The Surgery

I didn’t sleep the night before. I was a nervous wreck. I tidied the house. I gave the fish an unexpected middle-of-the-night feeding. I watched video after video on YouTube of people describing their experiences of weightloss surgery. I checked my phone for the time at 4:25 am. My alarm went off at 4:50. I got up and had a shower and made it down the hill on time for the 5:36 train.

I tried to read on the train, but couldn’t. I distracted myself by answering all the good luck messages I was getting. It’s amazing how early all of you get up.

I got to the hospital as requested at 6:30. I was immediately prompted to sign a piece of paper, the first of four things I signed that morning without reading and I was shown to my room.

A nurse checked my blood pressure and told me it was very high. Of course it was. I was about to have surgery. He took my temperature and double checked my name and my date of birth. He put a hospital wristband on me. He left me alone to change my clothes.

I was given a hospital gown, a pair of anti-embolism socks and a ridiculous pair of see-through paper underpants. I put them on. The nurse popped back in and told me that I was first up today and that the surgeon and the anaesthetist would both call in soon.

Alone in my room, waiting for the surgeon was the loneliest fifteen minutes of my life.

The surgeon came, jolly as ever. He felt my belly and told me that it looked good. He said that it was the beginning of a whole new life. He had me sign something and left.

The anaesthetist came next, a gruff man. He asked if I was on any medication or if I had any allergies. I said no and he left.

A nurse came to walk me down to theatre. The corridor of bedrooms where I’d been was a very peaceful place. The operating theatres were abuzz with activity. Lots of people, lots of noise, lots of shiny metal. It reminded me of a hotel kitchen. Another nurse led me into a small room full of equipment and had me lie on a trolley. She checked my name and date of birth again, just to be sure they did the right operation I guess. She attached me to various monitors and machines and took away my glasses. I felt completely powerless.

As she hooked me up, she asked me about where I was from. It turned out she had a friend from Ireland who would bring her black pudding every time she visited home. She loved the black pudding, and said it was an excellent hangover cure. I remember thinking how wonderfully inappropriate a conversation this was for someone who’s about to have their insides sewn up so that they stop eating so much. I thought to myself, “I hope I remember to put this in the blogpost”. I did.

The surgeon came in, laughing and jolly and told me again that I’d made the right decision and I was lucky because the best team available were on that morning. I bet he says that to all the teams.

The grumpy anaesthetist joined us. He attached a drip to the back of my left hand and put a mask over my face. I remember thinking, in my overdramatic way, that this could be my last moment of consciousness.

It wasn’t. I woke up. I was in horrible pain and I was confused. The anaesthetist was still there but we were in a different room this time. He asked if I was in pain. I remember literally moaning as I said “yes”. He said he’d give me more morphine. I dozed off again.

I woke up to a new nurse telling me she was taking me back to my bedroom. I remember feeling as if the bed was being rushed too fast down the corridor and I remember moaning some more but I was kind of waking up to reality now. We got back to my bedroom. I was given my glasses and I asked for my phone too.

It was 11:00 am. I managed to announce on Facebook that I was alive and to text my sister and mother too. I went to sleep.

Or at least I kind of slept. I was extraordinarily sore. Everything hurt. My head. My shoulders. My chest. My belly. My insides. My outsides.

At least I wasn’t attached to loads of machines. I had read some accounts of surgery where it was normal to have a catheter put in and various monitors attached. I didn’t have any of that. For a short while, I had a little oxygen thing under my nose, but the nurse soon removed that. The only other attachment was the drip going into the back of my left hand. The nurse was worried about this as it didn’t seem to be working and she wanted me to get some fluids and some nutrition as I’d been fasting before the operation.

At about 1:00, the physiotherapist came calling. She wanted to get me out of bed. I didn’t think I’d be able. But I could. And once I was out of bed, I felt a bajillion times better. We went for a walk around the corridor. As we did, the drip popped out of my hand and I started bleeding all over the floor. I walked back to my room and they bandaged me up.

A nurse and two different doctors came to try and find a vein and get the drip attached again. They pricked my arms and hands in a number of different places and failed utterly. They decided I’d be OK without the hydration.

This was good. I could sleep better without anything attached to me. I napped hard.

At some stage I noticed that my paper underpants had disappeared. Did they rip them off for surgery? That’s odd. When I had the energy, I got a pair of my own underpants out of my bag. As I put them on, I found the paper hospital underpants. They were in a ball of paper between my butt cheeks. I don’t know how they got that way and I’m choosing not to ask.

Not only have I had seven-eighths of my stomach removed. The one eighth that remains is very swollen after the surgery so basically nothing will fit in my tummy. This has turned me into a very delicate consumer, like the princess and the pea.

I was presented with a glass of water and a glass of orange squash. I can only take the tiniest, most ladylike of sips. A gulp is unbelievably painful. The most common reason for readmission to hospital after one of these operations is dehydration and I can understand why. Drinking water is hard work.

And the other problem is that drinking water creates gas. The gas pains are easily the worst part of this whole process. I can feel the wind moving through me but refusing to actually exit. Burps and farts are a matter of great joy and much-needed relief. I find myself rubbing my own torso like a baby who needs to be winded. It’s the worst.

Walking definitely helped with the gas pains though and I walked the corridors of the hospital every half an hour or so.

I examined my belly in the bathroom. They had shaved it in the most cack-handed way, leaving lots of hairy patches and it was already stubbly. There’s nothing sexy about a stubbly belly. There are five small wounds, each with a dressing on and none of them are at all painful.

Tablets are hard to take because they involve swallowing and they involve taking water. I’m like a baby learning new skills from scratch. I never thought I might forget how to swallow but I have a few different painkillers and anti-nausea tablets that I have to take so I’ve had to learn fast.

The nurse also had to teach me how to inject myself with heparin. When she did it, it was completely painless. When I do it, it stings to high heaven.

I woke up on the morning after the operation feeling fresh. No pain, no drowsiness. I just felt normal.

The surgeon popped in. He told me that the operation had been one of the easiest he’d ever done. He told me I’d obviously followed the liver shrinking pre-op diet well and that my liver showed no signs of fatty liver disease and he didn’t detect any negative effects of obesity on my internal organs. He told me I could go home whenever I wanted.

Wow! It was only 24 hours since the operation!

(I didn’t tell the doctor this fact, but I’ll tell you. I found the divorce from food difficult. I was on the pre-op diet for 16 days. I cheated on each of the first five days. Five days in a row, I started with good intentions and had my SlimFast shakes, and by the evening, I ordered a large pizza for delivery. Five evenings in a row. I did eleven days on the diet properly after that, but it was not an easy goodbye. Not at all.)

Anyway, I got dressed and waited for the nurse to bring me my paperwork and my take-home drugs.

By 11:00 am, almost exactly 24 hours after waking up from surgery, I was on the District Line, on my way home. I was fine.

And I still am fine. My brother arrived for a surprise visit last night so I have someone minding me for until tomorrow morning. Not that I need it really.

I’m sleeping a lot and the gas pains still bother me, but I really do feel mainly normal. My main mission now, as well as staying hydrated, is to get nutrition into my body. Milk, protein shakes and thin soups are what I’ll be living on for the next two weeks. Each sip is easier than the last, but learning to eat again from scratch is a weird thing to have to do at 37.

Right now, I’m calm. I know where I’m headed and I’m happy about it. Not frenetically excited like I was before the operation. Just calmly happy. It’s nice to have a bit of zen. And a sip of milk. I’m basically a cat now.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for the messages of support. It’s been kind of overwhelming. Love you all. xxx

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