The Lost Week

life

So, I was hooked up to a series of tubes (no, not the Internets, unfortunately) for a day, then fitted in for surgery the following day. I was discharged yesterday with a souvenir 15 cm incision, decorated with alarmingly gothic-looking surgical clips (Hellraiser goes to Office World) that I'm hoping to pass off as a duelling scar1. I'm incredibly sore (I never appreciated how much you use your abdominal region to do everything), weak and very tired, but relieved as anything that the worst is over, and that I still have all my internal organs in their rightful places.

I'll probably write more about the experience later when I've got some energy back, but here are a few thoughts:

  1. I guess I've always known this because my Mum was a nurse, but NHS staff must be the hardest working and least appreciated (by the government, at least) people in the country. They never stop during their shifts, have an often dirty, and difficult job which carries a huge responsibility, and they deal with people at their lowest ebb. They (at least nurses, auxiliaries and cleaners) get appallingly paid, and yet they still mostly manage to be cheerful and still apparently enjoy their job.
  2. They love measuring things in hospital. Everything that goes in and everything that goes out is quantified and charted. I bet you have no idea what volume of urine you produce in a day, do you? I do now.
  3. Opiate drugs are quite an experience. Not one that I'd recommend, but morphine has a very curious way of allowing you to experience pain in a completely disconnected and objective way. You know that you're in pain, but somehow it doesn't matter very much to you.
  4. The staff were all wonderful (see point 1), but what I hadn't expected was that the other patients would be so supportive. I was in a women's hospital, which perhaps made a difference, but everyone looked out for everyone else in quite a touching way. One patient would spot that another was looking a bit green and ask them if they were all right, fetch a sick bowl if they were mobile or call a nurse if they weren't. On a small ward with only curtains separating us, there was no such thing as real privacy, which I thought I'd hate being an essentially very private person. But actually, it was good to know that we were all in the same boat, and good to get a preview of what the next step would be. We had the most revolting conversations (often over meals) about bodily functions and dysfunctions, some of which were terrifying but also oddly reassuring. After hearing some real horror stories, I know that I got off very lightly. In the same way that we are somewhat distanced from death now because it is handled remotely by professionals and we are thus frightened of the unknown, I think that being distanced from illness increases fear. This spontaneous sharing of experience (both deliberate and unplanned) was a good way for us all to find out that what was happening to us might be painful, embarrassing and frightening, but it was normal and we would get through it. There was also a lot of deadpan (or should that be bedpan) humour.
  5. I will never again fail to appreciate normal bodily functions.
  6. Never ever cough with an abdominal wound. Likewise, never read Charlie Brooker's Screen Wipe column in the same state.
  7. Lastly but not leastly, Mr. Bsag was a complete star. He ran around fetching things, arranging and re-arranging things, putting parents up for the night, and informing those who needed to be informed. When I was groggily coming to after surgery, he was at my side, gently stroking my arm, which was just what I needed.

1 Though that might be difficult, because it's on my bikini line. Do people duel in bikinis? I'm sure I can bluff it out.

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