Thursday 9 November 2017

Leave your dignity at the door.

A close friend of mine made a comment during my stay in hospital, by the nurses station there should be a place to leave your dignity and umbrellas. Neither are much use here. Fortunately I had my sense of the ridiculous set to 11.

Which is good as when I last wrote I was on day four post surgery and things were about to get serious. Which is largely why it's taken me until now - back home in Contrary Towers - to write once more.

So day five. Pack removal day. If you don't know what that means then you don't want to know. Trust me. What I didn't realise was that it was pretty much public knowledge. I imagine it was the Saturday headline in The Argus, possibly even leading on the local television news. Let's face it, you expect, or hope, that your medical staff will know where you are in the recovery plan but what you don't expect is a cheery "good morning, oh you're having your pack out today" from, well, pretty much everyone that shoved their head through the door. House keeping, catering, roving reporters from The Argus, everyone. Slightly discombobulating.

That said, the day was only going to get worse. I never did like Sundays.

Where's Dignity?
As I lay in bed waiting for the specialist nurse to come and deal with me I watched my dignity scamper to the window, climb down and cavort off across the downs finally free from any inconvenient attachment to me. Sadly what my dignity had forgotten is that there were a number of Kestrels on patrol so it didn't get far.

Finally it was time. With my dignity now out of the picture this was a much easier task. Well it would have been if it hadn't been for the omnipresent windy pops which were only getting worse owing to the fact that my diet was now being supplemented by Sennakot and Fybogel. Deep joy.

Still, this was, at least in theory where things would start to become easier and, more importantly, my catheter bag would be removed meaning I could now actually move about, hurrah! It was going to be a big day.

So. First things first, catheter bag off. This seemed to be more of a retro-fit operation where my trusty bag was replaced with a wee tap (sorry, nah, not sorry) which I could use when I wanted to go to the loo, more on this later. Apparently if I was a good girl I'd get the whole thing disconnected that evening. Though the terms and conditions weren't mentioned.

Next up was pack removal. Now at this point I'm going to paint some pictures of rose covered cottages as frankly you don't want the details, but suffice to say that my surgery was major, down there and the pack had been on for a few days. Taps nose. I was then shown how to clean around the site and oh my goodness this felt like the best wash ever, for the first time in days I felt a little more like normal and sightly less self-conscious. Well, allowing for the fact that the entire population of West Sussex seemed to know what was going on.

I'll now pull down another detail veil as, again, frankly you don't want to know, but I will say it's not something I really wanted to have to do with someone watching to make sure I was doing it right.

What fun.

On the bright side, once done and having been shown how to clean things correctly after I was then free to do the important things in life, like having lunch... Actual food. I mean I'd had actual food the night before but this was Sunday Lunch actual food. Actually at lunchtime. On a Sunday. I know! It's just not something I normally manage.

One of the interesting things I've learned is how quickly one becomes institutionalised, as soon as I here the clatter of the food trolley I stop whatever I'm doing, adjust the bed, get the table in position, clear anything out of the way and sit with great anticipation waiting for the inevitable something to appear. Positively Pavlovian.

With lunch demolished faster than you can say congenital adrenal hyperplasia - incidentally my party piece at University was being able to spell, pronounce and explain this whilst many vodkas down - I had cleared the plate and was already looking forward to supper. Which I knew would be at 6pm. Because hospital.

So, what next? Well, it was obvious to me, I was no longer tethered to the bed, I was allowed and encouraged to move around, this meant only one thing.

I would leave me room.

Leave. My. Room.

My plan was simple. As I'd observed the drinks machine whilst being wheeled past en route to theatre I would head there and get a drink. And top up my water jug. All. By. Myself. Actual adulting. And it was only a couple of hundred feet away if that.

I am such an idiot.

I might as well have decided to climb the North Face of the Eiger using a defective pogo-stick and a jar of smarties for sustenance. In fact, that would probably have been easier. I had travelled barely ten steps before I became aware that time was actually dilating owing to the sheer effort involved. Keep in mind that a few days before I would have thought nothing of striding the nearly six miles home from Fitzrovia to Limehouse at an average speed way in excess of 4mph. Dear lord. It wasn't helped that whilst the catheter was now cordless it was still there and I could feel everything. But. You know. MUST. DO. IT.

By the time I reached the machine Theresa May had formulated a reasonable plan that made Brexit seem like a good idea. Okay, that's a bit far fetched, time didn't dilate that much, but you get the idea. I prepared a hot chocolate, pretty much contraband for bed bounders, filched some biscuits (ditto), topped up my water jug and then tried to work out how the hell I was going to get them all back. I'll not bore you with the details, but if you imagine someone who's had major surgery carrying a flask of particularly unstable nitroglycerin you'll get the idea. Planned and considered was in, speedy was not.

But. Eventually...

I tweeted after this that I had some tears. I can't even begin to tell you how emotional it was. I'm just not used to not being able to do things and the whole thing had come as a big shock. But this one little thing meant so much.

And if you're wondering whether I'm being a bit of a drama queen with respect to the effort involved then to the right is what my heart was doing at the time. Keep in mind I entered hospital fitter than I've been in decades after working really hard to get ready for this.

The sudden effort after bed rest was shocking.

So anyway, another trip or two was made with sleeps in between because they were simply exhausting. But not to worry, things were about to be really "fun".

A nurse explained to me that I really needed to go to the loo. Now I know my body well and I could assure her that I didn't, it just wasn't ready. So it was decided that I'd be given a couple of suppositories and if I could lay quietly on my bed whilst they worked and then pop to the loo then this would be great. Okay... My visitor was despatched of to wait elsewhere as I really didn't want anyone around for what was to come next. If only I'd kept the window closed so my dignity couldn't escape.

Suppositories in, lay there, after about 15 minutes I decided maybe this might work and... Nothing. I tried to think poopy thoughts but still nothing. Then I'd get bored, stand and SIT DOWN NOW, so my body haven spoken I'd sit and... nothing. I won't type out the whole thing but  imagine the above repeating endlessly and my stress levels going through the roof. Not only that but my temperature was climbing, I was soaked with sweat, I was in agony and, well, it really wasn't very nice. What was worse was by now I was getting tunnel vision and I knew this wasn't going to end well. In my frazzled state I contacted my visitor to ask to send the nurse, I knew shouting wouldn't work as I could barely speak and I was in an en suite inside a private room.

Fortunately, as I moved once more I felt something touch my arm and remembered the alarm cord and, for once, didn't have any qualms about calling for help because I really need it NOW.

At this juncture I'd like you to imagine your worst nightmare. If it's something like being naked, doubled in agony, soaked in sweat, unable to move and then having two strangers pull you out of the bathroom and help you to the bed before hooking you up to machines that go bing and have others joining in all the while with the alarm still sounding then we have something in common. It was such a lark. And, according to my phone, it wasn't even 5pm yet.

I wonder if you can get dignity on Amazon Prime.

I digress. The weird thing was when I had things checked everything looked normal. Yeah. Because this is normal. I slept quite a bit. My confidence was at a bit of a low ebb, I suppose this is the downside of things having gone so well so far, it was my first issue and it really was quite scary for me.

Just before 9pm I decided I needed to get moving again and made another epic journey down the corridor for water. Yes I could have called the nurses but I needed to do this for myself. Not long after the night staff appeared and my nurse for the evening, Dawn, I know right, arrived and I gave her a précis of the day's events. She explained that really I needed to have managed to go to the loo before they would finally remove the catheter which had been scheduled for that evening. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo...


You see by now another thing had become apparent, I told you we'd be back to this, when I went to spend a penny I'd sit, release the tap and in theory it would gush out of the little attachment. Except I was also getting it gushing from where nature intended. And all over my leg. I think it's fair to say by this point in what was now a very long day I'd moved past the ewwwwwwww stage and straight on to the whatevs stage. Any moment now I was just going to sleep through things and maybe raise my hand in vague acknowledgment of events.

Her plan B was simple, she'd go off in search of a doctor, get an enema prescribed and then come back to try again. This wasn't looking good.

Time passed. Quite a bit of time. I think the kestrels also hunt wandering doctors that become separated from the herd.

Finally Dawn came back clutching the magic stuff, told me to assume the position, I rolled on to my side, pulled up my nightdress (see, whatevs stage) and waited for the inevitable. And waited. And waited. And waited. After fifteen minutes - slightly beyond the minute I was asked to hold things - I thought sod this I need to spend a penny. Again...

And then it happened. Relieved in every sense of the word.

All I needed to do now was wait for her to come back, tell her the good news, lose the catheter and have an injection and voilá, we're off to the races. Or sleep in my case. Fortunately, earlier when the enema was given she did give me the antibiotics I would need and as the requisite hour had passed it meant that we could immediately take the catheter out. Hurrah!

Well almost hurrah. First some photographs needed to be taken. Why? Well other than to give the Google algorithms something to puzzle over we needed to record where my catheter had been so it could go back. Apparently. All I can say is that I never thought I'd let someone who was almost a complete stranger photograph my lady bits just because she asked. Next year's Google photo reminders are going to be interesting.

Anyway, that done, it was back to the catheter removal.

So she fiddled about, deflated the little balloon that keeps things in place, asked me to breathe deeply in and out and OHMYFUCKINGGOODNESSTHATFUCKINGHURT. Ouch, I said. I gave her that accusing look which three year olds deploy when you've told them an injection won't hurt. But I realised she hadn't actually said that, clever, because ITFUCKINGHURTSVERYMUCH. Yep. But it was transitory and almost instantly the nagging bladder awareness went. Oh yes, thank you so much.

As I hadn't bled it meant she could give me my Clexane injection (whoopee) and finally I could collapse in to a deep sleep. A sleep unhindered by packing, dressings, tubes or catheters.

Sheer luxury.

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