Mornings are always early in hospital. No matter how terribly you sleep the noise and light always seep into your dreams and rouse you from the tiny abandon you’re clinging to. The morning of my surgery was no different. Even though it was well past four when I eventually switched off and drifted into oblivion, I was awake and anxious before the hour hand was barely scraping by six. Today was shaping up to be one of the longest of my life.
The words of disgust I’d heard the day previously weighed heavy on my mind, whilst the bowel prep still weighed heavy on my digestive system. Despite having nothing to eat since lunch and my drinks stopped in the night, that liquid dynamite was still wreaking havoc on my insides; helped along by my hyperactive nerves. You couldn’t tell by looking at me but I was practically catatonic. Making pathetic small talk one minute and crying the next, seconds ticked by like hours. I swear the sands of time slowed that morning.
I called my husband to try and take my mind off the sight and smells of breakfast wafting my way. (Food always smells so great when you can’t have any doesn’t it?!) He promised he’d be with me as soon as possible; but with the school run and a toddler to attend to, it would be last eleven when he finally arrived. In the meantime I waited. I worried. I pestered the nurses. I worried some more.
It was around nine when the anaesthetist arrived at my bedside. He seemed like a nice guy. Down to earth, approachable. He told me how he would numb my pain with nerve blocks and I told him about all the different pain killers and ways of administering them that don’t work on me. He politely dismissed all of what I said, confident that his approach would be nothing like everyone else’s. Desperate to believe him, I nodded and agreed. The surgeon arrived whilst the anaesthetist was still at my bedside, they shared pleasantries as I milked over the similarities between doctors and buses. It’s always the same, you wait forever for one then a whole load turn up at once..
Meeting my surgeon was somewhat of a relief, if only a minor one. I had started to believe I’d never lay eyes on the guy! In my imagination he was some eccentric old surgeon with a scalpel and a glint in his eye. In real life he was just an ordinary man. So ordinary his face is hazy from the fog of memory. I probably couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.
He was the man who would change my life forever and I wouldn’t even recognise him if I bumped into him.
What I do remember of him was that he listened. He seemed to take in what I said and genuinely try to assuage my worries. I babbled on about my recent struggles, the extreme increase in my pain and the fear that had brought with it and begged him to check over my bowel before closing me up. He assured me he would and I believed him. For a brief moment my fears were sated; until he shook my hand and disappeared from view. My calm disappeared with him, only to return in part when my husband arrived.
The hours he was there I felt stronger. More able to cope. My husband and I bicker and argue, we are both stubborn and dig our heals in. But we also share a love unlike one I’ve ever known before. He is my best friend, my safe place, my home. With him beside me I feel like I can get through anything. He calms me and gives me strength. We spent our time chatting, holding hands and even both trying to doze. Just being close to him helped.
All too soon though he had to leave. I’d hoped he would see me off to surgery, but the school run waits for no man and he had a long drive back home. I bawled like a baby after he left. Not for long though, minutes later I was being wheeled down to the operating theatre to meet my fate…
The surgery before mine had run long, they were still finishing up as I was entering the anaesthetic room. The staff inside were all really cheerful. Each one of them seemed happy and friendly. Of course it could all have been an act for me, but they seemed to be a really great team. They were kind too; within seconds of entering the chilly room I was shivering, seconds later I was handed warm blankets to make me more comfortable. As a bonus, they also halted the annoying chattering coming from my teeth!
When I’m nervous I tend to babble. Not only that but I fall back on sarcasm and humour. Minutes before surgery to perform an ileostomy in a room full of people who were about to see me butt naked and sliced open on a table I was most definitely nervous! Thanks to that days rota being shuffled I’d somehow ended up with two top anaesthetists and their teams in my surgery, so the room was pretty crowded. My nerves peaked and out of my mouth came what was practically a stand up comedians set. I can’t for the life of me remember what I was saying, but I remember laughter. My own and the six or seven people surrounding me. Fleetingly, as the anaesthetic took hold and my eyes drifted closed I thought to myself…
If the worst happens and I don’t wake up, at least I went down laughing.
*Watch out for the next instalment to find out what happened in the aftermath of my surgery and subsequent adjustment to life as a #baglady.