Waking up was a slow and fuzzy process. The first thing I remember is transferring off the operating trolley onto a bed in post-op recovery. I was asked if I could manage by myself, and I did. A nurse took my shoes and socks off (finally!) but struggled with the shoes because she didn’t loosen the laces. She also asked if I want to keep the pillow between my legs which was strange because I wasn’t aware of having one but I said “no”. I settled down on my side and thought maybe a pillow would help with the joint pain I get in my knees when I stack them onto of one another. I slept.
Every fifteen minutes (I think) my blood pressure and pulse are taken; the nurse apologises, I say “it’s fine” and go back to dozing. On one of these waking moments I remember that my greatest fear of waking up with a tube down my throat didn’t happen and I am grateful to the anaesthetist.
After an hour I would guess, I am moved to the ward. The corridor has windows to the outside world and the sun glints into my eyes and I immediately close them and turn my head away; I don’t need that searing pain. The night has turned to day since I have arrived and there is blue sky and I have a headache.
I am put in a six bay alcove. My bay is by the window looking south, the low sun streams through the windows. The hospital is on a hill overlooking the largest river in Scotland, it is a beautiful view; I turn away from the window, close my eyes and sleep. Every fifteen minutes a trainee nurse puts the inflatable cuff on my arm and a clip on my finger. I notice my blood pressure is too high but my pulse is good. After a couple of readings she decides to leave me connected to the machine so as not to disturb me so much. The nurse looks a bit Pilipino but I am not sure; nice to see new faces here.
The one o’clock news comes on the television that sits up high above the windows. I twist over to look at the screen but I don’t have my glasses on. There are images of the Queen at the Cenotaph and I realise that on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month I was fast asleep; not exactly mindful remembrance. I am more wakeful now. The lunchtime trolley has come and gone, as has the tea trolley; nobody asked if I wanted anything, perhaps I am not allowed anything.
As I become more wakeful, I focus more of my attention on the television. There is a double episode of Doctors on (a soap about a UK GP practise), a youthful GP fails to notice the signs of bacterial meningitis in a young child but a more experienced practice nurse gets involved and spots the condition. The child pulls through in hospital eventually much to the relief of all involved. I can’t remember if that was the first or second episode. I have a soft spot of health care soaps but I can’t really hear the television above the noise around me so my interpretation is based solely around the physical acting which is more realistic than the silent films of days gone by.
I am less interested in the bargain hunt and auctioneering programmes. The pharmacist that I saw earlier comes to review my prescriptions. He has a different role as a ward pharmacist now and pretends that he is a different person from the one I saw this morning, he comes across as a lovely guy, relaxed, professional with a tinge of humour.
The anaesthetic registrar pops by and asks I am feeling. I tell him I have a sore throat and a headache. He asks about any pain in my chest and I reply that apart from a twinge when I sat up, all seems to be fine. I ask him if it okay for me to get out of bed and he says that’s fine. He is another nice guy with an easy manner though I think I might stereotype that most anaesthetist have excellent people skills. He prescribes me some paracetamol which a nurse brings after he has left. I ask for some water and the nurse asks if I want ice or not, I say “yes please”. I get a glass filled with small ice cubes. I ask the nurse where the toilets are, then go and have a long pee.
Surgeons are peculiar though, I guess the skillset to be a good surgeon does not necessarily make them good talking to people. I rather like mine though, he is a bit stony faced and blunt but them so am I at times. When he appears with this shoal of lesser qualified doctors he tells me that there wasn’t much of a constriction (pushing the endoscope through without a problem seems significant) but they did the procedure anyway. The problem seems to be with the scars caused by variceal banding I had when I was portal hypertensive, and a poor peristaltic action. He says there are drugs that I could take to improve the peristatic action (and mentions two) but that I need to weigh up the possible interactions they may have with my other drugs. He spoke to my consultant at lunchtime and passed on his thoughts.
The upshot of this is that procedure is unlikely to have improved my situation. You might say it has been a failure. I am not surprised however, I made that diagnosis myself so I don’t think I feel disappointed but resigned to more gastroscopies in the future. That isn’t going to help my blood pressure.
After the shift changeover, a nurse comes to me to see if everything is okay. I tell her that I would like to know what happens next, I am expecting to go home but nobody has mentioned if that is going to happen. She goes to find out and soon what I would call a senior house officer (I think the names have changed now) appears. She tells me that she has spoken to her colleagues and once I have passed urine I am free to go home. I tell her that that has already happened so I am good to go. The doctor goes and I ask the nurse to open my suitcase, she is not sure how to undue the tie, so I point out she will need to cut it. It is dark outside again.
First port of call is my mobile phone. I text various people but most importantly I arrange for my lift home. My escort arrives at about twenty to five, I am ready to go but feel the need to talk to somebody first. I find a nurse and say my name and that I am going home now. I wonder if there is a discharge letter but she tells me they are usually emailed out nowadays and with that I walk off the ward. I am guessing they are not used to dealing with day care patients because I don’t feel I have been given enough nursing attention during my stay; another sign of a strained NHS perhaps.
I am back home by five thirty and the house seems freezing, I assume my reaction is because I have spend all day in a hot hospital but as time goes on I wonder if I have caught a fever or perhaps this is the anaesthetic still having an effect. For the next two days I struggle with temperature control and swallowing because of having such a sore throat. I avoid talking and eat ice cream. Taking ibuprofen eases both recovery issues but I still feel washed out. Plenty of television watching, playing video games and snoozing with the dog is my self-prescription; with an occasional spot of writing.