PART 11 of My PC Adventure (read full story HERE)
THERE’S nothing like your own bed.
We’ve all said that. I kept saying it and saying it as I settled very slowly onto the king-size and took in the surrounds. Ahhh…
There was only one thing missing – a control panel to set the bed at any angle you like, a device that became a favourite toy during my brief time in the surgical ward at Wellington hospital. But you can’t have everything.
What I had instead was loving care from Lin, real food, McCavity the cat (pictured), a night shirt, HD TV to watch the cricket, radio to listen to RadioNZ National, a bottle of lime juice, remote controls, a toilet just down the hall, sun coming in through the window, a view of blue sky and rooftops, concerned neighbours, books, phones, a stash of fruit and an array of lollies (jet planes, 72% chocolate, liquorice, pine-apple lumps), enough painkillers to start a drug lab, well-wisher cards and flowers, the electric toothbrush, the bedside magnifying light…and, of course, some additional plumbing strapped to the side of my leg.
How did I get to this paradise?
Let’s step back a few hours on that notable Friday, the day I came home, just a couple of days after the radical prostatectomy operation that would change my life (and hopefully prolong it).
The morning began strangely in the ward. About 6.30am, after hours of little abatement in the circus – beepers beeping, buzzers buzzing, nurses poring over charts and administering, codgers trudging to the loo – everything suddenly changes.
The staff seem to vanish. This is probably entirely inappropriate as a simile, but it was like a concentration camp as the Russians approached – the guards melted away, and the inmates suddenly felt very alone.
The only person left to cope with the cacophony of beeping and buzzing is an elderly aid, who is preoccupied with cleaning up the mess from Mr PI’s “sit”.
Mr Seaman is half dressed and confused. His operation has been cancelled (all that finger-pricking for nothing). Mr PI is back to “hallo, hallo…” after his unfortunate experience with the buzzer. Mr Newcomer lies and listens to his radio and remains aloof.
Nobody answers the buzzers.
This goes on for about half an hour, then just as suddenly we’re “staffed” again, with a new shift of nurses frantically boning up on who’s in, what meds they need, what tests, and so on.
Mr PI is whisked away to the shower by a young Polynesian male nurse, who deals with him politely but firmly.
Mr Aloof has a visit from God, who tells him his operation is postponed.
As for me, well the phalanx is back, swooping in without warning, and we’re discussing my home-going. “Has he had a bowel motion?” asks Phalanx Leader, this apparently being one of the rules for freedom.
For some reason, I feel jocularity is required, so blurt out Billy Connolly’s line: “Never trust a fart.” Everyone looks blank (unsurprisingly). I’m trying to indicate that a movement is imminent, trust me, but the point is lost. We all let it pass (the remark).
I’m prescribed laxatives, which will replace the delicious kiwifruit concentrate that has been administered up till then to “keep things loose. We don’t want you straining…”
I’m introduced to one of the team, Bob Hale, the senior urology nurse, who will be providing catheter and post-operative care. Another mistake on my part: I relate my friend’s remark about everyone growing to love their catheter.
Bob is stern: having a catheter is one of the most uncomfortable (or a word to that effect) experiences a man can have, he says unsmilingly.
They move on, and I’m left to assume I can escape. I announce this to a nurse, who says fine, but I need to fill out some forms. That will take forever, so why don’t I get dressed and head down to the lounge. He’ll get the discharge papers mailed out to me.
Surgeon Rod appears, togged up in white gummies and dark blue overalls (he must be operating again today) and asks how I’m going. I’m good. No pain, and the catheter bag is starting to run Chardonnay.
Did he get it all? “I think so.” The lab analysis will tell, and he’ll have that in a week or so. He asks me to cough gently while he feels for the hernia, and it seems fine. “I’ll give you a call when I’ve got the results,” and he’s gone.
He thinks so…hmmm.
The nurse comes back to remove the drip valve from the back of my hand.
Lin arrives and we get me dressed. We’re off out of here, me waddling at pensioner pace and feeling strangely disoriented, woozy, frightened, hopeful.
Sitting in the lounge, we wait for a while, visited a couple of times by the nurse, who explains why the ward emptied out earlier: there was a major emergency in another section and everyone went to have a look. Oh well, it’s a teaching hospital, and people have gotta learn.
The handsome young Asian doc comes past and wishes me well. Surely, Shortland Street will snap him up before long.
Bob arrives with meticulous advice and my catheter take-home pack. He says the catheter will be in until the following Wednesday, when I need to come and see him at the urology clinic. They’re in the middle of moving into the new hospital, so he’ll need to let me know if they’re ready that day. He’ll be removing the catheter and advising me on after-op care.
I totter down to the main entrance, feeling vulnerable and weak, and lean against a railing in the door airlock while Lin gets the car. The short drive home is dominated by pothole avoidance.
At home, I change into a nightshirt and collapse, slowly, into bed. And doze…
NEXT: Learning to love my catheter – not.