Mr C had to go for spinal surgery this morning. A laminectomy to be exact.
His back started hurting him around 6 weeks ago. In typical male style he tried to ignore the excruciating sciatica for about a week before making an appointment to see an osteopath.
The osteopath did not recommend Mr C go for a scan or even an x-ray. He manipulated and massaged his back though.
It didn’t help.
Mr C made another appointment a week later when the pain had not resolved. Again, no recommendation of a X-ray or scan, just more manipulation.
At my insistence he then went to his GP who did recommend an MRI since by this time, Mr C had started losing the feeling down his leg and at the bottom of his feet.
A specialist was called, an emergency appointment made and this morning he had a laminectomy. Apparently, if he had left it another two weeks, the nerves supplying the bowel and bladder would almost certainly have been permanently damaged rendering him permanently incontinent – at the age of 47.
Let this be a lesson. Get the damn x-ray or scan. Then try the alternatives. At least you know what you will be dealing with.
However, this is not the point of my post today.
I am sitting at home waiting. And my anxiety is rising with each passing minute. Anxiety is an awful thing. It’s irrational, yet the fear is so strong, your brain convinces you that something awful is going to happen. Your body, believing your brain, responds. It starts to panic. Your heart rate rises, your breathing quickens and you are on high alert.
Mr C was due for surgery at 8am. When we waltzed into hospital, they informed us that he was first on the list and that I should phone the ward at around 11am. I duly did this. The ward said he hadn’t arrived and I should phone back in a couple of hours. I explained that Mr C was due for his op at 8am. They said they had no idea what happened, but for me to phone back. She wasn’t very nice about it.
I called back at 12. A different person on the line. After spelling his name twice, I was told he still wasn’t on the ward. I explained that’s impossible as this would mean that his operation would have been 4 hours long. We were told it would only take 2. She gruffly told me that he was probably in recovery and that these things take time. She clearly had no time for some worried relative right now. And there it was. My enemy called anxiety.
Something had gone terribly wrong. Was he dying on the operating table? What if they had cut his spinal cord? What if they were trying to rescuscitate him and I wasn’t there to call to him, to will him to live.
I called back. I needed to speak to someone in recovery. I was put through to the day surgery which apparently is right next door to recovery. I spelled his name again (his name is very English and only 7 letters long including the first name and surname, this only added to my annoyance). I heard her clacking at the computer.
“He should have been out a while ago,” she said.
“No shit, sherlock,” I thought.
“I’ll just pop over to recovery and see if he is still there.”
“No, he isn’t there, so he must be in the ward.”
I ask to be transferred but apparently this private hospital has not yet plumbed for an internal phone system, either that or it is some ridiculous policy that means relatives are inconvenienced to make another phone call. I make the call and ask to be transferred to the ward.
A different person again. Spell the name again. I can feel the palpitations in my heart, pain shooting down my left arm. I want to rip someone’s head off. I can’t concentrate. I’m in a hardware store, there to distract myself by picking up some stuff I need, and I cannot think.
“No, I’m afraid he isn’t here yet. He is obviously still in recovery.”
My panic is almost at a level I cannot endure. I am losing my mind. I am imagining myself at a funeral. I am imagining how I will cope on my own.
“That’s impossible,” I say, a shrill voice escaping my lips, “I’ve just spoken to them and he isn’t there.”
“Well perhaps he is still in surgery. Either way he isn’t here and I really can’t help you.” Her cue to end the conversation.
I look at my watch. It is 12:30pm. 4 and a half hours. Over double the time the surgeon said it would take for the operation. I used to nurse, I know four hours is a long time for surgery. Something HAS to be wrong.
I run to my car, get in and cling to the steering wheel.
I can’t go through this again, I just can’t.
Losing my first husband was bad enough. Shortly after Mr G died, I went to some friends for lunch. I met a woman who must have been in her 60s. She held my hand whilst telling me that I will be okay, that she had had three husbands pass away on her and she still hadn’t lost hope for a fourth. I couldn’t imagine it, all that loss and still having hope. It just isn’t in me.
I drive home. I make master J some lunch. I’m just going through the motions.
1:15pm. I dial the hospital again.
I explain to the receptionist that it appears my husband has gone missing, that I really need to know now what the hell has happened to him. I sound panicked, but honestly, I do not care. She does not care that I am panicked. She sighs a big sigh (another overanxious relative, I presume). The phone starts ringing.
Oh. My. God.
“Look, I am not sure why I have been put through to you, but it appears the hospital has lost my husband.” I am speaking fast because I am petrified she will cut me off, or get annoyed at me, I just need to get it out. “At the risk of sounding hysterical, my husband went in for a laminectomy this morning at 8am. I have phoned recovery and they say he isn’t there, I have phoned the ward and they say he isn’t there either.”
My mind is screaming at me HE IS IN THE FUCKING MORGUE.
“Is there some way you can look him up to see where he is?” I must sound desperate.
Tears are trickling down my cheek as she puts me on hold. After an eternal five minute wait the phone goes dead.
I phone again, ask to be put through to recovery and find my way to emergency again.
“Apparently, someone there is helping me to find my husband who came in for a laminectomy and apparently has gone missing.”
Another freaking sigh.
“Okay, we’ve found him, he IS in recovery and will be going through to the ward.”
I thank them and put the phone down. By now my anxiety has risen so much that I cannot and do not believe them. My husband is lying dead somewhere and no-one is telling me.
I phone the hospital again. I have gone past all sense of reasoning. This is what the brain does. It robs you of calm, rational thought. It robs you of the ability to make your decisions based on all the facts. It just robs you.
I make my way to day surgery again. A different person again. I ask about my husband as if it is the first time I am calling. She says he will be on the ward. I tell her I have tried them and they say he isn’t. I explain that I really need to know how he is as I have already lost one husband.
She sighs. She fucking sighs.
She begrudgingly offers to go to the recovery and see if she can see him.
“Yep, I can see him, he is in recovery.”
“Does he look okay?” I ask.
“I guess, from where I’m standing.”
I want to yell at her to walk the fucking 20 steps over to him, to ask the nurse taking care of him, to just show some shred of compassion.
“When can I come and see him?”
“I reckon call the ward in about an hour.”
I have no alternative. I have to make another call, spell his name again and hope to hell he has made it to the ward. The fact that she has seen him has abated my anxiety somewhat. It has done nothing to abate my anger. The ridiculous ineptitude of it all. How hard can it be to have him on a computer that anyone with access can log onto and say the following:
“Mr C’s operations was delayed because of an emergency that came in, so his surgery started late. He is still in there at the moment, but we expect him to be done by 1pm at the latest, which will mean that he will be in the ward around 2pm. How about we give you a call when he gets here and then you can come and see him?”
Is that too fucking hard? Is that just too fucking much to expect? For a private hospital with only 3 wards?
It’s been a hard day. Anxiety is a bitch.
Until next time,
Edit: He did go in at 8am. The surgery took 6 hours because it is at a deep seated site in the body. He ended up with a double laminectomy, is very pale, drugged up and, I am happy to report, very very much alive!