Saturday, July 22, 2006

Theatre of dreams...

So there I am in hospital patient gown, cotton trolleys, stripy dressing gown and Homer slippers (that say mmm... beer... if strategically pressed) sitting in the chair by my hospital bed waiting for surgery. I've been asked very nicely if I'd not actually get in the bed as I won't be sleeping in it that night.

It is now 2pm and I'm 2nd on the list so expect to be on the table at round about 3pm. I have a good book to read and I appear to be surrounded by eccentric old ladies. An orderly tries to give us all a drink, which sends the nurse into a flap as it seems we are all "NIL BY MOUTH" but they don't put up signs any more and the other patients appeared too fruit-loopy to realise it wasn't a good idea.

A hospital orderly arrived at 3pm with a wheelchair but it wasn't for me. He then arrived again at about 3:45pm but it still wasn't for me. The Hospital Chaplin arrived, a lady in her late fifties with a certain manner of one who has given their life to god. We chatted for a couple of minutes but she rapidly realised that I wasn't in need of spiritual guidance and moved on. At the next bed, I overheard her discussing the finer points of where the patient worshipped and they had obviously found common ground.

Finally, at 4:30pm, the porter arrived for me. By this time, I was starving, rather parched and keen to get it over with. There is an interesting hospital ritual where a nurse accompanies patients on the way there and another one on the way back. Whilst there may be clinical reasons, I'm sure a lot of it is reassurance in the spirit of Florence Nightingale. It isn't far from the ward to the Operating theatres and I was delivered into the anaesthetic room of theatre number one. It was long and thin, with a large open sliding door onwards into the operating room itself. Here I was slightly surprised to see an infeasible number of masked staff gathered around the head of someone already on the operating table. Being an ear, nose & throat session, it was inevitable that this was what would be going on, however, they all looked as startled to see me as I did them! The door was quickly closed and I was asked to transfer onto the rather narrow table. I met the anaestetist, the technician and even the surgeon who wandered through to read my notes. I'd never seen him before (depite attending his clinic) and he wasn't the dashing surgeon type, being reminiscent of Walter matthau.

After various checks that i was who they thought I was, I was given a Cannula which I expected to send me off, but was in fact the drip feed device into a vein on the back of my hand. I passed my glasses to the nurse and waited for the inevitable, admiring the Disney characters on the cupboards and the ceiling. I had been intregued about going under, as the two previous times (as a child under dental gas) I can remember by hearing going all zingy and me half-thinking it was the dentist's drill. This time, however, it was simply like drifting off to sleep, by vision blurred, the room went slightly yellowy and my eyes closed.

As far as I recall, I simply dreamed in a normal fashion. After a bit I woke up again and after a moment of disorientation realised I was in the recovery room and the time was 5:30pm. I had a sore throat 9from the ventilator pipe) and a slightly tingly ear (from the use of a speculum to slightly enlarge the ear canal, no, not the sort that ladies are intimately familiar with!).

I came round fairly quickly, and whilst feeling somewhat lethargic, was fully aware of my surroundings. Before long, my bed was trucked off to my new ward, the HDU.

The HDU is about as far from the main block operating theatre as it can be and the linking corridors are rather narrow. However, the porter was a dab hand at driving the glorified pump truck that motorised my bed. No-one could come from HDU so one of the recovery room nurses came with me. The HDU is at the back of the intensive care ward and has four beds as well as a possible fifth in an isolation room (where the nurses went for quiet time). There were already two patients in-situ and a fifth was wheeled in a couple of hours later. The staff of three were kept busy attending to the needy cases but found time to hook me up (three electrodes, nasal oxygen feed and a blood pressure cuff) and find we some food and drinks. My bags & specs eventually turned up, at which point I was able to start reading again.

Karen & David visited and were pleased to see me awake & alert, although David understandably was concerned with the wiring up & the sight of the other patients. They had hoped to bring me an ice cream but all of the catering was shut up for the night.

After using one of those cardboard disposable wee-wee bottles, I was just pouring some water into a glass when the nurse asked me if I wanted alcohol. I said no thanks & she looked a bit puzzled- then she realised that I thought she was going to squirt it in the glass and I realised it was for me to wash my hands!

The shifts overlapped at about 9pm and they spent more than half an hour reviewing the progress of the incumbents. I couldn't hear too well as one of the patients had a very noisy respirator machine but it seemed that I had been only very lightly under and was doing fine.

I kept myself amused reading further and eventually they dimmed the fluorescent lights to make it easier for the patients to sleep. And so began the longest night of my life...

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