P-Day dawned after my first experience of a night in hospital. [Ed: more of that another time.] The condemned man was given a theatre gown, those intriguing garments that fasten (almost) down the back with short ties that no human without dislocated joints can possibly reach, and was pointed at the shower. I freshened up and changed into my elegant theatre clothes with my butt hanging out.
I couldn’t help but feel that I should have been getting nervous by now but I felt no jitters at all; I was still perfectly calm and raring to go. In my youth, my mother had needed to administer drugs to settle my stomach prior to every school exam, such were my nerves. Where were my P-Day nerves now? I was about to mount an assault on the theatre of operations, storming the assembled might of the NHS on the beaches of HIgh Wycombe, and I felt good. No sense, no feeling, I guess – either that or I had no qualms whatsoever and really did want my troublesome prostate excised. I was also given an anti-sickness pill and another whose function I forget. Maybe it was the cyanide pill lest I fell into enema hands. 😀 Speaking of which, having read about perhaps being given an enema, I wasn’t. No complaints.
A nurse came to help me on with some particularly fetching surgical support stockings and very soon our presence was requested in operating theatre 3. Forget the TV; forget Hollywood. Was I loaded up onto a trolley and wheeled into theatre? No, not a bit of it. My M&S dressing gown went over the revealing split up the back of my theatre gown, my chic M&S slippers went over my seamless surgical support stockings and, at about 8:30 AM I was led down to theatre 3 à pied, self-propelled, on foot. Great stuff! well, why not, I suppose, I wasn’t an invalid yet – it just wasn’t what I expected.
First stop, the preparation room staffed by two calmingly chatty nurses and my anaesthetist lady. Decision time again. We’d “phoned a friend” to discuss my analgesia options. I went with the epidural. If it didn’t work for me, there was always the morphine PCA (Patient-Controlled Analgesia) pump. This felt like waiting in the wings of the theatre waiting for one’s cue and stage entrance. With two delightful nurses making supportive noises whilst sticking two cannulas into the backs of my hands, the anaesthetist set about sticking the epidural into my spine. The cannulas were a doddle; getting the hardware between my vertebrae seemed to take for ever. I was asked to hunch my shoulders and curve my spine. Make like a rag doll. This position is designed to open up the inter-vertebral spaces on the outside of the curve thus making the probe easier to insert. My layman’s brain says that this same curve also closes down the spaces on the inside edge making the passage through that second side more difficult. What do I know? Eventually ‘t was done and time for me to lie down on the trolley ready for my grand entrance. Cue patient. The anaesthetist held a gas mask, well, hovering just above my nose, actually.
Anaesthetist: “I’m just going to drift you off, now … “
Me: “Oh, hello, who are you?”
My new companion was a softly spoken male. He was soon joined by a captivating, diminutive lady with Asian features and an utterly irresistible smile. Thinks: “An angel; I’ve died and gone to heaven”. In reality I was fine and this was what a recovery room looked like – hard to improve on, really. A split second ago it had been about 9:00 AM and now, after a spot of Douglas Adams time-travel, it was about 3:00 PM. In no time flat I’d lost one prostate, two seminal vesicles and six hours. On the other side of the balance sheet, I’d gained five holes in my abdomen. Result!
If there had been one part of this process about which I harboured concerns, it was coming around after the general anaesthetic. I’d had two generals for day procedures way back in my youth and had felt nauseous coming round on both occasions. Here I was feeling fine and I was soon having a lengthy and relaxing chat with my new male companion. I’d got to cram a 24-hour day into 18 hours, after all. He was the trainee recovery nurse, an ex-forces chap, and was frequently joined by the angel who turned out to be from the Philippines and was the qualified member of my duo.
How was my pain? What pain? Excellent! Actually, I felt very slightly sore on my left side but completely comfortable on my right side. My friends rolled me a little to try and distribute the happy-juice from the epidural more evenly. I was blown away by how well I felt. How things have advanced.
Eventually it was time to leave. At least I didn’t have to take Shanks’s pony back to the ward. This time I got the expected, TV-style ride on the bed accompanied by my recovery team.
I was sorry to see them go.