Saturday. Day 3 in my single ward on the vascular unit at Addenbrookes hospital. Thank gods that my Raven was spending so much time with me. I think every day she would spend maybe 7 or 8 hours with me, looking out for me. Just having her there was a blessing especially as I am not the best of patients. Also in these early days I would sleep a lot too.
Saturday morning and I had a visit from a physiotherapist. A cocky little git of about 25 I guess. I still remember he had really fancy colourful trainers on. Now remember it is only a day and a half after a serious op and he immediately tries to get me out of bed to exercise. He says I have to get my legs working. Also remember that I am attached to drips and tubes and monitors galore, also a catheter so I am not too mobile, but I give it a go and he and a nurse help me from the bed. I cannot stand unaided much to his frustration. I think he wants me to run laps around the hospital but it aint gonna happen so they get me a walking frame.
He suggests that I march on the spot but the pain from the 18 inch wound on my stomach is agonizing when I try to move a leg up. This frustrates him even more and he gets quite short with me. He tells me that I have to get my legs working. I politely explain that my legs are OK and it’s my operation wound that is the problem. He gives up after this and leaves. The nurses then put me in a wheel chair and push me into my own private shower room. I manage to clean my teeth. Not easy with all my attachments and a tube in my nose. They also give me a sitting down shower and hair wash. It feels so much better and I am allowed back to bed after this.
The other problem is of course I am on nil by mouth. No food although to be honest I am not really hungry but I would sell my own mother for a cup of tea. I try to wheedle one nicely. It doesn’t work. I try getting shirty … it doesn’t work either. I am not allowed juice even, just 60 millilitres of water per hour. For the next couple of days I suffer such thirst. Sometimes my mouth was so dry I could hardly talk. I did manage to get ice cubes to suck occasionally.
But soon my baby arrived and things were better. I did have trouble with my IV line and so a doc was called. Yet another damned needle but it meant my pain relief button worked again. I also got TV; one of those over bed units with a phone. My mum paid £30 for a 5 day card as it wouldn’t accept my debit card for some reason,which I never ended up using. I was so tired and drugged up that I just never watched. All I could do was listen to Radio and that was free anyway and a relief. BBC radio was such a blessing. Radio 2 & 4 and even Radio 3. I actually listened to some classical music. That was a first for me but I enjoyed it.
I still spend most of my time dozing or sleeping but another problem I get is from the tube in my nose. It is attached with adhesive tape and this itches incredibly. Inevitably I manage to pull it partly out in my sleep which wakes me up with a yelp. Damn it hurts. Raven gets a nurse who pushes it back down. Bugger me that hurts even more but Raven helps and I get a proper plaster on it eventually … relief at last.
After that things settled a little. My baby even gave me a back rub and made me as comfortable as possible. Day three done and dusted although of course this is hospital so I never get a full night’s sleep. I am awoken every hour or two for meds or to take my blood pressure and temperature and as I am mildly diabetic I get the pleasure of my finger pricked. I am also wracked with thirst and make sure I get my hourly dribble of water. Hospital beds are not designed for comfort either. The plastic covers make me sweat like crazy. I wake up soaked and of course I can hardly move to find a better position.
But I remind myself … I am alive and I will recover.
I WANT MY CUPPA!
The next couple of days were a haze after my operation. I remember little about them. I have a vague recollection of coming to after the op and seeing my Raven beside my bed. I was apparently on some heavy duty pain meds. But I did feel so much joy. I was OK; well I had made it through the operation at least and my baby was there. Raven told me that my doctors were pleased but also that the blood supply to my lower body had been stopped for 30-40 minutes. This is par for the course in this operation as the aorta is clamped off below the heart allowing it to be repaired further down. Obviously this can lead to complications such as nerve damage and even heart problems later on. But I was alive!
I remember that my baby had brought my Boofie with her. She had bought him for me as my good luck charm and hospital companion, but unfortunately he couldn’t stay with me during my time on the recovery ward. But I think I had few conscious moments the rest of that day. Occasional moments of wakefulness before sleep claimed me again.
BOOFIE ON DUTY.
Day two dawned in the recovery room but again I remember little of it. I know it was busy with nurses, care assistants and doctors rushing about. I felt very uncomfortable and could hardly move. I had a tube up my nose and an oxygen mask plus various different tubes sprouting from my arms and shoulder. Also I had the indignity of a catheter attached to my old chap. The nurses did try to make me a little more comfortable but it was a lost cause. I had to grimly put up with it.
IT BEEPED A LOT.
Raven arrived sometime later that Friday. Her beautiful smile and voice were just the medication I needed. I was still doped up so I remember little of our conversations but just having her there was such a pleasure. I do remember gasping for a cup of tea and I think I did get one although I’m not sure that I should have as my liquid intake was limited to just a tiny cup per hour. I was so dry. But things did start to happen later that day and I was wheeled up to a ward. The journey seemed tortuous. I felt every bump and turn but we eventually arrived at L5 ward Vascular Unit in the new part of Addenbrookes. I had my own room and shower toilet. I also had a window. I couldn’t appreciate it though as I was confined to my bed.
I do remember my baby massaging my feet as I drifted in and out of sleep. I also had a pain button beside me. I could self-dose myself with pain killers as required by just pushing it. It was used a lot. And so day 2 ended for me. I just had to recover now and that was going to start with another 10 days in Addenbrookes.
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.”
Thank you Sweet lady for being there.