred, for your website and blog.  I will be following it in the future,  maybe some other miracle will awaken my long forgotten memories.

God Bless You!

Sincerely, Connie Harrison

3 thoughts on “Email from Connie

  1. Fred Vanderbom Post author

    Thank you Connie, for telling us here at SIS something of your intriguing story.

    I suspect that many of our generation have not been able to find out much about any troubles we had early in our lives. In those times, it was characteristic that anything unpleasant was given the damper treatment.

    The fact that you have had to deal with more than a fair share of traumatic and stressful life events will make it even harder to untangle the web of memories and emotions which is inside each of us.

    It seems, however that almost all of what you have mentioned are hurts you would remember at least vaguely and which are fairly much out in the open, obvious and perhaps openly talked about. The exception is what your abdominal scar stands for, and you may have discovered some tell-tale markers linking at least some of your emotional pain to your PS surgery.

    As these blogs show, if that is so you are in sane company!

    It’s clear that the great majority of people with a history of infant pyloric stenosis surgery were blessed with a quick cure and no after-effects, or so we’re often told. The reason several of us are writing blogs like SIS is to reach out to people like you with information, reassurance and if desired, a network. We get your kind of story often enough to know that there must be many people who don’t realize that the troubling and mysterious challenges they have may in at least some cases be symptoms of PTSD. They are caused by their body’s sub-conscious memory of a trauma of their infancy like surgery, especially as that was done in our day.

    The medical world now recognizes that our adult life can be affected by trauma we cannot consciously recall. You may want to work at unraveling your story, which I have found rewarding. Or you may prefer to leave it in the “too hard” basket: many have lived at peace with their infant surgery, or ignorant of its possible effects, as you have until recently.

    I hope you will see growth in wholeness and I’m sure that God’s Spirit will not fail you. I also invite you (and anyone interested) to join us on a networked journey of discovery and healing – on the web and by email!

  2. Mark

    Welcome Connie!

    Like you, I sort of backed into the connection between my PS surgery and a whole slew of very specific PTSD symptoms. I knew I had had the surgery and hated the scar and the complications it caused me. On a totally separate plate I had all these weird symptoms and relations to life, that when I added them all up, and went researching the patterns, all the books came up with the diagnosis of a person who had been sexually abused. This was back in the early 80’s before we had much published about PTSD, and when uncovering repressed thoughts was all the rage. I actually seriously wondered if I had been abused and just blocked it as I really REALLY had the entire profile in spades. It was about 8 years later that I had the “aha” moment, the epiphany that my abuse was not sexual, that it totally related to my PS surgery and the way others handled (or didn’t handle) telling me about it. I also think that I did have some sort of traumatic memory of the surgery, although not a traditional memory of course.

    Now in hindsight, I realize that I have been severely affected by my PTSD secondary to my surgery. I had all the cards in my hand the whole time, and when I finally rearranged them I saw the answer immediately. I am still coming to realize how my personality had been formed around the disability of PTSD, and how many of my large and small life decisions where made more in reaction to the PTSD than my personal preferences or intention. It is very much like peeling an onion: as time goes by I have opportunities to peel layer after layer off, always getting closer to the core.

    Again I welcome you Connie. Please feel encouraged to continue to put your thoughts and questions into writing and share them (either privately via email or publicly via the blog). It is a win-win situation for all of us. Every time a new person joins our conversation, we all learn new things about ourselves and communally reclaim a bit of our peace of mind and overall health.

  3. Wendy

    Welcome, Connie! Thanks for sharing your amazing story. I am a pyloric stenosis survivor and write the blog I have had lifelong depression on and off. I was very depressed from the ages 21-25 and figured out at the time that this was due to the early surgery; however, I realized recently that I’ve been depressed on and off my entire life. My early photos show a very serious little girl. I had recurrent nightmares as a child and isolated myself quite a bit. I did a fair amount of self-harming as a young child, which increased as a teen and young adult. Only recently have I realized that I have PTSD and have had it all my life and like Mark, most of the decisions that I’ve made in my life had to do with managing my symptoms rather than doing something that the core of me wanted to do or not do. What you are discovering through acupuncture is amazing and I am grateful that you shared your story with Fred on SIS. You are very brave. Your story gives me strength and courage. Your story affirms my story and my focus at this time on educating the public about infant surgery and PTSD and healing my own wounds. Hope we’ll continue to be in communication.


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