You know the worst thing about surgery? Not the procedure itself. Not the idea of going under general anaesthetic for the first time. I had prepared myself for that. The worst thing about surgery was not eating 7 hours before the procedure.
Seriously! This whole nil by mouth thing?
NOT A FAN!
Surgery was scheduled for 12:30pm. I had to be at the Princess Grace for 11am, so I had made the call to wake up at 4am to eat something. It was going to be a decent breakfast. I couldn’t have anything from 5am onwards; and between 5am to 9am, all I could do was drink water. Once 9am hit, nothing further could pass my lips!
In usual fashion, I had left my packing to the last minute. I would be staying in for at least 3 days, but was planning to make use of the 6 night cover by Bupa. This was private healthcare. Katy had sold the idea of free Molton Brown toiletries. The welcome pack said I would have cable TV, movies, a choice of freshly cooked three course meals. Basically I would be staying in a hotel for a week.
I packed a book, the two care bear figures from Delphine, the green crystal pendant from Lotis, all the get well soon cards, a colouring book, two sets of pyjamas, slippers, buttoned tops, and two pairs of shoes. Basically everything that I probably did and didn’t need, but anything that would make me feel better. If this was going to be my home for a week, I wanted it to feel like it.
By 10am, I was done. Mum and Chris had stayed over for the night to join me at the hospital. They were just finishing up their breakfast. It smelled so good. I was hungry! I had to suck it up.
I’ve never been a fan of hospitals. Clinical, sterile, busy. On seeing my room, it just felt weird. I was used to seeing beds in a shared ward bay. Here I was with an ensuite. I had a safe (why?!), a mini fridge, a 42 inch TV, wifi, room service, my own phone, toiletries (not Molton Brown as Katy had promised – disappointing). It was the most comfortable setup you could ask for. I wondered what it would have been like if I didn’t work somewhere which provided private healthcare. I instantly felt very privileged and very guilty at the same time.
Fiona, Lesley and Karen had joined us at the hospital with a care package full of treats and trashy magazines. It had become a family affair. Six Filipinos, in one hospital room. We were having a party. Playing charades. High fiving. Discussing how the hospital gown should and shouldn’t be worn. Taking pre-surgery selfies. I hadn’t laughed so much in a hospital before. There was a reason I had been given the room at the very end of the hallway. The staff knew what they were doing.
“I can hear you from the nurses station.”
Katy entered. We all looked at each other, and cackled laughed. It was the first time Mum was meeting Katy. Mum looked anxious; Katy did a great job of reassuring her. It was strange for me to see. I had become used to conversations with Katy being very casual. I was seeing her two times a week, and we’d built a relationship where our appointments didn’t feel clinical at all. We got on really well. I liked her for her directness, and her humour. When I saw her talking to Mum, it was then I remembered she was a medical professional. I knew I was in good hands.
What then followed, was the routine steps of going through the consent form. I met the anaesthetist; both her and Katy brought me up to speed on the use of morphine. The side effects. I wouldn’t remember much of the conversations I would be having. I would have two drains in me post surgery to remove excess fluid. I would need to take codeine. I would feel strange sensations in the left breast once the numbness subsided. I would need to rest. I would really need to rest. And just like that, I signed what I needed to. I was marked up on my body. I was ready for surgery.
The nurse came to fetch me. Mum was teary. Lesley was waving bye to my “bad boob”. I was weirdly calm. I walked out of the room.
See you in a few hours.
I lay down in the anaesthetist prep room, and it began. The nurse and anaesthetist went through the routine of distracting me.
“Sharp scratch.” That didn’t hurt at all.
I’d become a pro at taking injections. They had become a weirdly normal routine for me.
“We didn’t get the vein. We’ll have to try another.” Yea, my veins haven’t woken up yet.
I laughed, and saw Katy pop her head around.
“I can hear you from the operating table.” I know, sometimes I forget how loud I can be.
The team tried again, and got the vein this time. The distraction talk began again. It was filled with “what do you do?” and “how long have you been there?” I looked at the clock. It was 1:30pm. The oxygen mask went on. The conversations continued.
“Ok Caroline, this is going to feel like a really strong alcoholic drink.” *hahaha* It’s not like I haven’t been there before.
And just like that, I was in the recovery room!
Surgery was done. It was 4:15pm. Katy appeared. She smiled, and said everything had been a success. I couldn’t feel anything, but my observations were good; so I was taken back to my room.
“Is there anything you need Caroline? Are you comfortable?” I know this is gonna sound daft, but I’m super thirsty and hungry. Will I be able to eat soon?
Twelve hours later, that’s all I could think of. The nurse must have thought I was crazy. By the time food arrived, I was content. I was high on morphine, I was in bed, I had my breast removed, and had an implant instead; but at that moment I didn’t care. I was eating, and that to me was closure. That’s when I felt better; and once done, that’s when I fell asleep.