thank you for posting on the forum board, although I am sad to hear about everything your partner and you have been through with the treatment which was supposed to make him better and not worse
Unfortunately, even the best surgeons cant always predict exactly what is going to happen to someone while they are healing and recovering from major surgery, and it sounds as if this fistual may have formed between the bowel and and the surface of the skin because the wound perhaps became infected in some way in the early days following surgery. This can be quite a common problem - and not just for bowel surgery. The fistula (almost like a little tunnel from the inside to the outside) will be draining fluid that is a mixture of faecal fluid from the bowel, with bile salts and digestive enzymes that can make it quite acidic and a green colour, along with the natural mucous and serous fluid that is being produced by the bowel as a normal part of the healing process, and that would otherwise be coming out of the stoma. Fistulas often heal on their own, and it just takes time....... often over several weeks or months, in the same way as it takes time for the bowel to heal internally after surgery, as Alison described.
Once there are no other complications, like an underlying infection for example, it may be possible to put in a special plug to help it start to heal up. However, I suspect that at this stage, everything is still raw and inflammed, and although it seems harsh, it is actually better to allow this fluid to drain out as freely as possible, because otherwise there is a risk of it causing more problems with his health if it is artificially trapped inside the body.
The important things now then are to focus on getting the healing and recovery processes started!
Drinking plenty of water and maybe even some isotonic drinks if he is losing lots of fluid into these various stoma bags. Dehydration will make him feel tired, lethargic and can even make pain feel worse, as well as making it more difficult to fight the infection and maintain a good environment in the body for wound healing.
Light nutritious snacks and meals that contain good quality protein, vitamins and minerals are also essential as these are the building blocks your body needs for new tissue growth and repair.
Regular light exercise and fresh air, even when you feel very weak and poorly, is also an essential part of getting better. Sitting or lying still for long periods can almost cause a sort of stagnation in the body, and even just walking around the room, or back and forwards to the loo to empty the bags, on a regular basis, encourages the circulation and the breathing, which in turn helps the body to heal itself.
Keeping the stoma area and fistula area clean and protecting the skin to stop it becoming sore is also really important. Light, loose clothing are the order of the day and the stoma nurse should be able to help you if there are any problems with the area around the stoma, and also in finding the right appliances to use to avoid having to change them too often.
Finally, trying to change the way you both feel about what has happened, and thinking of this as a difficult but necessary step on the road to recovery might also help too. It is so easy to become bogged down in all the negative stuff when you are faced with such seemingly overwhelming challenges, but this can also tie you in to being unable to move forward - physically or emotionally/psychologically. This is a lot easier for me to write, I suspect, that it will be to do in practice, but perhaps it may be of benefit to try and find out if there are some local classes that teach mindfullness, or relaxation, that you and your partner could do together. Sometimes this can be really powerful in helping you to find the inner strength and motivation to be able to cope better and see other ways of coping with the challenges.
You might find some of our publications like "Eating Well" and "Your Operation" helpful, and they can be found on the website www.beatingbowelcancer.org
if you have not already seen them.
Please do keep in touch and I am sure you will find lots of support and friendship here on the forum, for yourself and your partner.
With warmest best wishes, Lilian