The Countdown

38 Hours to check in time.
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In about 38 hours I will be arriving at hospital to book in for my thyroid surgery and I don’t mind admitting I’m nervous.

Will I die on the operating table or soon after?  Will surgery make my life better or a whole lot worse?  Will I be left disabled and unable to talk or perhaps even be unable to breathe without artificial help for the rest of my life?

There are a lot of really awful stories online about what happens to people who have thyroid surgery and I can only hope I’m not about to become one of them!

I’d really like to cancel but my symptoms have gotten worse in the two months since I have been on the waiting list so it’s surgery or a long, slow, drawn out death as the lump in my thyroid grows bigger and bigger until it finally chokes me!

It could take a very long time to die from it, however, if the size of some of the lumps I have seen online that other people have had is anything to go by.  I think the discomfort and sheer ugliness of the condition would send me off to surgery long before it would kill me to be honest.

My daughter has taken two days off so she can take me to hospital and bring me home the next day.  I just hope I won’t have any complications or problems and they will actually let me go home the next day!

There’s a lot of pictures online of the scars left by thyroid surgery and they range from “Good grief!  It looks like the surgeon tried to take their whole head off!” to “what scar?  Where is it?  I can’t see any scar at all.”

I wonder what my scar will look like?

Now that thyroid surgery has become something I know about I am remembering all the people I have seen over the years who had scars on their necks.  Every time I saw one my first thought was that they had tried to commit suicide by cutting their own throat.  Now people are going to think that about me.

I’m considering buying, and wearing, scarves.

24 Hours to check in time.
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Just 24 hours to go.  This time tomorrow morning I will be checking in to hospital and my anxiety is growing.  They told me during the pre-admission appointment that I am scheduled to be the first operation for the day but, by now, that might have been changed.

If I am first surgery should begin around 8 or 8:30 am which means the best I can hope for is a wait of one to two hours after I arrive.  At worst, well, I don’t even want to think about how long I could be waiting then!

I have today to get ready.  I must remember to pay the rent, pack a bag, do grocery shopping, buy some vitamin E lotion to help the scar heal and so on.

From what I have read online I can expect to have a sore neck after surgery but the two main issues people have mentioned are trouble swallowing and moving the head.

I’m expecting to find it hurts to do other things besides swallowing and turning my head though as I can feel the lump react whenever I do anything that encourages the flow of blood to it such as bending over or exerting myself even a little bit.  Even something as simple as turning over in bed or holding my breath for a second seems to cause a mild swelling sensation in the lump.

I can only assume the site will react to the same things the lump has been reacting to when the lump has gone but, instead of a swelling sensation, I expect there will be pain.

What I fear most of all, however, is not the pain.  It’s the hospital experience!

The way you are stripped of all dignity, all power, all self-reliance and are turned into someone who must put up with whatever they want to put you through.  They can be rude, arrogant, overbearing, patronizing, impatient, irritable, secretive or any damn thing they want and you are expected to swallow it all and smile.

They make you wait for hours until they are good and ready to attend to you.  They tell you what they want you to know and fob off any questions you ask that they are not willing to answer.

They act as if they can do to you what they want, when they want, because they want and, if you want to get well, you just have to grin and bear it.

Nothing turns me into a tantrum throwing toddler quite as fast as hospitals!

When I went in with a broken ankle almost three years ago I threw a tantrum and did a runner.  They wanted to confine me to a hospital bed and postpone surgery for as long as it took for the swelling to go down in my ankle.  I said I would rather wait for the swelling to go down at home and signed myself out to the great discomfort and distress of my son who had medical staff telling him I should stay and me saying take me home or I will catch a bloody taxi!

It was a stupid thing to do but I couldn’t bear having my personal power ripped out of my hands and a tantrum was the only way to get it back.  Three days later I was in so much pain, so much distress, so exhausted that I was only too happy to go back to hospital and hand my personal power over in return for their help.

That should not happen this time as, this time, I am mentally prepared for them to snatch my personal power away from me and I am gritting my teeth and bracing myself to let them take it.  I’ve been bracing myself ever since they told me I’d need an operation.

It all begins at midnight.

No food, no drink, no smoking they said.  They have their reasons and, if they were to actually do the operation after you have been fasting for the specified period, I would have no problem with the instructions.  The problem is they tell you to fast from midnight regardless of whether they plan to operate at 8 am or 8 pm.  I had one operation where they left me fasting from midnight through to 5 pm – more than twice the necessary time!  I was so dehydrated I could barely talk by the time they took me into surgery.  It was demoralizing and distressing and nobody gave a damn.

If they do that to me tomorrow my inner child will spit the dummy for sure and I am highly likely to sneak off when they are not looking to have a smoke and a drink and to hell with their fasting requirements and their reasons for them!

12 hours to check in time.
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I went out with my daughter for a “last meal” at my favourite restaurant and enjoyed it very much.  In between the main course and dessert I went outside for a smoke and was treated to some spectacular eye candy lol

A fire truck was parked out front of the building next to the restaurant so I very casually sauntered past to see what I could see and a fireman came out and caught me craning my neck as I went past.  I avoided looking at him and pretended I was just passing, nothing to see here, not sticky-beaking, no, not me.  I walked a little way past the building then turned and headed back to the restaurant and, by the time I got near him, a second fireman had joined the first out the front.

I couldn’t help it, I craned my neck again looking for evidence of a fire and the two firemen began smiling at me.  One asked me if I was alright and I caved in and told them I was wondering why they were there.  They smiled and said a lady had got trapped in an elevator.

These two men, let me tell you, they belonged on a calendar or in a TV show about firemen.  They were so good looking I probably should have looked to see if there actually was a camera following them.

I went back into the restaurant for dessert and spent the next ten minutes drooling and it had nothing to do with the food!

The memory of those smiles is still keeping my mind off the coming surgery hehehe

5 hours to check in time.
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Midnight came and went and I wasn’t sleepy enough to go to bed so I began the fast they tell you is required to ensure your safety during surgery.  No food or drink after midnight.

I got thirsty about 12:30 and decided to look up exactly how long you are supposed to fast for and voila – more evidence that the medical profession doesn’t really care how we lab-rats… er… patients feel!

It seems the whole 8 hours without food or drink has been challenged as putting us through more distress than is actually required and this has been known for more than 10 years!

Research has shown people really only need to go without food for 6 hours and they can have clear liquids up to 2 hours before surgery!

An article taken from the Nursing Times even says fasting for the usual 8 hours can actually be bad for patients!

“…the current practice of fasting overnight or up to eight hours before surgery can cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, malnutrition and general malaise.”

In his Pre-operative Fasting Guidelines a Canadian Professor of Anaesthesia says;

“Fasting guidelines at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary were changed in 1988. Since then, ‘nothing by mouth after midnight’ has applied only to solids, and clear liquids are encouraged until 3 hours before the scheduled time of surgery, or 2 hours before the actual time of surgery.”

It seems the research, whilst known about, has yet to make it’s way into hospital policy for the most part.  In a study to see if the new guidelines were being put into place it was found that;

“A total of 62% of the respondents said they have an institutional policy in place to allow clear liquids orally 2–3 h before the induction of anesthesia. However, only 35% of the respondents said their institutions had a policy in place allowing a light breakfast 6 h before elective surgery”

Here are a couple of archived news items written about this in 2002 for anyone who wants to read more.

This is the sort of thing that makes me hate hospitals.  It isn’t enough for them that you are already suffering, from whatever health problem has brought you to them in the first place, they have to make you suffer more for no reason!

When I was in hospital for surgery to fix my broken ankle they fed me around 5pm the night before and gave me a cup of tea and a biscuit about 7pm then they made me fast from food and drink for the next 15 or so hours.

Why?  Why make me go hungry for 9 hours more than was necessary and thirsty for 13 hours longer when going thirsty actually INCREASED the risks to me?

Oh well.

I guess I should try and get some sleep now since it’s just 4 more hours to check in time.

I plan to ask them to take photo’s of the surgery and/or let my daughter take them or even watch the operation so she can tell me all about it but I’m pretty certain there is no hope they will agree.

Guess I will post this and go to bed.  Must remember to get my daughter to take a before photo of my neck before it’s too late!

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