Wednesday, 30 November 2011

This is going to sting a bit

Mainly getting up at 5.30am. That’s going to hurt. I’m aware of the theoretical existence of 5.30am, but I’ve always tried my best not to prove it in any practical way. But I need to be in the neurosurgery ward at the Southern General for my little adventure in trepanation at 7am, and I would like to arrive clean and relatively undazed, so a 5.30am start it is.

Without coffee, too. That’s going to knack quite a lot. I’m not allowed as much as a glass of water from 2am, so the daily kick-start of an industrial level of caffiene is out. But since that’s because having a tube shoved down your throat can make you throw up whatever might be in your stomach into your own lungs, I’m probably going to do what I’m told for once.

Tubing is apparently going to play quite a big part in tomorrow’s proceedings: both ends, in and out, one for air and one because, well, this all might take a while.

Still, I’m not going to be aware of any of that. I was initially told that I might be conscious through the operation, since there are no pain receptors on the brain itself and it sometimes helps the surgeons to be able to prod stuff and ask you if you can still make your leg twitch or if you can see the fairies yet. And a couple of the brain surgery stories I’ve been told recently have involved the patient being awake; one apparently babbling about cars throughout, and the other cheerfully watching bits of her own brain being carted off for biopsy.

I was at first much more comfortable about that than about allowing myself to be gassed - I may have a slight control issue in my personality, please feel free to discuss - but as the event gets closer I’m now thinking that completely out for the count is the way to be. I will apparently be laid down on my left side, with my head clamped tightly in position (which will also, I’m told, leave pin-holes front and back, just as a little bonus injury) while they make an incision in the shape of a horizontal question-mark over my right ear, peel back the flesh, drill a couple of holes, and use them to get the jigsaw in to whip out a section of skull. It was the thought of the bone-saw and burning smell you get at the dentist that changed my mind firmly in favour of general anaesthetic.

Assuming they get on with things quickly, it should only take a few hours to have a scrape around, re-attach the osseous trap-door, and stitch things up. I should be awake and complaining before long, and be able to have Clare in to visit in the evening. Then it’s back on my feet the next morning, they say, although I will be in for a few days of observation.

I’ve had a few more messages from people as the operation looms, and they’ve as usual been cheering and illuminating. One was from an old school friend who suggested, “I think you’ve missed a trick on the prayer front. You could have said, ‘Thank you for your prayers. God responded and you’ve to send me a hundred quid’.” Which is still an option, incidentally. Another was from a woman I didn’t know well at school, but who sent a wonderfully strong note about her own three-year battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma which rather puts my own minor inconvenience into perspective. It did give me a little pause for thought about being quite so glib about cancer, since some of them are really so very, well, big, and mine is pretty trivial by comparison (and, as I’ve said, might not even be cancer). But she did say my blog had struck a chord and didn’t seem offended, so I still think I’m doing the right thing here.

I’ve been trying to update this daily, but it seems unlikely I’ll be able to add much tomorrow; not least because I understand the medical profession gets twitchy about people operating their own personal area networks near their delicate machinery. But I’ll try to update when I can safely get online without inadvertently switching anyone else off.

Over, but not out. I’ll keep you posted.


  1. Good luck Graeme, hope to see you back blogging by the weekend. jackie

  2. I was going to say "Chin up, Smith." But it sounds like they'll be taking care of that for you with a metal contraption. Think of everything, these medics. Best of luck. And remember - you will have woken up with sorer heads from nothing more than that vile malt whisky stuff you insist on drinking.

  3. Thinking of you. All the best for you and the medical team tomorrow.

    Richard V.