I awoke, with difficulty, in a recovery room (a long narrow corridor type ward with beds on one side and doors on the other). I recall realising I was coming to from the operation and my life was now forever changed. This lead me to tell the nurse closest to me that I was eternally grateful for everything they did. When she told me they were only doing what they were here to do, I responded, 'yes...which is saving lives...so thank you'. I remember her murmuring ‘it’s always nice to be appreciated’ as I felt my eyes closing again.
I briefly remember being taken to the High Dependency Unit (the DeWardner Ward), seeing family standing around, and then being placed in a recovery set up with monitors, desks and tubes everywhere. I was vaguely aware of the activity around me as I was connected up left, right and centre then conked out again and waking to find Tom holding my hand and family at the edges of the ward around both myself and Emily (Emily was a good few feet away which made conversation difficult as my hearing was a little off after the operation).
I recollect needing to see her, so turned my head but still couldn't. I think possibly her mum next to her told her I was looking over, so she sat up best she could and waved, which I returned. I think there was a thumbs up in there too. Remember: the 'I think's I've dotted here and there are because I was still heavily drugged at the time and I'm working with a wavering memory and brief notes.
After a moment of looking around and trying to wake up properly, I realised I was plugged up to the following:
1. 3 cannulas in the central vein of my neck (what was then referred to as my neck ‘ear ring’)
2. ECG pads monitoring my heart (I think I had about 6 of these on me)
3. A catheter which made movement almost impossible as there was risk of lying on it, tugging it etc etc
4. A drain in my side (to get rid of extra surgical liquid)
5. 3 cannulas in my right arm
6. An oxygen mask
7. A gauge on my finger
[Here I'd like to say a huge thank you to those who came to see me so soon after the op. I know I must have been a sight, but I really appreciate your visit. Even if I could only manage a bit of company at the time.]
As I gradually came properly to, my body now seemed to realise I was in fact awake and my stomach decided to say 'hi'.
I recall shouting, 'vomit', taking off my mask, starting to dry retch. A nurse immediately appeared at my side and presented me with a cardboard tray, which she held.
Then everything happened:
- On seeing me have this reaction, Emily started to feel extremely unwell.
- Tom took over the tray so the nurse could run to Emily.
- Having been seated for so long, then standing in a rush as well as seeing me in so much pain (my body was still ridiculously tender post op and was now being forced to physically tense every few seconds. Extremely painful), he urgently requested a seat, then lay his head on his arm on the metal railing, whilst heroically maintaining the bowl in front of my face as I continued to dry heave.
- The nurse, now running backwards and forwards proceeded to exclaim 'what's wrong with this family!' something that now makes us giggle when we look back.
It wasn't over for me yet though as I kept dropping off, but was immediately re-woken with bouts of nausea. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours. I just remember it going on for so long.
They wanted to see if it would stop on its own, but clearly that wasn't the case so I was finally given anti-nausea medication and the vomiting and increased wound pain finally had the chance to subside. So I tried to relax which of course, having just come out of surgery, led to sleep.
Unfortunately during an operation, although the patient is given air throughout, the lungs no longer inflate by themselves and post op struggle to do so on their own. Each time I fell asleep feeling utterly drained, I'd be woken first by the nurses, then by Tom who said he'd keep an eye on the monitor and me. I'm informed he did this for 2 hours. The next thing I remember is being helped to sit up in the reclining bed, told to take as deep a breathe as I could, not even getting close to what I needed due to the pain in my side and seeing the consultant shake his head. I think they were trying to move me onto a nasal cannula which is the tube that goes under the nose and has two tiny cylinders peeking into the nostrils for oxygen. But they couldn't whilst I wasn't breathing properly…or something. So every 5 minutes, I had to press the miracle button of awesomeness which gave me painkillers, then breathe as deep as I could. This seemed to have the right affect and soon enough my lungs were inflating naturally.
[Due to long days and the nights being interrupted by either insomnia or further tests, 1 day and night in hospital can feel like two separate days. Therefore, the recollection of my days below may be a touch confused]
First night on the De Wardner...
...I was in massive pain, and utterly convinced there were military soldiers everywhere. I thought for the longest time, one was standing by the door. Turns out it was a monitor. My only vivid hallucination whilst I was there. Here I thank the drugs for helping me sleep…especially due to….him.
The one story I really came away with from that ward was: Two beds away was a gentleman who swiftly became known as the difficult patient, as the ward was sporadically woken throughout the nights by him pressing the alarm, then calling 'Nurse! Nurse' literally every 2 seconds for about 15 minutes...or longer. It never seemed to stop.
He’d once even threatened to climb out of bed when he wasn't answered immediately. The nurses did respond to him, but most the time it was to inform him the solution he was looking for was physically within arm’s reach.
Then again, on my first day and night on the ward, I had a personal nurse to ensure I had everything I needed directly after surgery and she was amazing. She’d be there to assist me before I even knew I needed help.
So maybe that's what he'd had on the first night and thought he was entitled for the rest of his stay.
The next morning, my blood sugar level was tested (they use a small device to snip a pin head sized cut in your finger, then take the dose from there and get an immediate result). A look exchanged between doctor and nurse and I was then asked if I had diabetes before the surgery. Nope.
Well...I had the symptoms of them now. I actually stared at them in disbelief, and then burst into a giggling fit, saying 'of course I do!'
My sugar level being too low, I was put on a course of insulin. I asked the nurse when I could start eating (I was seriously fantasising about steak by now!!) and was informed I couldn't eat until I'd passed wind to ensure my bowels were working again. To my frustration, I could feel something there, but only the type that emerges when you move around. Which I could not. So I distracted myself with my tablet.
By the time family arrived at 2ish, I was basically awake and myself again. On their being informed of my sugar levels, I was fed (not trusting me to take the whole dose, I guess) a weird tube of pasty gelatine which I then spent the next minute mulling over in my mouth after taking it all. When asked what I thought of it, I looked pensive then responded with a nod of 'mmm......bleh....nope'.
My family, however, are well aware of how often I eat and not having eaten for over 24 hours now, they were sure I just needed food. But they were informed of my state so now it was just the waiting game. This apparently brought out a touch of defiance in me and I apparently relaxed just enough to start sounding off. I was delighted. My parents were also delighted. I, in turn, found their delight hilarious, which relaxed me even more. And...now I could eat! Hurray!!
As soon as another nurse passed, it was mentioned again, that I needed food.
I was asked for a third time: 'Have you passed wind?'
I've never stated an affirmation to this fact so exuberantly in my life!
My first meal since….before the operation was soup and yogurt. Sustenance in liquid form so as not to mess with my stomach.
Everyone else popped off to grab a coffee and Tom stayed to keep Emily and myself company. Given how hungry I was, I asked Tom to slowly feed me the food as I would consume it within 5 seconds and make myself sick.
At the first spoonful, my taste buds lit up, my eyes became a little crazed and I warned Tom there was a chance I'd grab it from his hands and just down it so to be on the alert. After eating, it was obvious food was the answer as the difference in energy levels was noticeable.