Nerves – what nerves?
The anaesthetist sat opposite me – he couldn’t have really been old enough surely, possibly almost 30 – drop dead gorgeous of course, and I couldn’t help thinking that some of my Romance author friends would have been drooling at the sight of him in his theatre get-up.
I tried hard to present a dignified front. I dared not show my back and that’s a fact!
There was no fear he’d be drooling over me in my gear however! Sexy though I must have looked – to anyone over the age of 90 – in my very becoming backless hospital nightie and rather fetching anti-embolism knee-length blue socks, for which a very young Asian nurse measured me prior to thrusting a pair at me, then pulling the screen so I could struggle with them in private before being whisked away on the trolley to theatre. Three attempts got them on after a fashion and I sank back exhausted.
Keeping the back of the blue and paisley nightie from swinging round to the front and exposing my embarrassment was a constant battle. Not being able to use my left arm meant that I couldn’t do it up – the battle with the socks had nearly killed me as it was, and then suddenly a rather lovely young man appeared beside me just as I was about to give up, red-faced and worn out, nightie half on and half off.
He waited patiently as I covered my dignity and years of experience as best I could. I was in fear of him offering to help. God forbid.
I kept wondering what the old lady in the bed next to me, awaiting her second knee replacement, could see through the gap in the screen as she watched and listened intently. Another elderly lady opposite me was having her new hip dressings sorted out and amid her cries of pain and anguish I enjoyed a running commentary from the dear lady next to me who was worried she might get MRSA and pop her clogs like her dear husband had done following his operation last year.
Was I worried about dying under the knife?
How about MRSA and Super-bugs?
Just in case I woke up and found I couldn’t remember my name they’d thoughtfully labelled both my ankle and wrist for me and just in case the theatre team couldn’t recall who I was, the ‘far too young to be a Staff Nurse,’ kindly placed a label on the head and foot of my bed. Apparently they take these ends off when actually doing the deed in theatre and when it comes to putting them back on, well…in her words not mine, ‘they are mainly men in theatre and they tend to muddle the beds up when replacing them afterwards!’
Nothing to worry about then. I’d been labelled and so had my bed. Just in case!
My young man also checked I was labelled correctly and wrote something down, asking me my name, age and the date. Well, if he hadn’t a clue by now what hope had I?
Feeling confident I listened carefully to the detailed explanation relating to my anaesthetic which was a new technique apparently and nothing to worry about because his (the school boy imposter), assured me that his colleague, whose name even he couldn’t manage to pronounce, was an expert in this new procedure and therefore I had nothing to worry about. Well, unless you discount possible nerve damage.
Nerve damage? My ears prick up. What new procedure?
Apparently to cut down the amount of Morphine needed following the sort of operation I was undergoing later, they’d come up with this new wonder-way of knocking people out. An injection in the neck guided by ultra-sound, carefully avoiding several nerves around the vein so as not to cause nerve damage resulting in possible loss of use of the arm and hand.
Oh, is that all I thought – no problem, let’s do it.
The whole left side (shoulder, arm and hand) are numbed for 12-15 hours following the operation thus the need for Morphine is decreased until it all wears off by which time they’d know if there had been any damage, which is highly unlikely, and anyway his colleague had never damaged anyone so far, but then it is too soon to tell I thought, it being a new technique and so forth.
Phew! Had me worried there.
I seem to recall featuring a jab in the neck to kill two of my characters off in a recent short story; life imitating art then.
So given all the information about the jab in the neck and the benefits what did I want? The usual knock-out via the back of the hand and oblivion before I reached 100, with pain and lots of Morphine later, or the jab to the neck and 12-15 pain-free hours following the procedure with a remote chance of nerve damage, possibly never being able to do brain surgery on someone ever again?
A no brainer you might think.
Before I could make up my mind I had to decide upon dinner later and breakfast and dinner the following day. Another nurse thrust a menu in front of me and wanted to know what I fancied. Cripes, such heady stuff to make decisions about. I said I wasn’t sure about dinner because I nearly always threw up constantly following operations and it was too soon to tell. She wanted an answer so I chose a couple of bland items from menu just as the Staff Nurse reappeared and began hooking me up to the Blood Pressure machine.
All this talk of food was not good. I’d had porridge at 6am and it was now 2pm. Migraine was going to be a major problem if this went on much longer.
Don’t worry about nausea following the operation my young man told me, we can give you anti-nausea drugs in with the anaesthetic.
That’s settled then.
Peter Pan decided he’d like to talk to my surgeon again following a few queries I had and the results of my earlier scan which another young nurse handed him. So off he went whilst I watched the red digital numbers rocket higher and higher next to me. I’d never hit those digits before, usually my BP was more on the low side than the high. Staff Nurse reassured me it was due to nerves.
Still, I supposed I should enjoy feeling my ‘nerves’ whilst I still could, all things considered.
She went off to get the kit to take my blood as another nurse pulled the screen open and went through a Q&A session with me, first checking I knew who I was and when I was born and what day it was.
I was actually beginning to wonder. My head was reeling.
Back came the Staff Nurse and in went the needle. Lots of blood taken she trotted off and in came another gorgeous young fellow. The old lady next to me was suitably impressed, nodding approvingly as he sat at the end of my bed. I hadn’t managed to do the nightie up properly and was sitting in the chair next to the bed hoping to avoid the draft from the open doors and exposing myself to any of the endless people passing through the corridor beside my bed, as well as him.
The Registrar introduced himself as being my Professor’s co-pilot during the procedure. Flipping Nora! I must be losing it, I didn’t realise I’d checked into Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Mind you, with everyone keep asking me who I was, what date it was and where I thought I was, it made me wonder; perhaps I should be asking them!
The Registrar asked lots of questions about my accident and whether or not the Steroid injection had made any difference and then he proceeded to torture me.
First he yanked my broken shoulder above my head and I nearly passed out. He apologised and then pressed down on my broken clavicle and I yelped out loud. He smiled kindly and pulled my arm round to the side and then tried to yank it up behind me. My knees gave and I came over all hot and felt sick. He smiled again and apologised for hurting me and said he agreed with my notes – my problem was still, well, my problem!
I could have told him if only he’d asked. Sadist.
He went off in search of the Professor who I’d also found out is a Colonel in the army, hence his constant comparisons of my injuries to that of a solider injured in battle in Afghanistan. Though at our first consultation when he had first been looking at my X-rays with an amused expression, he had said he was expecting a Harley riding youth or a young soldier, not a lady of my age. Apparently 20 something bikers coming off their machines at speed usually present with my injuries in civilian life.
As far as I am aware I’d told him, I hadn’t been ‘in theatre’ in Afghanistan or a speed-freak with a Harley between my legs in this life-time, though I know people who have experienced both.
So my accident in rural Sussex and involving a 17th century staircase compares with Afghanistan or a Harley accident. Wow. I could say how cool is that a year after my fall, but somehow it has gone way beyond cool.
Before I could have a chat with the Professor/Colonel I was given some forms to sign and some Paracetamol which they’ve found helps pain relief following surgery – all this talk of pain relief – very disconcerting.
Two Nepalese gentlemen appeared as if from nowhere and waited for me to arrange myself as modestly as I was able on the trolley, then they started pushing and off we went along several corridors and into a large room with a scanner and my friend Peter Pan, and his colleague with the unpronounceable name.
She introduced herself (still none the wiser, sorry), and went through the whole, ‘we inject your neck guided by ultra-sound,’ etc., and then the risks involved……I went into ‘the zone’ about then I think.
Just as they were preparing me for the ultra-sound guided weapon, the Professor/Colonel arrived and had a chat with both anaesthetists before turning to me with a very serious expression.
Cripes! Not more nerve damage in a woman of my years surely? I am beginning to dread my next birthday.
Well, after a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of operating on my ‘unstable’ shoulder and collar-bone and the risks of pinning it in a ‘woman of my age’ – I love hearing that phrase – and the possibility of nerve damage afterwards or, at the very best, only marginal improvement , he asked me to think about postponing the procedure for a few months to give ‘nature’ more time to help my shoulder stabilise, thus improving the chance of success. The scan earlier had shown little improvement in the year since my accident and as ‘nature,’ can take up to 12-24 months in the case of shoulder injuries such as mine, to stabilise, he suggested waiting and doing the whole thing later.
He said we could go ahead but I had to keep in mind the chance of making my shoulder worse, not better, and at best possibly only marginally better. Which could I live with for the time being?
Worse, as in nerve damage – that little matter again – or just a little better than it is now, having had my shoulder cut from back to front and some bone removed, pinned and plated and with 8 weeks in a sling and then physiotherapy for ages afterwards…..all very unpleasant at the best of times and well, in a woman of my age……
Guess what I opted for – go on; what would you have decided?
Yep, I was wheeled back to the ward and told to go home and the Professor/Colonel would be seeing me in a few months.
A year of pain and immobility behind me and in front of me….more pain and immobility, and the wait to see if I will ‘stabilise’ or not so the operation can go ahead at some point soon.
I can hardly wait.
So here I am, back in the saddle and ready to rock.
Many, many thanks to every one of you who has sent me lovely messages and good wishes. I have been touched and encouraged by them and so very happy to have received them. I am saving them up for next time round.
ps: I was tempted to take photos but never got the chance.
All photos (c) Jane Risdon 2014 All Rights Reserved.