I don’t remember much of the first hours after waking up after the surgery. I was in the recovery ward but it felt more like I was recovering from a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson after I had called him a big fat fairy, than an operation. I was not in any pain but I was definitely the picnic basket without any cutlery – not all there.
I do remember it was about 2pm and the nurse had said I had been there sometime after noon. She had come around and asked how I was. I mumbled something to her and she checked the machinery connected to me, the IV drip and took my blood pressure. Then she was off again. I don’t remember the journey as I must have drifted off again as the next time I awoke I was in a standard ward surrounded by curtains.
In true Stephen King style ‘there was something terrible down there’ and as nosey as I am I couldn’t bring myself to take a look under my blanket. I had a drain and IV tube to my left and a monitor and a catheter bag to my right that was more than enough information for me thank you very much. I was slowly getting my marbles back together and was able to answer the nurses with more than a grunt and nod when they came over to check how I was doing later on. It was about 5pm that I saw a welcome and familiar smiling face – Dr C.
“How are you doing?” he asked
“I’m OK” I answered almost normally and smiling as best as I could.
“Well your prostate was a bit bashed up, so we just had to slow everything down with the surgery and take our time. It went very well and I am pleased to say that we were able to save both sets of nerves.”
Even in my bashed up state I instantly knew the wonderful and important implications of what that meant and a massive grin filled my face. I shot out my hand to Dr C. I then shot out my fist for a fist pump, he laughed and fist pumped me back. I was never an avid fist pumper but one day little Joel had come up to me and stuck out his little fist for a pump I gave him one and he just stood there and started speaking in his little unknown toddler talk to both me and his fist. The girls came over and started laughing. Perplexed I asked what I was missing. Amaris said he was waiting for the explosion at the end and I had short changed him. Not to be outdone by two cackling kids I had developed the ‘atomic fist pump’ which consisted of the pump, a one eighty degree horizontal body turn of said son and wobble, another one eighty degree horizontal body turn in the other direction of said son and then shake topped off with a stationary wobble. Joel had the first ‘atomic fist pump’ shortly after its conception. He stood for a second, staggered for two more, walked into the chair then run off drunkenly to find Annette. Now as I child I would have lapped that up but alas that was to be the last fist pump he would ever do with me and I just went back what I knew best.
Dr C also mentioned that otherwise everything else in the operation went very well and I would need to have the catheter in for two weeks. My face dropped for a second as it would mean I would miss Lauren’s graduation. He went on to explain that he had a school sports day tomorrow so he would not be able to check on me personally but someone from his team would check on me and if I needed to talk to him they can get hold of him. I thanked him again and off he went.
Saving both sets of nerves is as good as it gets in a prostatectomy operation. It would mean the King would have the best possible chance of regaining full hydraulics. I said a little prayer and thanked God for what had happened.
I had now begun to take in my wider surroundings, namely my neighbours. To my left was possibly the most dodgy patient on the ward, Mr Secretive. He was not bedridden as he frequently left his bed and would come back again. He always slid sideways in and out of the curtains surrounding his bed, trying to mimic a ninja, ensuring that nobody could see inside the curtain as he moved in and out looking left and right as he left. I was itching to see what he was hiding but I was going nowhere fast unfortunately. To my right was Mr Windy. During the operation carbon dioxide is pumped into your abdomen to move organs out of the way and create room for the surgery. This gas, I was to find out later, personally added about four or five inches easily to my stomach. This gas is then passed out odourlessly over the next few days. However, Mr Windy perhaps having a grudge, hard of hearing or just being a git was determined to be a one-man orchestra to all that just happen to be around him. Then finally directly in front of me was Mr Happy. He didn’t have a good word to say about anything or anyone. His chicken portion was too small, it had a bone in it and then it tasted bland. The yoghurt was not the flavour that he wanted and the rice was not hot enough. He had only just begun. His medication was not coming fast enough and when it did come it was not his normal brand. He kept looking over to me like he was looking for an ally and I just kept trying not to make eye contact. I wondered if he had ever heard the expression ‘don’t pee off the chef before he has bought your meal over?’
About an hour later the familiar and smiling face of my sister Antionette came around the curtain. She asked me how I was and how had my day been. I was running through how my day had been and one of the nurses came back and needed to make some checks and take my blood pressure. Somehow in that time Mr Happy across the way had managed to strike up a conversation with my sister and was reeling off his list of complaints to her, coupled with lots of hand animations. I shook my head in disbelief as now he would be thinking that this new ‘friendship’ with my sister would naturally extend to me once she had gone. I rubbed my forehead on my hands. Did she also have a whole bag of presents to leave me or was this enough? I did have more pressing thoughts thankfully.
“Do you have any money?” I asked Antionette.
“Yes, I do what do you want money for” she asked. It was her way of gently saying you are seriously banged up and why on earth would you need to purchase anything.
“Can you get me a television card please” I replied. In every hospital ward there is a television bolted to the wall. You need to purchase a special television card to be able to use it. Depending to how much you put on it the access time lasts from a day to a week.
It was subtle, but her face dropped a little bit.
“Why?” she asked.
“Erm so I can watch the television” It was a stupid question, which I would normally have layered in thick sarcasm but I needed her good will so I had to go along with it.
“But you have your phone don’t you?” she enquired.
“Antionette I am not going to try and watch television on my silly little phone screen” I was beginning to get my strength back.
Now don’t get me wrong Antionette has a lovely heart and she is not tight or mean. However out of the two of us she is easily the more practical. If world war three was declared she would be stockpiling water, medicine and essential dried and tinned foods. I on the other hand would be down to John Lewis to see if I could get a deal on that fifty inch television that I had my eye on. I didn’t want to go into my neighbours and how the television would shield me from them or how I needed to be distracted from the horrors below my sheet. I looked around for a nurse I was happy to start engineering an erratic heart beat so I could get a good graphics and sound display going on one of those portable monitors before playing the ‘you do know where I am’ card.
“Antoinette, can you get me a television card please” I said in a matter of fact tone.
“Peter, you are only here one night. It’s a waste of money.” She was never an avid television person so she could happy go without television forever. Perhaps she should become vegan and join a commune.
I took a slow look at the IV connected to me then slowly planned down to the drain then over to the catheter bag hanging on the side of the bed. I took a feeble sip of water. If I could have lightly tapped or stroked any of the equipment I would have done so but I couldn’t reach. If I smiled or dropped the wounded face it would be all over now.
She sighed and said “Fine” and walked off.
Happy was complaining about the type of painkiller the nurse had bought back for him. If looks could kill I thought he was going to throw it at her head such was his disgust. Windy let rip again and Secretive slithered in sideways again, hermetically sealing the curtain after him. Antionette returned about three minutes later.
“The machine only takes cash and I only have cards on me!” She announced.
“There is a cash machine on the ground floor” I instantly shot back.
This time there was a deliberate eye roll coupled with a huff. She didn’t storm off as such but that would not have been the time to ask her if she wanted to sign up for a ‘save the whales’ campaign. She was gone for at least ten minutes. I was beginning to think she had jumped on a bus home. She thrust the card at me without making eye contact.
I now know how Charlie felt with Willie Wonka’s golden ticket. I wanted to hold it up in triumph but realised it was probably not a good idea. She tried not to smile but as I was grinning she found it hard to resist. My smile soon disappeared however when I realised I had another battle on the way.
“Erm can I borrow your headphones please” I sleeplessly asked.
“You don’t need headphones” she argued.
“Antionette, I cannot use this television without headphones” I pleaded.
I took a slow look at the IV connected to me then slowly planned down to the drain then over to the catheter bag hanging on the side of the bed. I took another feeble sip of water.
Antionette slowly handed over her headphones. I might have got more enthusiasm had I asked her for a kidney or other major organ.
Television was full of rubbish but it was bliss. A carefully placed monitor meant that Mr Happy was no more to be seen, earphones meant Mr Windy was no longer heard and Mr Secretive could carry on building or hiding whatever he wanted. Who knew ‘Emmerdale’ could make someone so happy.
The next morning I was looking forward to being released. I was feeling a bit stronger and despite my earlier scepticism the paracetamol was actually working very well as I was pain free. I finally took the plunge and looked under the blanket.
Horrific is a good word.
Frankenstein’s bloated belly was an even better phrase. I resembled a cheap sieve. The hole that the drain had come out of had been left without stiches, it was just there. I had three other holes to the left, centre, my right hand side and one larger hole just above my belly button where the prostate had been removed. It looked like a blind guy with crochet needles had sown it up (sorry Dr C if that was you). I stared in utter disbelief for a minute at the catheter tube emerging from the King. In fact, I uttered a couple of swear words under my breath. I hurriedly put the sheet back down and it would be staying there.
I was due to be released today and I was just waiting on the medication to come from the pharmacy. In the meantime I had tried without initial success to get the rest of the discharge checklist together. This checklist contained items such as spare catheter, dressings, wipes, motherships etc. I was being looked after by an agency nurse and I don’t know if she was overstretched or just careless because she would have sent me home with only half of the supplies that I needed. Unfortunately she was also one of the main targets of Mr Happy’s wrath and in this case I could see his point. I also had to ask numerous times to get pain medication and changes of bedding but I didn’t want to make a big thing about it. We got to late afternoon and pharmacy had still not got my medication together and because of this they said they were happy to keep me in another night.
The NHS is this fantastic institution that we are so very fortunate to have. There is nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. We sometimes take for granted the wonderful, professional, cutting edge care that we can receive free of charge. That being said there is also an acute bed shortage problem that affects those that need it most. I would have felt horrible occupying a bed that I know someone else in greater need could have.
No, it was morally wrong for me to stay another night just because I cannot get my medication, I could cope without it, it was absolutely wrong.
I said that I could get someone to get the medication tomorrow so it would not be a problem. They finally agreed and discharged me in the early evening.
Oh and my television card had also run out.