Recovery

That’s all I remember until I start to come round in the lift heading back up to the ward.

It’s seven hours later. Pain pain pain pain pain pain… and then I realise I’m saying it out loud and make myself stop. Three people stand over me in the lift. I ask them if it went OK, and they bend over me to try to understand what I’m saying, but maybe they can’t, or maybe I can’t remember their reply.

Next thing there are hands all around my face, and I figure out I’m in the corridor outside the ward, and the hands belong to my family. I can’t see mum but I can hear her saying my name over and over. Brother later told me he was angry with her – she’d insisted on staying away until 2 minutes before I went into surgery, when she’d suddenly insisted on being present. He’d wanted to wait for me the whole time, but had to leave to fetch her. Doesn’t matter, I was under for 7 hours, he could have driven to Edinburgh and back.

They all look so worried, so I say, “I’m OK. I’m OK”. And then I realise I have no idea if I am or not, and ask, “Am I OK?”. I don’t think they understand any of this.

Apparently my first cogent words were “The epidural failed”, which banjaxed the whole family. None of them even knew I was pregnant.

Memory of the next bit comes and goes, but I remember being told how to use the morphine drip. Here’s the button. If it hurts, press it and you’ll be given a dose.

I press it and nod out. When I come back they’re explaining again and asking me to not press it until they’ve finished explaining: I can press it once every 3 minutes. I press it because it hurts, and nothing happens. I have to wait until the light comes on. This is the longest 3 minutes since Ali vs Frazier.

Counting to 180 is too difficult in my current state of mind, so I just press it and press it until I nod out.


I’m awake more fully in the night, or perhaps early morning. The anesthetic fug has worn off, and I can tell what’s happening a little more, but only when the morphine is overwhelmed by the pain and I’m dragged into an urgent awareness of what I need to do: press the button. I can’t move very much. Even lifting my head off the pillow is very painful in my belly, and I struggle to look down at my wound. A pipe leads out of my lower abdomen, and I don’t know why. Nobody had mentioned this before.

A nurse comes in and I hand her my phone and ask her to take a photo, partly for a record and partly so I can see what’s been done. I had asked if someone could take a photo of the surgery, but it’s not allowed. This is the next best thing.

When I see the photo I’m appalled. Am I that fat? But no, it’s swelling. It’ll go down.

The wound is as big as I’d expected. It’s 1/3 of the way around my body. It’s cut through the major muscle groups in my stomach, which means I can’t lift my legs or head, turn my body, or bend in any way. When I get a dose of morphine and nod out, I almost always drop button and it falls on the floor. When I come round I panic and yell for someone to hand it to me. After a few times they tie it to my wrist.

I have visitors. Everyone. I think I’m doing OK and chatting with them, but afterward they tell me that I was caned off my tits, and just stared at the morphine button waiting for the light to come on. When it did I’d press it, nod out for 2 minutes, and then the pain would wake me up in time to press it again. If they were lucky, they could get me to say a couple of words in that few brief moments between consciousness and the next dose of morphine.

It turns out the pipe coming out of me is a precaution. Kidney surgery either doesn’t bleed at all, or bleeds in pints. The pipe lets them syphon off blood.

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