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Buzzfeed: ‘Puberty Gave Me Curves I Never Expected’

Blog posts are like buses – you spend ages waiting for one and then three come along at once (broadly speaking). It is perhaps not quite that dramatic, but having been quiet for a couple of months, it’s refreshing to have too much to write about!

Today I was just generally looking at Buzzfeed, doing various quizzes and getting quite upset at the mistreatment of pasta by some internet users, when I found a link to an article. Entitled ‘Puberty Gave Me Curves I Never Expected’, I saw a image of a spine and was quite excited to see scoliosis being discussed on a popular website. Rosalind Jana, the author, is someone I was already aware of as a scoliosis sufferer but it was still refreshing and slightly emotional to read of a story much like my own.

You can read the article below, and look forward to hearing more from me very soon!

https://www.buzzfeed.com/rosalindjana/crooked-mile

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Post-operative anxiety

So, there are a whole load of things I want to share, but the other day I went to visit my cousin and discovered a very interesting fact about post-operative anxiety. Yes, it’s a thing. I was not aware, but post-operative anxiety is a recognised condition. And it was something they experienced after their daughter had her tonsils out. OK, so their daughter is four, so that means she will have had a different level of understanding of what is happening. For example, anxiety manifested itself in not wanting to sleep, which is understandable as the operation starts with being put to sleep. But surely someone older, such as myself, would be able to separate the induced sleep of the operation from the normal state of sleeping? Well, yes, I expect so, but the subconscious is an odd thing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a manifestation of post-operative anxiety in any age group.

Anyway, seeds were sown, and I did a bit of research on post-operative anxiety. It’s not something they talk about in the pre-op so I wanted to see how much of a big thing it really is. There is very little official evidence of this being common – nothing on NHS Choices, and the main hits being forums or very confusing studies of postoperative pain (some albeit with anxiety thrown in). Add in post-operative depression however, and a few more useful sites come to light. This article is probably the best: http://www.alternet.org/having-surgery-what-you-need-know-about-post-operative-depression. It attributes post-operative depression to “disappointment in the outcome of the surgery and a response to physical changes such as stitches or scars as well as resulting feelings of vulnerability and fear”. Now I would say in a way I experienced aspects of all of these to some extent, although I was very pleased with the outcome, just slightly annoyed by the small lump existing at the top of my scar. The vulnerability was especially prevalent – it’s in a way a very invisible procedure and I think I felt that people wouldn’t understand if I pushed myself to do something and then suddenly withdrew.

I wrote briefly back in August about the anxiety I experienced in early 2013 (https://afterscoliosis.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/anxiety/) but didn’t really think that post-operative anxiety was normal. I don’t recall having extreme problems sleeping, and, with the nature of my operation, problems I did have I just credited to discomfort. But now I feel like maybe my anxiety was more normal than we all thought!

Not sure how this post should end, so I will leave you with a few more useful website I found, as well as some really complicated research! Good for any scientists reading, maybe? (Not you Sunny)

http://harvardmagazine.com/2000/07/an-understandable-compli-html

https://www.udemy.com/blog/depression-after-surgery/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2044.2001.01842.x/pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11481590

http://www.meja.aub.edu.lb/downloads/21_2/183.pdf

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1460-9592.2003.00848.x/full

http://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(13)01316-3/fulltext

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Bed Space 20: Saturday 29th September 2012

I find it incredibly annoying to not remember what happened to me for most of my stay in hospital and it’s times like these that I wish I’d written this blog before.

By Saturday, I was beginning to get back to normal – I had a better sleep the night before and I was being forced to get out of bed to go to the loo or get food. They also encouraged me to get out of bed and sit on a chair to help me sit up and not be slumped in bed all day. I was still being sick, but I had been joined in this by Ella and Charlotte, who also suffered from taking morphine.

I think today was when the anti-sickness medication came in, technical name anti-emetics, and this is not a pleasant experience. Much like the removal of the canula I talked about in an earlier post, I think they have to flush the canula, but even if they don’t the sensation is the exact same – it’s really weird and horrible!! However I think it stopped the nausea so that’s good.

From talking to others I’m pretty sure that I was visited by a physio (going to guess her name as Gemma) to do my stair climbing, to make sure that I was ready to go home. We went to the stairwell that you can’t actually get out of unless you go to the ground floor, but luckily we didn’t get locked in! I managed to walk up and down a half flight, and was cleared physically to go home.

I think I was also invited to the cinema to see a film. They have a Medicinema at St Thomas’ that means that patients can be literally wheeled down to watch a film and make their stay a bit more enjoyable. I suppose it was a pleasure to be asked because there apparently isn’t much room for loads of beds in the cinema, but whatever the film was I didn’t want to see it (I think it was a cartoon), so that honour went to someone else.

One thing we’d done to make the stay better was bring my mum’s laptop and some DVDs so I could watch something other than daytime TV. We didn’t really do this much because it was quite hard to set up and the TV on the bed sufficed. But, we did manage an episode of Outnumbered, which was very funny and cheered me up.

One of the highlights of my day, and indeed my entire stay in hospital was watching the finale of Doctor Who, The Angels Take Manhattan, which was the last episode with my beloved Amy and Rory. In a way it was nice that it aired then because I will always remember how I felt when I saw it. I wont go into too much detail about it – it started slowly (although with GREAT music), then things took a turn for the worse, then this scene happened: SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS EPISODE 1) WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? 2) DON’T READ ON!!

I apologise that the video didn’t properly embed, but at least this is the real footage! (Turns out it’s all fine now!)

I think I cried at this point, even just because the music is so amazing. And then you’re hit with this false sense of security because they survive and then BANG Rory gets zapped by an angel, and Amy makes the choice to leave the Doctor and risk being lost in time to be with her husband. By this point I was definitely in tears (remember I was very drugged up!). By the time the episode finished it was 8.05pm and there had been a shift change – my nurse was now Sam. This was a bit awkward because I couldn’t actually say anything about what I’d just watched because he hadn’t been able to see the episode and was planning to watch it on the Monday (if you’re reading this, please let me know what you thought!!)

After I watched Doctor Who, as you might have guessed, I was a little emotional. So it was obviously the perfect time to call someone from home…! This wasn’t actually intentional, we’d been trying to make phone calls all day but we just happened to get through after Doctor Who. Anyway, we rang one of the youth leaders at church, Nicky, and told her that everything went well and to relay this information to relevant people on Sunday. I’m sure we talked about loads of stuff because I hadn’t seen anyone from outside the hospital for days (except Sonia) – all I can really remember about the call was saying ‘I’m a bit emotional because I just watched Doctor Who’. It’s always nice to hear a familiar voice, and I recommend that you call someone at home from hospital if possible because it puts everything back into perspective. It’s a little bittersweet though as it reminds you of what you’re missing.

It was probably about half 8 by this time so, being a Saturday in September, I may have tuned into X Factor (I remember seeing bits of it during my stay) and then I fell into a broken sleep.

Anyway, join me in my next post to hear about my penultimate day in hospital. Please comment/follow/read more – I’ve added a comments box on the about page so you can use this for any comments or questions and I can get back to you.

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Bed Space 16: Friday 28th September 2012

So, after leaving you on a cliffhanger and uploading a bit of random stuff, I am returning to me being in bed space 16 and waking up after a, quite frankly, horrible night. I would recommend reading my earlier posts before this one, so if you haven’t you might want to scroll down or go back to the Home/archive page. This is probably all in the wrong order, so I apologise for that, but my memory is so bad, especially because I was all drugged up! WARNING: this post contains a lot of reference to bodily fluids so if you don’t like that sort of thing, read on at your own risk.

Anyway, I woke up in the morning on Friday 28th September a bit groggy. To be honest, I barely remembered the fingerprick tests so almost thought someone had stapled my hand in the night or something! My day started with a man from A&E coming up and informing us that it was too risky to bring the portable X-ray machine up and expose everyone to such a lot of radiation – I’d have to go down for an X-ray. Luckily, Mr Lucas turned up shortly afterwards and informed everyone that I did not need an X-ray, it was clear that I was just constipated and should be encouraged to get up so everything could start moving again.

Anyway, the physios certainly obliged with the whole getting me up thing, and I was not very happy about it. They were no longer content with getting me sitting up for two seconds – I was now supposed to be walking, or at least moving to sit on a chair. To be honest, the physio session from Friday is a distant hazy memory, but I think I managed to walk to the toilet and back, and they were able to get me sitting on a chair next to my bed as well.

Now, before this I think I must have had a visit from a pain nurse, because for me to walk around more freely I definitely didn’t have any morphine attached to me anymore! The removal of my canula was a weird feeling, because they had to removed the pump and then flush the tube with water (and therefore my blood) which is a horrible sensation. Basically, body temperature is 37 degrees, but that is pretty warm for your skin, especially when it’s concentrated on a small area – they do flush it with warm water, but it can’t quite be body temperature, so it feels really cold – you can actually feel it travelling down your arm! Luckily, you don’t actually feel them removing the canula, and they covered up the area with tubigrip and melonin for me so I didn’t have to look at it!

OK, backtracking again, I promise I didn’t mean to write this post in reverse order. Today was the day that I started being sick big time. Firstly, my stomach obviously didn’t help matters, but much of the sickness was due to the morphine, because it mucks up your insides quite a lot. Previously I had been taking tablets but they had to move me to liquid medication because I was just making myself sick through trying to swallow tablets (although I managed the horrible taste of the medication!). I had a vague recollection of a useless healthcare assistant trying to help me swap my tops after I missed the sick bowl (sorry!) – she wasn’t allowed to unplug me from my morphine machine so we had to wait for nurse Ellie to come back from wherever she’d gone so that she could unplug me, swap tops, and then plug me in again. Foresight has also told me that part of my being sick is probably because I wasn’t eating, and therefore my body couldn’t take in some of the medication, which needs to be administered after food.

The useless healthcare assistant redeemed herself from uselessness (not from my annoyance) because she and nurse Ellie gave me an enema. I’m not going to go into details because it creeps me out a bit, but avoid enemas at all costs. OK, it wasn’t that bad and it did the job, but it certainly isn’t very pleasant. I had to lie on my side for it, which was hard, but at least I got a more hospital-y experience through using a bedpan (verdict: incredibly hard to do after a back operation). They also took my catheter out (don’t think the healthcare assistant was involved in that), which feels really weird, I can’t really describe it, but it’s sort of like the feeling you get when you feel like you need the loo but actually don’t. Anyway, my days lying in bed were well and truly over.

Going back to after the physios started working with me majorly, Rachel Hunt came to see everyone. As I’ve said, she is very lovely, but she was also the person who removed my pressure dressing, which was pretty painful. It’s basically like an elongated feeling of when you take a plaster off that’s stuck down very well, but stuck all the way down your back where you’re partially in constant pain and partially can’t feel anything. I also had to lie on my side for her to do it. But it could’ve been worse – cold spray was used in abundance and she tried very hard to be gentle.

The other awful thing Rachel made me do was take Movicol, a strong laxative. It was in the form of powder in sachets, and I think I was meant to take either 4 in 1 hour or 4 in 4 hours, but ultimately I struggled with taking 1 in 4 hours! My mum put it in some nice apple juice that she’d bought in M&S Simply Food, but it was really sickly sweet (probably from the powder) and put me off drinking cloudy apple juice for about a year. For some reason by this point I was wearing a hospital gown, and I will now provide you with a lovely photo of me sitting in my chair, looking horrible, ill and ‘pregnant’ (not actually pregnant, just full of air etc!)

2 days post-op

2 days post-op

At some point during the day I got some good news – they were moving us back to the other bay! Hooray! The boys had been discharged, or were in the process of being discharged, so there was space for all three of us girls – also it meant we were nearer the nurses’ station, which is always useful when everyone’s being sick.

I will leave this post there, and I apologise again for all the bodily fluids and stuff – I didn’t actually realise how much happened on the Friday! I will continue my description of Friday evening in my next post, where I will be in bed space 20!

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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.

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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!

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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.