Monday, June 10, 2013

Fair, Fat and Forty...

Lordy, lord. Here I go again... nearly two months since my last blogpost. (I feel momentarily like I am in the confessional).

I do actually have a reasonably good reason this time. Which is, dear reader, that I have recently had an operation to remove my gall bladder.  When I blogged in January, I mentioned that I had had an horrendous hangover in January. What I didn't mention was that though I gave up alcohol for the month and stopped having hangovers, I realised at the end of it I still wasn't quite feeling right. Not only that, but I had two or three episodes of acute pain in the middle of the night. And when I say acute, I mean ACUTE... the sort of pain that leaves you curled up in a ball moaning slightly hysterically as nothing, but nothing makes it stop. Not only that I was having acid heartburn that Gaviscon just wasn't reaching, and I had the faint feeling of nausea a lot of the time. When I gave it some thought, I realised I had been feeling like that this (without the acute bouts of pain) pretty much forever. I had put up with it, as I thought the acid burning etc was a result of the stress I'd been under when mil was ill, but after the first time I had pain, I looked up my symptoms online (I know I know, fatal)  and  in between scary things like  cancer and heart attacks, gallstones screamed right out at me. Particularly as the first bad attack I had was after making a chicken pie (gallstones don't like fat you see. They really don't like it at all.).

It took a bit of to and froing from the doctor to make sure what was going on before he referred me for an utlrasound and an endoscopy (where they stick a camera down your throat. Lovely.). By now I was convinced it was gallstones (except in the stilly watches of the night when my imagination tends to run riot), as my mother suffered from them some time ago and it as as they say familial. Added to which according to the medical mythology  of my ma (an ex nurse), being fair, fat and forty means I am a prime candidate (my GP helpfully added fertile to the mix. Man, gallstones could have been made for me).

I was incredibly lucky in that I didn't have to wait too long for my tests, and the ultrasound revealed in seconds that I had a bag full of gallstones, or "one sick gallbladder" as the cheerful chap doing the ultrasound told me. I was so relieved to hear the words, "normal" repeated as he scanned my liver, pancreas, kidneys etc, I failed to take on the import of what this meant, until when I said cheerfully, "I'm so relieved," he replied, "It's not that great you have to have an operation." Which was true, but quite frankly, considering what the alternatives could have been (part of the symptoms I've been having including pains in my chest, eek, heart attack alert!), I was hugely relieved.  I was not so happy the next day, when I had to have my endoscopy without realising I should have told them I wanted to be sedated first (does ANYONE in their right minds actually want a tube shoved down their throat  while being wide awake?), but I got through that too, to discover there was nothing more the matter with me, then having a bunch of gallstones.

As is the way of these things, as soon as I started to mention it, turns out dozens of people I know have had their gall bladder out, it's really common etc etc, and amazingly you can function pretty well without it. Hurrah for that (apart from the fact it squeezes bile on to your food as it goes through into your stomach, I'm not entirely sure why we need one, and the pain it was causing me was enough for me to want to get rid of it as soon as I could.) I started to eat a sensible low fat diet, avoiding fatty foods as much as possible (one spectacularly bad attack came after I'd made Beef Wellington for Spouse's birthday meal.), giving up on things I really really love, like pate and soft cheeses - my one moment of weakness at a wedding had dire consequences - and waited to see the specialist.

Again, I was really lucky, as I got to see a lovely consultant pretty quickly too, and he too said straight away that the pesky thing had to come out pronto. I had been imagining I was going to have to wait until the summer, which would have been a pain, but possibly more practical in terms of organising the family, but I was initially given a date early in May. Not wanting to turn it down, we said yes straight away and then I started to fret about the children. I wasn't going to be able to drive for a week, how would the housework get done, no 1 had AS levels coming up, no 4 had her Sats, I didn't want either of them worried. Mind you, what do I know? No 1 cheerfully told me she was in a little exam bubble and didn't care. That'll teach me...

The first date turned out to be on a Bank Holiday so they moved me to the next week, the start of exams, and also no 1's birthday week (quite frankly, she was more worried about whether I was going to be ok for that, and I was trying to work out how I could make a cake that wouldn't go off before hand), but luckily as it turned out that got cancelled too. Spouse had arranged to take two days off, and it was too late to book patients in, so we had a pre op holiday, the two of us instead, which was much nicer.

Finally I was given a date of the 17th May first thing in the morning, and then panic started to set in. I've only ever had one operation, a long time ago, and I felt lousy after the anaesthetic. I also hated the feeling of being not asleep exactly, but in a kind of dark space of nothingness - as Spouse so eloquently described it, it's like a little slice of death. Besides, though it's not common, what if I DIDN'T wake up??? (Luckily the research about Friday operations being the most dangerous was published after my op). So cometh the hour, I was a gibbering wreck. So much so that when lovely Mr Consultant came to see me before the op, he said, "You look terrified." - because I was. Who in their right mind wouldn't be?

However, hats off to the medical staff. It's all so routine for them, it makes it feel more routine for you, the patient. The anaesthetists were particularly cheering, one kept me chatting while the other slickly got a line in and injected me with something sleep inducing. I can just remember asking if everyone is as scared as me (the answer was pretty much yes), before drifting off. This time, I am pleased to report, I didn't get a sense of black nothingness. I just shut my eyes at 8.30am, and opened them to discover it was ten past ten, and I was being looked after by a very lovely nurse, who it turned out had trained with my sister. Small world...

Then I was brought back into the side room I had come into in the morning, where Spouse and I sat and had several cups of tea and I attempted to eat biscuits, before the anaesthetist arrived to tell me everything had gone well, and the nurse eventually told me I could get dressed and go home. Yes. GO HOME.... As I'd had key hole surgery, I was up and out before you knew it. To my amazement, though I felt sore, I was able to walk to the car, and didn't feel the need for any pain relief till I went to bed. (Though big sis, who has just gone back to nursing full time, told me off big time. The thing is, I don't think I was being especially brave, but after the pain of gallstones, which literally doesn't ease up for hours, a bit of soreness felt like nothing.)

I had been advised to take at least a week off (eek! how was I going to manage that), but thanks to Spouse who did literally mountains of washing and organised the kids to help far better then I could, my lovely twin for popping over to help for a couple of days, and no 1 organising me while she took study leave, everything happened that had to happen. The second week was half term, and nos 3 and 4 were away for some of it, so that meant less to organise, and so I was able to take it easy. And for the first time in years, I literally stopped. Which has been a revelation, quite frankly. The world didn't end, life went on, the house hasn't fallen apart, the kids have got to school. I could get used to this.

Three weeks in, and the pain is abating, though I notice more twinges if I overdo things, the house is starting to look a little rough around the edges, and work is building up so my period of enforced idleness has to sadly come to an end. But... the good news is my stitches are healing up, I'm beginning to feel better, and I can eat pate again... Bliss.

With grateful thanks to all the amazing staff at Ashtead Hospital who looked after me so well.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you are making the best of things, as always!
Don't overdo it, look after yourself, and remember the analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before you can help those around you...
Selfishly glad, however, that you will be writing again.
best wishes
Caroline Praed
PS our operations were exactly a year apart!

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