Aug 21, 2017 News
…swears by coconut water and ORS
By Enid Joaquin
At 73, Wilfred Featherstone seems to possess the energy of a man half his age.
That’s rather astounding, considering that he has no stomach, and has been living without one for the past 27 years!
Such a revelation of course took me completely by surprise, as I had never encountered anyone that had done a gastrectomy.
A gastrectomy is a medical procedure where all ,or part of the stomach is surgically removed.
There are four types of gastrectomy:
total gastrectomy where the whole stomach is removed, partial gastrectomy ,where the lower part of the stomach is removed,the sleeve gastrectomy which involves the removal of the left side of the stomach and oesophagogastrectomy,involving the removal of the top part of the stomach and part of the oesophagus (gullet).
The stomach is connected to the gullet (oesophagus) at its top and the first sections of the duodenum (small intestine) at its bottom. After a gastrectomy the surgeon connects the oesophagus either to the small intestine or the remaining section of stomach, in a procedure called a Roux-en-Y reconstruction. This means that you’ll still have a working digestive system, although it won’t function as well as it did before.
Featherstone first had one half of his stomach, and then the entire stomach removed twenty seven years ago, after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
This was after he had been undergoing treatment for ulcerated stomach for a number of years!
But Featherstone said that he was not satisfied, as despite the treatments administered, he was constantly in a lot of pain “I was constantly in pain, which came with such intensity, I used to be doubling over with the pain and nausea, then just as suddenly the pain would disappear.
But something else simultaneously caught his attention, ,”I noticed that whenever I burped, the smell was very offensive. “This led him to demand further examinations of his stomach, which revealed the presence of cancer-“they were like big tomatoes”,he revealed. It did not take Featherstone long to decide to do the gastrectomy.
“ Two weeks later,I went under the knife-they took half my stomach out, then after a further two weeks they told me they had to do it again, because they found that cancer had been left in the other half.”
Featherstone said that after the operation he was put on a chemotherapy regimen, but after only the third doze he said he heard a “voice”while he was taking the chemotherapy that said, ‘this is not good for you, stop it. ‘
He subsequently came off the chemotherapy after informing his doctor of his decision and signing a declaration that he was doing it voluntarily. “At that time I was expected to live for five years- that was the prognosis. But as you can see I’m still here;
and this year is going to be twenty seven years that I have been living without a stomach. You know I keep telling people that I believe in that still small voice, I always listen to it”.
Featherstone said that he is the only person still alive, of the six persons that had gastrectomies done at the Eleanor West Ward, of the North Middlesex hospital in London. “they all passed away within a year,”he lamented.
Eating after gastrectomy
His first meals after the gastrectomy consisted of liquefied foods.
“But I couldn’t stand it, so I also came off that after only a month- and I started managing myself after reading up the matter on how to take care of myself(eating after gastrectomy).
I stopped liquefying my foods and went back to eating foods in the regular way-solid foods after about two months-but it was a case of trial and error and it took some time before I could eat absolutely anything.”He pointed out that his meals had to be smaller and more frequent.
Dehydration became an issue though- “I started suffering from serious dehydration. Then one day my brother came home and he had some coconut water and I drank that, and it felt as if I had waited all my life for that thing, it tasted like nectar from heaven…..So I told my doctor and he told the other patients, because he reckoned that is what saved my life, because you know it rehydrates you powerfully.”
Featherstone said that he soon started drinking up to ten coconuts a day, as he was not at the time eating a lot of food.
He still uses a lot of coconut water which he claims is excellent for rehydration as it contains ‘balanced electrolytes.’
Apart from the coconut water, Featherstone said that he used to drink a lot of oral rehydration salts(ORS)which he would purchase at a local pharmacy.
Then one day after the owner questioned why he was buying so much of the “stuff”and after explaining his situation, he was taught to make his own.
“It was Mr George Emmerson of Rubigees Pharmacy, and he considered my situation and so he gave me the recipe for making ORS, and I’m thankful to him to this day for that. Its magic, and it’s just a little salt and a little sugar in some water, which saved me a lot of money.”
Featherstone says that he drinks ORS everyday, which guards against cramping-“I have to use citrus,but when I do, I get cramps, so I drink the ORS, and that prevents the cramps-I can go all day without getting the cramps as long as I take that ORS.”
Featherstone said that the cramps can sometimes affect all the muscles in his body,and is precipitated by dehydration. He also drinks rice mar(water drained from boiled rice)everyday.
Featherstone confessed that the main drawback to living without a stomach is that he looses a lot of nutrients because of poor absorption. Thus it is imperative that he also take B12 injects once per month; and sos he proudly asserts that he has not been sick in years!
According to research, persons who have had a partial or complete gastrectomy will need to supplement their diet with oral vitamin B12 or intramuscular or subcutaneous injections of vitamin B12.
Some symptoms of B12 deficiency may include numbness, weakness, abnormal gait, memory loss, depression and anemia.
Should you encounter Wilfred Featherstone anytime soon, I’m sure that like me, you would be astounded by his apparent good health and energy.
Here is a man that stands strong-stomachless-who at seventy three, still engages in his first love – landscaping-holds down a full time job managing a popular Security firm, and yet still finds the time to assist both teachers and students in the making of teaching aids. He says that the latter past time is his way of giving back- of showing gratitude for spared life.
Regarding his indomitable spirit,he asserts at the end of our interview,
“My strength is in my mind. Nothing daunts me!
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