The Long Corridor

If you are purposely going into hospital for an operation, perhaps purposefully, elective, not elected… you will probably be filtered through the system with all the operations for that morning, afternoon or day; so make sure you get the right operation and don’t assume the time on your letter has anything to do with the actual time you meet your doom go to the theatre.

The basic procedures are much the same for all of us and after our many lockdowns and isolations at least we get to talk to lots of people and answer lots of questions, again, from nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons. This is your opportunity to remind the surgeon which side they are doing. You can also mention to the anaesthetist that documentary you saw thirty years ago about patients who wake up during their operation, but can’t alert anyone because their eyes are taped over and they are paralysed. Point out this is in the notes on general anaesthetic under Rare Risks AWARENESS, just above Very Rare Risks DEATH. Anaesthetist reassures you that there is only a very slight possibility of waking up, just wave your arm if you do. You have more chance of being involved in a road accident on the way home… reminding you of something else to worry about. Of course, there is also a very good chance of waking up at the right time in the recovery room.

In this long corridor of waiting rooms and little consulting rooms and long waits, at some stage you will have to change into a hospital gown, tight black stockings which are hard to pull on ( ladies, you needn’t have worried about shaving your legs after all ) and your dressing gown and slippers, which hopefully you haven’t forgotten to bring. Then you realise the overnight bag you brought isn’t big enough for all your street clothes.

When I went for my interview with the breast care nurse the week before, she produced the consent form for me to sign and it said mastectomy left hand side ‘NOoo, it’s the Right side’

‘That’s funny, only the second time that’s happened to me in twenty years, I’ll do a new form.’

Because I was slotted in at an earlier date I hadn’t met the surgeon who was going to do my operation. He asked if I was happy for him to examine me or did I want a nurse present. I thought hmm, not worried about being molested at my age, but I just said ‘No, that’s fine.’ I was tempted to add ‘well you will certainly be the last chap to play with that breast… ‘ I did add ‘…as long as you know which is the right side, which is the right side…’ He did some drawing with his felt tip pen, saying don’t worry, it will come off.

The worst part was being back in the waiting room in the middle of the afternoon with no food since 7.30am and no water since 11am and more waiting; there were not many patients, but they all seemed to go before me...

Then at last yet another nurse comes to collect me, my bags are confiscated secured and tagged. Now the long walk to the theatre, the walk down long corridors, this is why you bring your slippers. It was a relief to get moving and stretch my legs and interesting seeing all the secret parts of the hospital. Everything is blue; corridors, doors, uniforms, scrubs…

These days patients wear masks as well as the medical staff, so naturally I was wearing my favourite mask to get Brownie points. My last general anaesthetic was in 1978 and most of those involved tonsils or teeth. I had all my caesareans with epidurals and some hand surgery under local anaesthetic, so I didn’t miss out on what was going on…

Destination anaesthetic room, next door to Theatre Number One; the nurse let me peer through the porthole where people in blue scrubs were getting everything ready; all that just for me! My elderly neighbour who had the same operation a year ago had reassured me that being an anaesthetist is an actual job, an important job and my friend who watches all the hospital programmes said they look after you all the way through the operation!

Everyone who has an operation will tell you that they put the canula in, put an oxygen mask on and tell you to take some deep breaths, next thing you know you wake up in the recovery room. I kept taking the deep breaths and I was still wide awake, it wasn’t working! Then the anaesthetist said ‘Okay, I’m going to start putting the drugs in now, first the pain killer, tell me when you feel funny.’

It was a lovely warm glowing feeling and then…

46 thoughts on “The Long Corridor

  1. I guess you’re describing our world famous NHS? I had a hip replacement yesterday, day one of recovery today, then tomorrow then home Thursday. Nothing like your experience but ….. it has happened like that to me before. I’m in a private hospital at present, expensive, but if you can’t spend your savings on your health, what would you spend it on? Earning less than 1% interest on our savings is an insult so …. spend it on healthcare…… our generation deserve it 👍. Hope all goes well for you 🤞🤞🤞🍷

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      1. Hello; I am looking forward to reading your posts. There should be an option at the bottom right of the screen to follow my site (hopefully it is there!). I get very few email followers, so I am guessing the option is there… thanks for the interest…

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  2. I bet you are glad it’s all over, Janet! 🙂 Glad to see your sense of humor about the whole experience, and that you are doing well. Take good care, and wishing you a speedy recovery!

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      1. My eldest daughter did and so far Lauren.. It doesn’t stop me worrying but I have confidence in their abilities to make her well… as I do for you, Janet as I am sure your journey isn’t over yet.. Take care xx

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  3. Did you think about popping in and telling the people in blue scrubs, “All this for me? Oh, you shouldn’t have.” I must say it wouldn’t be very comforting to have to tell anyone which side they’re operating on. I’m glad they didn’t take out your sense of humor, Janet.

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  4. Glad to hear it went well, and they eventually did the correct side. I think you are very brave, but as you remind us, you have had children, and I can’t begin to imagine that. Wishing you a speedy recovery, dear Janet.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  5. I should have been saying ‘Get well soon,’ Janet. ‘All the best, You’ll be fine, Speedy recovery’ etc. 😀 Instead I was reading this and giggling. I had an op a few weeks back and it’s so true, especially the bit about thinking you might wake up in the middle of it. Mine was a different op so I didn’t get groped, but I was pleased to hear you’re doing well. Take care.

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  6. I can’t see my previous comment, so I’ll repeat it…
    I was diagnosed by a radiologist (in the arrogant way they all have) with a multi-nodular goitre. However, I insisted that my thyroid be removed as I could feel it was growing bigger. It was eventually found to be stage 4 thyroid cancer. I’d be dead by now if I hadn’t insisted it be surgically removed.

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  7. Wow, I’ve had that sinking feeling – what if they mistake me for someone else? (I had heard stories…) When I went in for surgery, I had a sign hanging around my neck that I had made at home: “NOTE: This patient is here for SINUS SURGERY. DO NOT AMPUTATE ANYTHING! If found, please return to Dr. F**** B************.”
    When the doc came rushing past, he stopped, read the sign, laughed, and said, “Don’t worry, nobody’s going to touch you except me.”
    (A month later I wondered, “If nobody touched me except him, how come I’m getting bills from everyone and his brother?”)

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  8. Ha ha, love the idea of your sign. I was asked who I was at every stage and my date of birth – imagine if there was a patient of the same name in that day! Fortunately I didn’t get any bills as it was all done under the NHS!

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