This time last week I was coming round from a major operation. I was groggy, spaced-out, nauseous and exhausted. Shockingly (and unlike last time) I remember quite a lot of what happened in the hours after I woke up, but I still think someone could have told me they’d transplanted a donkey’s head onto my shoulders and I wouldn’t have even twitched.
Waking up following heavy anaesthesia is a bizarre experience. You can vaguely hear what’s going on and sense people fussing around you, but even if you try to come to your senses and communicate, your body and mind doesn’t give a crap and simply wants to remain in a state of tranquil ignorance. It simply refuses to respond to commands whether given by yourself or by nurses and doctors poking and prodding you in the recovery room.
Rousing in the recovery room is a daunting feeling, one that always reminds me of a scene from an alien encounter or zombie experience in a movie, where the unwilling patient is strapped down, drugged and experimented on despite being able to see the faces of their tormentors bobbing around in front of their drooping eyelids. It really is another world in there; one where tubed and wired-up patients lie in rows waiting to be roused and taken back to their wards. It is not really a place of panic, screaming or yelling, as the sedative is still too gripping for us to feel the true extent of the surgery aftermath – but a place of bleary-eyed confusion and slow responses.
During my subtotal ileostomy operation 11 months ago I don’t remember anything about the recovery room. Apparently I was drowsily chatting away to the nurses removing tubes and administering painkillers, but for all I know I told them I was the Prime Minister and owned a £2M mansion in the Maldives. I don’t remember much following that operation apart from finally waking fully alert around 10 hours later screaming in agony and realising I did in fact have an ostomy bag and a massive scar right down the middle of my once flat stomach.
This time I remember pretty much everything. I didn’t have an epidural for this operation – I point-blank refused following the massive complications last time. I guess that means I was probably in more pain following this major surgery than I would have been if I had given it a go, but I just didn’t want to take the chance again because I was frightened it would go wrong and no one would believe or listen to me again.
Anyway I remember what happened before the dreaded op and the aftermath. On the morning of the big day I woke up after a rather restless night at 6am in order to drink an obscene amount of this pre surgical drink. I think it was 400mls, and that’s following 800mls of the vile tasting stuff the night before – no wonder I was up and down to the loo all night. I headed back to bed for a reassuring cuddle before shakily showering and arriving at the theatre admissions waiting room at 7.30am.
The theatre admissions room is full of fear. Everyone has that half-slept scared out of their minds glazed look about them. The people there were anxious, puffy eyed and exhausted. I sat in silence with my boyfriend waiting until he had to leave – apparently partners are not allowed to stay – you have to spend those agonising last few minutes/ hours alone with no one to distract or comfort you. It was hard saying goodbye to Andy: mostly because I was frightened (you never know what will happen in major surgery) but also because I just didn’t want him to leave my side. Luckily it all went very fast after he left and it was only around half an hour before I was donning a bumless gown for my big op.
Before I forget, this operation almost didn’t happen. After all the weeks of worrying and questioning my judgement I almost didn’t go under the knife last Wednesday. My surgeon was concerned about the cold I’d picked up from a flu-infested office, you know the one that was making me feel like I was going to pass out 24/7. Anyway the anaesthetist disagreed and said I was coming to the end of it so why delay? I honestly don’t know how I felt when she said it was a go; part of me longed for it to be cancelled, the other part would have been devastated to have to wait anxiously for another month for a surgical slot.
Anyway I did what I always do when I’m nervous or scared – make jokes and chatter. I was chattering away about my holiday to Venice as they administered the dose of anthestia. And this time, unlike the normal try to count backwards from 100, I was asked to talk about where I would like to travel next, so I started whittering on about how much I loved Italy but was hoping to travel to America next year….before I got far I was waking to the bustle of the recovery room.
I remember the nurse talking to me, trying to find out if I was ok, if I was in pain, if I knew my own name etc. To be honest I couldn’t tell her. I guess I was surprised I was awake so quickly, it felt like only a second had passed since I was put under – in reality it was around three hours. I remember frowning as I heard a nurse tending to me moaning she should have been on her break, before I was put back under and woke up to my partner sat next to me on Ward 44, which was both reassuring and weird in my dopey state.
More about my time in hospital and recovery tomorrow…. but for now know that I’m doing well and the only thing I regret is the sore bottom!