Bed Space 21

On my return to the ward I ended up in bed space 21 (see my earlier post for an explanation of what this means!!). The other beds in the bay were all occupied by boys with various conditions – as I was the only one having surgery that day, there were no other scoliosis sufferers I could talk to.

By this point I was massively hungry, so we asked for a snack box, seeing as dinner time had already passed, and Sam obliged (it has taken me almost a year and a half to work out that he probably came in early so that he could ferry me down to surgery and I would know who my nurse would be when I returned!) I ended up eating some corned beef out of the corned beef sandwiches and I must have had something else, maybe a yoghurt? I have no idea what else I did at that point – I can’t remember watching TV, so maybe my mum read to me, but I was quite happy and sitting up and relaxed.

The real issues came when I tried to sleep. I had spent the majority of the day under anaesthesia so wasn’t really tired. Add to that pain and the noise of the hospital (the boys were rather noisy!) and it was a recipe for sleeplessness. My parents had bought me some Torchwood audio plays at my request (they are almost unique as they are read by the respective actors rather than narration of a book), which were useful throughout the night.

I managed to get around an hour’s sleep and then, unfortunately, I had to be woken up so that I could take some painkillers (paracetamol or diclofenac or both, I don’t know) – this was probably around midnight. I could take Paracetamol every 6 hours, and Diclofenac every 8, so that the dose was spread throughout the days/nights. However, this meant a rude awakening. After taking them I couldn’t sleep again – I think I got through at least one audiobook that night. I seem to remember sleeping at about 2 – my general memory is that I slept for an hour then was awake for an hour but I did spend some time thinking that my audiobook was broken because it seemed to skip to the end so maybe I fell asleep in the middle. I have no idea how pain relief worked while I was sleeping either – I think I must have got an amount of morphine automatically.

Waking up in the morning was evidently fun, as you can imagine! I was tired, spaced-out and in pain. The breakfast trolley came round and I think I had a yoghurt, although whether I ate it is another matter – I built up my own little collection of ‘Little Stars’ yoghurts because that was what I mainly felt like eating but then didn’t eat.

It was a morning of visits and at one point I was seen by THREE physios! (one of them was called Rachel actually) Their aim was to get me to sit up, or even get out of bed! My aim was to lie as still as possible and relax so I didn’t feel any more nauseous. Despite this conflict, they managed to get me to roll onto my side and somehow angle myself into a sitting position. However I felt extremely faint, hot and sick so I didn’t stay there for very long and retreated back into my bed (I was possibly sick as well but I can’t remember). I was being fanned by a disposable sick bowl and also acquired an electric fan, but at least I managed a degree of uprightness.

I was also visited by some pharmacists I think, who filled my medicine drawer with tablets that I might need once discharged (I think this is so that there was definitely enough medication to take home, rather than relying on quickly depleting stocks from the pharmacy). They all had clipboards. I must have also seen my surgeon that morning, but I can’t remember that!

At some point in the morning, ‘other’ Rachel proposed that I be moved to bed space 16 because there were two girls coming in for operations ready for Friday and so they wanted to create a girly bay. The problem was that this other bay had no built in TVs and I really wanted to watch Doctor Who on Saturday. In my head the possibility of missing it was terrible and I actually cried over the proposed move, and if Rachel is reading this I am really sorry that I cried because it wasn’t that big a deal!

I doubt I ate much lunch (I can’t even remember what I could eat for lunch, it was probably the same as dinner!) and afterwards I agreed to move to bed space 16.


Wednesday 26th September: Waking Up

The first thing I remember after waking up is pain. Sorry, I wish it wasn’t because that’s very pessimistic.

Apparently, before my parents came to recovery, I was trying to get up and jump around (because I couldn’t feel anything!), I can’t think why though because I love sleep and lying in bed and stuff. By the time my parents arrived I reportedly kept saying ‘I want my mummy’ and she had to keep saying ‘I’m here!’ because it obviously wasn’t going into my brain that she was right beside me! Another thing I apparently said was ‘I want morphine, I want more morphine’ a lot because by that point the pain had kicked in.

I was hooked up to a machine which would administer morphine when I pressed a button, but only every six minutes and only a certain amount to prevent overdose. I can remember someone telling me that I could press the button for pain relief and press it I did! They said that while I was in recovery I pressed it 111 times – I think that was only in a couple of hours though! I believe Hazel, the pain nurse, was around and spoke to me about the morphine button – later on I told her how badly designed it was because there was a green circle around a light that went green when it was time for you to press it, however without glasses and in a groggy state, there’s no way you could tell it was ready.

I can’t remember very much else about recovery – I had oxygen through one of those special nose tubes, a monitor on my finger for oxygen sats and heart rate, and I have a feeling they left the blood pressure cuff on my arm. Oh, and I was catheterised, so that was quite a weird feeling at first, and annoying when I had to move because the tube was taped to my leg. My parents were there, but I can barely remember seeing them, but they brought Elizabear with them so I had someone to cuddle.

I think it was around 5/6pm by the time I was taken back up to Lizard ward. They hooked me up to a portable oxygen canister which said Oxygen on the side, I think it was in Helvetica font. To be honest I didn’t really need the oxygen but it was good to have it anyway. 

My next post will be about returning to the ward and my first night after my operation, so stay tuned for that! Please comment/follow/read on!


Wednesday 26th September: Going Under

Operation day was finally here. I declined the possibility of having a final meal at 2am, so I was woken up at 6am to have a drink and another shower. I did actually have an alright sleep, probably due to the drugs though! I had to change into a gown, which is really weird when it is literally all you’re wearing, but by this point I had probably given up caring. It was then time to get back into bed and have another pre-med, as well as some obs. My dad had come back from Gassiot Lodge (I doubt he’d had much sleep) and I was able to see him, and I think we might have read a bit more of Moondial. They also put EMLA cream on my hands, which I hated, but at least I was pretty docile by then.

Just before going down for surgery

Just before going down for surgery

By 7am it was time for me to go down to Level 2 (Forest) where the operating theatre was. I was taken down by a lovely male nurse called Sam, who at that point I didn’t really like because I hadn’t seen him before and he was just there wheeling me down to surgery, not even looking like a nurse (I think he was working in a different department that day); also I was very drugged up. I was able to take Elizabear with me for comfort, and both my parents, and soon enough we were in the anaesthetic room.

I can’t remember much of the room to be honest, I have vague memories of going down in a lift and along a corridor to get there. It was a bit of a claustrophobic room in my mind, my bed took up most of the space, but there was enough room for my parents to sit on one side of me and the anaesthetists on the other. I was incredibly scared about the canula, so I was pleasantly surprised when the woman offered to administer anaesthetic through a face mask. I don’t know why they made the decision to do it that way, especially because of my age, but I am very grateful!

She gave me this mask and told me to hold it over my mouth and nose and asked me what flavour I thought it was. I had no clue and when she told me it was vanilla I said “It doesn’t smell like maths” because my maths room used to smell like vanilla. I was asked to count but I didn’t get very far. Apparently I just suddenly went and they asked my mum if she wanted to kiss me goodbye and then my parents left and I went into surgery.

You will be pleased to know that I woke up safely, so my next post will be about waking up in recovery. Please comment/subscribe/get in touch!


The Day Before: Part 3 – Evening

This is a continuation of the previous 2 posts about being admitted to hospital, please see below before reading or follow these links:

https://afterscoliosis.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/the-day-before-part-1-arrival-and-blood-test-25th-september-2012/ – Part 1

https://afterscoliosis.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/the-day-before-part-2-meeting-and-waiting-25th-september-2012/ – Part 2

By 7pm we had to go back to the ward, because we were told that my surgeon, Mr Lucas, would be round between 7 and 9. We read some of our books – the other benefit of the private room was that the bed for my mum was actually a sofa, so we could sit on that, rather than stealing loads of chairs or having to sit on the bed. I think that soon after 7, I must have had some obs – blood pressure (through the roof!), oxygen sats, heart rate etc. This was where we met Kim, a healthcare apprentice I think, and she was also very lovely and had nice hair. She gave me another hospital band, which she tried to put on my ankle but it was too small, and also a red one which said that I couldn’t have plasters (I’m not allergic, I just hate them!) – unfortunately they became too tight and were cut off the next day.

At 8 o’clock it was time for the Great British Bake Off. There were actually three TVs in the room, but only the over the bed one worked. Because it was after 7, we had to use headphones to listen to the audio, but we were prepared and had bought a 5 way headphone splitter. The one problem was that my dad had forgotten his headphones, so we had to share around, but it still worked! It was sweet dough week, and there were regional buns, doughnuts and something else to create. The week before, John had cut his finger while making a strudel, so it was a double elimination, and this week it was time to say goodbye to Sarah-Jane and Ryan.

However, we didn’t get a chance to properly see the end of the bake off, because Mr Lucas finally made an appearance at around 10 minutes to 9. He went through the risks and benefits of surgery, and explained what would happen etc. To be honest, I can barely remember what he said – seeing him was another confirmation that everything was happening. Once Mr Lucas had been and gone, my dad went off to Gassiot Lodge to bed, and I had a shower.

Now, showering before an operation is a long business, but luckily one benefit of the private room was the private wet room. I wouldn’t be able to wash my hair for a week so I needed to make sure I washed my hair really thoroughly. You also have to use antiseptic wipes on your whole body, but because my operation was on my back, I needed to make sure my back was super clean. That is pretty hard when you can’t see it, but I had some help from my mum, so eventually I was absolutely squeaky clean.

My mum had agreed to plait my hair into two side plaits for me – this would keep it out of the way during the operation, was easy to lie on, and wouldn’t look manky when it hadn’t been washed for a few days. I changed into my new pyjamas, which were quite loose and comfy, and then got into bed. I was very nervous by this point, and the nurses came in to give me a pre-med to help me sleep. This was in tablet form, which I hated because I hate tablets A LOT. However, I washed it down with some Ribena and managed to take it without being sick. I believe this is where I met the nurse called Donna, who did some obs and left me to sleep.

Despite the pre med and the fact that it meant I couldn’t get up for a while because I would just fall over, it was still quite hard to get to sleep. Luckily my mum was on hand to read to me – we’d chosen a small book called ‘Moondial’ by Helen Cresswell, which was written for children but I hadn’t actually read it. I also had three toys – Elizabear (from Build a Bear), French Rabbit (one of my oldest toys, bought at a French Market), and Evelina (brand new, also a rabbit, given to me by the family I babysit for, because I needed a toy which was pink and white, according to their little girl Ivy). Eventually I fell into the land of Nod, and I suppose that my mum did too. When we woke up, it would be operation day.


The Day Before: Part 2 – Meeting and waiting (25th September 2012)

This is a continuation of the previous post about being admitted to hospital, please see below before reading or click this link (https://afterscoliosis.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/the-day-before-part-1-arrival-and-blood-test-25th-september-2012/).

After the blood test, we were sent back up to the ward, where Rachel had an interesting proposal for us (I can’t remember which Rachel though!). Because I was 16 (older than the majority of other patients) and female (most of the others were male) and nervous and didn’t need much observation because I was pre-op, they suggested that I could have a private room. We snapped this up – anything which would reduce the stress was good, plus we could relax on our own and hospitals are pretty noisy places to sleep, so we’d be glad of the relative quiet.

We then met with a number of people who would be involved with me. There were the anaesthetists, who explained what would happen when I went down to surgery, when I was likely to go down, what the risks of general anaesthetic were (although not all of them).  I can’t remember if they said I would have gas rather than a canula to administer my anaesthetic then, but that’s what happened (more about that in my next post). I think we also met some physios, who would be helping me get up afterwards (way sooner than I would’ve liked!).

Before going into hospital, I had been part of a survey where I explained what I watched on TV each day for a week. I needed to finish it in order to earn the £5 incentive, but I had no internet access readily available for me in hospital – what was I to do!? However, we explained my plight to Rachel Hunt and she arranged for me to use one of the computers in the hospital school. So, I was able to go down, earn my £5, and in return I said I would give some money to the Evelina charity (I haven’t done this yet, as I’m thinking I’ll donate more when I get properly discharged). On my way we met the Pain Management nurse (Hazel Foale) who would be providing my morphine – I saw her more the next day.

After this, we were basically just left to chill. My mum’s ex-colleague, Sonia, happened to be with someone else at the hospital, so she went off to meet her, while I stuck around reading my book with my dad. ‘Other’ Rachel came in and got me to do some swabs and a urine sample, which both came back fine (phew!), and they also did my height and weight at some point (although I have no idea how much I grew!) where I met Neville the nurse, whose hair was possibly longer than mine. I then went back reading ‘Tempest’ by Julie Cross, which was a great book, but impractical for hospital, because it’s a hardback – it’s hard enough to read a paperback, or even a Kindle when you’re bed-bound, so I couldn’t actually finish the book until after I was discharged!

At around 5 or 6, I got some dinner from the hospital food lady. I had chicken without sauce, some amazing sliced potato (there must be a special name for these, but let me tell you, it is the one thing I miss about hospital!), and some peas and sweetcorn. I also got a yoghurt, and some squash that we’d brought with us. At either end of the ward there are parents’ kitchens so we had a bit of a fridge to store my favourite foods in.

Then we went down to M&S Café, where my parents had their dinner and I had a drink. It’s a great format there because it’s basically M&S ready meals, but they cook them for you. I definitely recommend that you let your parents (or anyone else who’s accompanying you) have some freedom before you have your surgery, because afterwards you’re likely to want them with you all the time. By this point I was quite fractious – this was real, and I didn’t want it in the slightest.


The Day Before: Part 1 – Arrival and Blood Test (25th September 2012)

I apologise in advance for the length of this post – it was initially over 2000 words long so I have therefore split it, and will upload the three parts in quick succession. I hope that I have done justice to my first day in hospital, before my operation took place.

On Tuesday 25th September it was finally time to be admitted to the Evelina Children’s Hospital. I wasn’t going into school, so I had a bit of a lie in, and then we got a taxi to the train station and got the train up to Victoria. I barely had any breakfast due to nervousness, but I think I had a bit of marmite sandwich on the train and some Ribena. However, I wasn’t sick before leaving, unlike the day of the pre-op!

We got a taxi from Victoria, as we obviously had luggage with us, and as we got nearer and nearer I got more and more worried (although there was a bright interlude when we drove round the roundabout at the end of Horseferry Road, because it was used in Torchwood, accompanied by the great song ‘Diplomatic Cars’). Talking of TV shows, the night before we had watched New Tricks, and it centred around St Thomas’ Hospital, so that was evidently coincidental and actually quite nice – I love the St Thomas’ building, despite its connotations.

We arrived at the hospital around 2pm I think. We were told to come between 12 and 2, but due to the cheap trains and want of a lie in, we agreed to arrive later rather than sooner. As we got out of the taxi, I broke down crying. We eventually managed to get inside the hospital and took the Sun lift (I believe) to the fourth floor, Savannah.

I was in Lizard ward, which isn’t detailed very much on the website (sorry, you will have to rely on my memories for this). We knew a bit about what to expect from the information booklet, but that doesn’t quite prepare you for the emotion and stress of actually being there. We were welcomed by a nice nurse, who I didn’t meet again so I can’t remember her name, and then passed over to ‘other’ Rachel (I have tried to google the nurses who looked after me, but I can’t find them) – I think of her as ‘other’ Rachel because the head nurse is also called Rachel. She was really lovely, especially after I was promptly sick after she showed me my bed. We assured her that this was normal (for me) and I wasn’t carrying any weird bug.

We then struggled with the EMLA cream. As I’ve said before, EMLA cream is my enemy, because EMLA means that a blood test is imminent. I think she just put it on my elbows, but had to use massive Tegaderm transparent dressings because otherwise the cream leaks out. We were then free to go for around an hour before having the blood test. So we did, but not before Rachel ran to give me my hospital band, you know, just in case I forget who I am!

We took this opportunity to go over to Gassiot Lodge, the ‘hostel’ on the hospital site where my dad would be staying. My mum had a bed next to me, but my dad also wanted to be around in the early morning when I went down to surgery, so took advantage of the £55 a night room a stone’s throw away from the hospital. It was pretty decent accommodation – he had a small double bed, a little TV, wardrobe, slight view of the London Eye, and almost his own bathroom (there were about 3 for 5 rooms, but they weren’t all occupied). I think there was also a sitting room with larger TV and some kitchen facilities. It was obviously preferable to my impending night on the ward.

We sat around there for a bit, I think the Weakest Link was on TV, but then had to return to the Evelina for my blood test. I was not a happy bunny. I think my mum was very close to walking out of the room. I would not let the woman touch my inner elbows to take the EMLA cream off. Once she put the elastic thingy on my arm (I believe this is still called a tourniquet), I recoiled and jerked my arm, and was thoroughly told off, because that was dangerous (to be fair if they had been taking blood it would’ve been). My mum told me to just let them do it, I would say she nearly shouted at me. I have a feeling a second phlebotomist came over as well. But eventually they managed to take my blood and stick a cotton wool ball on my arm with some tape. My inner elbows were red from the Tegaderm as well. And my mum was annoyed at me. But apart from that, things were all good.