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September 2012: Paralympics and Pre-op 2

On 8th September 2012 we went to the Paralympics to watch the Athletics. I may have already explained that we had booked some Paralympics tickets just in case my operation clashed with the Olympics so that I didn’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity but in the end we were able to do both! We started our day much like when we went to the Olympics, getting the train to Victoria, although I think we had lunch before we left this time. We went straight to Stratford but rather than going to the Olympic Park, we went to the ‘new’ Westfield shopping centre. It was pretty busy, and quite impressive as it was all new and something designed to show off to all those visiting London for the Olympics especially. We didn’t shop, but after browsing went up to the restaurant area. I seem to remember that it wasn’t a normal time for people to have food but they were all busy and some had massively long waits. We managed to find a table in Pizza Express with only a short wait and although the tables were a little close together, we had a nice meal of pizza and then moved on to the Olympic Park. We still had time when we got there so we managed to explore a bit more, ending up outside the real largest McDonalds in the world (see my post on the Olympics if you don’t get my point!).

We eventually made our way into the Olympic Stadium, and it is pretty impressive. We weren’t as high as we were in the Aquatics Centre and it was a really great atmosphere, especially being able to see both track and field events. The great thing about seeing Athletics is that you get to watch loads of events and see lots of medal ceremonies all in one night, and Paralympic Athletics has so many different events as well. We heard a lot of the Russian national anthem and no Brits came anywhere near a bronze but we still enjoyed it. We did have to leave before the end though, as we had a train to catch, so we missed Oscar Pistorius in what was possibly one of his last races. We weren’t too bothered though, and overall it was a really enjoyable day!

Now, the Tuesday after the Paralympics signalled another trip to London – my second pre-op. This is another event I can’t remember much about and that was probably because I really didn’t want it to happen. We’d got quite a late appointment so I went into college until 11ish. I started with a free lesson but I really didn’t want any time to think, so spent it helping the librarians put books away in the school library. I had my second lesson, History, and then went to the first session of Christian Union. It was all very welcoming and I was very annoyed that I had to miss the end in order to go up to London.

Anyway, we got the train, did our walk to the hospital, waited around (no x-rays this time though), and then were ushered into the consulting room. Mr Lucas, my surgeon, examined me, went through the risks and benefits of surgery, and then it was time to sign the consent forms. To be honest this is quite a weird experience – you are signing a form agreeing to be operated on and go through all the hardship of that, I mean, nobody wants to do that. But the whole point is that you’re allowing them to carry out the procedure so nothing bad happens in later life, and consenting to the risks involved. Still, it’s a weird feeling, especially as consent for 16 year olds is a bit up in the air – do we get to consent or is it the parents, what if they disagree etc. I did sign the form, as did my mum, so it was all going to go ahead…scary stuff!

Seeing as you’re relying on my memory, I can’t tell you what happened next, but what I can tell you is the majority of what happened when I was actually admitted to hospital. I have no idea when these posts will be written or indeed published, but I will try to get them out soon, because that’s evidently the reason I’m writing this! Please like/comment/follow and thank you so much for reading.

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2012: Starting Sixth Form

OK, so if you are observant I am getting very close to writing my post about my operation, as I have reached September 2012! But before I get onto the scary bit, here’s a bit about what we did before operation day.

I will just briefly talk about results day. Now, this had happened before my pre-op but I didn’t really want to detract from that day in the post, and it was also already VERY long! Anyway, results day 2012 for GCSEs was on Thursday 23rd August. I was taken in by my parents, and I have suddenly realised that I cannot remember much of it at all…I think this is mainly because I have had a number of results days so the memory has been replaced by that of AS Level results day!! Oops…! It doesn’t matter really anyway, basically I was really nervous, I picked up my results, they were all As and A*s and I was really pleased (However I did want an A* in History and this was not the case which saddened me a bit).

Now, after this I think we had a family meal planned or something in the evening, but first I went to Marocco’s for ice cream (not Morocco as a lot of non-local people think, Marocco’s is the name of a seaside ice cream place) with most of my church youth group. That was really great, we’d all done well and shared news of our results and it was great to see people after the long holiday (Although some of us had met the day before to go and see Brave at the cinema, but it’s always nice to see friends!) Then there was a deviation from the original plan, as my friend Lara had invited us all over for a celebratory meal, which was really lovely. So, after the stress of waiting for results, it was a really great day. (OK, this was not very brief)

Anyway, into September! It’s quite a sad month anyway as it’s the start of school again and there’s no more summer, and obviously I had the added pleasure of waiting for an operation! However before that I did at least get a chance to start off my time at sixth form (even if I was staying in the same school). Now, there’s not all that much I can say about this, it is all much the same as school except being in your own clothes and teachers try to persuade you that you should buy your own notebooks (hardly anyone does and they’re still being provided!). There were a few new people, but I mainly stuck with people I knew from before – it saved explaining why I was disappearing for a month just a few weeks into term. This is one of those posts where I sort of think, why did I not write at the time? But, oh well, I didn’t so you’re stuck with my confused and random ramblings!

There will be one more post before the operation stuff, about my second pre-op and the Paralympics, so stay tuned for that, please comment/follow etc!

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Pre-op Appointment 1

Now, as you know, my pre-op appointment was originally scheduled during my family holiday, but got moved to Tuesday 28th August 2012 for tests and then Tuesday 11th September for the important consultation with the surgeon explaining everything and giving consent. I warn you that this post is not massively pleasant, and if you hate hospitals and tests you should proceed at your own risk and pace. However, if you are about to go through something like this, I think I’m giving a fairly accurate account of a nervous patient’s experience – if you want a gentler account, feel free to comment and I will reply (if you leave your email, it’s not published, but I think WordPress shows it to me, so I can get in touch that way)

Me and my parents got the train up to the Evelina pretty early that morning and as a special treat we’d bought seats in first class. That could have been rubbish – the usual train we get has a tiny first class section which isn’t particularly classy and normal people sit in it anyway. However, we managed to get a nice ex-Gatwick Express train, which had a whole half carriage of first class. The seats were massive, as was the leg room, and I believe there were plug sockets as well, and decent tables – it was all very nice.

I was VERY nervous – this was my worst nightmare: blood tests, X-rays, examinations etc. We managed to get to the hospital intact, it was pretty much deserted, as it was only 10.30am during the school holidays, and I expect a lot of people were away. This was when we met the lovely senior nurse, Rachel Hunt. First she had to do height and weight, which unfortunately wasn’t recorded (or not in an obvious place anyway, I expect it’s somewhere in my file) and she also tried blood pressure. The problem was that it was through the roof, as I was so nervous I couldn’t really relax enough for her to get a normal reading.

We then went into a consulting room, and I suddenly felt massively light headed and sick, as if I was going to faint. I have a vivid memory of clutching a sink while the adults rushed to find me a chair and then promptly being sick into one of those disposable hospital ‘hat’ things – I hadn’t actually eaten anything though, so nothing much came out. (I did warn of unpleasantness) This is where my memory fails me, as I cannot remember my dad being there for this bit, but he must have been there for the rest of it because he experienced first class too. Maybe he was off doing something else, I don’t know!

I managed to calm down a little bit, and we started chatting to Rachel about life and things that might affect me in terms of recovery. I was a bit more wobbly when she tried to give me some EMLA cream ready for my blood test (so I didn’t feel it), I am so scared of blood tests that I hate anything that is related to them.

Unfortunately we couldn’t put it off for long, and soon enough we were with the play specialist (I was that scared that they thought she could provide some distraction), taking our ticket for the test. Yes, they operate a ticket system like Clarks shoes – you take a ticket and then wait for your number. When we went in, I was distraught, I wouldn’t let the woman touch my elbows, I hated her peeling off the tape thing holding the cream in (writing this is actually making me squirm). Eventually they managed to get my arm straight, despite me trying to close it and getting told off because if they’d been doing anything that would’ve been dangerous. Anyway, with the aid of a Where’s Wally book, they were able to take the blood they needed, and I walked away with the blob of cotton wool on my arm and feeling pretty triumphant, even though my mum had got quite annoyed by my non-co-operation. My elbows also felt a bit like they’d been waxed – I don’t actually know what that feels like, it’s probably worse that what I felt, but it’s like putting tape on your arm and then yanking it off.

We were then able to get some lunch, so it was off to M&S Simply Food for a mini submarine roll, a stick of cheese and probably some chicken and crisps. I doubt I ate very much, but it was a nice break from all the medical stuff. After that we had to go for medical photography in St Thomas’ – a weird experience having someone take photos of you half naked from different angles and also quite cold as I think there was air conditioning.

Next it was time for the peak flow, to test lung capacity and stuff I think. I had some weird thing I had to bite on and then blow into a tube thing – I guess it’s quite similar to a breathalyser in how you use it. Unfortunately while I was there they had a few technical issues and I ended up sitting in a glass cage thing to do it because the other station wasn’t taking any readings. It wouldn’t be good for claustrophobics, but it was actually quite a fun test.

We went back up to the Evelina after that for X-rays. I’d dressed for the occasion and wore clothes that didn’t have metal in them, so didn’t have to wear an annoying gown. I can tell you now, these were the most challenging X-rays I’ve ever done. I had standing ones from the back and the side as usual, but also lying ones – these required me to lie on a cylinder thing on a bed, trying to hold my breath and also not fall off or move. But the lucky thing was that we didn’t wait all that long to get them done.

We were collected from X-ray by Rachel and taken to the next door department for an ECG. There were loads of sensors stuck in strategic places on my body (taking them off felt similar to taking off tape again) but that was all fine. Next she took swabs to make sure I wasn’t full of bad germs (including up my nose which was a weird sensation) and took my blood pressure again (still high but I’d relaxed a bit so it wasn’t through the roof).

It was now that we went to our final stop of the day – the ward. I must say that it was a lovely ward, and people seemed fairly friendly. We were able to meet two girls who’d had my operation – Charlie and another girl (sorry I can’t remember your name!!), and they were encouraging. They were both imminently going home and walking around, feeling generally happy with how it had all gone. Looking back, I don’t think I was as bright as they were when I was going home but that’s another story. They’d also gone into hospital on GCSE results day – one of them had picked up her results from school, seen they were good, and then went off to the hospital.

By this point we had finished*, so I provided a urine sample, and then we were free to go. It had been a pretty long day, so we went straight home. It had all got very real. But, we had already planned a visit from my godmother for the next few days, and she arrived that evening. Because she was down and also to take my mind off the horrors to come, we went out to the local Indian and I had a nice Chicken Korma, so the day ended on a pretty good note.

This was a massively hard post to write, because I did find the whole day quite hard, but if you’ve read it all then thank you so much! I would really appreciate a comment or follow, especially because of this post. And please keep reading, because very soon I will write about the operation, which is the whole reason I’m writing this at all.

*Please note that most people will also have an appointment with the surgeon on their pre-op day, but mine had been rescheduled during his holiday so I had an extra appointment. You can read about that, as well as my trip to the Olympics here: https://afterscoliosis.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/september-2012-paralympics-and-pre-op-2/

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Spain and Waiting for the Date: August 2012

I think I’m on a roll in terms of posts (writing them not actually posting them, I apologise dear reader!), so here is a non-extensive account of the next fun event in summer 2012 – our family holiday to Spain. We flew out on Sunday 12th August, the morning after a wedding (we had to leave the evening thing early and missed the food!), and got a taxi to the airport, I believe it was at quite a civilised time as well. When we got to the airport we checked in, went through security and then got some lunch from Jamie’s Italian (although it’s not really Italian). In years gone by there would’ve been in flight meals, but they seem to have got rid of them unless you’re long haul or going to Lapland.

Anyway, being a nervous flyer I didn’t really want to eat much, so I just had some funky chips – basically chips with garlic and herbs I think. They were pretty nice, but small compared to both parents having proper meals. That didn’t matter though, because I definitely didn’t want to feel full and anxious on the flight. However, once we got going I was fine, my mum also gave me a bit of Brandy and Ginger Ale which helps!

We’ve been to Spain so many times it’s actually quite hard to distinguish between trips, but we always get a coach/minibus/taxi transfer to the hotel and a free glass of something when we arrive. I remember that the Olympic Closing Ceremony was on when we arrived, and the street was filled with the voice of Emile Sande. We were able to watch a little bit of it on TV (it was about 10pm but 9pm in the UK) then we went downstairs to have a little bit of food – the food is lovely, there’s a buffet every night where you can just have whatever you want and it all tastes amazing!

A typical day on holiday in Nerja (that’s where we were) for us is having breakfast; chilling by the pool reading a book and occasionally swimming; having lunch either in the pool bar or from the corner shop; having a siesta; watching Pointless or playing cards; having dinner; the occasional walk; watching TV from the UK; and going to bed. It’s all very relaxing and calm.

One part of the holiday which was not relaxing was trying to access emails via the computer to get a new date for my pre-op appointment. Although they’d phoned us with the date, it was during our holiday, and so it had to change – we’d been told that was fine, but we had no idea what date it was going to be. This really worried me, because I still didn’t want it to be real. Anyway, a few days into our holiday we went down to the foyer after a siesta and logged onto the internet. Apart from an issue with the keyboard and the @ button, we all checked our emails (and Facebook) and there was a confirmation of the pre-op date, although I seem to remember phone calls were also involved.

Although we were able to enjoy the rest of our holiday, I was now counting down to the 28th August, my first pre-op date. First? Yes, normally people only have one pre-op, however because we changed the date of mine, my consultant was now on holiday when they’d scheduled it, so we were given another date (11th September) to speak to him and sign the forms.

Anyway, that’s my family holiday to Spain, in which I read many books, and found out my pre-op date. I promise that my pre-op post will be up very soon (I actually wrote it before this one, and wow, it was a hard write!), so keep reading/commenting/following etc. Thank you!