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/