It’s Saturday 20th August, or day 5 after my hip replacement. I’m settled at home, and feeling nearly back to my old self, for the first time since last weekend. It’s about time I wrote a diary of what happened to me in the hospital.
Before the operation
My hip replacement surgery was scheduled for Monday 15th August 2016. The instructions were clear – be at the hospital at 7am ready for an operation in the morning of that day. Bring overnight things, budgeting for at least 3 nights. Towels not necessary. And don’t forget your slippers and dressing gown! These are things I wouldn’t normally consider packing, but I did as I was told.
My wife and daughters dropped me off at five minutes to the hour; I reported to the receptionist and sat down, the first to arrive. Ten minutes later the waiting room was full up with three other victims and their partners, but it was quiet; I was the only one who’d come alone, and only very limited conversation was going on, with no interaction between groups. I remember one person particularly well, partly because of his pastel pink trousers and partly because he spoke only about himself rather than paying any attention to his poor other half, whose surgical number was up that day. He appeared to be a doctor, and you should remember him because he will reappear later.
After a few minutes we were each called by name. We got to our feet – some more easily than others – and performed a slow and arthritic conga towards the wards. The wife of the trousers guy was really struggling, and I felt I ought to let her go through first, but the chance didn’t arise. We turned right – a new direction for me – and as our names were called out again we peeled off to our allocated rooms. I was near the end of the corridor, in number 31.
It was fine. Like a basic hotel room but with extra pull cords and stability handles. I don’t need those, I thought! I was wrong, of course. After a couple of minutes, I had my first visitor – a nurse. She was friendly and chatty, a bit younger than me, and fascinated because we shared the same surname. This delighted her, although I wasn’t quite so bothered.
She gave me the briefest of guided tours of my facilities, and then it was down to business. Blood pressure, blood test, choose my lunch menu. She told me that salad wasn’t an option, as the body finds it difficult to digest leaves after an operation. This was fine by me, so I chose a chicken and bacon sandwich, and an omelette for later.
Then – timetable news. I was to be operated on at 10.30, the second out of three. I figured that this was a good thing, as my surgeon would have had time to get his eye in and wouldn’t be thinking about his own lunch choices yet, salad or not. Perfect. Speaking of the devil – in he came! I’ve met him before, of course, and I found him the same this time around – efficient, but not warm. But I don’t mind that, as long as he knows how to replace hips. He can be a robot as far as I care.
And he was nice to me. We discussed once again what was going to happen. This was not new information, but I understood why it was worth repeating. Then I signed the consent form, something I’ve done many times before – just not for myself. It was a novel experience.
Also novel was the next step, when he got out a purple pen and announced his intention to draw a massive arrow on my leg, pointing in the direction of my groin. Normally I would object to this, but today I didn’t mind. On it went, and I have a photo to prove it.
I asked him what was going to happen with my redundant femoral head. Previous suggestions from friends had included: snooker ball, paperweight, soup, but the surgeon didn’t seem keen on any of these options. It wasn’t a straight no, but I didn’t want to argue the point, given my weak position. That settled, he left – to have a similar conversation with someone else, no doubt. The tart!
He was followed by the anaesthetist, whose main question was about how awake I fancied being during the operation. My answer: not at all. He seemed pleased, presumably because he knew they could just get on with chatting about what they did at the weekend without having to worry about my insane drug-fuelled ramblings at the same time.
He left and I noticed it was 9am, giving me 90 minutes to kill. I took the opportunity to start writing an article I’d planned for LinkedIn about what was happening to me, with tenuous links to an imaginary interview scenario.
Midway through my writing I was visited again – by not one nurse this time, but two! They were interested in getting me to swallow a couple of tablets. Starting the painkillers early doors, they said. I might feel a bit dizzy, they said. They meant business, too, and they were not leaving until I swallowed them down. I had no objections to doing this, so down my hatch they went.
After this I finished my LinkedIn article as fast as I could, so that I would have time to publish it before I collapsed. As a result it ended up being fairly brief and fairly crap, and the viral media attention I was hoping for did NOT come my way. In a week I’ve had 129 views and 17 likes on it, an average return at best. But it passed the time, until my wife and older daughter (5) came back to see me. I had missed them.
We discussed what had happened in their absence, and I got changed into my surgical gown and flimsy underpants. How they both laughed at me! In their defence, I looked like a clown. Thank goodness I had dressed better than this on our first date.
And then the time came. The nurse came in and asked me about tattoos (I have none), piercings (I have none) and jewellery (I have one – a wedding ring, which she covered using tape). I then put on my dressing gown and slippers as instructed, kissed my wife and daughter goodbye, and listened to them making plans for lunch as I padded down the corridor with my nurse. Tactless.
The nurse and I waited in a side room, not really talking. I did try, but either she wasn’t in a chatty mood or I was just spouting nonsense. I can’t remember. And then a different medic came in the room. I think he was another anaesthetist – he was vague on this point, but he did say that he was part of the team. He made me sign another form, re-checked that they were aiming for the left hip (the arrow clinched it), and led me to a different room again. The anaesthetic room.
Here I met yet another person – a lady older than me, whose role seemed to be to calm me down and talk about the difference between my normal Monday morning routine and what was happening to me now. She had a good point – the two were very different.
In went the cannula, although not easily. They struggled to find a suitable vein in my hand, perhaps because my poor body was doing its best to avoid having the operation at all and had pulled all blood vessels in as far as it could. But this guy wasn’t to be dissuaded. He rubbed something on my skin and smacked the back of my hand a few times, causing the vein to emerge for just long enough for him to get a needle in, and they all seemed happy. Later on, this cannula would cause me trouble, but for now it was doing its job.
Banal as the conversation was, I still wasn’t holding my end of it up very well. Basically I wanted to faint. I said as much, and I was rolled over onto my left side by the lady. I was nervous that in this position the spinal injection would be more difficult for them to do, but they weren’t fazed by this either, and in it went. I think I was then rolled onto my back and my toes began their tingling, but my memory of this time is already hazy, and I can’t be sure. The last thing I definitely do remember is seeing a milky substance in a syringe (Propofol, possibly) being attached to my hand, and being told to expect some drowsiness.
They weren’t wrong. Now read on, if you dare.