This post continues a series in which people who started life with infant pyloric stenosis (“PS”) and were usually left with a very gnarly or sunken surgical scar tell something of the psychological damage that came with that. The social pages of Facebook include at least seven Groups of such people and the comments below are taken from these pages.
In their most formative years many PS survivors didn’t understand the reason for the surgical scar on their belly: their parents were perhaps embarrassed or reluctant to explain it because of their own inner pain over those pages of their life story.
When PS survivors feel shame about their scar, it’s typically because their personality is not extroverted and confident, and/or because they were not helped from an early age to understand the story of their PS and to “own” and wear their scar with pride and gratitude. Let’s face it, not many of like to be “really different”, and when we’re not helped to understand and appreciate the issues involved…
Here is the record of some of the emotional struggles PS’ers feel or have felt.
T B – c. 1990
I have gone through stages where I have become depressed over the scar left, however I think I am beginning to accept it more. I’m an avid fitness enthusiast and weightlifter. In saying this, I try to stay in shape. However I still feel really uncomfortable taking my shirt off in public or around people I don’t know… the internet has made it easier. It shows that there are “others” out there… I feel the scar is something I should be proud of instead of ashamed.
D C-S 1974
My ops were both in 1974, left me with a big zip scar down my front from sternum to belly button. Wouldn’t be without it, but it has left me affected mentally and has left me with a variety of digestive tract issues.
K D 1949
Gosh all your scars still look way better than mine. I am 64, an old girl, and had it done at 12 weeks. Huge vertical with big dots horizontally. I’m in Australia and it is amazing to see how far surgery has advanced. Have been embarrassed by my scar all my life and never wore a bikini.
J H 1962
I struggled with my scar for years… especially in school, sports, etc. Always was embarrassed to take my shirt off, kept my arms folded, etc. Now I’m proud of it and love to show it.
Growing up I used to be so embarrassed. It’s something I had trouble overcoming… but finally did.
Because I had my op long ago when lots of the issues around it were pretty basic, I’ve had some emotional baggage, probably mild ptsd, shame and obsession for many years, now still in some ways an inordinate interest, although working on the issues and age have helped me heal inwardly. Suspect there’s also some damage from the hunger and dehydration, as I lag behind all my 4 sibs in some areas. But I’m glad I lived and don’t have the problems some have, esp. adhesions and serious bowel issues.
I’m 57 and had PS surgery at 3 weeks old and my mother told me that I never crawled. I would only pull myself along on my butt. (This behavior, I think, is very connected to the surgery.) I did walk late, as I recall her saying. For me, I think transitions have always been hard. Safety is a big issue. All my life, I’ve been a late bloomer. For me, it’s definitely connected to the surgery. I lost some confidence early on and doubted the power of my body.
It is noteworthy that most of these kinds of Comments are from people who had their PS surgery many years ago, when the surgical techniques were fairly crude and not cosmetically sensitive, hospital care was rough and ready, and parents did not know as much about child psych as we do today. These Facebook comments are typical of other forum sites I have read.
However, the one comment (the first one) that is from a younger PS survivor shows that “emotional” baggage after PS surgery is not simply related to whether the surgery and scar were relatively recent or not. Again, many of us just hate being different.
These Comments also show that emotional, psychological and PTSD consequences can show up in different ways.
This series based on Facebook common interest sites also bears out that the medical alternative to treating PS surgically should be considered in every case – as it is in several developed countries. This option like surgery is not always trouble-free, but will avoid most if not all the serious complaints and problems which fill the PS pages of the web’s forum sites.
During the 3 months after this post was written my wife and I were travelling, visiting family and friends and holidaying in the U.K. and Europe. My Facebook page records some of this wonderful and special time (accessible to Facebookers who “Friend” me).
This series of posts was continued soon after my return home.