My surgery had been moved from first up till the last of the day. I needed to be present and accounted for by 10am in Admissions.
‘Terror’ doesn’t even come close to summing up what I was feeling when I woke up.
I got up silently, dragged myself into the shower and washed with ‘the sponge’. ‘The sponge’ smelled all kinds of wrong and made my hair feel like straw that had been sitting outside in the weather for months on. I followed the instructions none the less.
During the trip in I tried to concentrate on my breathing – my heart rate was already at some insane level (even after a Valium) which was of particular concern given my kinda-sorta heart condition.
We were early – I have to be for medical things, it stresses me more when we’re late. I got checked in and sat waiting, trying to smile and look calm.
The admitting nurse came to get me quite soon after I went in, blurted out how stressed I was and babbled about 10 other things that I’m sure weren’t important. We went over the list of questions (that I had already answered twice at different stages) then she told me I was in for a wait. My 6am Valium had worn off by this stage and my ‘terror’ mutated into blind panic.
I don’t remember much of that encounter other than putting on my very binding pressure stockings and returning to the waiting room (rather than the pre-surgery lounge which didn’t have room for Stocker) wearing an old ladies gown and a funny hat.
Soon after – the admitting nurse returned with some kind of pre-op drink and told me I was going to be waiting at least 3 hours… she handed me the drink and told me to get down what I could in the next 5 minutes. Naturally, me being me, I had it finished in 2. It must have had some calming thing in it – because the next hour wasn’t so bad, but the three after that were torture.
I think waiting knowing what’s about to happen is bad enough – but with hospital based anxiety, the things that go through your head are at least 1000 times worse. It go to 2:30pm and I was about to get up and walk out… I had reached the point my anxiety had totally taken over all reason. Thankfully I had external reason sitting next to me – Stocker was able to keep me calm enough till theatre Nurse R came out to collect me. We went through the same list of questions again (which I almost think I can recite now). At the end when she said they were ready, I asked that if they push the easiest surgery till last to which she replied ‘hell yes’. I must say I was relieved at her reaction but it didn’t make walking away from my Husband any easier. I’m pleased to say, I kept my cool when I left him, while I was walking through the all of the hidden surgical area, while I got onto the bed, even when they started putting the big leg braces on me. I started to lose it when I saw inside the theatre… I don’t know why, but in that moment it was real and there was no backing out. I must admit I did have a brief cry while they were getting ready and I was sitting there alone thinking about all the things that could go wrong.
I think Nurse R must have seen me slip because she pushed two anaesthesiologists through the door that started chatting to me about wine (don’t ask me why, I’m still not sure). The one on the right asked me if I remembered him to which I (stupidly) replied ‘sure, your the guy with no personality from last week’. I really didn’t mean it the way it came out I meant it like ‘you were the very business like person who told me if my heart stopped you’d just pump me full of electricity till it started again in a very matter of fact kinda way’. They did both kinda laugh… The one on the right (funny enough the one with the pointy things) felt very strongly about how that didn’t mean they were bad at their job… so strongly they gave me a local before they placed the cannula (very thoughtful – however unnecessary). After that I saw the room filling up – I ask needle guy how many people would be in there. He told me the two anaesthesiologists, a full cardiac trauma team (because of my newly discovered heart condition), two students and three colorectal surgeons. I thought following that up with ‘and a partridge in a pear tree’ would be highly inappropriate at that moment despite how close it was to Christmas. The room bustled for another few minutes till all of a sudden needle guy asked ‘are you ready?’, I replied ‘sure’ and that’s all I remember till I woke up in recovery.
I had forgotten what a GA felt like – it had been a while. I remember the hospital staff waking me last time, this time I woke up myself – groggy as all hell with the recovery nurse trying to give me instructions for my pain relief. All I really got was ‘feel that button, push it… lots… you’re going to need it’, even in my impaired state, that much I could handle. About 10 minutes passed before I could actually form words, at which point I asked the one thing that had been weighing on my mind ‘did they need to bypass me?’. She almost snorted a laugh at me ‘no, of course not – everything went well’, so well in fact they didn’t even need the drain the large incision – very, very unusual. It’s hospital policy to be kept in recovery for 30 minutes after you wake up – the next 20 passed with flitting in and out of consciousness from the remnants of the sedation and the IV pain relief. I was taken back to my room at about 7:40pm – the surgery was a little over 3 hours, a testament to how straight forward it was compared to some of the scenarios they had been getting me ready for. Stocker was there waiting – he was stressed from the day but happy to see me, the feeling was mutual. He indulged my drug addled ranting for 20 minutes then left as visiting hours ended.
The rest of the night was a massive blur… I drifted in and out of… I want to sleep… but it was more like passing out. I remember the hourly post op obs, but not clearly.
I do remember thinking to myself before Stocker left ‘right now, I don’t have active Crohn’s disease’ and knowing that was the only point in my life that was the truth. It was a very surreal feeling – that I’d climbed a mountain or something epic like that.
I was yet to discover that I had quite a ways to go before this part of my journey was done….