Late one Friday evening in April 2011 a severe rectal bleed meant an emergency admission to the West Suffolk Hospital (WSH). The bleed continued intermittently for over two weeks and during this period chronic anaemia necessitated the transfusion of 31 units of blood! During this period a healthy appetite was maintained, which is normal for me, and there was no pain what-so-ever, much to the surprise of the nursing staff. Endoscopic investigations into the stomach and through the rectum around the colon failed to reveal the site of the bleed. Fortunately, as quickly as the bleed began, it stopped, and after a further three days I was discharged.
As part of the NHS follow-up investigations a capsule endoscope (pill camera) was swallowed at The Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital in June 2011 to look particularly at the small intestines which were inaccessible by the equipment at the WSH. The results from the camera's six to eight hour passage through the stomach and gut are relayed to a recorder worn around the waist. Once the camera, the size of a 'gobstopper', has been swallowed, the patient can continue with their normal daily routine, returning the recorder to the hospital that evening or the following day. The camera is subsequently excreted and does not require recovering.
The only significant sighting from the camera was a cluster of small blood vessels at the far end of the small intestines which could suggest an abnormality on the outside and were probably the cause of the initial bleed. Holiday delays meant it was late August 2011 before a further CT scan could be arranged at the WSH and this showed a growth the size of a small hen's egg (40mm x 30mm) attached to the small bowel. Mr Dermot O'Riordan, Consultant Surgeon at WHS, was keen to operate, so 7 days later I was admitted and in a 45 minute operation, mostly key-hole but with a small 5 cm incision, the tumour and 45 cm (18 inches) of small intestine were removed and sent for biopsy. I was discharged from hospital 48 hours later. The initial biopsy results were inconclusive, so the growth was then dispatched to Addenbrooke's Hospital who diagnosed a GIST and this was confirmed by a specialise unit in Birmingham, after-which Mr O'Riordan referred me to Mr Bulusu at the specialist GIST oncology department at Addenbrooke's.
Since then there have been a further three CT scans at 4-monthly intervals and each of these has been clear. So far I've been fortunate in that the GIST was discovered and removed at a relatively early stage, due largely to the diligent observations of Dr Crawford Jamieson who reviewed the pictures from the capsule endoscope. As the risk of a GIST re-developing has been assessed as 'low', I've now been moved to 12-monthly CT scans but with 6-monthly blood tests. Throughout this whole episode I've remained active with generally good health for a 73 year-old.