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.

1 comment:

Tom said...

I'm glad you're feeling better. I remember when another friend had that done and they pulled about 3 meters of gauze from each nostril when they had to change it. And yes, it was disgusting. No more so than having to pack a wound infection in my mid-section several times a day, but still disgusting.

I'm impressed with she-who-must-be-obeyed's aunt and with your response to her care for you. It shows, once again, that there are decent people in the world. I've known it for some time now.


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