Beware of Anaesthesia Alley, anything that happens down that salubrious passage may or may not be true. Here follows the tale of my days before, through and after the alley. Readers of a sensitive demeanour may find there to be a little too much glorious detail. You have been warned.
I was asked to go into hospital a day before my admittance date. Good job too. During the previous week I had a couple of vegetable incidents. Keen to have some high fibre I had a couple of days of vegetarian main meals, the results were spectacular in all the wrong ways. I have never seen so much blood, not farted quite so much. My bowels did not like it!
In the days after I struggled, low energy and restless legs at night. I couldn’t even walk up the small hill to my house without stopping halfway. This all came to a head when I was admitted on Sunday afternoon. In a routine blood test they identified that my haemoglobin levels were very low and prescribed 2 units of blood (more than an armful). The restless legs, transfusions, medical monitoring and administered drugs all meant I slept very little that night. Finally, after the last transfusion I slept for 2 hours, eye masked and ear plugged, before prep for surgery started.
Anaesthesia Alley approached, its guardians arrived to escort me to their den. Now, anaesthesia is a higher risk for me because of the previous throat operation. As you may remember the op was delayed because they needed information from my throat surgeon at Charing Cross Hospital. All of that in place, the entrance to the alley for bowel surgery requires one particular, different drug.
When I arrive at the entrance the guardians ask me to sit sideways on the bed with my feet on a stool. I then curve my back, so I can bend towards my knees. After a skin numbing injection they then insert a needle between my discs to deliver one of their special concoctions. I’m instructed to lie back on the bed and we wait a minute or two. During this time they ask general questions about my life, I suspect that they would not be able to answer my planned multiple choice questionnaire a day later, but they know what they’re doing.
They then ask me to lift my legs. I can’t. The paralysis slowly spreads up. I can’t remember the next drug; a complete nothing descends. Absolute nothing, not even the dark. There is just absence of any form of consciousness. Is this what death is like? I suspect so.
Next thing I remember I am being attended to in recovery in the ITU. I’m on 1 to 2 support for 24 hours, throat watch I call it. But all seems well, the steroids and shared information about airway tubes have woven their magic. There is a familiar lump and soreness in my throat. I throw up a few times, but otherwise I’m not too bad. I sleep. There is much to catch up on.
Most of the day and next night is spent in sleep. My stomach settles and I am able to tolerate water and tea. By lunchtime next day I am ready to be admitted back to the ward. Anaesthesia is not quite done with me though, lethargy and a fuzzy head linger, but I feel better than I expected.
The next day I spring from my bed, do 25 star jumps and eat a hearty breakfast. Not. The day’s events are more prosaic. I manage to get out of bed, into my chair and tolerate some soup for lunch. Nearly all the tubes are removed, including the catheter and I start to feel a little more normal. Talk turns to getting my bowels working again. It’s an exciting topic.
They have removed more than half of my large intestine and then joined the ends. It is a joy that this procedure has gone as well as it could. The chief anaesthetist described it as quick and decisive. That sounds very positive. Of course the outcome of this is that my bowel function has changed. I’m not sure why but food will now initially pass as diarrhoea; allegedly this will settle down. But the nurses want to know when I have had my first poo.
Fortunately, they do not have long to wait. Two visitations last night and one this morning mean a ‘light diet’ for me now; soup, quiche, yoghurt and the like. Followed by low fibre diet when I get home. Did I tell you? All being well that will be tomorrow. That’s fantastic, and much quicker than was expected. So, all being well the lovely Dinah will be picking me up tomorrow. I have survived Anaesthesia Alley.