Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2002-07-05 Entry: "Catching Up 1 - Surgery"

Due to the long break, there's likely to be more than one entry covering the intervening gap. Let's see, where to start...

Well, Wednesday (this'd be the 12th June) saw me feeling slightly uncomfortable all day. I'd pretty much put it down to trapped wind, except I couldn't shift it. It continued all evening, and eased just enough for me to sleep at about 3am.

Suffice it to say, when it reappeared on Thursday, I didn't bother going to work. Instead I took the unusual (for me) step of phoning the doctor's surgery and making an emergency appointment (although for some unknown reason, emergencies start at 11:30am - I'm not sure what you're supposed to do in the intervening three hours).

Well, I struggled to the surgery (crazily I walked, thinking it's only a ten minute trip when I'm fit and well, so getting there wasn't much fun). Then I sat in the waiting room - I was early as usual and they were running late as usual. Finally getting to see a doctor, she proceeded to prod and poke me to see where the pain was.

By this point the pain had gone from being general to being in about the right place for a trip to the hospital to be necessary. Oh hell...

So, I dragged my step-mother away from work (which she was obviously heartbroken about), and after staggering home and packing a bag (which I thought was a bit pessimistic at the time) it was off to Frimley Park A&E.

Now, I've never actually had to visit an A&E department before - I've been in hospitals to visit sick relatives but this was certainly a new experience. There they were, hard at work spending taxpayers money redecorating the waiting area. A nurse had a quick look at me, and then trooped me off to an observation ward where a surgeon could have a proper look.

In due course, surgeon appeared. After the usual "Where does it hurt?" question, he proceeded with the standard diagnostic technique - he poked me until I winced in pain.

Now call me stupid, but they're trying to diagnose appendicitis right? And the worry is always that it'll burst and things'll be really bad? So why is the only way to tell if things are wrong to apply pressure to it?! Doesn't that seem kinda risky?

Well, he decided I'd probably need surgery and stuck a plastic thing in my arm to attach stuff to - the actual process of putting it in wasn't exactly pleasant, but once that was over with, it was fairly easy to forget it was there.

Tracking my stepmother down in the waiting room, I gave her the bad news - he wanted a second opinion. So I got to hang around in the observation ward until someone else came down to play "Burst the Appendix" with me. Unfortunately, they too decided I needed surgery, so then it was just a matter of hanging around until they found time for me. By this time it was about 2:30pm, and I had a drip attached to my arm and a nurse insistent she was going to take my blood pressure as often as humanly possible (or so I thought).

Cue hanging around... I nearly managed to doze off at one point which helped pass the time, and I did have a book if I ran out of exciting conversation topics with family member but otherwise it was a slow afternoon. Unfortunately, all I'd got out of them was an "if it's not before midnight, we'll do it tomorrow to avoid the risk of a junior surgeon leaving his watch inside me, or amputating a leg or something" which wasn't exactly reassuring, and was about the only reason I could think of that having private health cover would have been a good thing.

Well, finally (at about 8pm) they decided they had time for me... so into fetching hospital gown I struggled - which isn't easy when you've got to get a jumper and t-shirt over the drip stuck in your arm. Then I was wheeled through the hospital (accompanied by porter and cute nurse) to the surgical department - for some reason they had an airlock and although I suggested it might have been to keep a positive pressure environment, they claimed not. Well, this was the NHS, so you'd expect an airlock that does nothing wouldn't you?!

So then I get to meet the anaesthetist again - but it's a different guy to the one who came and quizzed me earlier. He becomes person number 5 to ask me if I'm allergic to anything... this is getting silly, but I guess if I knew I were allergic it'd be better to be asked too many times than not enough. Anyway, he sticks monitor things to me, and explains what he's going to do with the mask and holding my throat so I'm not vilently sick and then choke to death. Not a pretty picture, but the pressure he applies isn't quite at the point of screaming discomfort.

My first breath through the mask is laboured - have they even turned this thing on?! Well, they had, it just needed some work at first... it settled down fairly quickly though. Then they started counting me down - I remember staring up at them wide eyed, but that's it... presumably I did close my eyes, but I certainly don't remember it.

Weeks later (well, it could have been...) I remember wanting to be sick (I wasn't) and being wheeled into place on a ward but I was really tired at the time so things are a bit fuzzy. I do know the nurse insisted on being person number six to go through the allergy checklist. My stepmother was still there, but (as I found out later you react to an anaesthetic like you're drunk and I tend to be a chatty drunk) I insisted "As long as I don't have to recite War and Peace I should manage" or something equally prescient (as, although I didn't know it, I'd been stuck on a military ward). So I went through the checklist, had my blood pressure taken (it was going to be every 15 minutes, and I remember the first two), and then got some sleep.

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