It’s 6am on a cold and miserable Tuesday morning, I’m up and getting myself prepared for the trauma that the day is going to bring. A nice long hot shower should be enough to chase away my demons, for a while at least. Josh is staying overnight at a friends house so no need to worry about him, just Rochann and Ellie to get up and ready so that we can make our way to the hospital. After a brief bit of flapping around we are ready for the off, rucksack in hand with obligatory grandad slippers and dressing gown ready to be given their debut and wow the nurses! Paperwork all present and correct stating a 7:30am check in at the hospital for keyhole surgery on my umbilical hernia.
We brave the rain and get the car loaded up and ready and at 7:00am we are on our merry way to the day surgery unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital. No food or drink have passed my lips since 8.00pm the previous evening, my bladder has been emptied, nerves gathered, thoughts collected, fears allayed.
The car park is near empty when we park up, which is handy Rochann points out, as I won’t have far to walk after the operation. She is adamant that she is going to wait for me and not leave me there, stranded and alone, in the hands of the NHS.
With a growing sense of fear and anticipation we navigate the roomy hallways until we reach our destination, D2: The Day Surgery unit. Opening the doors into the unit I am genuinely surprised at the number of people already there as we check in at reception, handing over our paperwork to be ‘checked’ by the disinterested receptionist. ‘Take a seat and wait to be called’ she instructs us. It’s practically standing room only in the waiting room, but having Ellie with us has an effect, people seem to remember what manners are when a baby is present. A lady shuffles over and makes room for Rochann and I to sit down together on the end of a row of uncomfortable blue chairs. It is now 7:20am and the waiting begins.
Ellie is at first quite content to sit quietly in her pram, but naturally this doesn’t last for long, boredom strikes within minutes. She wants out and starts to kick off a bit, so before she starts screaming the waiting room down we’ve got her out and the going from mother to father game commences! One minute she tries her hardest to come to me for a cuddle, the instant I have her in my arms it’s then mummy she must have.
People start getting called in, one by one they go off to be booked in, then return to await the next call to be taken off for surgery. My name is not called. Ellie starts to get more and more restless and harder to keep entertained. She is already tiring of the stuffy and boring waiting room. More people are called in. My name is not called. Rochann checks with the receptionist who ‘checks’ her lists and apparently I’m second or third appointment on my surgeons list. The waiting, for me at least, continues. After an hour or so waiting Rochann and Ellie leave me to it as its clearly not going to be quick and no point in waiting for me. So much for staying with me eh, what a surprise. It is now 8:30 and my name has still not been called. I settle in on my own, playing the waiting game, watching people come and go, listening to people’s moans and grumbles about being starving and dying for a cup of tea, complaining that they’ve not had anything since 6am or whatever, I’m boring if it all rapidly, patience wearing thin, kicking myself for not having brought my headphones with me, or a book for that matter!!
9:30 passes and I’m still sat there, name not been called. 10:00 arrives so I check with the receptionist as I’m pretty much the only one left in the waiting room. “You’re fourth on the list” she informs me after shuffling through some paperwork with disdain. I return to my chair and wait, my name still not called. There is a fresh influx of people through the doors at around 11:15 as I sit there, uncomfortable, name not called. There is a change in shift and the disinterested receptionist is replaced with a much larger version. She is dealing with the influx, I hear a 12:00 appointment being mentioned. Enough is enough, afternoon surgery is starting and I’m the only one left from the morning, what the bloody hell is going on, my name still hasn’t been called!!
I make my way back over to reception and confront the new receptionist who is very pleasant, I explain my predicament to her and she seems genuinely interested in helping. She flicks through the papers that she has there, the same ones that the disinterested receptionist shuffled through. Unsatisfied with what she found there she proceeded to log into another system with a flourish of taps on her keyboard and started looking. Something clearly doesn’t look right to her either and she explains that she’s just got to go and talk to someone to see what is going on and off she waddles, through the doors that all the other patients have been led, the door which I should have gone through a couple of hours ago! I return to my seat of torture and continue my suffering.
She returns after about five minutes or so accompanied by someone in surgical scrubs, they call me over and she apologises for my delay and explains that this nurse is going to take me through and book me in. Due to the amount of time that I’ve been sat there waiting I find this prospect almost exciting, finally, YAY, given that I’m not looking forward to surgery that really is saying something. The waiting room had managed to sap away all that fear and replace it with bitterness and resentment for everybody and everything in the vacinity.
I get led through into a small consultation room and we start to go through some paperwork. I pull out my wad of paperwork stating be there at 07:30am, this conflicts somewhat with what the lady in front of me has, her paperwork shows me as being in the 12:00 surgical slots. GREAT. She then apologises profusely and explains that until the large receptionist had gone through to talk to them that they were blissfully unaware of my presence. Unbelievable, I’ve just been sat in a waiting room for five hours for absolutely no bloody reason what so ever. Awesome, they’ve brought someone who has a bit of a fear of hospitals in and left them alone with their thoughts in a stuffy and uncomfortable waiting room, having had no food or water since 8pm the previous evening. Given the fact that things are moving on at a good rate now I’m too gobsmacked to be angry or surprised by this revelation. I should complain and kick up a stink about my treatment so far, but to be honest I just want to get it out of the way, get the procedure over and done with and get the hell out of there.
We check through the paperwork and that I am who I say I am, go through some questions, establish that I’m not allergic to anything, that sort of thing, all very thorough. I’m informed that the surgeon that was supposed to be operating on me no longer is and that I will be introduced to the replacement surgeon. I’m also being moved from the floor that I’m on to the floor upstairs to a different suite of operating theatres. Hmmm, am I instilled with confidence that this was all part of a grand plan, or am I thinking that there has been some massive balls up and arrangements have been rushed through to get me operated on and out of the door now that they have realised? After all, my first appointment was cancelled, and here I am having waited for five hours needlessly being transferred to another theatre and surgeon. Oh well, at least it’s getting done, keyhole surgery here we come.
I get led back out again to wait further, yes really more waiting, I’m back in that bloody waiting room again and it’s filled up in my brief absence. The seat in which I’ve been languishing all day has been taken, which to my surprise annoys me, I’d grown quite attached to it, that’s my seat god dammit, I’ve been there since just after 7am, who are you to be sitting in my seat, usurper! Glaring at the unfortunate now in my chair or misery I wander over to the other side of the waiting room and find myself a new position, somewhere else to manifest my gloom and suffering until my name is called again.
It’s now just gone past 13:30 and I’m called back in to speak to the surgeon, anaesthetist and get finally prepared for surgery. I sit down with the surgeon who introduces himself, we check through the paperwork again and go over the fact that I am who I say I am, go through some questions, establish that I’m not allergic to anything, that sort of thing, all very thorough, again. He then starts going through the task of explaining the open surgery to me and some student lackey that is accompanying him. Hold on a minute, open surgery?? I’m supposed to be having keyhole surgery due to the fact that I’m on an immuno-suppressant drug and that’s what both the specialist and Bio-nurse have advised as the best course of action to take what with the risk of infection and increased healing times. I bring this small matter to his attention, he is fully aware of this and goes into a nice spiel about he is totally capable of keyhole surgery but the pro’s and cons of open surgery outweigh those of keyhole and he’d prefer to do it that way, but ultimately it’s my choice. Hmmm, sounds that way to me, in fact it doesn’t much seem like I have any real choice and given how long I’ve been there and the change in plan I feel like saying forget it, we’ll do it another day then, but I know that that really isn’t an option, this needs sorting.
It’s decided, albeit reluctantly, open surgery it is then and the anaesthetist will stick some antibiotics into the mix just to be on the safe side. I’m introduced to him and we go through it all, check that I am who I say I am (still) and that since the last time I was asked I’m not allergic to anything. This is all done very matter of factly and I’m told it’s now time to get changed and ready for surgery. I get led into a changing room and provided with surgical stockings and an attractive gown. I’m told to get into these and to put all my possessions into one of the lockers provided. I do all all of this and look rather fetching in my attire I must say, granddad slippers, surgical stockings, gown and big fluffy dressing gown topped off with a distinct look of fear is quite becoming…
I’m led off to an elevator where we go up a level and led to another waiting area, Christ, here we go again I think to myself as I’m deposited in this make shift waiting area where a youngish lad is waiting accompanied by a ‘bubbly’ nurse who doesn’t really seem to fit into her overalls ‘innit’ and doesn’t appear to breathe in between inane sentences, you can tell I’ve lost all sense of humour by this point can’t you. I endure her pointless witterings and wonder if this is going to be the most pain and torture that I receive on this day, other than the surgery that is. Thankfully I am not left there for long, maybe all of five minutes, though listening to her for that amount of time left it comparable with my five hour wait earlier.
I’m led off to surgery finally and by the time I get into theatre and laid out on the table it is 14:20 and I’m actually looking forward to being knocked out and going under the knife, anything to get away from the people that I’ve had to endure and this place! My fear and loathing of hospitals remains intact and fully justified in my mind, yup, I can’t stand these places.
This is pretty much where this long and arduous tale ends, the surgery goes smoothly and I come round in the recovery room just after 15:30 in a fair amount of discomfort but also quite evidently smacked right up and feeling very spaced out. Though this is pretty normal considering that I’ve just been drugged up, knocked out, cut open, internal organs pushed back in and sewn back up. Feeling a little bit out of it is perfectly normal after that I guess.
I’m left lying there for a while, looking around in confusion and being asked some rather trippy questions about photoshop, a subject I know very little about, by some guy next to my bed, I hope he was a nurse there and it wasn’t just the drugs, all seems very odd now looking back on it, but meh, seemed all perfectly normal at the time. I just hope I wasn’t there talking about photoshop to an invisible friend, though it could explain why the rest of the staff left me to my own devices for a while, though photoshop guy did get me some water so he can’t have been all bad, I was gasping having not had a drink for 19 hours…
Eventually photoshop guy decided I was well enough to get up and move through to another holding area. This was an interesting exploration into pain, sitting up from lying had suddenly become an impossible feat, something so simple so far out of my abilities. I had to ask for assistance, photoshop guy seemed pleased to help, slow and steady good buddy, slow and steady. Once sat up I was left to get reacquainted to the world from this angle and when I was ready I could attempt standing up.
Standing up, something you take very much for granted, is an interesting experience following an umbilical hernia operation. It really is quite painful to say the least. In fact doing most things after an umbilical hernia op are really quite painful, surprisingly so. Until that afternoon and the days to follow I never appreciated how much stomach muscles are used in pretty much any movement your body makes, core muscle oh yes indeedy. While I thought standing up was an issue, walking was a real eye-opener.
Walking really took my breath away, well I say walking but in real terms it’s more like a penguin shuffle. This made the old teeth clench for sure as I shuffled my way across and out of the ward, accompanied by a different nurse this time, photoshop guy had disappeared, no doubt freaking someone else out with random bedside conversations. I had to shuffle all of twenty metres into another room where they told me to sit down. WTF I’ve only just stood up, do they not realise how hard it is going to be to sit down again. Yes they do realise that, no I can’t remain standing, yes I do have to sit down and would I like some toast and butter, or if I like I could have some marmite on it, or perhaps some jam.
Given that explanation sitting down seems to be a sensible thing to do, though in reality it’s not quite as easy as that, I have to sort of turn sideways and bend my legs lower and lower, keeping my torso completely rigid and reducing the pain level a little, or at least that’s the thinking. It’s certainly not a pretty sight, but probably quite amusing for the staff watching and surveying my every movement. With my ample bum cheeks now perched on the edge of the seat I work myself backwards, wincing at every motion until I am finally sat down fully in this chair. On the plus side it is very comfy and a nurse turns up with some more water and a plate of toast. On the downside she then tells me that I have to go to the toilet, but I’ve only just sat down, couldn’t she have told me this before!!! It turns out that once I’ve eaten my toast and gone to the loo then they can call Rochann to come and get me. This spurs me on to get my toast eaten, drag myself to my feet, shuffle my way through the ward, as obviously the toilets are as far away from my seat as possible, relieve myself, shuffle back, sit down, drink more water, inform the nurse that I’ve been and relax. Sounds simple, but actually took about 30 minutes or so.
When Rochann was eventually called to come and get me and take me home it was about 19:00 when we got out. So what they called ‘day surgery’ wasn’t far off it.
All in all an experience that I hope I will never have to go through again. It should have been so straight forward, an in and out experience, but no, it was a long and drawn out horrific experience. No wonder people get fed up with the NHS.