Infant surgery does different things to different people.
This post introduces readers to three men whose infant surgery recently prompted them to go public, each in his own way.
Dave Outred went online to express his joy and gratitude for his full and satisfying life, apparently unaffected by the rather messy start to life he had. After developing pyloric stenosis (“PS”), he was operated on twice in a London hospital in 1955 to remedy this rather common condition when he was about 6 weeks old: when it became clear that the first “procedure” had not dealt with his stomach blockage, it was repeated a day or two later, leaving him with two rather large and untidy scars.
But, he wrote on Facebook (to a “closed” Group) –
I say, be proud of your scars because you are a survivor! I have had a great life: played sports for my town as a school boy, enjoyed camping and an outdoor life with the scouts, been married twice [currently 31 years], followed my football [soccer] team through good years and bad, semi-retired at 48 after many years of working 6 and 7 day weeks. Lots of friends and a full life. Recovery from P.S. is the start of a life you may never have had.
Jay Jacobs’ infant surgery was to deal with volvulus, a twisting of the bowels that like PS blocks the passage of food but can also quickly cut off the blood supply, causing gangrene and death of the affected intestines. Perhaps because he was not expected to live, perhaps because cosmetic concerns rated rather lowly in 1957, perhaps because of his earlier weight problem, he has also been left with a very large and sunken scar.
Jay Jacobs found it harder than Dave Outred to feel accepting and confident about his disfiguring scar and count his blessings… until he found his niche. Jay Jacobs always had a weight problem but in his later adult years he succeeded in beating this: he found diets and fitness programs that worked for him, participated in the Biggest Loser program on TV, and developed and promoted his discoveries, weight-loss and new-found wellness to become a successful entrepreneur!
Quite likely because of his accomplishments, he was also persuaded to rise above his negativity about his abdominal scar. He appeared “topless” on TV and online, and wrote about his former “shame” and new-found confidence about his torso and story.
In mid-2019 the national free-to-air TV broadcaster in Australia aired a short video created by Alexander, a young man who was born with mild pectus excavatum, a “pigeon chest”. He was troubled in his adolescence by being singled out for comment, sometimes cruel, but also reports that growing up he was determined and able to rise above this, helped by his parents and closer friends, so that he can now accept his body as different but “OK”.
Henry Fox like Dave Outred also had PS and early surgery to remedy it.
It left him with a lifelong passion for the importance of medical research. Many PSers realise that up to about a century ago, the diagnosis of infant PS was almost always a death sentence: the surgical remedies then on offer were so crude and horrific and so rarely successful that most parents preferred to see their little one simply expire.
Henry Fox knew this and also that there are still many conditions of infancy that although less common than PS need research funds and workers. He wrote –
Owing to the type of research now carried out by Action Medical Research, I was able to undergo a small operation to rectify this and am now able to make the most of my ability to digest properly…!
Since then, Action Medical Research together with its most famous sponsor, Paddington Bear, have stayed very close to my heart. I spent several days as a young child attending Action Medical Research’s Paddington Bear tea parties, over-indulging in a fair few marmalade sandwiches to help raise funds for their life-saving research!! This association has stayed with me and it is rumoured that (aged 27) I may still possess a Paddington Bear duvet cover.
Henry is seeking sponsorship for his running in the 2016 London Marathon (24 miles or 40 km on 24 April) to raise funds for medical research.
For many years now I have been reading and writing about the many issues around infant PS, and seeking greater recognition of the turbulence that affects a fair number of those affected by this rather common ailment.
I have been intrigued by the unity among parents affected by PS: those who write report as one that it was their most traumatic experience ever – and that all too often it left them feeling cheated in one way or another.
On the other hand, those who themselves have had PS respond and reflect on it in many different ways, and the reports above are typical but only samples of many very different responses.