What it feels like when you are due for surgery and what follows post the procedure!
Have you ever wondered what it really means to have surgery or to go under anaesthesia? I was just put in a spot where I was told that I will be operated in three days. I was told I will be under anaesthesia and that I won’t know a thing. I saw anaesthesia as a magic wand that was going to save me from the horror of an unexpected emergency operation. I didn’t know what anaesthesia really does, how it works or how crucial this surgery was to my well-being. I had never really put much thought into the entire process of going for surgery before I really had to. Through this blog post, I am going to share how it feels when you are due for surgery and what follows post the procedure!
The idea of having to go to the hospital can be dreadful and if you get to know on a Friday that you will have to go for an operation on Tuesday, this thought can really get to you. You get palpitations, you get anxiety and you get sleepless nights. In my case, I was told I had a fibroid which had grown immensely and the surprising part was that I didn’t show any symptoms of such a thing growing inside my body.
In those moments, you think about knives, scissors and all the tools that doctors use to cut their patients. You think about the blood, the wounds and then the scars that the entire process would leave behind. You wonder about how life would be after the surgery and you worry if it would ever be the same again.
You predominantly think about being open for an external force to have access inside your body. You think about being exposed in the most intimate and yet so formal way, about being surrounded by strangers, in a scary room where a hundred machines make a thousand sounds, where you are in the grossest looking hospital clothes, in many cases, even naked, where these strangers can touch you wherever they want and you can do nothing about it. This chain of thoughts can be so excruciating that you close your eyes to stop these ideas from getting into your vision but the visions don’t stop appearing.
To start with, you get an utterly awake night before getting admitted. Imagine, walking into a mine-field, knowing it can blow and yet walking right in the middle of where all the explosives are. Going to the hospital for a procedure feels exactly like that. After all the necessary and unnecessary paperwork, you are taken to the room that’s going to be your abode for the next three to four days.
Before the surgery, they start all the routine procedures. It starts with them measuring your blood pressure and then a cannula going into your veins, it is the first thing that goes in and the last that comes out. It is also a saviour that keeps you from the pain of getting injected multiple times (about 22 times a day) but that doesn’t imply that the entire process is pain-free. Doctors and hospitals mean pain and that’s exactly the reason why we all despise them.
Then you are taken on a stretcher to the recovery room (mind you, you have already been injected and fuelled with an enormous amount of medicines way before the main procedure even begins). Your family cannot accompany you to the recovery room and you are left alone there to dread, to wonder how everything is going to be and how painful the aftermaths would be. Then you are shifted to the real dungeon called the Operation Theatre.
One after the other, the nurses start coming to ensure they have the right patient in the OT (Operation Theatre). And then you get that kick of anaesthesia that puts you into a kind of sleep that saves you from all the pain. By this time, they check your blood pressure for the hundredth time and even that makes you anxious.
By the way, you won’t even know when they gave you the real thing. In the middle of all those little injections that they put into the drip that you have been looking at with intent, curiosity and even fear, you wonder when they are going to give you the Sanjivani called anaesthesia so that you don’t have to witness everything. And before you know it, you are asleep.
I remember worrying when the doctor would be in, will they let me know that they are giving me the anaesthesia, will I feel anything when they actually give that thing to me? I remember being exhausted, worrying about all that was to happen and after that, I don’t remember anything. In the middle of those 36 injections, I was injected with anaesthesia the Sanjivani and I slipped into a world that I have no memory of.
We were told the surgery would be 2 hours but I remember seeing quarter past 1 on the wall clock before the surgery and when I woke up it was seven on that same clock in that same recovery room where I was for an hour.
I had imagined a thousand things but not really what I experienced. I woke with a sound of agony while feeling thunder and discomfort. I was shivering, it was like I was in the Antarctic, out in the pricking snow in pale hospital clothes. I was so cold that they had to cover me in three (most likely not very clean) blankets and a heater was put inside those blankets. I was shivering for an hour despite the blankets and the heater.
And in that hour, I worried about every random thing possible. I thought about the people waiting outside the OT for me. I also thought about the ugly scars that this surgery was going to document on my body and I worried if they would ever fade. I thought about my family who had been told that I will be out in two hours. But, the relief was that my brain was working okay, if I could wonder about what my family was wondering about then it was a sign of my brain functioning okay (funny I know).
It had taken me 7 hours to reach back to the room I left on a stretcher. I don’t remember if I felt any pain, but vividly remember feeling an enormous amount of discomfort. Four cuts had been made on my stomach to get that fibroid out of my body that had grown significantly inside me (P.S. I didn’t know I had four cuts, all I knew was that I had cuts and that I had stitches and I knew that the next few days were going to be challenging).
It felt like someone had clawed my stomach. It felt tight and it felt tied. The anaesthesia still had its impact. I had a hard time opening my eyes and yet I was awake through the night. The nurse came to check or change my drip every twenty minutes and I remember looking at her with my eyes half-closed, every time she was by my bed on that long night. In a way, she was the angel looking after me through the night and also the devil who was putting that cold liquid in my veins every 20 minutes.
The next day started with the sound of machines and the rounds that the nurses made. I didn’t know how my body was doing because I was hardly moving. At that moment, I realized I had a urine tube on the right side of my body and a drain bag on the left, probably the most embarrassing discovery I had made in the recent past.
By the mid-day, I get to know I will have to get up and walk. But, how could I with a urine bag on one side and the drain bag on the other? I was dirty, I was smelling and I was embarrassed. The physiotherapist came by soon with three support staff. They forced me to get up and get out of the bed and at that very moment, I first realised the impact the surgery had made. I had not eaten anything solid for almost 48 hours and I had had significant blood-loss too, so I didn’t know how strong or weak my body was. The fact was that I had no strength left in my body. It took three people to make me get up and out of bed and after standing on my feet for about 11 seconds, I felt dizzy and I was certain that I will fall. I suddenly worried about being home on my own, without these nurses looking-after me and the doctors ensuring that I was in good health.
But, with pain comes the endurance and you discover things you didn’t know existed. I discovered how powerful your brain can be. On the second night in the hospital, after being shit scared of walking on my own again, I told myself that if I wanted to go home, I had to be strong. I instructed my brain to give enough strength to my body to be able to walk on my own, to have that urine bag off my body and to be strong enough to go home by the day after.
The next morning, I woke up feeling much better and stronger (not as strong as I would have liked though). I knew I could walk and I asked the nurse to take that urine bag off of my body. The idea was to force myself to get out of bed, even if it was to use the loo.
People started coming in to meet me on the third day, they were friends and family and some were colleagues but I had no interest in meeting anyone. I was thinking about when these stitches would be off. I still didn’t know I had four cuts. I knew I had stitched both inside and out. The urine pipe was off but not the drain bag which meant carrying it along every time I got out of bed. It wasn’t so painful, to be honest, but it was taxing and it was uncomfortable. Not to mention, a milestone was still pending, they were not going to let me off unless I had been to the loo for the big business. So, for the first time in my life, I was under pressure to poop but could not pressure it as that could affect the stitches. Just imagine my poop predicament!
After 1 surgery, a number of stitches, 4 cuts and 136 injections (hypothetical figure), a successful poop experiment and a lot of discomfort, I was allowed to go home on the fourth day. The drain bag was finally taken off and the last one to exit my body was the cannula and I was ecstatic to see it go into the bin.
About six medicines were to be consumed every day and the body was not supposed to make heavy movements. But hey, I was going home and that’s all that mattered at that moment. Never imagined being so happy about the idea of going home.
No more that smell of medicines, the sound of machines, the pain of the new drip being fixed. No more the embarrassment of carrying that urine bag in your hands or that dirty drain either. I was free, I certainly wasn’t the me I knew, I am not sure if I will ever be the same but I don’t have that huge fibroid in my body.
This surgery taught me a couple of things
- Regardless of how strong you are; you need people in your life in times like these.
- Your brain is more powerful than you can ever imagine.
- People in the medical profession are highly patient and skilled, there is a reason why they are called God by some.
- Friends are the blessings that you must never take for granted.
- The body has an incredible way of healing and
- Scars are ugly but they too are yours.
Life is a curveball; you never know what’s waiting on the next step. All you can do is embracing the challenges that come your way and beat them with vigour.