Wise after the Event

Or why in future I would prefer to avoid hospitals in general, and operating theatres in particular.



Home from hospital after a planned visit to have my left shoulder rearranged. Standard procedure said the doc. Straightforward. You’ll need to be in overnight of course. We’ll have your shoulder working just fine. You’ll need to wear a sling on your left arm for the next 6 weeks or so and you’ll shower and sleep in it. No driving in that time. You’ll have exercises to do too.

Yes, they did tell me all I needed to know. It’s not as if they kept anything from me. I just didn’t hear it quite right. My ears pricked up when I heard ” no housework, meal preparation and so on”. Music, pure music! I thought. A few thousand dollars well spent to have a shoulder repaired and 6 weeks being waited upon. Sounds like a good deal. Bring it on.

So we arrive at the hospital, overnight bag packed, and already I am feeling a tad anxious. I push it down and keep the matter-of-factness front and centre. Sue asks me if I am feeling nervous. Of course not.

We arrive on time at 11am. Told to sit and wait, we do that. At 11.30 Sue has to leave as she doesn’t want a parking ticket. A little kiss and hug and I sit alone amidst the throng of sick and elderly. At 12 noon I hear my name called and I follow a nurse through a door, into the maw of the hospital. Just a few preliminaries: Height and weight checked (the weight read-out is wrong surely. They need to check their machines); a checklist of risk factors; then my arm is shaved, coated with Betadine, and then a sheet of blue plastic is wrapped around it and taped from my shoulder to the tips of my fingers. Feeling like I’m being suited up for a space walk I acquiesce meekly. That’s what you do in a hospital – you do what you are told. You don’t want to give anyone who might be involved in your treatment any cause to feel a grudge, do you?

Once again I am told to sit and wait. 1 pm comes and goes, as do 2 and 3 pm. I have begun to study the movements of staff. They tell me prisoners with lots of time on their hands do that. Watch and learn. 3.45 pm and I am alone in the waiting room feeling slightly ridiculous with my blue plastic clad left arm sticking out straight in front. I can see my document folder still sitting in the rack. You notice these things as the minutes pass tectonically. Just before 4 pm a gowned young lady stands in front of me and invites me to come with her. Lucky I don’t need to pee. You see I ‘ve been afraid of going into the operating theatre needing to pee. Not sure what that says about me.
I’m shown to a wheeled bed and asked to make myself comfortable while another nurse asks me stuff I have answered for at least the third time now. Be pleasant, I tell myself. There is a further wait now for the anaesthetist who will repeat what the nurse has told me, but I know a lot of this redundant stuff is necessary.

Unfortunately there is a bit of a delay says the anaesthetist. Big day? I ask? Yes, big day, he answers and he leaves me to stare at the ceiling as time begins to lose its meaning.

And then it starts. The low, crackling moaning from the bed opposite. He has just woken up from the anaesthetic apparently and is in pain. Some considerable pain as it turns out, and several people I cannot see run to and fro looking for an appropriate remedy. The distressed cries from my fellow patient continue for what seems like another 20 minutes or so with me wondering of it was such a good idea to check in to this hospital. Moaning of a different type comes from behind the curtain of the nurse’s station as two or more staff members complain about rosters and new drug regulations.
I am wondering whether it might not be an idea to get out of bed and saunter out of the hospital, and catch a taxi home, but I feel the bed begin to move into the corridor and the moaning, of all types, recedes. I glide through swinging doors into a large room full of lights, shiny instruments and people who look busy. This must be it!

The anaesthetist tells me what he is going to do to me in terms of a block in my neck and one just below my shoulder, all preceded by an intravenous fluid that he is sure will knock me out in less than 5 seconds.

He is right. I just catch sight of the surgeon’s smiling face before time does become completely meaningless.

I wake with my face covered by an oxygen mask and another nurse who asks me if I remember him as I used to teach him. I think I do, even though I feel a bit fuzzy, and I assure him that I do. He seems pleased.

Magically I am now in a room to myself and all I want to do is sleep. I have a button which feeds a quantity of morphine into my arm each time I press. I make good use of it and spend most of the night drifting into and out of sleep.

Next morning the surgeon visits and asks if I want to go home. Of course I do, so he nods, smiles and swirls out of the door from whence he came. Sue arrives to pick me up and makes the observation that I seem to be ‘narced’ whatever that means. Maybe it has something to do with the morphine I have drip fed myself all night. Sue is a hospital pharmacist. She knows these things.

Arriving home it becomes clear to me how tricky it is going to be to live with one arm out of action. Dressing and showering are just the start. It’s the exercises – those damned exercises- that I have come quickly to fear. They hurt and they must be done 5 times a day! Ooow!

Why did I do this to myself. I’ve forgotten how much my shoulder ached before. Did I really need to have an operation?

Just placing my order for no more please, if that’s ok.



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