Gift of gratitude

Posted on 10 April 2019

When an inexplicable health issue forced our writer to her knees, her ultimate takeaway was one of thanks.

I run ultras, sometimes even ultraultras. I’ve run deserts and dunes, glaciers and icefields, mountains and valleys, salt flats and swamps. I’ve run in more countries than I can count, and in such far-flung spots that the place names have been unpronounceable.

Running ultras has been my thing for almost three decades, and without it, my life would feel incomplete. But, sometimes, things get in the way. And as fit and healthy as I am, a recent big fat health setback almost knocked me clean out the ball park.

It was a Saturday morning. My husband and I had family visiting from overseas, and we’d taken them on an early morning hike. I felt energised and invigorated, as I always do from being on mountains. But in a moment that changed.

I went from being my normal healthy self to writhing on the couch wracked with the most intense gut pain I’d ever experienced.

We tried everything, but nothing could ease it. Within a matter of hours, I couldn’t take it any longer and Craig rushed me to Mediclinic Constantiaberg, where I was admitted into the emergency facility.

After innumerable scans, intense gut pain and surgery, I learned that a section of my bowel had knotted itself so tightly that it had lost blood supply, turned gangrenous and died. The offending knot was the size and colour of a squash ball, and was later described by my surgeon, Dr Oodit (who will forever be my hero), as “most impressive”.

The procedure, an ileocecal resection, removed 40cm of my large intestine – and my appendix, for good measure. I was very neatly sewn up, and spent the following week recuperating in hospital while my enormous pot-bellied stomach did its best to drain gut fluid up through a tube protruding from my nose into a bag attached to my hospital bed.

I felt pretty grim about my situation until the morning after my surgery, when Dr Oodit put things into perspective. What I’d gone through was not uncommon – it occurs in humans, dogs and horses. It strikes completely without warning, and to young or old, irrespective of gender, state of health or fitness. And the frightening reality is that as fast as it occurs, so can it kill – if the bowel ruptures, it’s curtains for the patient.

And I’m bizarrely grateful for the wake-up call. I was fortunate that my husband was on hand and that I was just 20 minutes away from a top hospital with great facilities and worldclass specialists and nursing staff. On that count, I’m eternally grateful to Dr Oodit, who’s renowned in the field of surgical gastroenterology. Not only did he carve the neatest abdominal scar possible, but his manner constantly reassured me I was in the best hands. What I know now more than ever is that good health is a blessing we need to appreciate every day.

Never, never take good health for granted – it’s a daily gift.




Published in Magazine

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