More of Connie’s story

Earlier this year Connie Harrison wrote to me about her experience with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from her infant surgery for pyloric stenosis (PS), as well as several other events and stress factors that happen all too often in life.  With her permission I posted this email (with minimal editing) to this site.

Connie Harrison and husband Bob

Connie Harrison and husband Bob

Our contact continued and Connie has kindly allowed me to pass on some of what may be of interest to the readers of these pages.  Connie is a kindred spirit, as she writes:  I will not be embarrassed and I think it is a good idea to get as many facts out there as possible.  If my story helps even one person I couldn’t ask for more.

Connie’s original posting will be of interest to readers who cannot recall it, as it narrates something of who she is and the circumstances that brought her to this site.

Connie asked me about infant anesthesia in her (and my) time…

Fred, I was doing some research on PS and found a web site which mentions the use of ether as anesthesia.  I am curious as to what you think about this in light of the fact that I’ve heard no anesthesia was used?  I remember having been given ether when my tonsils were removed and I don’t remember a thing.

I responded –

Ether - curious GeorgeEther was quite generally used for children and increasingly used for babies during the last century, including 1920: there are many articles mentioning both practices.  Even in Ramstedt’s day (1912 and after) ether was indeed standard – but far from universal.  As I have mentioned in posts, its use was hazardous on babies under 2 years old due to its chilling effect, because babies under 2 have a different heart-lung functioning which means they can collapse and die of overdose very suddenly, and because there were no specialist pediatric anesthetists until about 1940 and it took a long time after WW2 for this specialty to become established.

So many surgeons worked on babies using local anesthesia only or just by keeping the baby calm with sugar cubes laced with alcohol.  Advantages going both ways are mentioned, including ether keeping the baby still and paralysed (no straining, no bowels popping out, easier stitching) and local (little danger of sudden death, no hurry to finish, easier to keep the baby warm).

What was done thus depended on the school of thinking, training, and routine the surgeon came from.  As you were not able to discover what hospital did your op, it’s hard to say much more, except that articles written at the time in the US seem to favour local or no anesthesia.

So – having had your tonsils removed under ether was normal before about 1960 I think.  After that they increasingly used rapid sedation by injection, followed by gas.  But infant PS surgery was done with or without general anesthesia in much of the world until the 1980s and even more recently, depending on the doctor and the hospital’s facilities and rules.  In some places with limited facilities and skilled people local is still the rule.

I asked Connie how she had benefited from acupuncture

acupuncture for scar1The reason I saw an acupuncturist in the first place was because most of my life I’ve had digestive problems which I think I probably inherited from my father as he had, I believe, digestive troubles.  I’ve surmised this from the fact that he had a bleeding ulcer around the time I was 11 or 12 and I remember being told he almost died; there was blood everywhere in the bathroom from his vomiting; that’s why I think he had these troubles but he never told me.  Thinking back I have also figured out that he must have been very depressed, and as he was in the Korean war probably suffered PTSD as well.

Anyway that’s why I went.  The acupuncturist told me that scars block “chi” and was attempting to open up the meridians in hopes that it would help.  It seems as though it must have had some effect as I woke up one morning with “infant surgery” running through my mind, which still amazes me, although I believe there is a reason for most things that happen and at the right time God allows things to unfold in the most interesting ways!

Reading your blog about the acidity in an infant’s stomach was very interesting to me as I have a tremendous problem with acid reflux.  The endoscopy I had several years ago showed a stricture (a thickening) at the bottom of the esophagus.  I also have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and everything that comes with it.  I also have a sinus problem that acts up a couple of times a year which requires rather strong medication which irritates my stomach even more.  Of course then there is my past etc. etc. which has caused a tremendous amount of stress and more stomach acid.

At this particular time I’m having a lot of stomach trouble and after reading your latest blog it started me looking again, thinking that the early mention of gastric acid in the infant may be why I’m having so much trouble as an adult.  The stress in my life may have triggered this since I may have been susceptible in the first place.

 About the cause of Connie’s post-traumatic stress…

PThere can be many reasons for my PTSD and depression and all the confusion I experience in my head, and it isn’t easy trying to piece it all together and weed through all the little memories that pop up.

I climbed up into the attic a couple days ago and found a baby book my mother had begun to put together… not a lot of info there but there was one small entry that said “operation October 25, 1948” so that makes me about 2 months and 13 days old or 10 weeks.  My weight at seven weeks was listed as 10 lbs 9 oz which is about the right weight for an infant girl at that age so I wonder if that can be right for an infant who can’t keep the food down, although at 8 weeks my weight is listed the same 10 lbs 9 oz and at 12 weeks 12 lbs 1 oz.  I’ll need to do more looking around re: normal weight gain at that age.

I’m happy to have the opportunity to think about all this.  It seems to be very therapeutic and distracts from the intrusive thoughts that wander constantly in and out of my mind.  Like little arrows shot by satan’s demons to torment me, that’s what it feels like a lot of the time and I try to combat these thoughts with prayer which doesn’t always work and I find myself very confused and angry a lot of the time.  I know that I should leave a lot of this to the Lord and have tried but so far have not figured out how to do this.

I am convinced however that my surgery was not the only factor in the diagnosis of my PTSD and chronic depression.  My past was full of trauma.  I believe now that the surgery was the reason I always thought there was something traumatic that had happened to me that I could not remember and I no longer experience that.  So I guess one piece of the puzzle has been solved.  All your research and your web site is what solved that part of the puzzle and I will be forever grateful to you and for God using you to help solve this.  I am so awed at how the Lord works!  This experience has greatly increased my faith and it is my hope that if I leave my past to Him and have patience the other things in my life can be healed. It will take time though, probably until the day I die, as I still find it difficult to lay it all down and have to do that every single day.  Suffering is part of life so I must try to accept this also.

About high stomach acidity and its effects…

After reading your email again I realized that I had not answered your question about the medical stats you mention about over acidity and diarrhea.  I would be very interested in that info as these are things I have a lot of trouble with in the here and now…

All I’ve been told is to take a pill and I don’t like doing this so I try not to eat things that I know cause this and have tried many natural things too.  I end up taking a pill when I eat the stuff I know I shouldn’t.  I’m sure my LES (lower esophageal sphincter) is compromised by the surgery and the resulting hernia from coughing for months when I had asthma.

sunflower-depression-helpAbout Connie’s Christian faith and health…

It IS very wonderful how the Lord uses people to help and heal others, that’s what a lot of people don’t understand.  The Lord works through people to do His work.  I think sometimes people want instant miracles to happen (even me at times) but that is not how it works.  I needed to hear and think about this again myself because I find that I “forget” and need to be reminded daily of these things and more.

2 thoughts on “More of Connie’s story

  1. Wendy

    Thank you, Connie, for speaking up! I certainly am helped by your comments, for I had a PS surgery at 26 days old. Your comments affirm so many things I have experienced in my life. I have had depression due to the PTSD from infant surgery and hearing about yours makes me feel more normal.
    Fred, just want to clear up the acronym thing. The “D” in PTSD refers to “disorder” not disease, at least according to my sources. No big deal–FYI.
    Again, many thank you Fred and Connie for helping me feel less alone and more supported in life.

  2. Fred Vanderbom Post author

    I’m very happy to add my warm thanks to Wendy’s here! I’m very grateful to Connie for being one of several readers who has spoken up here in recent months about the long-term effects of infant surgery.
    Thank you Connie for voicing something of your infant surgery and PTSD stories here and also giving us some insight into what you have discovered and what has helped you.
    And yes, it’s a growing number who value this as they work on their own personal struggle towards self-understanding and we hope healing.
    Wendy, my mistake entirely: having post-traumatic stress problems is not a disease but a disorder. Interesting how the mind works when it’s not challenged: when I was writing these words I was recalling what a psychiatrist stressed in our pastoral care training, that from a pastoral care and psychiatric viewpoint, “disease” covers more than a physical malfunction: it involves “dis-ease” or “discomfort”. But the web does not reflect any general recognition that “disease” and “disorder” were probably synonyms some time long ago.


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