Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Going for the chop

I wasn’t particularly nervous about the surgery.  I’ve had numerous anaesthetics before and come through ok.  In fact I quite like an anaesthetic.  Is that weird?  I like the feeling you get just before the lights go out, that feeling of complete abandonment.
Plus I was just excited about getting on with the treatment.  I’d had a month’s build up to all this and the anticipation was messing with my head.  I just wanted to see what it had in store for me.

So at 8.00am on 7 August, I found myself sitting in a hospital gown, Will by my side, waiting to be taken through to theatre.   Various people walked in and out of the room asking me questions, getting me to sign bits of paper, then leaving again.  The anaesthetist burst in, full of life.  How was she going to be able to sit still for 8 hours?  She was so hyper!   As well as being in charge of keeping me alive, she was apparently to be the DJ for the duration of my surgery too.  She asked if I had any requests for recovery music.  My mind was blank.  ‘A bit of chillout?’ I replied.  How naff.  Oh well, I’m sure I wasn’t really going to be aware of much at that point.  
The plastic surgeon also appeared briefly and drew all over my chest with a black marker pen.  I don’t think it was just random scrawlings, I guess it would mean something to him when he was later standing over me, scalpel in hand?

All of a sudden it was time to go and a nurse whisked me away to do the walk of doom along grim looking corridors to the prep room where I was asked to hop onto the trolley and the anaesthetist cum DJ starting plugging me in.  We chatted about Australia, she’d lived there for a while, and suddenly I was feeling woozy and then I was gone, disappointingly quickly I must say. 

The next thing I knew someone was telling me it was 4pm and that the surgery was done.  I had a rotten recovery.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe properly which was terrifying.  The recovery nurses told me that my SATS were fine but that didn’t really help me to calm down.  I found out later that this is quite common with the surgery I had because they’ve had to break a rib to get to the necessary blood vessels which can make it feel like someone is sitting on your chest. I was given an adrenalin nebuliser which seemed to do the trick. But once I’d recovered from that little episode I started to vomit.  I was feeling hugely sorry for myself by this stage and remember just sobbing, very loudly.  Not one of my finer moments.

I was eventually taken to the ward at about 9pm after delays for one reason or another, to find Will waiting for me.   How lovely.  By this time I was high on drugs and feeling much happier. The first night was long.  I had to be checked every hour for 24 hours to make sure the blood supply to my new boob was still flowing.  Except it seemed I no longer had a boob, it was now a flap?  Every time the nurse came in, she would say, ‘just need to check your flap’.  A flap?  Surely they could think of a more flattering name for it? 
I’d heard stories of blood supplies failing and women having to be whisked straight back into surgery.  The idea of this was just too much to bear.  So it was nerve wracking every time the nurse came to put the Doppler on my ‘flap’.  Some would find the right spot straight away and you could hear the comforting whoosh sound of a healthy blood vessel.  Others were less practiced and when they couldn’t find it straight away, I would have a mild panic. 

I was in hospital for 6 days in all.  Recovery was pretty tough I must say and by day two I was wondering whether I’d made the right choice of surgery.  I wasn’t allowed to sit up because of the large wound on my bum and found this incredibly frustrating.  Thirty degrees was the limit of propping up allowed.  At first I was told it was just for 72 hours, and then suddenly during ward rounds, the plastic surgeon said they didn’t want me sitting for a week!  I was starting to get pretty depressed by this stage.  The days were long and the nights even longer.  I was beginning to have dark thoughts about what it would be like to be paralysed.  I hope that doesn’t sound flippant, as I was obviously far from paralysed.  But having my movement so restricted even for a week, felt interminable to me.  My diagnosis and the implications suddenly started to feel very real.  Blasé had left the building. 
What made things even worse was the indigestion, nausea and wind I suffered from the various medications and from having to eat without sitting up.  I was burping and farting like a trooper.  Apologies to my ward mates!
I was allowed to stand up after a few days, but had to get into a standing position without bending at the hip.  Not easy, but I soon became well practiced at it.  Thank goodness I had a bit of core fitness.  Standing made me dizzy though so I could only manage it for a minute or two.  I started to hate the sight of that bed. 

My lovely family did a grand job of looking after me, bringing me presents and Marks and Spencers dinners so that I didn’t have to force down the rank hospital food which, by the way, does not seem to have moved on since the dark ages.  I find this hard to get my head around when so much study has gone into the importance of nutrition.

My nine year old niece Faye really impressed me with the way she handled the whole hospital situation and seeing me not looking so great, with numerous drains and catheters hanging off me.  She just wanted to help, and help she did.  She was a great tonic.  Thanks beautiful girl x

Will would do the graveyard shift from 6-8pm when I was feeling too pooped to do anything much but for me, at least, it was a nice peaceful time of day.  I’m sure Will found it very dull but he was what I needed at the end of the day.
I did have a pretty spectacular view from my bedside, overlooking the Thames.  I only really began to appreciate this after about day five.  I didn’t get any great photos of it but will include one anyway.

And as for the ‘flap’, I finally had a proper look at it on the day I left hospital when one of the nurses took me into the bathroom to look at it in the mirror.  I’d had many compliments about it from all the nurses and doctors who’d checked it out over the week.  To me it felt pretty alien and not really a part of me.  I had to agree the shape was good, but having bum skin in place of a nipple I have to say detracts a little from the overall look!  In fact on my first night after surgery, one of the nurses kindly had a giggle when first seeing my 'flap' saying that I must have a very white bum bum!  She happily pointed this out to anyone who would listen.  Thanks lady.  Thankfully, further plastic surgery, nipple creation and tatooing will happen once all the rest of my treatment is over. 
My recovery was rapid once I left the hospital and I was walking about and sitting up after a couple of weeks.  I was no longer regretting my choice of going for the full monty .  I'm happy with the results and how it all feels and the difficult times were short-lived, in hindsight.  I've even been able to get back on my pushbike again.  Happy days.

No comments:

Post a Comment