This unassuming entrance is the reception of our nearest private hospital, The Park, Nottingham. And it has just played host to my first proper hospital stay…
I have been in hospital for investigations no more than a couple of times, and nothing particularly serious – the closest to a ‘real’ operation was when I needed a cystoscopy, which was also carried out at the Park, but I was fully awake at the time.
I am fortunate enough to have private medical insurance which allows me to jump the NHS queues and get treatment at a private hospital – but it is less of a treat these days as the NHS is so short of bed space they are now sending NHS patients to private hospitals – the only difference now is I don’t have to wait seventeen weeks or more for the work to be done.
In February this year (2017) I twisted my knee merely by walking down a flight of stairs, and after a few months of physiotherapy it was clear that it wasn’t just a simple sprain or strained ligament, and I was referred back to my GP. She quickly organised an x-ray and when that didn’t reveal anything, I had an MRI scan – another first for me. This year has been a whole load of firsts.
Anyway, I was referred to a local consultant – 2 days private or 6 weeks NHS (same surgeon) who quickly twisted my knee in different positions to ensure it was sufficiently painful, and then announced that he could see from the MRI that I had ripped a cartilage (medial meniscus) and it had actually folded under itself and was jamming in my knee which was causing all of the pain and discomfort. He didn’t need to actually examine the knee, he just liked me to be in pain. Sadist.
So there I was, end of September, with a choice of when I had the knee fixed. But I was going to be off of my feet for a couple of weeks at least, which would have interfered with two forthcoming trips – firstly my long awaited visit to Colditz with my good friend Joe, and following that my even longer awaited fishing trip to Paradise Lakes in Yorkshire. So, the next available date following that holiday was early November which we booked up.
That gave me exactly a month to start to worry about my first ever operation.
The consultant had suggested that due to my weight and snoring (What? Has he ever slept with me? Who spilled the beans?) that I would probably have to have an epidural local anaesthetic rather than being knocked out. I didn’t fancy that at all, as Sue had that many years ago with the twins and we are sure it caused her later back and leg problems.
I know, hundreds of people have it every year, even my mum had it to have a knee replaced. But it was still a very worrying thing to deal with.
Not that a general anaesthetic was any less worrying. I have never been knocked out in my life, and all sorts of scenarios were running through my mind, each one making me slightly more anxious than the last.
What a wimp! My wife, my kids, my mother all have had many visits to hospital and they just get on with it.
So, I had to get a grip and just get on with it.
Friday arrives, and I get dropped at the hospital at 7 a.m. – I’m not allowed to drive myself home. There are one or two more patients arriving, and one by one we are taken by the nice receptionists into an office to check our details are correct.
From there I am walked to a conservatory where a nurse collects us and takes us to our wards. By this time there are only two of us, the others having been escorted to other parts of the hospital. The guy next to me goes in with the nurse, together with his wife. I am on my own, but to be honest I’m happy with that – I would have probably been more anxious if I had someone with me reassuring me everything was going to be alright! Why would they say that? Of course it is!
The nurse checked me in, and put on my wrist band having checked all my medical details – the first check of many today. We had a laugh about my allergies to conifers and cats – I am assured that neither are likely to present in the operating theatre.
I am then walked up to a small ward with four leather reclining seats – apparently I am not getting a private room on this occasion as they are currently being refurbished. Am I getting a refund I wonder? However, it was nice not to be left on my own and there were more staff than the four of us having work done.
Three of the patients were with one doctor, and I was with another – so there was no waiting list, I would be first down. I undressed behind my curtain, put on a green sock/stocking to prevent blood clots, put on my gown and waited. Nurses came and went taking temperatures, blood pressures etc but it was all very lighthearted and relaxed – I didn’t feel too bad and surprisingly my blood pressure was also fine.
It was only 8 o’clock (30 minutes since I checked in) when the anaesthetist arrived – he gave me the choice of epidural or general, and without thinking I said general. Hell, I had to have one of them; he hadn’t offered a wooden spoon to grip between my teeth. But out of the two, I was more frightened of the epidural (yes, I think frightened isn’t too strong a word) and the deed was done. I was committed. UNLESS I got dressed now and ran for it.
But then, I couldn’t run, could I? My knee had been aching all morning, probably the worst it had been for ages, and I remembered why I was here. Get a grip.
At 8.20 Mr Desai arrived, reminded himself of what we were doing here today, got me to sign a form, scribbled on it what I was having done, and drew a big arrow pointing at my right knee. Well, I suppose it is easy to get confused once down there in the dimness of the theatre.
At 8.30 I am walking with the nurse down to the theatre, after checking my wristband again (I assume to make sure I had not swapped places with another patient). She checked my form, pointed to the surgeon’s scribblings and asked if that was what I was having done. “I don’t know” I replied, “I can’t read his handwriting”. As we walked she asked if I had been operated on here before – I had actually walked this route before for my Cystoscopy, but I answered no, this is my first operation. “What? First here?” she said. “No” I replied, “My first anywhere.” “You’ve never had an anaesthetic?” “No”. I think she could see my sudden anxiety returning. “Oh, you’ll be fine. There’s no wooziness, no drowsiness – it’s instantaneous.” I wasn’t sure if I was comforted or not.
I was left in the care of two nurses – I would have said pretty young ladies but these days it would be seen as sexual harassment so I won’t pass comment. They went through the same wristband checks, laughed about my allergies and then got me on to the bed. One of them (might of been pretty but didn’t really notice honest) passed me the form – “Do you know what you are having done?” “Arthro something or other.” “Is this what you are having done?” pointing to the form. “I don’t know, I can’t read the handwriting” I replied. I know the score, I have to actually say what I’m having done to make sure I can’t hold them liable later when they saw my arm off.
The assistant anaesthetist then came in, went through the same checks (it would be worrying now if we had got it wrong, seeing as four other people had checked already), asked about and laughed about the allergies, assured me of the lack of conifers where we were going, and having removed my glasses, wheeled me through to the anaesthetic room next to the operating theatre. “Ok” he said “One last time, wristband please…” Oh come on. You’ve just checked 15 seconds ago about 10 metres from where I’m parked now. “Do you know what you are having done?” “Arthroscopic surgery with medial menisectomy and debridment” I replied, having now learned this off by heart.
“And can you read this” (pointing to the surgeon’s notes) “and confirm this is what you are having?” “No” I replied, “I can’t read it”. “I know” he replied, “terrible handwriting”.
“No” I replied. “You have my glasses in your pocket”.
The most painful part was having the cannula inserted into the back of my hand. Ouch. I suggested they should give an anaesthetic for that.
Then the assistant asked me where I worked. I started telling him. He had visited our business park, and knew the buildings well. The main anaesthetist attached a syringe to the cannula and told me first, a painkiller to help after the operation. He pushed the plunger.
The clock read 9.30.
The nurse was commenting that I was a snorer. I felt her take off the oxygen mask. “Yes, a snorer” she said “There you go, all over”. “What?” I replied “I haven’t been down yet”. “Oh, yes you have”. She replied.
She handed my glasses back, Patricia the nurse from the ward was stood smiling at me – had she been waiting the whole time? I was wheeled back to my recliner, my knee in a huge padded bandage.
I was taken off the bed and walked backwards into my chair, still a bit disorientated by the total loss of a hour. Not feeling at all woozy.
It took a few minutes to get the anaesthetic out of my system – I couldn’t quite breath properly and my ‘SAT’s’ where falling (Saturated Oxygen level) – the nurse said I was fine, told me to take a couple of deep breaths and they jumped back up to the right level. Apparently you breath shallower when you sleep, and the anaesthetic has the same effect.
By 12:30 I had finished off three cups of coffee and a ham sandwich, been measured for crutches, nipped to the loo, had a physio exercise lesson by the physio staff (didn’t notice if they were pretty or not) and had been told to call my daughter as I was ready to leave.
So there you have it – my first operation, and first anaesthetic. I’m now on 7 days rest – keep off the leg – followed by a further 7 days off work, on crutches if I need them but light duties only.
No kneeling or heavy work for six weeks.
The bandage is now off after 48 hours and I have two nice holes in my knee where Mr Desai has expertly carried out the operation.
And already, it is no longer hurting. I feel this could be a good result after all.