I got 99 problems and the disc ain’t one.Posted: October 18, 2012
(Don’t worry, I’ve not taken up rapping, it’s just the painkillers.)
I’ve been all quiet on the blog front for a wee while, but fear not, I am back. (I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat. Which is very bad for the lumbar area, by the way). On Monday, I had my spinal surgery, or decompression and discectomy, to give it its proper name. I’ve been whining for six months about being in more than just a little bit of pain. You may have noticed.
So, the good news is, with the disc cut out and no longer pressing on my spinal nerve column, the havoc and tears have reduced. Yep, the pain is no more. Ok, so it’s been replaced by other pain but that will go, I will heal and hopefully by the time Santa Claus rolls up in his sleigh, I’ll be fighting fit again.
It’s fair to say that I was a tad anxious about my operation. Never having had a general anaesthetic before and having been made aware of the risks of tinkering with spines, I was keen to get it over with. Also, as you know, I managed to dodge the hospital by having a home birth, so it seemed a cruel twist of fate that my smug face ended up in hospital just nineteen months later anyway, dammit. I rocked up at the ward on Monday at 7.30am and joined the queue of poorly admissions. Imagine Michael Jackson’s Thriller video being filmed in Orthopaedics. I was at least 20 years younger than my comrades and looked in better condition, that’s for sure. These people were having big things done, like new hips and knees fitted. I felt better that my op was pretty simple in comparison. So, with my baby at home being spoiled and dressed in a tutu by Grandma, my Dad by my side, I took my space in my hospital bed. I had requested a private room, for fear of having to share a ward with, you know, space cadets. But, the rooms were full so I perched on my bed, by the window on the 7th floor and watched the sunrise over the horizon. (Funny how a sunrise can make everything look pretty, even Southend). Hey, if you wanted to be super-cheesy, you could say it was a metaphor for the sun coming up on my pain-free future? The first day of the rest of my life? No? Ok, I’ll stop.
I unpacked my stuff and sat twiddling my thumbs, not quite sure what the protocol was. I’ve only had one other operation in my life, but that was cosmetic (ears pinned back just in case you wondered why I’m still pretty flat-chested) and that was simply done under local anaesthetic in one day. I checked out the other ladies in my room, six of us. They looked fairly normal, thankfully, and it was comforting to know that each of them were petrified too. And with good reason, having a new hip fitted is no laughing matter. I shuffled around nervously, eyeing up my backless gown and surgical stockings, wondering how long I’d be here for.
“Mrs Catling”, as a nurse came hurrying around the corner, “you’re first into theatre, your paper knickers are there” and SWOOOOSSHHH the curtain was pulled around me. Next thing, the anaesthetist arrived, gave me a brief chat and I was on my way, in the lift with a nurse and some man who was complaining that his wife had left him after 25 years. “Sorry about your life, buddy”, I thought, “but HELLO, I am lying here and need comforted!” In the pre-op room, I confirmed my name and date of birth for the 14th time and in came the surgical team. I recognised my consultant that I’d met with umpteen times before. This was the chap that had explained the risks, you know, little things like paralysis. I eyed him up carefully, checking that he didn’t have shaky hands or look a bit peaky. The beauty of having a Muslim surgeon, presumably, is that he didn’t have 10 pints of Stella the night before getting his scissors out near my spinal column.
“Do you like a Friday night out?”, asked the anaesthetist as he mucked up inserting the drip into my poor wrist. “It’s not the time or the place for invitations” I replied, chuckling to myself. My heart rate shot up, beepbeepbeepbeep. “Stop making jokes, Mrs Catling, what I mean is that you’re about to feel drunk, like a Friday night”.
Swirly ceiling, zzzzzzzzzzzz.
Next thing I know, I’m in the recovery room, wrapped in an inflatable hot blanket, have a sore throat from the breathing tube and am covered in marker pen. Mr-I’ve-just-split-up-with-my-wife is back and still talking. I catch his eye. “Hello, I think I’m awake now”.
Back on the ward, a restless night unfolds. I usually sleep on my side, same position every night, but not this time. A combination of drips, a drain and leg pumps have me shackled to the bed. The lady opposite decides to sing herself to sleep and then grunt all night. All I could do was grit my teeth and wonder if I could throw a pillow far enough to stop her snoring. Permanently. I was tired and frankly, a little ratty. After an unfortunate incident with a bedpan and my DVT leg pump alarm thingies going off every 5 minutes, I was less than impressed. Some morphine, an episode of Made In Chelsea and a Boost bar helped a bit. But come lights-on time at 6am, I was still wide awake. Chewing on my two slices of bread (not toast, for the procedure of heating bread until golden brown is apparently too expensive for our beloved NHS), I spot a new nurse come bouncing in. From the doorway he yells “Mrs Catling, my name is Eric, have you passed wind yet today?”. I almost choked on my slice. Now, I know that when you have a baby you leave your dignity with the placenta but come on Eric, is this absolutely necessary? I was mortified so I answered in the only way I could think. “No. Have you?”. He rolled his eyes at me. I imagine that during his shift handover, he was warned about the stroppy one in bed 9C who told them to shove their bedpans up their sluice.
I realised that no doctor had been near me and I had had zero communication regarding my condition from anyone. I figured that the hospital operates on a no-news-is-good-news policy. The physio arrived and I clocked that he was the man to impress if I were to escape from this place any time soon. He was about 10 years younger than me, so I stuck on some lip balm, batted my eyelashes (as if this would help given that I looked rancid, was covered in blood and goodness knows what else) and did my best log roll out of the bed. “Check me out! Can I go now, PLEASE?” I cried a little bit too, surely the best way to terrify a young man into signing off my freedom.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of Eric. “Here he comes again” I sighed. “Mrs Catling, do you need laxatives?”. I put my head in my hands and cried a little bit more.
Six hours later, I am finally changed into my own clothes, clutching a bucket of tablets and ready to go home.
The brilliant thing is that my leg and nerve pains are nowhere to be seen. They must be lying in a bin somewhere in the hospital, next to my little disc. Ahead, I have six weeks of being very strict with myself, no lifting, no bending, no sitting for longer than twenty minutes, definitely nothing household-related, no toddler lifting, no driving, no baths. Thank goodness for the grandparents.
I’m so glad it’s done. It was a very long six months of being miserable. It impacted not just on my life but my daughter’s, my husband’s, on our families, our friends. Fingers crossed, it’s worked. And I couldn’t be more pleased to be out of that hospital. The nurses do a good job in difficult circumstances, they work hard and seem to make the best of what limited resources they have. We are so lucky to have the NHS and while it wasn’t a posh hotel, I was fairly content with it all. I got to see a beautiful sunrise and sunset, met a man obsessed with bowels and ate a macaroni cheese that will forever make me grateful for my Mum’s recipe. Can’t ask for more than that, can I?