Monday, 21 January 2013

Talkin' 'bout my operation

Well, this has been a fascinating seven days. It started off last Monday with an overnight stay at one of Birmingham's most exclusive addresses. While the room was nice and the food seemed OK, I don't think I'll be mentioning them on TripAdvisor. Not after one of their employees came at me with a sharpened instrument.

Things started to look a little iffy when we showed up at the wrong hospital. There are two BMI hospitals in Edgbaston and I assumed I'd be having the operation at the same one where my consultation took place in December. That would have been sensible. It's why I hadn't properly checked the details beforehand. The receptionist said: "You're at the wrong place," with a weary sigh and handed out a pre-printed map to the correct one. All of this in a manner which suggested this happened to her several times a day.

None of this was doing my prevailing anxiety any favours. We found the right place, parked up and were shown to my room. They asked me what I wanted to order for my evening meal. Forms were bandied about with gusto. Then the blood pressure test started.

I mentioned I was a little anxious, didn't I? I get even more stressed out when someone puts a cuff on my arm and inflates it. How does a blood pressure reading of 220/170 sound? I'm no expert, but apparently that's a little on the high side, unless you're a Komodo dragon.

I am not a Komodo dragon.

After a degree of humming and hahhing they said they'd try again later. In the meantime I changed into the theatre gown and glamorous DVT stockings. Katie gave me a look which suggested she'd probably never found me more attractive than that moment in time.

The grumpy resident doctor - a Russian who was having no truck with the whole concept of bedside manner - came back to check my blood pressure several times. It seemed as if he took the steadfast refusal of my figures to reduce as some sort of slur on his professional standard. "This is just anxiety," he said. "In my country they would have let me give you diuretic. But here..." he sighed and let the rest of the sentence go.

After a while a terribly nice chap took me on the bed. That sounds wrong but I'm not changing it. The anaesthetist inserted a cannula in my hand, flicked a switch and asked me to count to ten. I don't remember anything after five.

Waking up in the recovery room, people fussed around me and my surgeon gave me a grin and the thumbs up. Which was nice, but someone appeared to have put a sofa up each nostril, plus my throat appeared to have been sandpapered from the inside. I was hooked up to a drip and an oxygen mask, which seemed to be bit overly dramatic, but I thought I should let them get on with it. They wheeled me back to my room, where Katie was waiting, checking through the dinner menu.

After an hour of real discomfort they removed the bolsters from my nose. This (a) made it possible for me to breathe through it properly, and (b) was quite possibly the grossest thing I have ever seen. After some touching moments where we probably called each other rude names, Katie went home and I settled in for the night. Doctor Soviet came back in and was pleased with my 130/70 reading. I laid awake, read and pressed a button every couple of hours to summon lovely, angelic nurses. With liquid morphine.

Katie was a little put out the following morning when we had the discussion with my surgeon about post-op care. "It used to be the case that tonsillectomy patients went for ice-cream and jelly," he said. "But that's not the current advice. Eat normal food - a little scratchiness helps, actually, as it helps to keep the area clean."

As we walked out, Katie reflected: "I've gone and bought the European soup mountain. Now what?"

"Wouldn't it be more accurate to refer to it as a soup lake?"

I got a look for that.

I've been housebound now for seven days, taking painkillers on a two-hourly basis when awake. Nothing too drastic - a bit of codeine and several other over-the-counter ones. They're not 100% effective and at times eating has been painful. Really, tears-in-the-eyes, banging-your-foot painful. Maybe it'll help me reconsider my relationship with food. After all, when you've been hurt by a cottage pie you tend to revise your opinions.

But the other night Katie took a call from her aunt, who was asking after me. Her aunt is in her 70s and is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, meaning she has to drive to a hospital 20 minutes away several times a week for chemo. And she was asking how I was.

I feel such a fraud.

Friday, 11 January 2013

The delightful gentleman

It's official. I'm a 'delightful gentleman'. Well, that's what this letter I've got from the surgeon says. He's written to my GP, thanking him for referring me, a 'delightful gentleman', to him. I don't normally get reviews like that - the best I've had to date is 'prompt and efficient payer' on eBay.

I don't mix with surgeons, as a rule. But I've got this problem, you see. I've mentioned it before, in fact. I appear to be having problems with breathing and sleeping. I can't do both of them at the same time, for starters. Over the last couple of years I've had my various tubes - well, the airways anyway - prodded and poked by the best in the Midlands. I've spent the night dressed as a Poundland Darth Vader. All to no avail.

So just before Christmas I went to see a surgeon. He actually has a title with rather too many syllables in it, but basically he's a chap who knows his onions. And when someone with all those syllables inserts a camera and says: "Ah ha - I think I see the problem," then I'm going to listen.

As a result, I'm shortly going into hospital for an operation. Well, two operations, actually. Something called a septoplasty, then a tonsillectomy. The septoplasty is designed to sort out my comedy nose. Sadly, as it's an internal op, I don't get to choose a new nose, which is a shame as I quite liked the Adrien Brody look. Never mind. And the surgeon recommended whipping out my tonsils at the same time as (a) it might improve my breathing and (b) there's a two-for-one offer on in January.

By the way, when you're due an operation, do not, under any circumstances, look it up on Google. Or, for that matter, on Youtube. It tends to give you pause for thought, that's all I'm saying.

So I'm a bit nervous. In fact, to use the vernacular, I'm ever-so-slightly bricking it. It's not the operation so much. I'm not that worried about someone coming at my face with a sharp implement; I've drunk in enough Birmingham pubs, so I'm used to that. It's the general anaesthetic that's causing me concern. What if it doesn't go to plan? Although I will admit that there would be a delicious irony in that happening, given that I'm going through all this so I can sleep better.

But here's the thing. I'm sick and tired. Literally. I want to start sleeping again. I want to get on better with the people around me, not being distant and grumpy with friends, family and colleagues. I want to be better at doing the job that I enjoy, not falling asleep in meetings and feeling unwilling to do more.And I want to be able to spend the whole night in bed with my wife, not having one of us creep off to try and snooze fitfully on a sofa somewhere.

I don't want superpowers. I just want to do what everyone else does. When people say they've had a good night's sleep, I always think, "show-off." So that's why, on Monday afternoon, I'll be having this done to me. Hopefully I can be a delightful gentleman once more.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Random musings 2013

The year is six days old. Colour me tardy.

Each year since 2008 I've done this. It's become an annual tradition. Which is what you expect from something that you do each year. There's a clue, right there.

It's very simple - just pick up your iPod (or similar), put it on shuffle, write about the weirdness that ensues. This is what it looked like last year. And you can do the same too - just write about it in the comments. And you're not allowed to skip over the dodgy things in your music collection.

Right then. Hold onto your pants. This might not be pretty:

1: Dream Theater - Scenes From a Dream Act II, Scene 9 - Finally Free

Oh dear. I've spent a lot of the last few weeks trying to convince the new chap at work that I don't just listen to prog rock, and now this happens. In fairness, Dream Theater aren't prog rock. They're prog metal, managing in one fell swoop to combine the two least fashionable genres in music. It's a concept album about a man who re-imagines himself as the victim as a historic murder case. Or something. To be honest, I'm not sure. There are lots of widdly guitar solos and ludicrous lyrics. Quite frankly, this is not helping.

2: Paul Weller - Sunflower

This is from his Wildwood album, which I think I love more than is entirely healthy. Ah, the memories. Driving around with this on at full blast. An afternoon in the Clent Hills with SheWhoMustBeObeyed, pre-marriage, before we'd moved in together, when a sudden rainstorm meant we had to take cover in the car. Ahem.

3: Sigur Ros - Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa

Silence. Then industrial noise and feedback, which gradually fades. Guitars and piano come into the foreground, playing a mournful refrain. The bass provides a counterpoint. Ethereal strings act as a celestial choir. The drums enter gently about four minutes in. You look at the screen and realise there are still six minutes to go. An echoing voice starts, enunciating in a hybrid of Icelandic and elvish. Not one to choose for your ringtone, then.

4: The Proclaimers - Let's Get Married

I didn't 'get' The Proclaimers when they first came out. Then I heard one of their songs (Sunshine on Leith) and had to have one of my brisk walks around the block. ("No, I'm fine, it's just something in my eye.") I got their Greatest Hits, found it to be choc-a-block with close harmonies, challenging pronunciation and cracking tunes, like this one. It's really rather ace and includes lines like, "You can get a cat, just as long as it barks."

5: Scott Matthews - City Headache

He's a singer/songwriter in the folk/indie vein. Now, I know what you're thinking, but you're safe from any Ed Sheeranisms. He's from Wolverhampton, so practically up the road from me. This is from his first album, Passing Strangers. Which you are going to buy. Look into my eyes. Try if you can to ignore the Dream Theater earlier on - I can be trusted sometimes.

Right. Now it's your turn. Five random tracks, no skipping, put them in the comments.


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