“….she knew what was coming; the silent horror was written in front of me.”
I was partially awake when the nurse came over at five am to wake me. Feeling a little slow, I sat up and began to come round.
She came back a few moments later and took me to the nearest shower room where I sat on a plastic fold down chair that was stuck to the wall and she started to shave my chest; I didn’t have a hairy chest but you have to be squeaky clean for surgery. Once the chest has been ‘opened up’ in surgery any loose hairs pose a threat to getting lodged under the skin and causing infection.
As the nurse focused on my chest I could tell she was nervous, she didn’t look me in the eye once. Perhaps it was shaving a thirty-year-old’s chest instead of an eighty-year-old’s for a change. It was clear this was not a part of her job she liked and that she knew what was coming; the silent horror was written in front of me.
I was now in a hospital gown and went back to lie on my bed. I checked my bag and belongings were all together, ready in a bag to be collected, and placed the iPod and speaker at the end of the bed by my feet. I did this three times to be certain everything was ready.
I could hear my phone ringing and saw it was Tiana.
“Hey, morning,” I said.
In a hesitant, soft and distant voice she asked: “are you OK, what’s happening?”
“Not much,” I said, and I explained that I had been prepped and was now ready for surgery.
The conversation had more silence than words and lasted for thirty seconds at the most. I was tired, spaced out and didn’t want to drag it out. I had nothing further to say. Words seemed pointless at this stage. I was here and it was happening.
“Ok, speak later.” I said, finishing the call and going back to methodically checking that I had everything I needed. I was sure that I did but I checked again anyway as a form of distraction. I then sat on the edge of the bed looking out of the window at the wall, doing my best to meditate and keep a sense of stillness present.
The curtain was still drawn around my bed, and a nurse came over to open it and ask me a few more questions. The lights were soft and dim, adding a sense of solemnity to the mood, as if they could feel the atmosphere and had adjusted themselves accordingly.
The other gentlemen were also up by now and I gently greeted each of them good morning.
It wasn’t long before a young doctor dressed in surgery gear came bouncing over. Putting both his hands on the end of the bed and looking up at me he said: “Ready!” – it wasn’t so much a question as a statement, and the effervescent tone made me chuckle to myself as he and another nurse started to turn my bed and wheel me out as I lay there.
I passed my roommates and one by one they each nodded and said “good luck”, “all the best”, “see you later Guy”. There was a wonderful sense of camaraderie in the air, a mutual understanding of what each other was going through, which was comforting.
We went along the corridor and into a small and narrow lift which felt akin to the type you find in an old warehouse. I pointed out the iPod and speaker at the end of the bed to the young doctor and as I did so I noticed that he had a full sleeve tattoo, which I started to discuss with him.
I remember a curious look on his face as he smiled as if to say ‘you have no idea what’s about to happen and I’ll entertain your small talk.’
We got out of the lift and into the anesthetist’s room, which was very brightly lit in contrast to the low lighting of the ward and the old rickety lift. There were three people ready to welcome me; the lady I met previously who was my anesthetist, an older man and a younger man – neither of whom I knew. They introduced themselves and asked if I would mind if the younger man administered the drugs as he was a student in training.
“Yeah ok,” I said, and the student grinned at me and started to play with my left arm.
Meanwhile, I was talking with the older man and scanning the room, having a good look at the surroundings. There were notes stuck to the wall and various medical instruments on the shelves.
I carried on chatting to the doctor and it became clear that the student was struggling.
There were a few glances between the doctors as if to say ‘‘he should be out by now, what’s going on?’’ which gave it away. The anesthetist hurriedly came over, pushing the young student aside and taking over. I noticed another door to my left which would take me to the operating theatre. I carried on chatting with the older doctor and then, mid sentence, I was out.