16 September 2022

By Eric Douglin

Eric Douglin very kindly shared his story for our #auguts campaign and will be guest blogging regularly for Bowel Research UK. This is his first blog for us.


“We have to operate immediately, or you will die within 24 hours.”

No, this wasn’t a line out of TV shows like Casualty, Grey’s Anatomy, ER, or for the older generation, St Elsewhere.

This line was said to me by a very worried looking surgeon at the Prince Royal University Hospital, Orpington on 3rd January 2021.

Another worried voice from the corner of the room exclaimed “You need to sign this consent form right away, so we can prepare for the surgery right away.”

Having just woken up, I thought I was at the tail end of some weird dream; exhausted I tried to roll over and go back to sleep.

“Do you understand what we said Mr Douglin?” another voice said. How many people were in this ‘dream’ I wondered.

I slowly opened my eyes, and initially could only make out five figures, all in dressed in white and standing in what I thought was my ‘bedroom’. I squinted, rubbed my eyes and focused. Nope these weren’t ghosts from the movie Casper, these were five anxious-looking people standing at my hospital bedside.

Then an excruciating pain erupted in my stomach, which felt all too familiar. It’s amazing how pain sharpens the memory and generates recollections, which it certainly did for me.
My memory flashbacked to forty-eight hours previously on New Year’s Eve, when I complained to my wife Mandi about having some discomfort in my stomach. Now everyone knows that between Christmas and New Year, if it’s not nailed down, we all eat everything going. Or is that just me?

Anyway, I put the excruciating pain down to Christmas overindulgence. However, the pain got worse and my stomach bloated.

I had a bath to relieve the pain and Mandi looked at me and said “You look nine months pregnant; we’re calling 111, the NHS advice line.”

They advised me to go to A&E, and after various tests, scans, and x rays, I ended up with ‘Casper’ and his friends, giving me their dire diagnosis.

So, my options were consent to a bowel resection to repair the damage, or possibly die of septicaemia within the next 24 hours.
Mm? Let me think about that? I called Mandi to discuss the options, like I was deciding what to buy from our favourite Indian takeaway.

“Sign the bloody forms ” was all I heard from my crying wife from the other end of the phone. So, sign them I did.

“OK, thank you Mr Douglin”, the main surgeon said, “we’ll go and prepare for the surgery.”

Now, there were two main thoughts running through my mind. First, what did the bowel resection entail? And the second was that I hadn’t had the chance to tell the rest of my family I was going under the knife.

So, I had to leave that job to Mandi to tell my mother while I contacted my children and explained as best I could what was going on.

It was only after contacting everyone that I realised how alone I was, and with the Covid-19 protocols in place, no one was allowed to visit.

But that was OK, as I was only ten minutes from home and Mandi could pop by to drop things off whenever I needed them. However, that comforting thought was soon about to change.

Back in 2010 I had received a kidney from my wife after being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, and the surgery was carried out at London Guy’s Hospital.
After a discussion with the surgeons, it was decided I would be transferred to Guys in case there were any complications during the bowel resection surgery, known formerly as a Hartman’s procedure.

With no time to waste, I was strapped in the back of the ambulance and whisked across London with the blues and twos on to have the lifesaving procedure carried out.

A great way to start the New Year of 2021.

My main concern with the change of hospital was that I would be further from home. In addition to the realisation that the last time I saw Mandi, I was doubled up in excruciating pain in A&E, not a great memory to leave her with. Plus, the fact that I didn’t know what ward I was going to, or how she could contact me. At least when I was at the Princess Royal, she could drive down there and enquire if needed.

Anyway, back to my journey I arrived safely despite the ambulance nearly crashing into an old lady on a mobility scooter. That’s a story for another day.
After meeting the surgeons and signing another consent form at Guys, I was taken straight to theatre for surgery. Thankfully, before going down I was able to contact Mandi, my children and mum, which meant the world to me.

Then it was ‘go time’ and off to the operating theatre.