Monday, 21 January 2013

The Good, the Mad and the Ugly

Yes, I'm alive, thanks… just a little late. I've been home since Friday: lighter another chunk of brain but feeling pretty well on it; missing some hair and with the baldy patch tracked with some brutal-looking sutures to meet this season's trendy freshly-vivisectioned look, but I was never that lovely anyway.

So that's the Good and the Ugly. As for the Mad… well, we'll come to that. It's been a hell of a week, and hospital was harder to deal with this time for a number of reasons. It's good to be back here on my couch, tired but relieved.

Last year I was blithely blogging from my bed on the evening of operation day, which allowed me a certain professional smugness - reporting live from the field of war, all that stuff - and this year I'd planned to do much the same. 

And I nearly did. Tuesday, the day the actual cutting took place, went pretty well. 

I had a decent enough night's sleep, and it wasn't any surprise that at 6.30am I was being ordered both into the shower and into a charming little surgical combo of toeless anti-DVT stockings, backless hospital pattern-printed mini-dress, and a pretty much everything-less pair of what are euphemistically referred to as "modesty pants", but which fulfil neither part of their name well (if it hadn't been for the leg-holes, I'd have been inclined to put them on my head, and while I realise a paper shower cap would be a useless garment, even when applied to the right end these weren't far behind… not the roomiest fit I've had, they really weren't far behind).

But that was all OK, because it meant things were underway, so with this brief adventure in medical cross-dressing and a quick email-check done, I was all set and greeting Clare, who'd come in just in time to catch me being wheeled away to the recovery room for pre-op prep, much earlier than I'd expected.

As with last year, I don't remember much after that; there was a brief chat with the anaesthetist, a wee shot of his wares, a bit of a sore arm, and then nothing for four or five hours, by which time I didn't seem to have so much as moved. Obviously I'd been in an operating theatre and had some very intricate squelchy things done in my head, but as far as I was concerned I was in the same place as before but the anaesthetist was telling me it was now 1.20pm.  Pretty soon I was back in my room and Clare was in again to see me. At some point I also spoke to one of the surgeons who told me that the operation had gone very well, they'd grabbed 98% of what they were aiming for, and that was a very good result.

So Tuesday was a fairly full day, what with coming round, a Facebook and Twitter announcement along the lines of "surgery over, still alive, both 'woo!' and, indeed, 'yay!'", dinner (5pm is a big event in hospital), another visiting session over the early evening, a decatheterisation (much less eventful than last year's) and subsequent return to my feet (and to using the proper loo, also a major deal). Busy, really, but I did start to blog. Then midnight knocked on, and despite feeling that I'd been rattling away for some time, I'd only written something in the region of 160 words (the fashion show stuff above, pretty much), and I was feeling tired, so I thought, "well, I've done my bit for now – best I finish this tomorrow when I can make a better job of it."

And that was the plan. 

Until Wednesday happened. And so to the Mad...

If anyone ever offers you a night of sleep deprivation while on a massive dose of dexamethasone, topped off with an anaesthetic hangover and a dihydrocodeine hair of the dog, don't take it. I mean, do what you will in the spirit of experimentation and all that, but I really don't recommend it.

By lunchtime, twitching with steroid paranoia after a morning of fractured sleep peppered with bits of nurse chat from the desk outside my door as they dealt with at least half a dozen other people's emergencies, I'd invented my own MRSA outbreak. I had enough logic still about me to realise that since they still appeared to be checking people in and out and letting other patients wander down to the canteen, we probably weren't all crawling with antibiotic-resistant superbugs. But I still had to ask, and felt much better once the nice, if slightly concerned, nurse confirmed I was probably hallucinating on dex; I'd had steroid anxiety before, after all, so I knew the feeling, it was just that the previous occasions had been at home, milder, on a much lower dose, and without also inventing a major crisis in a busy hospital.

Still, she was soothing, so by the time my parents came in to visit me mid-afternoon I'd calmed down properly, not perhaps to my most lucid, but enough for them to go home apparently happy that I was fine, if a bit understandably woozy. Which was good, because not so long after they'd left came the teatime terror.

Alone again once more, I was now onto full-blown anxiety. At least this time I'd invented no little conspiracies, but that only helped a bit. In every other way, this was much worse because the panic was just so much more intense, yet utterly groundless: just the raw emotion with no underlying cause. That's horrible, not least because it's illogical. How can you tell yourself not to worry about something if there's nothing you're worried about?

Then the nice nurse came in to ask me how I felt.

Seconds after my slightly higher-pitched than normal response, "utterly and unaccountably anxious and tense", and possibly on sight of my white-knuckled grip of the sheets, she was on the edge of the bed gently listening to me explaining as measuredly as possible the unfounded nature of this blind, screaming panic, and that I knew it was the dex, but I couldn't bring myself down from it. Some more soothing words and a phonecall for pharmaceutical advice ensued, and diazepam appeared. And that, more or less, was that.

By the time Clare visited at 6.30pm, I was fine. Still a bit twitchy (although she says I looked like I'd had a terrible shock), but pleased to see her and feeling all right. Still, I didn't blog that day. It should be an internet rule – don't post while drunk, and don't blog while bonkers. It's for the best.

After a cut in my dex prescription, another wee diazepam around midnight and a unilateral decision from me that my choice of painkiller would from then be paracetamol rather than the DF118s (as dihydrocodeine is apparently known to the aficionado) which I felt were impairing my logic, I discovered that I could also now lie more-or-less flat without twanging the wound, and I had a great night's sleep.

By Thursday, I felt fine. It was a good day. Friday was better because they let me home a day earlier than expected. And I've felt pretty good since then too, thanks. The staples itch a bit, but I've had a pleasant, if inactive, weekend.

So you're getting this blog post now, in my own good time. Sorry, but there you go.

Anyway, thanks for all your kind messages of support; they're always appreciated, as are all comments left below.

And Happy Monday! I'm having one.

Remember, if you do want to follow me on twitter, look for @G_N_S


  1. Great news, Graeme, hope the recovery continues on this upward curve.

  2. And, thanks to your title, ad-men everywhere are now trying to sell me an assortment of Clint Eastwood films...

  3. Thanks, Isla.
    Sorry about the movie recommendations, but that's Google etc for you. We mere mortals can do little about it...