Diary starting: 29th July 2010
David beat me to the shower at 6am so I went downstairs for my permitted glass of water. The summer sky beckoned in another warm day and it felt good to be up and about. We walked around the corner to Woodthorpe hospital, me with a comfortable limp and gulps of summer air knowing the incarceration that lay ahead. We were guided to a very pleasant room that I thought would be my home for the next few days. I know there’s a serious point in the consultant drawing an arrow on my right leg, but it felt a tease. Mr Manktelow exuded convincing assurances, which I readily mopped up. Next came the anaesthetist, who talked me through the anaesthetic/epidural process. 8am soon arrived and with a farewell to Dave, it was time for me to head for the operating theatre; first in the queue.
Around two hours later I emerged from theatre and into the recover area. I was aware of being surrounded by lots of people. I picked up that my blood pressure was extremely low; apparently the epidural that was expected to be effective from the hips downwards, somehow reached up to the top of my chest. I was vaguely aware of being wrapped up and being inflated with padding in an effort to increase my BP. Eventually I made it back to the ward, but my room had been moved off to the reception area so that close monitoring could continue. The impact of either the anaesthetic or epidural erased much recollection of Thursday afternoon punctuated by a cycle of checks that persisted throughout the day. I did not budge. By teatime Michael arrived and I was able to sit up (a bit) and hold a conversation. Unfortunately, when David phoned I became nauseas and before long I was throwing up. It was a palaver to change the bedding, but a nurse duo had clearly done this before, skilfully working their routine of twists, turns and pulling to renew the bedding with me in situ.
With day zero nearly done, my boys and I could take heart that I had survived the op, which appeared to have gone well. Whew!
With my blood pressure still low the two hourly monitoring persisted throughout the day. My right leg wasn’t budging so the wedge placed between my legs to prevent me rolling over seemed an over-the top pre-caution. Each calf took a turn to inflate pulverised by an anti-DVT air attack. Ability to sit up with support meant that I could read and eat. Nearly two days had elapsed since I had eaten so Friday lunch was welcome; the food and portion size, just right. The physio presented the first challenge; to get out of bed and stand upright with a walking frame. Sitting against the bed sent me dizzy and nauseous, but with a decent pause, I stood up for a few moments. The first test passed.
Day 1 meant another whole day in bed and a restless night with sleep on offer only in brief dollops. I dreamt of making it to the chair in the corner, it would be so good to get away from this plastic bed. The two hourly checks continued through the night, cruelly punctuating any sleep bubble I managed with the chirpy nurses checking, checking.
Started around 5.45 am with a cup of tea and the bed head wedged forward. My pain had increased and I reported that it had reached 6 on a scale of 1 -10. I was soon administered two tablets of tramadol to bring it down. I received a surprise visit from dishy Mr Manketelow who popped in to check up on me as he was about to holiday in Sri Lanka for two weeks. He was pleased with the surgery and gave a fascinating detailed account. It may be a common procedure, but having researched the op on the web, I was under no illusion that a complex set of skills clearly calls for an expert head and extremely steady pair of hands and all the right gear.
I managed to persuade the nurse that I could make it using the walking frame to the chair in the corner and she agreed to let me have a go. I made it (my dream realised). The dizziness started again; I went quiet and breathed deeply for a while. It seemed to settle until I was taking a call from David; the nausea erupted and I threw up a watery gush. Sick again over David, and with the call abruptly concluded I soon felt better. The room suddenly filled, with clearing up, Rebecca arriving with Saturday’s Guardian soon to be followed by the physio. My confidence was at an ebb – how long would it take to get up without feeling/being sick. I entered the physio session in trepidation. Still, give it a go. I stood up and took hold of the walking frame and managed a trip to the door and back without any event. There was talk of crutches, but my exertion for the day had reached its limit. Crutches can wait.
As the afternoon routine of checks continued I was overwhelmed by how well I was now feeling. The morning sickness had apparently been put down to the strong pain killers and not the operation so that was a tremendous relief. I could do the bed exercises and was delighted to recover some lower right calf movement. My dear friends Ann and Richard arrived late afternoon and were clearly impressed by how well I seemed and Nada joined us later to witness the progress.
Completed the day with the Sondheim Prom concert, what a treat!
It was so good to be able to sleep through the night even if the day must start before 6 am. I felt good, as high as a kite, a sense of a new life about to emerge from the warn hip induced boundaries of the previous two years.
The blood pressure monitoring was subsiding and acknowledgement that my BP matched that of many athletes – I have been running for over twenty years and this is often a consequence. The anaesthetist emphasised the importance of reporting my normal low BP in the event of any future ops. I agreed, feeling guilty that I hadn’t sufficiently done this already.
During the next physio session I learnt the technique of using crutches and set off for the corridor, the furthest I had ventured in four days. Clumsily I fumbled into a routine gingerly bearing the weight of my right leg; going to have to let go, but not all at once. Successful completion of the floor exercises confirmed a remarkable recovery of a little bit more mobility. Woh!
It was great to receive visits from friends and with phone calls coming in thick and fast was I ever going to manage to finish my books? It’s feeling quite a sociable stay with friendly caring nurses forming the strong supportive back drop and family and friends visiting or in regular touch including Tony and Barb from Vancouver Island. I’m excited to be at the beginning of this new phase, it feels overwhelming and pregnant with possibilities.
Nada visited twice early afternoon and late teatime, but we were never short on conversation. Life is feeling good and I finish Asne With their Backs Against the World and start to devour the second Steig Larsson trilogy, The Girl Who played with Fire. I’m feeling thoroughly indulged and enjoying a return of appetite. Life feels good.
Another reasonable night, with the anti-DVT calf device now replaced with stockings and the obstructive leg block removed. It still physically impossible to cross legs or roll over! The lighter feel of the tights and with the leg drain and catheter gone, I am getting my body back. It’s time to take on the stairs. The physio leads me along the corridor and talks through the technique of descending and climbing stairs. Slowly I follow the technique and pass the test. Apparently I can go home! I thought it would be the next day. With a bit of re-arranging it’s agreed that I go at teatime and with an expected visit from Joshii and Celia and my sister working, I am relieved that I can stay on a little longer, yet not need to stay another night.
I got plenty of reading done, punctuated with some exercises. A neighbouring patient who underwent the same procedure calls in and we exchange stories and experiences. Declaring a wish to avoid competition in the recovery stakes she promptly revealed her swollen knee. OK, I couldn’t resist showing how mine seemed fine; it all seems a bit pot luck, with swelling being a common outcome of the op.
It was good to see my work colleagues and they were clearly impressed with my high spirits and evident well being. To think it was only five days ago I went under the knife!
After care, medication and follow arrangements are accompanied with a raft of discharge papers. Nada arrives, so all that remains is to say lots of thank you’s and head for the outside world. A nurse accompanies us to the car and teaches the technique of entering and becoming seated in the car. What a palaver; it was only later that we realised that she may have confused me with a knee job.
The road to recovery starts now – maybe a gentle Peak district walk in the Autumn, that’s the goal.
With thanks to the NHS and Woodthorpe Hospital staff.
The road to recovery