Hysterectomy, with a little Hysteria

The alarm sounded at five o’clock, I drank the two bottles of pre-op somethng-or-other the hospital had given me, reset the alarm for six fifteen and went back to sleep. I’d only been in bed since midnight, after a delayed train journey back from a couple of days working in Glasgow, so when I got up again and went to the hospital for my hysterectomy, I felt like I could have gone to sleep for the operation without any assistance from the anaesthetists.

The nurse gave me the usual gown to change into, a pair of tights with grips on the soles, and also a pair of hospital knickers. What an absurd item of underwear these are. I refuse to believe that anyone is actually that shape.

The good news was that I was number one on the surgical schedule, so I was soon wheeled off to the room where they send you away with the fairies. I’ve been through this routine six (or is it seven?) times before, so I am well used to it. Other than the prick in the left hand as they set up the cannula, it is quite a pleasant experience, drifting off to controlled unconsciousness looking forward to waking up with it all over, maybe a little uncomfortable but sufficiently drugged up to feel relieved, relaxed and happy.

Sadly, that didn’t happen this time. I woke up in the recovery ward with an overwhelming desire to go straight back to sleep and repeatedly did so, only to be woken up straightaway every time by an apologetic and concerned medic instructing me to take deep breaths. This happened over and over again, as the monitors showed a worryingly low level of oxygen take-up stubbornly refusing to rise. Accompanying this was a really very unpleasant pain, partly in my abdomen, partly in my lower back. I was already on the maximum dose of IV painkiller, so there was no way of reducing this.  

By the time I had recovered sufficiently to be wheeled to the ward, I was rather fragile emotionally and still in a lot of pain. The ward staff were run off their feet, rushing from one patient to the other with precious little time to listen to my moans. After having several requests for painkillers overlooked, finally I burst into tears. Then some powerful painzappers were forthcoming, and I began to feel a little better.

So, I had been having a really crap day when my partner John arrived at visiting time. And somehow, I’m not sure how, he changed me from a blubbering wreck into my usual smiling, bantering, post-surgical self. Maybe it was because he brought fruit smoothies, puzzle books and WB Yeats without me even asking. Maybe it was just because he’s a nice bloke. Whatever, he worked his magic. I don’t want to be soppy or anything, but he really is something special. ♡

I had been told in advance that they expected to send me home the same day, but now they told me that the operation had been more complicated than expected and they needed me to stay in overnight. Apparently, my womb was in a pitiful state and it had taken well over an hour to get it out. Poor thing: all that child-bearing, menstruating and endometriosis had clearly taken their toll. It was old and knackered and it had to go. 

It turned out that the pain I was experiencing was being caused by the fact that the docs had pumped me with air to assist with the procedure. Finding this out, I had visions of myself as Harry Potter’s Aunt Marge, inflated and drifting over the suburbs. The trapped air even causes pain in the shoulders – some kind of referred pain from pressure on your diaphragm, or something like that. By early evening, I was burping and farting my way back to comfort. The medium-range forecast was for high winds, so don’t strike a match anywhere near me. 

So I settled down to an evening in a hospital bed watching the football on the posable TV screen with the headphones that my knight in shining armour had brought in. I had hoped that this would be a distraction from the pain and discomfort, but a goalless plod between England and Slovenia was really not taking my mind off it. Towards the dying minutes of a boring game, a fan ran onto the pitch. Even this fell short of the exciting interlude it could have been, as the bloke had his clothes on. What is the beautiful game coming to?! At least Harry Kane finally managed to rescue the game with a winner in stoppage time.

I had one more uncomfortable experience to go through before the inevitable sleepless night: the removal of the catheter and ‘pack’. It had been nice not to have to use the loo all day, but the tube and bag can not go on forever, so out it must come. Having a catheter taken out has a unique sensation: a combination of pain, relief and faint nausea that just can’t be replicated by anything else. And the ‘pack’? That was a huge piece of fabric stuffed up my you-know-what which the nurse now proceeded to pull out, somewhat like a magician pulling out a string of flags. I thought it would never end.

The lights went out, but plenty of lesser lights stayed on, machines continued to beep and the unfortunate elderly woman in the bay opposite snored like a trooper. My waking night was occasionally interrupted by sleep, and thankfully ended by a promise that I would go home later that day.

It seems that I had lost a lot of blood during the surgery – not enough to require a transfusion, but enough to warrant a month of twice-daily iron tablets to restore my depleted haemoglobin. I remember this from when my third child, Harrison, was delivered by caesarian section. I can look forward to stools like lumps of haematite, threatening to crack the toilet bowl. And to make sure that the toilet gets its daily dose of iron, I have a bottle of laxative. I’ve just had my first swig: stand clear.

I may have had a bundle of annoyances, but now I also have zero chance of ovarian, uterine or cervical cancer, and a reduced chance of breast cancer coming back. And for that, it’s worth it.

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