By Alyce Collins
A FRIGHTENING mistake during surgery led this woman’s intestines to LEAK BILE, causing her to go into septic shock before emergency surgery left her with a large FISTULA WOUND after her abdominal muscles had to be SEPARATED and cut open.
Hotel agent, Bonnie Judge (35) from Utah, USA, went into hospital in September 2018 for what should have been a routine colon operation to clear a blockage, however her inflamed insides led the surgeon to make an error and accidentally cut her intestine.
The error wasn’t noticed immediately, so Bonnie was transferred to a recovery ward following her surgery. A nurse took some food to Bonnie in her bed, but after just three bites she became nauseous and vomited. Although, what Bonnie threw up wasn’t her food, it was black in colour, which was an initial sign for concern.
After a couple of days of no improvement, Bonnie’s surgeon thought there could be a leak in her organs and he ordered a CT scan of her abdomen, which revealed nothing. However, Bonnie’s condition continued to spiral and when doctors started to suspect she could have sepsis, they knew the best way to find out the cause would be to open Bonnie up.
During surgery, Bonnie’s abdomen was split in half and it was found that her intestine was leaking bile into her body. For the surgery, doctors had to split the abdominal muscles, creating a hole, known as a fistula, in her abdomen.
The first time Bonnie caught sight of her wound was very difficult for her and she had to be sedated by nurses because of her horrified reaction. To this day it is still hard for her to look at the large hole in her abdominal region without crying, but she is also proud of how her body is healing.
“I went into hospital on July 19, 2018 to have my appendix removed,” said Bonnie.
“During that surgery, the surgeon said that there was a lot of inflammation. So, I was scheduled for another surgery on September 17, 2018 to remove a mass on my colon which was causing a blockage.
“During the surgery on my colon, because my insides were so inflamed, the surgeon accidentally cut my intestine.
“My surgeon cried with me many times about what happened, and it took him over a month to do another surgery like mine. It appears we were both traumatised from the surgery.
“I remember waking up in the recovery room and the nurse brought in some beef broth and red jelly. After I had three bites of my jelly, I got nauseous and I threw up all over myself, but it wasn’t jelly, it was black and looked like coffee grains.
“My surgeon did think there could be a leak, so he ordered a CT scan of my abdomen, but the results showed nothing. Then they decided to put a tube into my nose and down into my stomach to suck all the infection out of my stomach.
“However, I got worse and my blood pressure dropped, and my heart rate was high. My surgeon then suspected sepsis and had me do another CT scan. He told me they needed to open me up again, but I was in so much pain and I refused to let it happen. I was scared, but when my surgeon explained how serious it was, I agreed to it.
“The surgery revealed that during the surgery to remove part of my colon, my intestine was nicked and was leaking bile into my body which was eating away at my organs and tissue. The doctors said my body wasn’t acting like that of a young person; instead, it was frail and as fragile as someone much older.
“I was put on a PICC line with a lot of IV antibiotics and fluids and then a breathing tube since I had to be put into a coma to try and heal from all the trauma.”
The error led Bonnie to go into septic shock, which caused her extreme pain, nausea and weakness following her colon surgery.
Despite not knowing what sepsis was until she had it herself, Bonnie now addresses the topic openly and shares graphic images of her wound to show people what can happen. She now suffers from post-sepsis syndrome, involving anxiety about contracting sepsis again.
“When they split my abdominal muscles in half I ended up with a hole, called a fistula, so my body has been creating new skin and new nerves to heal the hole,” said Bonnie.
“I had a wound vac put on to help heal the hole faster and to stop a new infection from happening.
“I remember being in the ICU and my wound care team came in to change the wound vac and I looked down and just started crying because I had no idea what happened as I’d been in an induced coma.
“I started to panic and then my nurse had to sedate me because I started shaking the rails on my bed and freaking out.
“The wound hurts constantly and it feels like I have a fist inside me that’s twisting incessantly. It makes it hard to sit up or get out of bed, I walk as if I have a hunchback and I get the worst anxiety if I need to go out in public because I’m scared someone will bump into me and cause more trauma.
“I am amazed at how much my wound has healed since I first saw it. My wound care team and my home nurse have been amazing. Although I still hate looking at it and I cry when I do because my body feels like it isn’t mine now and I just feel ugly.
“I’m still on oral antibiotics and I have a home nurse who changes my bandage every other day. Once my wound heals, I will need another surgery to connect my abdomen muscles back together.
“I love being able to say that I’ve survived sepsis, but the fight isn’t over because post-sepsis syndrome is real. I have nightmares and anxiety that I will get sepsis again. Every fever and body ache I get frightens me.
“It’s as if I have PTSD from it and I think this needs to be addressed. I want others who are dealing with the same issues to know that they aren’t alone and that their feelings are validated. Post-sepsis syndrome, as well as the signs of sepsis, need to be talked about because more lives can be saved if there’s more information about these issues.”
To see more, visit https://www.instagram.com/bonnie.judge/