I have never felt so alone

Where were we? Ah yes. Some other woman’s boyfriend’s infuriating underpants.

This new waiting room with decent chairs was actually the waiting room for the Day Surgery Unit. Every now and then a person would be taken away behind the ‘staff only’ door, and would reappear some fifteen minutes later in a surgical gown, dressing-gown, and their own trainers or flip-flops on bare feet. The dressing-gowns, by the way, varied hugely from threadbare white towelling to bright scarlet satin. I assumed everyone else had been vastly provident and brought their own dressing-gown along. And there was every kind of person waiting – the eccentric elderly; the entire clan, amongst whom the actual patient was carefully camouflaged; the shaven-headed tattooed man with multiple minor injuries, none of which were the cause of his visit; the pregnant lady eating her face off – and as I was waiting for a general anaesthetic and hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for, oh, seven hours by that time, this was maddening; the women sitting by themselves, looking self-contained and bleak.

I had my book. I stared at it a lot, and re-read the same paragraph from time to time to see if it made any more sense this go round. H read his book. I leaned on him. We were very quiet. Most people were very quiet.

Eventually it was my turn to go through and be ‘prepped’ by a nurse. There was a maze of consulting rooms, operating theatres, and even a set of changing cubicles and lockers. First the nurse took me into a consulting room and we went through The ‘Day Surgery Care Path’ Epic together, and she found a whole new page to fill in. Then she led me to the changing cubicles and handed me a robe, and a dressing-gown – threadbare white towelling, natch, and to my astonishment the vast assortment, down to and including the scarlet satin ones, were all NHS issue – and a card-board dish containing a square of gauze, a pair of paper knickers, a sanitary towel like a small white house-brick, a latex glove and a strip of foil containing four small tablets. Ummm. What?

‘Take all your clothes off except your shoes, put on the knickers and sanitary towel and robe and dressing gown and latex glove on, and then take each little tablet and put them, you know, by your cervix. They’re to soften it’.


‘Put them really really deep, or they won’t work.’




‘You might start to feel cramps and bleed a little after you’ve put them in. We can get you a bed if you want to lie down then.’


And so that’s what I did. I went into a cubicle, I undressed, and I took each tiny hexagonal tablet and, err, applied it as deep as my little hands would allow. And it felt so final.

I left my clothes in a locker and went back out to sit next to H for a bit longer. And indeed, I started to feel a cramping, almost burning sensation as I sat there, so I leaned over so I could rest my head on H’s arm for a while. It wasn’t too bad. But it’s hard work being sad in the middle of an increasingly full waiting room, in front of cheerful people eating sandwiches despite the really rather large sign asking them not to eat and drink in there as it wasn’t fair on the people fasting for a general anaesthetic. And it wasn’t fair. And I wanted a cup of tea with the passion of a thousand blazing suns.

Then the anaesthetist called for me, and took me to another consulting room in the maze, and we went back through the multi-volume extravaganza that was my ‘Day Surgery Care Path’ and she found even more pages to fill in, and to my vast irritation wanted me to tell her exactly why I was there and what I was having done. I assume to make sure I was consenting to it all in a relatively composed frame of mind and wasn’t under the misapprehension I was there to have my bunions dealt with. I suppressed both the irritation and the sudden prickling in my eyes and nose and we calmly discussed my tendency to hay-fever, irrelevance of considering the wet weather.

I went back out to H for a little while longer, and told him to look after my bag, and my wedding ring, and my bus-pass. It was all very awkward. I think we both wanted to fling ourselves into each-other’s arms and howl like timber wolves, but being British we couldn’t possibly, so even hugging was best avoided in case we set the misery sirens off. We just leaned against each other some more. And then the nurse called me and I trundled sadly off after her, clutching my book to my chest, and turning to give H one brave little Brief Encounter-type smile, to the theatre.

It’s OK. I was allowed to stop for a wee on the way.

I am very good with needles. I used to be a blood donor. I have no problem whatsoever with people sticking me in the crook of the elbow. I can hold a cheerful conversation while they do it. I can even helpfully point out where the better veins are. But the drip-needle in the back of the hand thing. OW. OW. Even when done by very nice people trying to talk to me about nice places I’d rather be (Canada, in case you were wondering). And the ‘analgesic’ they inject into it first – jeez, it’s like having your arm pumped full of stinging nettles. It is not nice. Luckily, none of this lasts very long as once they start pressing the plunger on the gigantic syringe of anaesthetic, I go out – bang! – just like a candle.

And then I woke up.

Actually, I was woken up by someone taking my blood-pressure.

Everything was very blurry.

I hope to God I wasn’t making a noise, but a nurse came up to me and asked, gently, if I was in pain, and I had to say I was, rather, and she propped me up and went off to fetch me some tablets and a glass of water. My vision was so blurry I nearly had my eye out with the straw she had thoughtfully placed in the glass for me. At which point someone realised I couldn’t see because I hadn’t got my glasses, and went and found them for me, and we were all pleased to discover the blurriness was inherent rather than iatrogenic.

And then I sat there for a while, drifting along, wrestling with my oxygen mask, left hand hampered by drip-needle and pressure cuff, right hampered by the pulse oximeter, trying to drink the rest of my water without blinding myself and/ or dropping everything. The tablets weren’t working. I could see the very large clock on the opposite wall, and seriously, they weren’t working. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Thirty minutes. If anything the cramps were getting worse as I became more conscious. Forty minutes. Jesus.

The woman in the next bed came round crying and whimpering. That was heart-breaking, listening to her sob so pitifully. They gave her big-gun pain-killers intravenously, and buried her in extra blankets. One of the nurses stayed sitting by her and stroked her hair.

The surgeon came out to talk to me, and let me know everything had gone well, they had ‘got it all’, and clearly hadn’t punctured anything on the way in. I had been ‘under’ for about ten minutes, apparantly. According to the big clock, it had taken me therefore less than half-an-hour to swim back to noticing level, and nevertheless really rather longer to make it all the way back to coherent and coordinated.

Seeing that I was this conscious, and my blood pressure had remained resolutely normal despite all attempts to frighten it by suddenly inflating the cuff while no one was near me, the nice nurse (not the grumpy one who was bitching about having too much work to do, thank you sweet heaven for small mercies especially considering what followed) decided I may as well get up. She drew the curtains round me, I swung my legs out of bed, and it was at this point that I discovered that I was still wearing the paper knickers, yes, but round my ankles, which nearly caused a falling-down-bare-arsed incident. And when I leaned down to pull them up, my robe fell off. Nice Nurse grabbed it and carefully tied me back into it, and helped me wrestle another rectangle of hygenic masonry into the beastly paper knickers. None of this is good for a girl’s dignity. I did manage to put my own shoes on, but I don’t think it quite recovered the situation. Also, I noticed she very quickly bundled up the large absorbant pad I had been sitting on, but not before I saw just how much blood was on it. *shudder*.

Decently clad and reunited with my book, I was led to a sitting area where the other patients were also recovering and being booked out, and, oh joy of joys, I was offered a cup of tea and some toast. And the tea was over-stewed and disgusting, and the toast was made of that cheap bread that wads itself to the roof of your mouth like felt, and it was heavenly. So heavenly, in fact, that the painkillers finally kicked in and let me have some time off from Advanced Cervical Awareness Boot Camp.

After that, I was sent off to get dressed in my own things again, though I kept the paper knickers and Sanitary Towel of Mortification – I had had the forsight to wear a thigh-length tunic – so I could carry on bleeding in peace.

Then I was to be booked out. Having taken me off to a curtained corner of the sitting area, and having carefully written the final chapter of ‘Day Surgery Care Path, the Book of the Film’, and having taken my blood pressure for the final time of asking, the nurse presented me with a box of antibiotics and a box of co-codamol, a leaflet, and a handful of illegible forms. Then she started to peel the sticking plaster holding the drip-needle in place off. Some odd quirk of her personality made her peel nearly all of it away slowly and carefully, and then, when only the part over the needle butterfly was still stuck down, yank at it briskly. Predictably, the needle ripped out and sprayed a neat little arc of blood across her imposing bosom. She squealed and clamped a wad of cotton wool to my hand, crying ‘press on it honey! Press! Press!’ and I duly pressed hard while she rushed off to change her scrubs. So that went well.

Luckily, H turned up very quickly after that, and I was sent out to meet him. There followed a brief farce in which H called Every. Single. Taxi Firm. In the area. None of them could provide a taxi in less than a decade or so. H walked me down to the exit from the hospital to see if he could flag down a black cab. All the black cabs, of which he had seen dozens on his way to the hospital, melted into puddles and slid down the drains. I insisted on getting the bus home. I felt fine, damn it. I would be FINE on the bus. I would. I was. I got a seat. I was feeling well enough to give people directions as to what stop they needed. I felt almost chirpy. Yay codeine.

Home. Bed. H worked from home yesterday so I could wail feebly for tea at regular intervals without having to get up. I felt almost human this morning. H went to work, and I made my own tea. I don’t like taking the codeine because it makes me feel absherlootly shtoned. I don’t like not taking it because the cramps can turn quite nasty. This will all go away soon. And then I will go back to work too. And then we’ll try again.

And we’ll never be quite the same as we were eight weeks ago.


11 responses to “I have never felt so alone

  • DC

    I am so, so sorry. Sending lots of hugs your way.

  • geohde

    Ah, May. Sounds like the NHS hasn’t changed since I lived in the UK many years ago.

    Sorry you had to go through that but very glad you’ve come out the other side with codeine at least.

    I remember bleeding a frightening amount after my surgery, and the nurses being completely unimpressed by it. Makes you wonder what they’d consider as serious, really,


  • Jackie

    Oh, May, I’m so sorry you’ll never be the same again. I’m thinking of you and your husband and sending lots of warm, caring thoughts your way.

  • Hairy Farmer Family

    I’m desperately sorry, May. I really am. That all sounds so hideously upsetting and sometimes degrading. The horrifying aspect is, I’ve lived some of it myself. Which implicitly means that the NHS, all over the country, treats Everyone like that.

    I was also once obliged to announce my miscarrying status to a room full of happy bulges and their yapping clans. At volume, seeing as the receptionist couldn’t be arsed to walk over to my part of the waiting room, and instigated a conversation at yodel-level decibels instead. And when I went for a follow-up scan a week later, the nurse had actually lost my notes, but carried on regardless. After several minutes silence and busy dildo-cam wielding, she told me briskly that she was very puzzled, as there was mysteriously no sign of a pregnancy sac anywhere. Ummm, No. That’d be in the sad little margarine carton I toted in last week for the joy of your pathology department. But, hey! Good job I knew already, because your bad-news delivery technique’s a doozie, no?

    Poor May. I’m so, so sorry your first pregnancy ended this way. And no, you won’t ever entirely leave it behind you. But the could-have-beens do hurt less eventually. Fingers crossed ever so tight for a speedy recovery, and continuing successful ovulation very soon.

  • korechronicles

    Have decided that any hospital visit that involves working with one’s nether regions requires you to leave all dignity in a bag by the front door. Should be large signs to that effect because it’s absolutely humiliating and distressing, no matter how stoic you try to be, and a little warning would be appreciated.

    That said, I’m sending you hugs and sympathy all the way from here and I’m holding out hope for better days to come.

  • MsPrufrock

    What everyone else said.

    Have a restful weekend, and look after yourself. Rather, let H look after you.

  • Pamela Jeanne

    Just here to be with you so you don’t feel so alone. Wish I could get you a cup of tea and a warm, soft blanket and take away your pain…

  • Kim

    (((HUGS))) I know there is nothing I can say…. NCLM

  • isn't it pretty to think so

    So. So. Sorry. You are not alone. I know you feel that way, but I am thinking about you and praying for you. again…so sorry. Wish I could really help.

  • Rebecca

    May, I’m a little behind in my reading. What a dreadful experience. 😦 And then you got an infection on top of it all. Ugh. 😦

  • Aphra Behn

    Oh my dear. Your account has made me cry.


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