My appointment with the consultant to assess my 'huge' cyst is at 11 a.m this morning but things seem to be working in my favour to begin with because by 10:45 we are driving home from the hospital so that I can pack an overnight bag. Having agreed to be interviewed by a medical student about my condition I am seem by the consultant who takes one look at my neck and declares that, "It's very serious, we need to get you in straightaway and on the surgery list."
Details are then taken of when I last ate and drank and I am sent on my way. We get home, pack a bag and walk to the railway station. The train is due at 12:34 and it's probably a twenty minute journey to Poole. I walk into the hospital and find the ward I have been told to report to, the receptionist turns over a couple of pages on her clipboard and says, "I've got a bed ready for you." Blimey!
This isn't for the operation though, that can't be performed until 8:30 p.m at the earliest, being twelve hours after my last food and drink, nevertheless things are moving at an impressive speed, so much so that by 1:45 I have had blood taken, been swabbed for MRSA, had all my details taken down and I am now waiting for the next stage.
The next stage begins around 3:30 when I am taken by a porter four floors up from where I have been waiting. I am offered a wheelchair but say it would be better used by somebody who couldn't walk and the porter and myself discuss the lottery, this is simply because the lift arrives as soon as he presses the button and I comment that "I wish I had that luck on the lottery."
I'm shown into a four bed ward, three of the beds are empty and the fourth is occupied by a man in his late 70's who is just being told he can be collected anytime he likes. The window offers me a view across Poole Park towards Brownsea Island, Sandbanks and beyond that I can see Old Harry Rocks. To think there are people in Sandbanks who pay upwards of £5 million for this view and I have it for free, although as I will tell the nurse later I wish I didn't have the view under such circumstances.
Over the next few hours I have more blood taken (to borrow from Tony Hancock they must nearly have an armful by now), I'm fascinated by the 'tap' on my arm which makes me think of a beer pump as it is turned on and off at will. I am assessed by two different surgeons, this is due to a change of shifts, the second one explains that having looked at the situation I won't be having a local anaesthetic but I will be 'put under'. Apparently this is because they want to make sure all the fluid inside is cleaned out, they are also concerned that as the lump has grown there may be some nerve damage affecting my left shoulder. I can hear Janis's voice in my head scolding the doctor who told me back in March there was nothing to worry about. I'm nil by mouth and having told the senior nurse, Amy, that I am feeling very dehydrated I am put on a saline drip.
I am told that I will be operated on around about 10 o'clock,
At just after 9:30 p.m a surgeon comes to see me, apparently there has been a rush of emergency surgery tonight and although he is more than happy to operate he says that there aren't enough support staff. Gutted. Good news is that from 10 p.m until 2 a.m I can eat and drink. The ward sister organises a 'snackbox' - I dread to think what this will be! The snackbox arrives, as does a jug of water - I am more interested in drinking than eating. The snackbox isn't too bad to be honest, two ham and chicken sandwiches, a pear, yoghurt, orange juice and three shortcake biscuits.
Surgery is now arranged for Wednesday around 2-2:30 depending on whether anybody else needs the slot. I fall asleep until 2 a.m when there is some trouble on an adjoining ward with a patient who is having problems remembering where he is and has decided to pull his catheter out in protest.
As this is my first night in hospital I have to have my blood pressure and pulse checked on the hour and my blood sugar level monitored - you don't come to hospital to rest, you come to get better!
I fall asleep just after sunrise but wake up at shift changeover - 7:30 a.m
If yesterday dragged today is going to fly by.
The day starts bright and early, there is only myself and a guy called Reg, late 70's, on the ward. I'm back on nil by mouth but have been given another saline drip, I have also been put on IV anti-biotics which have been administered twice during my stay so far, with another dose to be injected before the operation.
7:30 Night shift goes off and Day shift comes on. Everybody out of bed so the beds can be changed. I can't sit in the chair so as soon as the bed is changed I go back to bed and fall asleep.
At around 10 a.m the chief consultant arrives with my entourage, he shakes my hand but calls me by Reg's surname, he is about to discuss my symptoms when one of this 'team' points out that the man he wants to see is in bed 23, I am in bed 24! Anyway after seeing Reg he comes over to me and looks at my neck, "That's really horrible," he says, well at least it's a variation on "It's huge!! "You are now a priority, as soon as we can get you into surgery we will operate."
10:30 Phone the office to let them know what is happening.
At around 12 things start to swing into action. The senior anaesthetist comes to see me, "You're on the list," he says, "So I can come in," I reply, he looks at me a little perplexed, "You know, like at an exclusive club". "Right," he replies. Like everybody else I have seen he asks me about my medical history, what is interesting is that he seems to have all my medical notes which is impressive given that I am not in a hospital in my own NHS Trust but in the neighbouring one.
"When was the last time you had an ECG?"
"2006 I think". I can remember the day very clearly. England v Sweden in the World Cup. Joe Cole volley from 40 yards. Me in hospital after angina attack on the way to work. Drove myself to hospital. Ah yes, definitely 2006.
"2004, according to your notes. I'm a bit worried about your low blood pressure. We'll get an ECG done. As far as the anaesthetic goes you'll be out for exactly the amount of time needed for the operation, not a minute more or a minute less. You won't feel a thing".
The nurse who has been looking after me, Lucy, arrives with the ECG machine and asks me to lower the gown I am wearing. She looks at my chest, "I think I'm going to have to shave you". She goes away and returns with a bic razor and begins to try and shave part of my chest. She has made a few tentative strokes when another, much younger nurse arrives. "Are you trying to shave this gentlemen or just plait his hair?" She asks. The two of them laugh, "I'll fetch the 'crash' razor," the younger nurse says and a couple of minutes later returns with an industrial size razor.
About five minutes later I am shaved and ready to have the ECG done. "Looks great," says Lucy, "I'll take your word for it," I reply, "You can have a feel in a minute if you like," replies the second nurse. Lucy turns away laughing, "You can't say that in hospital surely," I reply. She closes the curtain as she is leaving, "If you need anything else shaving let me know," she says. "I wouldn't mind but I think my wife would need some explaining to," I reply.
Around 2:30 a porter arrives. I am disconnected from the saline drip and we begin the journey to theatre. In a room next to the theatre, where the anaesthetic will be administered I talk to the porter. He is from Krakow originally but has been in the U.K since 2004. Having visited Krakow back in the 1990's we talk about places we know. He tells me that he lived in Manchester for six years and how on his first day in the U.K he saw a police car fire bombed and on his second day he saw somebody stabbed. "I thought U.K was Hercule Poirot. Miss Marple and tea rooms," he says, "this was big shock. And the weather in Manchester. Either raining or thinking about raining. People tell me 'Go South," and I think how much difference can it make in such a small country. I have been living in Poole for three years and it is fantastic. Lovely people, better weather, very little crime."
2:40 The anaesthetist connects me up and asks me to breathe normally. I can hear the bleep, bleep of my heartbeat.
4:40 Recovery room. Amy is standing next to me. "How are you feeling?" I am conscious but drifting in and out. I can't feel any pain. No nausea. I feel like I have woken up after a very long and very deep sleep.
The trolley begins its journey back up to the ward. "Amy, can you do me a really big favour, can you please phone my wife and tell her everything is okay." Back on the ward I hear "Is that Janis, this is Amy......"
7:30 I must have fallen asleep as soon as I heard Amy telephoning Janis and stayed asleep through most of visiting time. There are two new patients on the ward. All four beds are now occupied.
8:00 A meal arrives. I vaguely remember filling in a menu but can't remember what I ordered. It's a ham salad, rice pudding and orange juice.
I had two or three hours sleep at most. So many comings and goings. I'm up before sunrise and sit on the edge of the bed looking across Poole Harbour.
I can actually eat breakfast and can choose between three cereals, porridge, muesli or toast. Muesli it is.
8:40 - The nurse in charge comes to tell me that I will be going home today as expected. It's now just a matter of the paperwork being completed. She begins to change my dressing, the pain is unbelievable. The surgeon who I saw on Tuesday night arrives and explains that the operation was a complete success, apparently there was loads of 'stuff' in there but it should all be okay. The hole in my neck must be packed with material so that it can heal from the inside out because if it heals the other way round there will be the possibility of it happening again.
I comment to the nurse that the District Nurse who is going to visit is going to have fun redressing the wound every day - they think it will take 10 days to two weeks to heal - "Yes", she replies "It is a bit intense isn't it."
12:30 I'm discharged. Paperwork completed. Packet of padding and other materials together with a letter for the District Nurse in my bag. Say goodbye to my fellow patients and make a point of looking for Lucy to thank her for her help and ask her to pass on my thanks to Amy when she is in next.
12:50 Catch train home.
Janis is waiting at Christchurch Station and asks if I would prefer a taxi to walking. We walk the mile or so home, can't believe how hot it is. Get home at just after 1:30 p.m. Have a quiet smile and say, "Do you realise what the time is?"
"I was just thinking about that," she replies.
On the kitchen messageboard is a copy of my holiday itinerary: Thursday 18th July 13:31 London St.Pancras to Paris-Nord.