It’s the usual scene – a disparate group of people thumbing through back issues of dog-eared magazines trying hard to not think about the imminent. They sit, nervously scanning page after page as they wait to be taken through the big plastic doors to the other side.
It’s early. In the background a wall-mounted television broadcasts yet another infotainment programme; another ubiquitous collection of salesmen extolling the virtues of computerised vacuum cleaners or the latest in space-age frying pan technology, their machine-gun patter blatantly designed to prevent the viewer from being able to maintain focus on any one detail.
No sooner does that segment finish than another bunch of talking heads are dispensing their own brand of societal anaesthesia. Plastic people with plastic smiles and plastic hair effusing rabidly how important it is for us to have funeral insurance; imploring us with deep concern showing on their plastic faces to not burden our loved ones with the costs of our eventual disposal.
Concern creeps across my face as I see an older couple squirm in their seats – it would seem this advertisement may have some relevance as they wait nervously to face the knife. I secretly hope theirs will be a happy outcome.
I’m there too, but after years of putting up with a debilitating sinus condition I’m actually looking forward to the plunging needles and rotating knives. Year after year has seen me living on a steady diet of pseudoephedrine and paracetamol, and I must have sprayed an ocean of nasal decongestant into my head just to keep going. I can’t remember the last time I was able to breathe properly or smell the roses, and any improvement my surgeon can offer will be exceedingly welcome.
A couple of teenage girls bounce into the waiting room taking seats across from the elderly couple, not pausing for breath as they continue their excited discussion in youthful, staccato phrases. Suddenly they pause, and in a lovely gesture engage the older couple in conversation – restoring my faith in today’s youth. Perhaps they too noticed the worry on their faces.
My name is finally called, and it is with a heavy heart that I leave the confines of the waiting room. The plastic people were just demonstrating a new vegetable slicer that doubled as a floor sander – a useful tool in anyone’s language.
I’m ushered into a small cubicle containing a bed, a robe and some plastic bags. My nurse person directs me to undress and place all my clothes into the bags, and then don the robe and get under the blankets. She asks me to keep my “knickers” on, and in a way I’m grateful, because that must mean they know today’s operation has nothing to do with haemorrhoids, penis extensions or a sex change.
Because I’ve had little sleep over the past few weeks I find it nice to climb into bed. Being unable to breathe properly has meant waking up many times through every night, and the resulting sleep deprivation has me feeling I could nod off right now. I try to settle in for the ride.
But sleep isn’t an option as a stream of hospital staff dressed in caps and gowns comes through to talk to me, each checking a different part of the admission forms confirming I am who the paperwork says I am.
Soon my Anaesthetist wanders in to discuss the imminent proceedings, and it’s comforting to have a specialist take the time to talk with me and not at me. Prior experiences with the medical profession haven’t been nearly as satisfying due mainly to specialists adopting a condescending approach to patient interaction.
No sooner does he depart than my surgeon comes in to have a quick chat, reassuring me that the wait’s nearly over and things will be happening soon.
It’s good to know that we’re almost there.
Minutes later I’m transferred to the operating theatre and onto the operating table where I’m hooked up to an ECG and some of the Anaesthetist’s paraphernalia. I can’t help thinking about the birthing scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life as I wait for the machine that goes “Ping!” to be wheeled in.
The clatter of surgical instruments being set up fades into the background as chemical are injected into my cannula – the best part of this whole deal is about to happen. I feel the warm rush sweep through my veins as the sweet, heady feeling of bliss takes over.
As I drift away I manage a quick “I love this bit” comment to no one in particular.
The next consciousness I have is that of a nurse leaning over me apparently concerned that my blood oxygen saturation is low. I’m in the recovery ward being asked to sit up and take deep breaths from a soft plastic mask. I try to move but my body is behaving more like a thunderbird puppet than a functional human and it takes a few attempts before I’m where she wants me.
Reassured that things are looking good she disappears, and I’m left once again to drift away.
The hours pass, but I’m oblivious to everything, happy just to enjoy this peaceful warm state of post-operative fug.
Eventually my surgeon stops by, but hers is not a happy message. She says the bleeding isn’t stopping and I may have to spend the night in hospital, something on which I hadn’t counted but to which I would in no way object. I’m still very hazy and quite unable to think for myself.
Some time later she calls by again, and this time her checks reveal I’m in much better shape. The bleeding has stopped and it’s time to transfer me to the outside waiting room, albeit with thick green pads taped under my nose and needles sticking out from my hand.
Here I get my first taste of food in fifteen hours. The fasting process prior to any surgery is a real bastard and at present my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut, so the sight of a plate of cute triangular sandwiches makes my mouth water in anticipation.
Another sight then brightens my day. My beautiful Lady enters the room and in an instant she is by my side. Maree is the light in my life, and just having her near is enough to lift my spirits. As an ex-Intensive Care Unit nurse she is well versed in the treatment of the pathetic, and although I don’t want to be included in that group I know I’m going to need her help to get settled at home.
And that’s where I’m ensconced right now.
Maree has gone back to her place to get on with her work and I’m kicking back watching the last round of World Superbikes on recorded TV, in between drinking coffee and catching up with the peeps on Facebook. Their good wishes have been much appreciated.
I’m happy to advise that so far things are going well. There’s pain of course, and plenty of blood-filled goop to deal with, but overall things aren’t too shabby. Occasionally I sense that I can smell things again, and that augurs well for the future.
I’m looking forward to being able to smell Maree’s French perfume and the roses she grows.
I’m looking forward to breathing normally again and to be able to enjoy an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
I’m also looking forward to being able to skydive without being concerned that my head will explode.
It’s the little things in life that mean the most.