Chapter 2 – The Night after the Day before
I can see but everything is blurry, I can move my fingers but I can’t move my hands and I can hear people speaking but I am unable to respond. It’s like the worst possible hangover but with paralysis. Can I turn my head? Who’s in the room? Then like that Uma Thurman adrenaline shot in Pulp Fiction something shoots through my body and I gasp, lift my head up and everything comes into focus. Well, a little bit more anyway. As much as you can when your whole body is shaking off the bed with the reaction of every organ being saturated with the ol’ cryogenic anaesthetic. Tachycardic much.
“You’re ok, Emma, you’re just coming round.”
Phew. I don’t really want to open my eyes, it’s just too much effort, but I know I must, I absolutely have to, got to look at the clock without delay. How long have I been in there, how long has Phil been waiting? S-L-O-W. My mind is turning over but my mouth just won’t catch up, can’t ask someone else the time. Ok there’s a clock to the wall on my left, I think I can see that it’s now 7.30pm, just squint my eyes a little more, everything’s all fuzzbuzz around me. If you know what fuzzbuzz is you’ll know what I mean (without meaning to offend anyone).
And here comes that time when I feel the need to rip off my oxygen mask for some bizarre reason; the recovery nurse tells me it’s ok, I’m being wrapped up in some special blanket, I’m a little cold, it went really well, Mr Trehan is happy. Sorry, what? I murmur something that I hope sounds like, “Really?”, when I’m pretty sure it’s just an uprising moan. I can’t stop saying thank you thank you thank you and laughing a little to myself. Why thank you, Mr Morphine, with this hallucinatory hysteria you are really spoiling me.
The most resounding memory is of being an observer of absolute normality. The nurses chat to each other, there’s lots of clicking and beeping, muffled footsteps, just life going on. And for that moment I think, maybe this isn’t such a big deal after all.
Errrrm hang on, I’m pretty sure someone’s tried to remove my left leg at the hip. Hello can I get some help here? “Are you in pain?”, yesyesyes, can I get the words out: “My hip, my hip”. Out of all the places they expected me to say I’m pretty sure hip was down at the bottom of the list with my earlobe. OH MY DAYS IT’S AGONY. I communicate gorilla-like and he gets me, tells me I’ve been given morphine and it’s “positional” rather than surgical pain. Nearly 8 hours in stirrups will do that to a girl. But if my legs were in stirrups then my dignity… best not to think about that one. Dear Endometriosis, I’d like that one back now.
The nurse tells me I’m doing well (not really sure I’m trying too hard at that, I’m just awake and barely coherent – maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here), as soon as my heart rate calms down, coz the shaking sure as heck isn’t, I can go back to my room. I just want Phil to know I’m ok and be told the details of what’s happened in this here pelvis.
The anaesthetist comes in, blase as you like, all ready to get home to his wife and tells me that it’s gone well too. I feel like I’ve got something good to hold on to and pretty sure I’m smiling like a loon. After about half an hour I’m wheeled back to my room and who is waiting there but the delicious Phil and a big grin when I manage to tell him it all went well. I start to feel a little pleased: what I don’t know, and what Phil doesn’t tell me until the next day, is that at this point he is fairly horrifed as I look fairly similar in facial size to this:
This is because I have been completely still for hours on end apparently. All I know of this is when I feel my face at 2am and realise my bottom lip is completely numb. I start freaking out a little. On top of this, where the endotrachial (throat) tube rubbed on my chin for 7 hours, I have a massive sore. Oh yeah, I’m looking hot right now.
So I’m back in my room, dripped, cathetered and oxygen-masked up and feeling pretty high and then I realise I can’t move. Insomniacal exhaustion hits. I know the best thing I can do is sleep but Mr Sandman proves elusive, in fact he’s effed off for the whole night, little did I know then. I want to talk to Phil, find out how he is, tell him about my recovery room experiences and talk about getting our life back when I am all healed, but command over my verbal skills is non-existent and I just lay there with all these thoughts and ideas but unable to speak. My feet are agony too, that point where you get pins and needles but feeling starts to come back with that cold stinging pain, that pain all night. Again, positional. Keep rubbing in the stirrup scenario why don’t you. I do, however, show my awe with lots of wows when I have electric compression pumps strapped to my legs (though I don’t know they’re strapped to my legs as I can’t see down that far and can’t sit up to see), over the white stockings, to massage my legs to avoid DVT. Mind. Blown. Noisy but impressive.
Left hip pain is not going away and it is excruciating so the nurses give me an ice pack as I’m up to the max with painkillers. Blood pressure and oxygen levels are taken every 15 minutes; even if I could sleep I’m pretty sure I’d end up hitting someone for so consistently pumping my arm up to bursting point so frequently (my patience has exiled itself with my dignity). Oh goody, my temperature is now 38.8 degrees, two nurses agree it must be a defective ear thermometer so they test themselves…yup, normal. So I end up with 4 nurses and 4 thermometers in the room, starting to feel a bit agitated now, all giving the same burning reading even though I feel tepid at best. Blankets are whipped off, window opened wide, fan on, door open to let the draught in, nurse kindly telling me she knew I’d be difficult and she wouldn’t be able to go home now. You know that semi-jokey but resentfully serious tone? Yup, that one.
There’s nothing quite like that moment they tell you that your visitor has to leave; it’s like falling into a hole backwards. Even though at this point I am not even speaking, just trying very solemnly not to move, having a loved one close by makes me feel a bit more of this world rather than a parallel hell. As time wears on I feel more and more like I’ve been hit by several juggernauts and I am working very hard to relax and convince myself that I have done the right thing here. Conversely, never before have I wanted so badly to just get up. Now, I have an incredibly critical inner voice (thanks dad) so I pretty much end up chanting this over and over and over and then over again:
Now, these are aspirations as much as affirmations. You may not believe in them but they freakin’ saved my sanity that Friday night, as well as an adaptation of mon amie Elena’s mantra: ‘I am well, all will be well, all that matters will be well’. When my mind was crowding in on itself these cleared it, or at the least diverted the negativity. If you’ve never suffered from insomnia it’s hard to describe the true darkness of night – for it is not in the sky but in the mind that the blackness descends.
Mr Trehan calls at 11pm and speaks to the nurse who tells me I can have my catheter removed at 5am. Can’t wait. I feel truly trapped to the bed and, as a stomach-somnambulist, laying on my back is akin to torture. Ok, a bit of an exaggeration but still it just all feels like too much to take. At this point in my medication-addled mind I think the things that are massaging my legs are attached to the bed which means I shouldn’t lift them, I ask the nurse if I can bend my legs and she says in her Yorkshire matter-of-fact no BS manner, why yes course you can lovey, why wouldn’t you be able to. I’m pretty sure no-one appreciates at this point that I can’t actually lift my head and bend enough to see beyond my stomach. But no sweet’art, you can’t have another blanket, I can’t shut the door (with what feels like a floodlight assaulting my face), you’ve just had major surgery and we need to check on you. I feel like a helpless kid. Not in a good way. I feel very sorry for myself and alone at this point. My straw-in-a-cup holder (aka Phil) is very much missed and I am doing that writhing, moaning head-turning thing, Exorcist style. I just keep trying to imagine a future without this and it becomes harder and harder to foresee. Pity party anyone?
I don’t know how I get through the night. Every minute feels like an hour, a day. Classic FM you saved me too you soothing beaut. There is not enough focus in my eyes to read, I can’t reach the light, I’ve got to lay/sit at a certain height, I can barely move my pillows, I certainly can’t eat with the nausea and I constantly think what the hell have I done. Oh yes, AND I HAVE BUTTONS ON ME. I am whole, strong… I think I fall asleep for about 20 minutes eventually. And then the sun starts to come up. This too shall pass. Right?