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Surgery, finally.

After learning that my surgery had been cancelled I was told it would be another few days until the surgeon would be working again.  If I remember correctly he only worked Tuesdays and Thursdays.  So I had to wait until the next available day.  

The next available day for surgery was much and such like the first one that was cancelled.  I woke up to have no breakfast, the last thing I ate was at 1 am the night before when I was given toast and jam.  Then it was a wash up with the surgical soap stuff they give you to wash the area with.  The surgeon came in and marked up where they would be cutting me.  This time round I was a bit more panicky, I felt like I was definitely getting surgery that day.  By midday I was really nervous and sweaty.  They old boy, Archie, came over and spoke to me to calm me down.  He just stood at the end of my bed and said everything would be alright.  He put his hands on my feet as he stood there and said “you’ll be fine, you have nothing to worry about” and all the other cliché phrases you say to someone worried about something like this.  

I think I found out what time my surgery was going to happen at and let my mum and dad know.  They said they’d be there for me waking up.  The surgeon told me the surgery would only take about 40 mins to 1 hour and that I’d be asleep for probably 2 hours.  He said if there were any difficulties during the procedure, such as the need for a blood transfusion, that they would have to give me more anaesthetic and I would be out for a bit longer.

When they came to collect me they wheeled me down to surgery in my bed and then I waited outside a room that seemed almost like a corridor until they took me in.  I’m not sure if this corridor type room was the theatre or not but it seemed like a strange room to put me into so I imagine it was.  The anaesthetist was a different person to who I’d met before, I think these guys could be taught a thing or two from nurses about bedside etiquette and how to talk to a nervous patient.  I know they probably deal with dozens of patients a week but it was all too formal in my case and I was quite nervous.  He gave me the needle in the arm with the drip or whatever it was (I hate needles so just looked away) and said to count backwards from 10.  I can’t remember hitting 5.  

I was taken to the recovery unit but I can’t remember waking up there or being anywhere near alert there. The first thing I remember is the nice Polish nurse speaking to me when I was back in my own ward and my mum being at my bedside.  The nurse asked me how I was feeling and I responded, still completely out of it from the anaesthetic, with a joke from The Simpsons.  She said “how you feeling?” And I said “good, but will I be able to play the piano after this?” She said “of course”, to which I responded “well I couldn’t before”.  I don’t have a clue what made me think of that but it made her laugh so that was nice.  
When I started to almost sober up I realised my dad, my mum and my mums partner were next to my bed.  This was was a bit weird for me as my mum and dad don’t usually get along when they are together.  They’ve been separated since I was 2 years old and divorced a few years later.  A day or so before surgery my mum had mentioned that my dad once owned a Rangers shirt.  This was like a cardinal sin in my view since my dad always taught me to hate Rangers.  So I took full advantage of the fact that I was completely out of it to ask him and to embarrass him and not get any repercussions.  I asked him and he told me it was true.  I think he thought I’d forget but I didn’t.  It felt like a bit of betrayal, like I’d been lied to all my life. I just thank him for not making me a Rangers fan as a kid.

When I realised what time it was I asked why it was so late if my op was only supposed to be 40 mins.  I had been unconscious for about 4 hours.  I thought this meant I would have been given a transfusion and that there would have been complications.  I later found out it was because of the anaesthetist giving me too much anaesthesia.

Immediately after the op they gave me more opiate based pain medication.  It didn’t agree with me and for the next 12 hours I was vomiting constantly.  They tried to feed me but I couldn’t keep anything down, not even water.  They tried a few different anti sickness medication but eventually I told them to just take the drip out and to give me something for the pain that wasn’t opiate based.  Lying there in bed felt horrible and constantly vomiting was causing lots of distress.  It was the first time in my life I can remember my mum and dad getting on or at least not arguing and I had to tell them to go home and leave me alone.  I told them it was weird seeing them together, it was a little but what I should have said was “it’s stressing me out having lots of people around while I’m in this much pain and vomiting so much” but the drugs I was on wouldn’t let me say it for some reason. 

I spent the night of my surgery in pain, vomiting and basically just completely out of it.    


The night before my surgery  I wasn’t allowed any food from midnight.  When I woke in the morning I was already starving.  It was probably the fact I knew I wasn’t getting any food that made it worse.  At 8am when everyone else was eating their breakfasts I was jealous.  Then when the medication came round I was even more jealous.  I wasn’t allowed any pain meds for some reason.  This hadn’t been explained to me and now I was in pain and needed them. 

I thought it would only be a couple of hours until my operation so I tried to relax and watch some TV but I was so hungry, panicked and in pain that I just sat there sweating.  I kept asking for just a little pain medication and they gave me paracetamol if I remember correctly.  It didn’t help. 

Everyone had their lunch in front of me and I had to sit there watching and smelling.  Hospital food never looked or smelled so good.  I was already annoyed that today for supper the menu had lasagne, my favourite and I would be missing out. 

Around 1 or 2ish I started asking the nurses what was happening and could sense something was up because no one could answer any of my questions.  I was freaking out with the pain by this point.   The pain was like someone reaching in and pulling on a muscle like it was an elastic band.  I can’t think of any other ways to describe it.  Well, maybe like being stabbed from the inside.  The nurse said it could be that the tube from my chest drain might be pressing against a muscle.  It was horrible.

It was about 4 o’clock when I’d made enough noise and had been curled over in weird positions for long enough that they finally sent along one of the pain nurses to ask me how I was doing.  She couldn’t believe I hadn’t been given any pain meds.   She said there was no reason not to give me it as long as the surgery team were made aware.  So I sat there for hours racked in pain when I didn’t need to.  It went from trying to give me a heroin overdose a week before to denying me necessary medication. 

At nearly 5 o’clock I was so anxious and freaking out that I asked a nurse to check what was going on. It was then that she found out for me that the surgery had been cancelled.  They must have had no infrastructure in place to make a patient aware of this which is pretty shocking considering they could be without pain meds and food for a lot of hours, about 17 in my case.   

Getting Ready For Surgery

After a few days of my lung not inflating, the surgeon decided he would need to operate.  He said he would perform keyhole surgery, involving putting a camera inside my chest cavity to find where my lung was leaking air, stapling the hole or holes caused by possible blebs (blisters) and then burning the chest cavity or “scraping it” to make it bleed then using talc to stick my lung to the chest cavity. I’m sure they used nicer, longer more professional sounding words but that was the jist of it.  

While I was waiting for a date, a guy was admitted to the bed beside me who had been in and out of hospital with pneumothorax at least 5 times.  His body looked like someone had been playing x’s and o’s on him with a knife and that the x’s had won, a lot.  He told me not to get my hopes up that it would work because his kept collapsing.  He told me he had continued to smoke and said it wasn’t a big deal to keep doing it.  I thought to myself “if this pain has happened to you 5 times and you’ve kept smoking then I’m definitely never smoking again”.  He was a character though, as soon as he got into his bed and the nurse disappeared out of the room he would crack open one of the beers he’d smuggled in.  

They told me surgery would be on a Tuesday about a week and a couple days after I had been admitted to hospital.   The night before, the anaesthetist came and sized me up for how much I would need to keep me under.  That night I wasn’t so worried, I just wanted to get it over and done with.  I was happy to have the possibility of getting out. 

Passing time

99 per cent of the hospital staff were top notch.  They had to put up with horrible people in a horrible situation.  Some of the patients were a bit nasty to the nurses and there were some difficult patients that were just struggling with pain or maybe had some mental issues.  I don’t know which of them categories I fell into but I can remember the 3 nurses which I wouldn’t like to receive care from again.  The first was a woman who seemed to love waking up the patients at 8am and not even trying to be nice about it.  Bare in mind I had probably been up most of the night in pain and it was quite a struggle for me to move quickly anyway.  She would snap “get up and out of your bed”.  I couldnt understand why they made us all get out of bed at 8am for breakfast when some people would struggle.  Its not like we had anywhere else to go during the rest of the day. 

One morning she was hurrying me out of bed and telling me to get into my chair.  I had a bit of a moan and asked why we needed to, it felt like I imagine a prison to feel.  She said “I have to be here as well, and for 12 hours at a time, and I don’t want to be here”.  The reply I gave got a bit of a chuckle from one or two of the old boys but also some frowns.  I said “aye but you get paid for it, we have to stay here 24 hours a day and I’ve been here a week.  Do you think I’m loving it like I’m at the Hilton?”  She really was in the wrong job.  She was even rude in front of my family and a little bit to my mum. 

Most of the nurses were always keen for a laugh to brighten up there day as well as ours.  There was one who you couldn’t possibly have a laugh with as she took her job far too seriously.  The rule that only 2 people could visit at once would be broken on the regular but when she was on shift she would make people wait in the waiting room down the corridor.  For me being hooked up to a tube which was plugged into the wall this was a problem.  Even the old guy who I got on with the best used to make nazi salutes behind her back or if you were on your phone and he spotted her coming.  That was another thing she hated, using mobile phones.  All the other nurses told me that using that and my e-cig were both fine but she wouldn’t have either.  I used my phone to connect my laptop to the internet so that I could play poker.  It was annoying if you were in the middle of a hand and she would come in and disrupt things. 

There was a 3rd evil nurse but I’ll get to her later.  The nice ones helped make things better.  There was a lovely Polish nurse who I would speak to quite a lot.  When she would be changing my dressing we would be discussing politics, the indy referendum or Russia/Poland relations.  She was a really nice girl and the old boys could see I liked her so they liked to joke about it when she was there.  She would close the curtain to change the dressing around the entry to my chest and they would joke when she pulled back the curtain that she had spent 45 minutes with me and only 5 with them.  They liked a bit of a joke like that.  For example, a day or two after I had been moved to this ward the nazi nurse had told me I needed to get a swab done for MRSA.  It was a swab under the testicles.   She held my testicles up out of the way and swabbed away.  When I asked the old boys about it they told me she had let them do the swab to themselves and that I’d been felt up by a pervert nurse.

One day another nurse was changing my dressing with the curtain closed.  The young Polish cleaner came in and the old guys said “that young cleaner is here for you, she says she’s going to polish something for you”.  I didn’t think she was actually there so I joked back “well she’ll need a bloody big cloth”.  The curtains were pulled back seconds later and she was standing there giggling with a red face.

I was the only patient in my ward that had paid the extortionate amounts for my private telly to work so when it was Manchester United vs Bayern Munich, the old boys came over with their chairs and watched it sat around my bed until nazi nurse came in and told them to get back to their beds like they were children.  All in all it wasn’t as horrible a time as it could have been in there.

Moving To The Cardiovascular Ward

After a few days I began to get really, really anxious about getting out of hospital.  I was desperate to leave.  I didn’t realise how much all of it would change my life.  I think I still thought that I would suddenly make a miraculous recovery and didn’t think my body would feel different for years to come. 

A surgeon finally came to visit me after a few days and told me I would need surgery.  He said that there would come a time when I would barely remember what had happened, that I would struggle to remember how many days I spent in hospital.  He was wrong.  I remember pretty much everything and I remember exactly how many days I spent in there. 

I can’t remember the surgeons name but my mother had met him before, I think he operated on both my dad and my step dad.  He told me I would be moved to the cardiovascular ward and I would get my op within a few days.  I think this was a Saturday he told me this and said it would be a Tuesday or Thursday that I would get the surgery. 

I was told to prepare to be moved to the other ward which was in another part of the hospital.  They allowed me to wait until my mum came in for visiting time to help me move wards.  We packed up all my things and the porter pushed me on a wheelchair to another part of the hospital.  I felt helpless having a woman carry my bags and another woman pushing me about in a wheelchair.  

When I got to the new ward they put me into the corner bed.  My mum told me my step dad had been in the bed next to mine when he was in a few years before (pancreatic cancer), and my dad had been in the room next to my ward which was pretty spooky when you think about it. 

The first thing that happened when I lay in my bed for the first time was that I saw this old man propped up in his chair staring at me from across the room.  I started to wonder if he was blind or had a problem with his eyes.  He kept staring and staring.  I was beginning to get annoyed.  At this point I wanted to burst so any reason to start an argument or cry would have been welcomed.   I stared back at this oldie and spoke to my mum and said “what the fuck is this old boy staring at”.  I was making plenty of expressions at him and getting more and more wound up until just as i was about to burst when my mum put the curtains around me.  And thank god she did, because a couple of hours later a nurse came through and I realised the old boy had just recently came out of heart surgery and had been completely out of it on the meds.  He didn’t even know I was there. 

When I woke up in the morning he spoke to me for a while and I realised he was a really, really nice guy, he helped me a lot in there.  The “pain team” had been organised to come and help me treat my pain.  They sent up a girl to have a chat with me.  She asked how much pain I was in, where it was and how often, all the usual questions.  Then she looked at the chart that had the list and strengths of the meds I was on already.  She was shocked.  The last ward had been giving me way more than double the strengths I should have been getting.  No wonder I had been sick all the time.

Chest Drains Can Be Awkward

As mentioned before it was difficult to sleep with all that was happening.  Add to that the fact I was on drugs that kept making me think there was someone standing over me whenever I closed my eyes and the chest drain I had stitched into my ribs just under my armpit and I’m sure you can see how it might be difficult. 

The chest drain was there to suck the air from my chest cavity.  It wasn’t working as quick as they hoped and it was horrible having the thing in 24/7, but at least it relieved the pain a little.  Trying to shower with it, trying to go to the toilet with it.  I was worried I would stand on the tube trying to get up out of bed.


One of my main concerns was about sleeping however.  I have a history of doing stupid things in my sleep.  I like to sleep on my side with my arm up beside my head and I can sometimes be quite fidgety so it was hard to adjust and get comfortable to lying on my back and not being able to move.  I would sometimes wedge my hand down the side of the bed in the hope it would help me stay in a safe position all night.


One night close to the start my stay, the plan to wedge myself in position didn’t really work.  I was constantly in a panic that I would pull out my chest drain.  The doctors told me it was very unlikely.  Maybe that’s why I did what I did, to prove them wrong.

One night I had been sleeping for a few hours and woke up feeling like my lung had collapsed again, I was in a panic and thought I had pulled out my chest drain.  I rang the bell for the nurse again for the 50 thousandth time since I got there and the sound male nurse that was on nights the first few nights came in.  He asked what was up and when I said I thought my chest drain had came out he clearly thought I was just panicking like usual.  He decided to oblige and have a quick look though just to make sure it was OK.  It wasn’t.  He took a quick look and then went off to get a doctor.  She then sent me for more xrays to see if the tube inside my chest had moved.  It had.  I must have pulled at my chest drain or snagged it on something in my sleep.  It wasn’t a nice feeling.

After a while of having about 4 or 5 doctors and nurses standing over me discussing it in the middle of the night they decided I needed to have another chest drain put in and the old one taken out.  So they took me through to a small room that had one of those beds you see in the doctors office.  I was asked to get onto the bed and propped up a bit so the doctor could get into the position to get in about to my ribs again.  I was asked to put my arm above my head so my armpit was exposed.  Now the first time I had this done I was under the influence of some pretty powerful drugs so I don’t remember much.  This time however they didn’t give me the drugs even though I wanted them.  They instead just gave me a local anaesthetic in the area I was getting it.  Then a young doctor stepped forward to prepare all the tools.  She sterilised the area and got me ready to be cut.  Then the clearly more senior doctor asked if she felt confident to do it herself.  At this point I panicked and asked if she had done it before.  She said she had done it once before, on a cadaver.  Great.  She started to feel around for the exact spot to make the incision.  You can’t feel anything being cut as such but you can feel something and know when you’ve been cut.  The feeling of the blood dripping onto the parts that aren’t numb also let you know it’s happened.  Then she readied the tube and started to slip it in.  I was sweating heavily as she put it in and my arms went a bit wobbly.  One of the male nurses asked if I wanted him to hold my arm up to help take the strain off.  I said no, but the doctor told him to anyway.  When the guy felt the how much sweat was on my arm he must have been disgusted and then he’d have understood why I said no to him helping me.

As the tube went in I could feel it worming it’s way into my chest cavity.  It was horrible but I was happy it was going in.  They double stitched it into my armpit to make sure I wouldn’t pull it out again but all I could think of was that more stitches would hurt more being pulled out.

Once they had finished cutting me open and inserting tubes into my chest they sent me back through to my room and gave me oxygen for a while.  I just sat there thinking about life and where mine was heading while I breathed into a bag.  Again, not fun.


Hospital routine

After a couple of days I began to work out the routine. Around 8am was breakfast time and time to change the bed.  I cant remember if the first round of meds was before or after breakfast but it was around that time. Then the doctors did their rounds.  An hour or so after that you would see a cleaner.  I would usually have a nap after that until about lunch time or just before when they would give you another round of meds.  Lunch was usually some horrible thing they were trying to pass off as a normal meal.  They would have things like braised steak and tatties, steak pie, chilli con carne on the menu.  The thing is though, when they came the dishes that you maybe thought you knew were not what you expected.  The braised steak was more of a gravy/soup.  I don’t like my chilli spicy but the chilli was so mild and flavourless even I thought it was weak, but it was probably the best meal they had.  Other than those I tended to ask for sandwiches and baked potatoes as these were harder to mess up.


After lunch came a little bit more downtime until afternoon visiting.  This was when I found out who my real friends were.  Other than two friends I only had family come to visit.  Out of those two friends one came during the day a couple of times and the other at night a couple of times.  I will always be grateful to them for coming in to see me because it brought a bit of respite from the usual chat.  I could have a laugh and talk about there being pretty nurses on that day or other things you don’t want to talk to your mum and dad about.  It also showed me who my real friends were.  I’ll never look at my friends the same way again.  It really got to me that some people who I thought were good friends didn’t bother to even stop past for 5 minutes or even call me and ask how I was.  I’m sad to say I don’t really talk to one of the friends that did come and see me anymore but I wish I did because he showed up when no one else did.
After that it was the 3rd round of meds.  I think this is the time I would get a warfarin injection into the stomach.  This was to stop my blood thinning as I was lying in bed so much.  The doctors would tell me to get up and walk about which I did as much as I could, but it gets a bit boring when the only place you can go is round and round a ward and the only thing you can see as you do it is people on ventilators. 

Then it was more horrible attempts at what would usually be culinary delights.  I must say, I don’t think the people cooking the food would have meant for it to taste as bad as it did.  I would imagine they were doing the best with what they were given. 


Evening visits was when I would get the most people coming to see me.  We were only supposed to be allowed 2 to a bedside but usually there was 4 or 5 as at this point I had the private room.  My mum, dad, mum’s boyfriend (mum and dad are obviously divorced), aunt, uncle, brothers and cousins came to see me.  It’s amazing how much you see of your family when you’re in hospital.  I wouldn’t change that for the world though.  Visiting time was the highlight of my day, although when I was out of it on morphine I did tell the pretty Polish cleaner “you coming round to do the cleaning is the highlight of my day”. 

After visiting came one more round of meds.  Then I would try to watch a film or some TV to settle down for the night, but like I say, with the meds it made it hard to concentrate and I would just sit and worry about what was happening to me until I managed to get a little bit of sleep until about 1am when a nurse would attempt to sneak in and check my pulse and oxygen levels and make sure I was still alive.  Then it was another attempt to get some more sleep to do it all again the next day.