So, yesterday I had to go in for a minor operation involving, how can I put it, a part of the body where you hope the surgeon has a steady hand!
I have Aspergers so suffer from anxiety and that plays a very big part in my life.
I’d seen the specialist, had a chat and knew exactly what they were going to do to me and, on the way to the hospital I was quite calm.
I had packed my dressing gown, slippers, a book and a copy of my prescription in readiness and formulated a list of things to raise with the surgeon and anaesthetist if they didn’t raise them first.
We arrived in good time. Parking is always dreadful at my local hospital and I find getting a space to be a stressful exercise because I don’t want to be late. Anxiety kicks in.
On reaching the ward I was given the end bed. I like ends. I don’t like middles. I sit on the end of rows in the cinema in case I get too overwhelmed and have to leave.
I got dressed in my lovely hospital gown and waited whilst the nurse checked my details. I was going to be first up which is good.
The nurse was very thorough and covered most of my questions before I had asked them. I made a mental note of anything that was missed or was more the anaesthetists or surgeons department.
The anaesthetist, Dr Baker, was lovely. She was very thorough, explained the level of anaesthesia she was going to give me, what other drugs she would use and how she would keep me hydrated during the procedure. When I mentioned an issue with swallowing she quickly reassured me that no tube would be placed in my throat.
Her assistant, Sam, came to put my cannula in and that’s when we had an issue. I had fasted too much. I am always wary of eating of drinking too close to a procedure so had nothing for 16 hours or so before I went in. Sam explained that he couldn’t find a vein and I should have drunk a pint of water before I came in.
What can I say ?. I’m Autistic. I follow the nil by mouth rule.
Inserting the cannula had to be done twice and it was exceedingly painful as they had to put it in my wrist. My partners comments about the length of the needle were not helpful especially as I am needle phobic!
The surgeon, Mr Andrews is a man in who I have complete faith. I have seen him before and he is a very good humoured, very down to earth person who tells you exactly how it is and the risks involved. I was so pleased he was doing the procedure.
Waiting then seemed like an eternity. I’m not good at waiting. It’s empty time and I just wanted to get to theatre and get it done. I just watched the minutes tick by.
At last the nurse came to get me and I walked down to theatre. I like to walk. I hate being pushed on a trolley. I like to see the theatre and meet the people who will be looking after me. That eases my anxiety.
I went in and Dr Baker realised I was quite tall as she’d only seen me sitting down but I was soon stretched out on a cold operating table but with a lovely warm blanket draped over me. They started giving me fluid through my cannula. There was a brief panic when Sam mentioned a blood clot but he patted my shoulder and reassured me everything was going fine. Dr Baker then called me Sir. I was a bit shocked and asked her to use my first name. I don’t like too much formality in situations like this. It makes me uneasy. Then it was mask on, deep breaths and ……
I don’t recall going to sleep but I woke, groggily, with a headache and sore throat. The nurse checked for any oozing ( lovely) but said everything looked fine.
I suppose it took me 90 minutes to come round. I had three cups of tea (with sweeteners) and two rounds of toast and honey ( I’m diabetic so couldn’t have hot chocolate but toast slathered with honey is, apparently, fine!).
Going to the toilet was not fun. Seeing that you’re urinating blood is a bit worrying and it caused me quite a bit of alarm and distress but Sister said no, it was to be expected and, if I could drink some more and wee again, I should be fine.
So, more tea, more water… and a clear wee!
Having been first in the afternoon I was almost the last to be discharged. The cannula coming out was much better than it going in and the nurse, Brenda, went through all the post operation instructions with me to make sure I understood.
Dr Baker and Mr Andrews came to say goodbye and confirm what they’d done. Apparently I’d been a model patient whilst under with an incredibly steady heartbeat so, I suppose that’s good to know.
Being on the autistic spectrum, clarity is vital. I need to know what, why, when, where and all the staff had been marvellous in the clarity of their explanations, their thoroughness in going through things with me, their patience in answering my questions and in doing the procedure itself.
Our NHS is, regrettably, something of a political football in the UK but it really does a disservice to people like Mr Andrews, Dr Baker, Sam, Brenda, Julie and everyone else who interacted with me and treated me, and my autism, with respect.
From an autistic perspective, it couldn’t have been a better experience.