I was on my way to hospital to face the biggest challenge of my life.
The pre operative assessment, including CT and MRI scans all looked very positive. The consultant reported that, after the chemo, there were few signs of the tumour and the lymph glands looked clear. All Was now set for the surgery.
On April 13th I attended my local hospital for elective surgery. I love that term. It somehow implies that I am looking forward to going under the knife and it is totally my choice willingly to do so. The reality I know is that if I don’t the cancer is more than likely to return and carry on where it left off.
From this point on and for a number of days everything became surreal. Initially caused by fear and blind panic and then by copious amounts of morphine.
I had been well briefed by the consultant and the anaesthetist as to what to expect and what sort of pain I would be in but they hadn’t warned me about what was to happen as the bed I was in was pushed into the pre-operative room.
There stood two very large men, both masked, capped and gowned and one with an absolutely enormous syringe in his hand. I had entered a Hammer Horror movie and not even had a drop of the morphine yet.
Luckily I could still see the funny side of this and my humour was not numbed. “What sort of welcome is this”, I asked?
My next memory was waking up in the High Dependancy Unit, and there time stands still for a number of days as, in the main, the morphine did its job and kept the pain at bay and me in another world.
Gradually tubes and pipes disappeared and some reality returned. Unfortunately the surgeons found that I also had some problems with hardening of the arteries in my left leg and put me on blood thinning drugs. I Now have a ‘gammy’ left leg that will need looking at later.
Eventually I am moved to the urology ward and my own little side room. Luck had it that I still needed enhanced monitoring and all the rooms near the nurses station are singles.
I was still connected to a number of devices. One to allow me to have a morphine shot when necessary and another to deliver blood thinning drugs as I was still nil by mouth. I now have to wait until my bowels decide to wake up before I can eat or drink anything. I also still had two drains from my stomach and, of course, my new stoma bag to take the place of my bladder.
Daily visits from my ever-loving and long-suffering wife kept my spirits up and good news also came from the consultant. There was very little evidence of the cancer in my removed bladder and none of the 19 lymph glands that they removed showed any trace either. I should be clear.
Apart from one small but very nasty episode when my bowel decided it was not quite ready to wake up properly and returned to have another nap, recovery was going well. By this time I had had no food for ten days and lost over a stone in weight. (I would not recommend this as a slimming method though).
That first slice of toast tasted divine however I can’t say the same for the rest of the food I was then being given to build me up. Something must be done to improve hospital food. I needed nourishment not tasteless pre-cooked mush.
I must thank and praise all the staff in the hospital. They were caring, understanding and able to put up with my moaning, whinges and bad humour. Apart from a few small niggles I had only one complaint and that was a big one but in no way the fault of the wonderful staff on the ward.
After months of treatment, MRI and CT scans, chemotherapy and three operations which required blood tests, cannulas and intravenous drips the veins in my arms were really suffering. Now they were wanting to take blood from me every day and sometimes twice a day. My heart dropped as yet another junior doctor appeared in my room to take the next arm-full.
Yes it was nearly always a junior doctor and whilst I know they need to have experience for the future and all that sort of thing they just hadn’t got the skill to find the right spot. They made attempt after attempt to find a vein to use and I was often in agony as there was yet another failed attempt.
On one occasion the junior doctor gave up. She had tried everywhere including my foot, put me through hell and decided at long last that it was too much for her. She disappeared and a phlebotomist came and do it. That was a different story altogether. She was brilliant. In and out in a flash, no pain and job done. One nurse told me later that she could spot a good vein in a dead parrot from 50 yards. I believed her.
So why did they not come every day? Well it’s all part of the new NHS and internal markets and wonderful things like that. Because I was on a surgical ward I had to have the junior doctors as they did not pay for the phlebotomists. They were paid for from a different budget.
This is when I started to dig my heels in and after another botched attempt by a doctor I put my proverbial ‘gammy’ foot down and insisted on having a phlebotomist come what may. It worked.
Now all I have to worry about is my circulation and ‘gammy’ leg. Having just started to recover from my third operation in six months I hope it doesn’t mean heading in for more.
I am now back at home and a week further down the road to recovery and the only really big gripe I have is the result of the General Election. I really fear for the safety and stability of the country and especially the future of the NHS. More cut-backs and privatisation could decimate a wonderful institution that has hopefully saved my life.