Staples Away

When this whole radical prostatectomy procedure was originally being explained to me, I was told that the process would involve 5 small incisions through my abdomen wall and that, having been discharged, my staples would be removed by a practice nurse at my GP’s surgery. “Tee hee, staples” , I mused to myself, “quaint medical slang”.

Sure enough, following my operation I had five wound dressings, nothing more than sticking plasters, dotted across my abdomen. In our meeting with the surgeon before the operation, we’d established than one incision would be enlarged to allow for the removal of my prostate. This larger one was where the plastic pipe for a wound drain disappeared through my abdomen wall.

After a couple of days of my wound drain collecting pretty much nothing, the medical folks decided to have the drain removed. I confess to having been a tad nervous about the sensation of having a plastic pipe pulled out of my abdomen but the attendant nurse had it out before I knew anything about it – no sensation at all.

This was the perfect opportunity to renew my dressings. The nurse very gently removed the existing plasters, which were nothing like as sticky as those domestic Elastoplast jobs, and I glanced down for my first glimpse of my battle scars. Yikes! They weren’t kidding when they said “staples”. All across the various incisions in my abdomen, spaced at intervals no greater than about 4mm, were 19 metal staples. I looked as though I’d been pinned together by an office junior running riot with a Rexel staple gun. I’m sure these staples were sterile and were probably made of something high-tech like stainless steal but they looked like perfectly ordinary office staples. Instead of the side arms being tucked under to calmp paper, though, the whole staple was “tented” such that the side arms pointed inwards slightly acting as a pair of jaws gripping the wound. What happened to stitches?

My instructions at discharge included having to make an appointment with my GP’s nurses to have the staples removed 10 days after my operation. That actually fell on Sunday so they went for the following Monday. I was presented with a carrier bag full of supplies including replacement wound dressings, a couple of replacement catheter leg bags and a dozen overnight extension bags for the catheter. The latter seemed very wasteful, being one use only – you have to destroy each one to empty it. We decided not to put them in with our recycling!

SurgicalStapleRemover2I was particularly intrigued when they also presented me with a pre-packaged staple removal tool to give to my practice nurse. I should have snapped a picture of it but here’s one I filched from the Internet. When Carol called in to make my appointment, the receptionist checked that I had the removal tool so this is clearly a well-trodden path.

Yesterday I lay on the nurses couch at our GP surgery holding a receptacle – the packaging from my removal tool – for the nurse to dump the discarded staples into while she went to work getting them out of me. “What have you had done?”, she asked, conversationally.

“A radical prostatectomy”, I replied.

“Oh”, she mused, and then tentatively ventured, “they usually do that through the willy.”

Arghhhh! How the hell would they get it out that way?

[Aside: I personally absolutely detest, loathe, hate that word “willy”. 😡 It makes me cringe. It’s a limp, woolly word reminiscent of Victorian mothers flushing with embarrassment over what to call the more intimate parts of their little angel’s anatomy. Why are Brits so prissy? I was hugely disappointed to notice that it seems to have become the standard term for medical personnel to use; the general nurses use it, the specialist urology nurse used it, even the surgeon used it when describing how to perform pelvic floor exercises. I expected more from medical professionals. It’s got a perfectly inoffensive name for Darwin’s sake, it’s a penis. It’s not embarrassing. Why should the correct term be so difficult to use? Failing that, I’d prefer any of the many and varied standard slang terms over … no, I can’t say it!]

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