January the 10th 2013; the day of my operation at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. Full of fear and uncertainty. I knew I had to have the operation but my mind kept telling me I was OK and didn’t need it. I could back out of it. Couldn’t I?
A few months earlier I had had an ultrasound scan for another matter and they had by chance discovered something else. I had an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. Looking back I suppose I was very lucky it had been found albeit accidentally. I’ve posted the link for this condition here but basically it is when the Aorta; which is the main artery from the heart to the lower body expands to form a bubble similar to a weakness in a tyre’s inner tube. The maximum width of an aorta should be about 2.5 centimetres. Mine was pushing 6 centimetres. This condition is insidious in that there are no symptoms. I felt fine. No pain, nothing at all. You would not know that you had it. Until it eventually bursts. If that happens then you are in serious trouble with only a 1 in 10 chance of making it to the hospital alive. Plus I shouldn’t have it. It normally only affects men in their late 60s or over. I am a mere 59!
And so here I was on a cold dark January morning about to have full open repair surgery. Me and my baby had arisen about 4:30 am as I had to be at the hospital for 7:00am. I could have murdered a cup of tea but I was allowed only a little water and so eventually we arrived at the hospital. Everything to me in my terrified mind was maybe the last time for me. Would this be the last time I would dress? The last drive I would take? The last time I would see my home and most importantly would this be the last time I would awaken beside my beautiful lady? I know how a condemned man must feel on his walk to the execution chamber. Melodramatic? Yes. Maybe, but that was how I felt! I was terrified!
We arrived early and I took my final walk to J3 ward. This turned out initially to be a lecture room. It seemed so cold and gloomy so much like my own feelings at that time. Other patients joined us as we were asked to sit and wait. Before long we were ushered through to a small cubicle containing a bed. I was asked to undress; put on a hospital gown and get on the bed. I presumed I would be one of the first to go down as my operation was a major one and would take a good few hours. Again I suffered such continuing fear. Would this be the last time I undressed? The last time I see my Raven? I even cried a little but my baby was fantastic. She held me and re-assured me. Told me she’d be there when I woke up. I hoped I would.
I knew this operation was a serious one. Even if I survived there were other problems that could affect me later. I did consider prayer but being the atheist I am I could not. Even if I would die it would not be as a hypocrite. At least things seemed to move swiftly from then on. The doctors who were going to operate on me came in as soon as my blood pressure etc. had been taken and gave me a pep talk. It seemed this was going to be a stroll in the park the way they said it but hey ho I suppose they were trying to make me feel positive. I was also first on their list for the day and I suppose they were eager to make a start. The first cut is the deepest I thought somewhat irrationally. I also got them to witness my will… just in case.
And then my time came. I held my baby’s hand one last time as they wheeled me into the theatre ante room. I didn’t want to let her go. I struggled to hold back my tears as the theatre staff got busy attaching lines and other stuff. I did attempt a little light banter but all I can remember as sweet oblivion took me was smiling and saying “Goodnight Vienna.”