Enhanced Recovery Programme – the NHS OLYMPICS – are patients being sent home too soon?

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I’m writing this from my hospital bed feeling pretty fed up and low. Last time I wrote my recovery from my operation was going unbelievably well – I guess what they say is true, “if something is too good to be true, it probably is.”

I was readmitted on Thursday morning after waking up the whole block of flats (well probably) at 5am screaming and crying out in pain. I hadn’t been feeling awesome for a few days, but I knew straight away I probably shouldn’t have been experiencing that much agony as part of the long healing process. But I really didn’t want to go back to hospital; I’d had a taste of freedom – well of the tiniest bit of fresh air and being in my own bed. My recovery had apparently been going in leaps and bounds and I simply didn’t want to give that all up and be back in my hospital bed cell.

Eventually my parents persuaded to get it checked out and I went tearfully to the hospital and reluctantly agreed to be admitted. And a good job I did. The pelvic pain was a collection of fluid which had gone septic. No wonder I was in agony. Now almost a week later I’m bored out of my brain, drained, exhausted and about to start climbing the walls of the ward, and can’t quite believe this is happening again after last year’s nightmarish post surgical mishaps.

But it really does raise a question about whether I was sent home too soon. From just hours after my surgery it felt like I was dragged out of bed, paraded around, led up and down stairs and faced with endless plates of mince and mash. The enhanced recovery programme seemed to be trying to train us all for some sort of NHS Olympics in less than a week. I went from having my stomach sliced open to climbing my own little mountain (well 20 steps) in a matter of days….if someone had told me that before the op I would have said there was more chance of an elephant flying to the moon.

Having had surgery before I was lucky (in a fashion) to know around about how much pain to expect. But really how do you know what is normal healing pain and what’s something going wrong? In the weeks after surgery infections are more common and problems are be likely to occur, so what are you meant to do if you don’t know – go to hospital like me or ignore it and hope it goes away (like I almost did). My excuse for considering ignoring it was not only that I couldn’t stand the idea of loosing my little island of freedom, but I simply thought I’d done too much – walked to far, strained myself etc – luckily my parents weren’t as sure or god knows what sort of a mess I’d be in now!

Being readmitted is a hard thing to come to terms with. I guess it’s like an on the run prisoner being bundled back into a cell after a few days in hiding. Whatever freedom and comfort you got from being at home, eating your own food, being surrounded by the people you love, watching your own TV, sleeping in your own bed, is cruelly snatched away from you. You’re flung back into the world of 24/7 bleeping machines, sleeping next to strangers, hospital food, stale air, needles, wires and tubes all over again – but this time with simply no idea when you might escape.

For a few of these days I’ve struggled to contain my tears. The staff (nurses, consultants and doctors) are lovely and kind but I just want to go home. I tasted freedom and it tasted good, but now I’m back with a drain hanging from my intimate parts which I have to carry around in the hope if draining all the badness out if me. I’m on antibiotics and I’m feeling better, but I may gain my health but loose my mind if I dint get out of here soon and get back to my small home cooked meals, comfy bed and hugs from my worried boyfriend.

But more than that I’m worried all this might happen again. If I’m discharged tomorrow how do they know I’m truly ready? On Monday my BP, temp, bloods were fine…I was in pain but not agony and my scar was healing well. There were no signs of problems, I looked amazing, they said after such a “serious operation”. Now I’ve been back into theatre for drains, pumped full of antibiotics and lost even more weight, does that mark me in a better or worse position than before. My wound has slightly burst where my fistula used to be – a moment that sent me into a panic attack, crying and upset the whole scar was going to explode like last time – so far so good.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for home tomorrow – if not for my sanity but for the people around me. I honestly don’t think I can hold myself accountable if I have to eat one more of these meals or be woken up again for BP or by screaming in the middle of the night.

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One thought on “Enhanced Recovery Programme – the NHS OLYMPICS – are patients being sent home too soon?

  1. Must admit that brings it all back for me, the first time was 21 days but that was emergency surgery etc, the reversal 3nights and four days. I so remember the ” climb” as well it was as if after 5 hour surgery and a 17″ scar I should be up and around after twenty minutes! Let’s be honest sitting in a chair is no different to sitting up in bed is it? I do think that there is a tendency to rush you after a second or third op on the same thing. A feeling of ” well there still here after the first so this ones not so bad”. Once those drains and drips and catheters come out you will feel sooooooo much better in the meantime enjoy the morphine trigger! Get well soon.

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