When I woke up there was a strange man in blue standing by my bed, then I remembered I was not at home. He spoke.
‘The operation went well.’
I felt a sensation of total relaxation, the sort of calm people spend hours doing yoga or meditation to achieve. I looked at the clock, it was 5.45pm. I had not woken up during the operation and it was all over, a quick feel revealed that the right side had been operated on. Now I need do nothing except lie there and relax.
It’s only now that my writer’s mind brings forth alternative scenarios, what might be said to you when you wake up…
‘I’m very sorry, the operation went wrong…’
‘You’re in hospital, you had a massive stroke when you were in the operating theatre six months ago…’
‘Do you understand, you have dreamt the past thirty years, you are not a writer, you are in a high security mental institution…’
Fortunately it was still Friday evening and I was soon down/along/up? on the surgical ward. The four bed bay was devoid of other patients, I was not by the dusty window, but sitting up had a view of the harbour. Dinner was not an option. I had been amused when my friend told me she managed to eat quarter of an egg sandwich over three hours after her operation and the walk to the bathroom made her sick. A cup of tea and a nibble of ham sandwich was welcome. Getting out of bed is encouraged, a relief not to be involved with bed pans, but the walk to the bathroom did make me sick.
In the lead up to the hospital visit there had been much discussion on what I would take in with me. There were numerous leaflets written pre and post Covid and pre and post our three local hospitals suddenly deciding to call themselves University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust and changing the phone numbers.
The main message seemed to be Don’t bring too much stuff, Don’t bring valuables. I was certainly not going to bring my brand new iPhone, which according to my younger son who looked it up after my older son bought it for me is very expensive! And I had managed to lose WiFi on it. I had brought my old phone which still had its sim card, but I couldn’t log in to NHS Wi-Fi in the pre op waiting room, because you had to confirm when they sent you an email and I didn’t get the email as I didn’t have any Wi-Fi… Nor was I going to bring any bank cards to log in to the bedside television, wifi etc which I was sure I would not be able to work; the leaflet said just bring small change. My Kindle would be enough entertainment, though it would be a shame to miss Gardener’s World...
I couldn’t imagine they expected every patient, however old or unconscious, to leap out of bed and rummage around in the locker for their smart phone to contact their family as soon as they arrived on the ward. Patient notes have next of kin and a phone number and you only want two messages sent to someone responsible ‘still alive after operation’ and ‘come and fetch me.’
It turned out they did try and ring the hospital but there was confusion over phone numbers and they weren’t to know how late I had gone down to the operating theatre…
The nurse did ring my daughter so I sat back and relaxed for an evening of blood pressure and pain tablets, each time asked my date of birth, presumably to check I was still alive or still the same patient. One more patient arrived in the opposite bed. The nurse said she would be back at 11.30pm with the anti blood clotting injection so I didn’t bother turning off the light or tying to sleep. At 12.30am she still had not arrived and I wondered at what time my blood would start clotting.
At 1am I had the injection and presumably went to sleep because a cheery voice said ‘Good Morning’ and checked my blood pressure. I was looking forward to breakfast, but it looked very dark for a summer morning. When I asked the time the nurse said quarter to four! After a wander to the bathroom I asked the nursing assistant what time breakfast was – 8am. Then asked if I would like a cup of tea and a biscuit. YES
Custard creams, yuk, bourbon, no.. or digestives. Yes please. When the mug of tea arrived there was a packet of three Crawfords digestives, I refrained from saying ‘Haven’t you got Macvities? and it turned out to be the best tea and biscuits ever.
Breakfast was a nice bowl of porridge and toast, all I could imagine facing when I ordered it the evening before. The elderly lady opposite was bed bound and mouthed something, I realised she was whispering I’ve had half my bowel removed. I got out of bed and searched for her lost pen unsuccessfully, then lent her mine so she could fill in her menu. Also I had a good look through the dusty window at the views and took photos, my old phone had come in handy for something.
A doctor came round and said I could go home after lunch, so I went and had a wash, dispensed with the hospital gown and put on my new nightie. Any moving around involved lugging the wound drain bottle and the long length of tube I would be attached to for the next week or so.
I had just got back into bed and a different doctor came by and said I could go home right now. The nurse asked if I wanted to ring home. I tried to explain the phone situation and asked if she could ring. A sensible request as she knew the system and I didn’t. Getting from a ward to the ground floor and then endless corridors to the multi storey car park had seemed a logistical nightmare, but my daughter was told to park in one of the few bays near the main entrance and ring the moment she arrived and the nurse would wheel me down. A better exit than my arrival in my son’s builder’s van. On the way from the ward we passed the machine for purchasing access to the television which had remained perched up by the ceiling above my bed. I hadn’t even needed the small change as in Covid times no one comes round with trolleys and newspapers etc
My departure was exactly 24 hours since we had arrived thirty minutes early the day before and about 21 hours since I had gone to the theatre. Sunday would bring the district nurse on the first of the daily visits...