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Statice / Peritonitis

Silent Killer: The Testimony of a Peritonitis Survivor

A young peritonitis patient shares her experience with a life-threatening disease.

By Julieta Di Vito / Edited by Aiden Chantemsin

Updated October 27, 2023

Peritonitis is a severe medical condition that can become life-threatening if left untreated. Whether you're a healthcare professional or interested in learning about this serious medical condition, this article will provide valuable insights and information. This article will dive into Antonio's memories, who suffered from peritonitis at 13.

About the Disease

Peritonitis is a disease that originates in the abdominal area, situated between the chest and pelvis. It occurs when the peritoneum, a thin layer of tissue that covers the inside of the abdomen, becomes inflamed. Generally, peritonitis is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection.

There are two types of peritonitis.

The first is spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, which is an infection caused by bacteria. It can occur when a person has liver disease, such as cirrhosis or kidney disease.

Secondary peritonitis is a type of peritonitis that can be caused by a hole within an abdominal organ, also called a rupture. Alternatively, it can be caused by other diseases as well.

About the Patient

For anonymity purposes, we will refer to our interviewee as Antonio. Antonio will take us back to when he was thirteen years old when a simple abdominal discomfort and fever turned into months of fighting for recovery.

At thirteen years old, Antonio knew something was wrong when he started feeling pain in his stomach. His stomach felt stiff, and soon, he felt unwell as the fever arose. His discomfort became even more trying as his fever refused to subside, and an unexpected puncture appeared in his left shoulder blade.

Diagnosis, Recovery, and Complications

The doctor explained to Antonio that the pain in his left shoulder blade was a reflex due to his stomach pain. He was immediately sent to the operating room when they discovered his peritonitis. During his operation, he had a cardiac arrest. Antonio was clinically dead for a few moments until he was resuscitated. After a few hours, he woke up in the common room with a nasogastric tube to prevent vomiting and was given medication through an IV. Finally, he was discharged.

Three days after his recovery, the fever returned, and he was taken back to the hospital, where he had a computed tomography scan. The doctors discovered an abscess underneath his diaphragm and inserted a catheter to drain it. They explained that maybe some time ago, he had injured that area, and when he had peritonitis, the infection lodged in that weakened part. Antonio said, "It was better for me to have caused an abscess instead of a tumor."

It took another thirty days in the hospital to drain the abscess, but it was not completely clean, so there was another operation to clean the spot; they cut his rib and dug out the pus with their hands. During the surgery, he had a respiratory arrest (he stopped breathing), but they managed to stabilize him. They did an "open healing," where they left the wound open to be able to treat him again quickly. Finally, after 15 days, he was discharged.

Fifteen more days later, he had an adhesion in his intestines, which was a consequence of the first operation for peritonitis. In the first operation, they had to remove all the intestines from his body and clean them because they were with pus. When they put his intestines back, they did not do it perfectly in the original way, causing them to twist when Antonio ate and digested. The doctors removed the piece that was knotted with another operation. He was in the hospital for fifteen days before being discharged.

The Experience

From the memories of what was once a thirteen-year-old boy, Antonio describes his experience as bland, with a lot of hunger and delay in his studies: "I lost six months of classes. The complete recovery was very slow since, without a piece of rib, I had no firmness in my trunk. Until I gained muscle mass, I was not fully recovered. In school, I couldn't do physical education because any blow could cause the rib to puncture my lung."

Despite those setbacks during his childhood, Antonio achieved a complete recovery. At the age of 51, he sees his experience as an opportunity to keep living since, if they had taken more time to go to the hospital, we would not have been able to know his story.