Zanna van Dijk is a content creator and co-founder of Stay Wild Swim. In January 2019, Zanna was rushed into hospital with extreme stomach pains. In the middle of paradise, she was supposed to be on the trip of a lifetime, but was rushed to hospital to have emergency bowel surgery. I interviewed her about her experience.
I was travelling in the Maldives, just beginning a two month round the world trip, when I experienced excruciating and debilitating stomach pain. The worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. Sadly it took a couple of days of passing me between Maldivian hospitals before I was diagnosed with cecal volvulus. Upon diagnosis, they rushed me straight in for emergency surgery. During the operation they noted that I had a double twisted bowel and it was starting to tear, so they got to it just in time!
How did you feel knowing you may need a stoma?
I was only told I may need a stoma about 5 minutes before surgery, so it was a real shock to the system. However, I was in so much pain that I didn’t mind what the outcome was – I just wanted to be relieved from my suffering.
How does your scar make you feel?
My scar makes me feel like a badass! I wear it with pride. I have a very positive mindset and I accepted it from day one as a representation of my strength and my story. I hope I can help other women feel more accepting of their own scars, they are nothing to be ashamed of. They are part of what has shaped you.
Has the experience changed you?
Definitely. I took my health and resilience for granted prior to my bowel surgery, whereas having emergency surgery makes you realise how absolutely incredible our bodies are. I have so much more respect for my body’s ability to heal and grow stronger.
What was your recovery like?
My recovery was record speed! My surgeon says that’s due to the fact I was super fit and healthy prior to surgery which helped me “bounce back”. However, I also think it was due to my relentless proactive determination. I made a routine every single day which I followed to help optimise my recovery, from mobility exercises to breathing routines, and I stuck to it for months without fail.
Did the amount of single use plastic that comes with the dressings worry you?
It did for the first few days but then I just accepted it as part of the process and a necessary evil for my health. I don’t think we should shame anyone who uses single use plastic due to a health condition.
Did your diet change?
I had to follow a low fibre diet for about 4-6 weeks, which was a challenge as a plant-based human. But my diet was able to get back to 100% normal within 2 months. I was eating my usual super high fibre plant focused diet with lots of fruit and veg, and processing it fine.
What are you most proud of?
My positive mindset. I was astounded by how optimistic and proactive I was throughout the whole process. I hardly cried and I just focused on moving forward. I didn’t dwell on the negatives or even think “why me?’, I just got up and got on with it. I surprised myself!
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