I’m sitting in the hospital on the comfy chair by the bed whilst Tom is scrunched up in a blue plastic visitor’s chair. The nurse shows me a chart, and asks,
‘What type of bowel movement did you experience last time you went?’
I look at the drawings, and pity the person who found themselves with the task of illustrating various forms of poo. I point to the closest one after some consideration, and she continues her questioning.
By the time the anaesthetist comes round, I’ve told everyone my date of birth more times than I ever have before. She abruptly walks me through the proceedings, before passing me an anti-sickness pill. I’m nil-by-mouth, but I’m allowed a tiny sip. I sign my papers, and I’m raring to go.
The surgeon is next, and I ask him about the lasers that will prime my bone for the meniscal allograft transplant, but he corrects me – it’s not lasers, it’s drills. It’s also not 2 big cuts, it’s 4. He initials my knee with his name, which is rather forward considering he’s just met me. There is a Ronnie-esque moment where he asks if it is the left leg, and I say that’s right, and he is confused and repeats left, and I say that’s correct this time. A black arrow is etched on my leg, and off he goes to scrub up.
Another nurse comes round to take my food order for the next few days, which seems a bit harsh considering I’m fasting. My stomach growls at her as I place my order.
The physio pops in to say good luck, and then I’m told to slip into something more comfortable. The paper pants were surprisingly comfy, but I’ve never quite got the hang of the gowns, and I’d left the top hanging open so Tom stepped in. In my dressing gown and slippers, I walked down to theatre and enjoyed my last few steps for a while. Tom kissed me goodbye at the door, squeezing my hand. Following my bed, I walked through into the dimly lit corridor.
The theatre doors are open, and blue lights and green scrubs catch my eye, but I avert them as I’m not supposed to witness what happens in there. I’m walked through a side door, and told to de-robe despite the coldness. Once my back is bare, I lay down on the spongy bed. Lots of heads float into view, some familiar and some not. My veins are small, so a pink tourniquet and a tapping hand is applied. It takes a few attempts, but I exhale and try to take in my surroundings. After all the waiting, this all feels a bit rushed. An oxygen mask is pushed above my face, but the distracted man hovers it up, so my chin chases it. I’m supposed to be sleepy, but nothing yet. My eyes flash to the side – what is going to happen next and should I be under yet? A sharp cool sting hits my wrist, and I look across to see the leak, but it’s inside.
My eyes open, and the surgeon’s smiling face is above me. I can’t hear him. I can’t feel much. I’m rolled over. The nurses announce that I’ve wet myself. My gown is peeled off, and the weight of the leg brace feels odd. I grumble that I haven’t drunk anything, but they tell me a litre of fluids have been pumped into me. I have no idea how long it took, but was later told that I was in theatre for 3.5hrs.
I’m wheeled to the ward in a haze. I’m going the wrong way. They’ve put me in the wrong bay. ‘Tom’ I say, sounding like I’ve been at an all night rave. The nurses pause as we steer past the waiting room – a group of boys are standing up. ‘She’s out’ the nurses say, but these guys don’t know me. Even though they’re not my visitors, it makes me sad.
I’m propped up in bed and hooked to the IV fluid from two cannula tubes in my hand. A blood pressure band stays on my arm, and I have a clip attached to my finger. A Hilotherm machine is wired into my leg brace, pumping cold water at 14 degrees around my leg. My other calf is squeezed by a pressure pad to keep the blood flowing. I want to hug Tom, but I feel stuck. I have a top on, but I’m going commando as even my knickers won’t fit over my brace. This doesn’t bother me.
I try to talk with Tom but my eyelids are having none of it, and shut the curtains.
At 10pm, he’s gone. Visiting hours are only 6:30-8pm. I sip some water, and as my blood pressure is so low at 80, I’m not allowed to leave the bed. I have a go at using a bed pan. It’s a disaster, and overspills. I can’t reach my buzzer, so I just shout ‘Nurse!’ through my snotty embarrassment. The young nurse apologises – the older ladies don’t pee so much and she promised to upgrade me to a bigger size next time. My sheets are refreshed, and I doze off.
Midnight comes and I’m woken up for a secret snack. The other ladies are snoring, and I munch on buttered toast and hot tea. Despite not having eaten all day, I’m not hungry but force it down. My throat is sore from the anaesthetic, but otherwise I don’t feel too bad.
An hour later, there is a primal scream from one of the side rooms. The sound of crashing porcelain wakes up Beatrice in the bed opposite me, and she sobs quietly. The night nurses descend on the scene, and the rest of us feel vulnerable in our beds as we cannot run away.
At 3am, the raucous snores of an Indian lady stir me, and I wiggle my toes. We’re all in this together. I see a polka dot dressing gown hanging up besides her, and think it’s mine. I’ll retrieve that in the morning.