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Imagine playing a game of Operation and instead of trying not to touch a stable patient, they twitch instead when you're trying to extract an organ. I know how frustrating that would make me just playing the board game, I can't bear to think of the pressure that surgeons must go through daily. I have nothing but respect for the individuals that work for our NHS and I owe my life to them. Thank you, ward 7.
Typical outgoings such as going to the dentist is already a terrifying experience for many individuals. The fear that comes when even the slightest movement could cause serious, medical repercussions. Now, imagine you have next to no control over those actions. Not fun, is it? A singular twitch at the wrong time can cause significant damage when in the hands of someone that isn’t familiar with the severity of the condition could be a very dangerous combination. Before continuing with this read, please try to put yourself in the shoes of someone living with the condition. Really try to visualise the stress and anxiety that comes before any interaction. It’s not like you don’t know these things will happen, it is a scheduled appointment.
I’m going to share the story of my first operation and the negative thoughts I’ve endured throughout my life, before having to inevitably experience this necessity in a life-or-death situation. This story is all about my experience as the patient, and as always, let's start from the beginning...
Throughout my childhood, I was always a risk-taking kid. Climbing on roofs, up trees, or anything that had something for me to latch onto. I never even thought about the consequences. I’ve suffered many breakages and I was even on a first name basis with the medical staff at my local hospital for my countless appearances. Whether that being for a broken elbow, broken foot, broken thumb, or just for my monthly blood tests.
I used to be so petrified of needles, to the extent that my mother had to hold up a ‘Where’s Wally’ book just to keep me from passing out. Now, it is just another occurrence in my life as I also live with Anaemia (also known as an iron deficiency). To me, this basically means that I get my blood checked bi-yearly and I must have B12 injections every three months to maintain my energy levels. If I don’t, I tend to feel quite weary and groggy after recreational activities or work.
Nurse extracting my blood: “Your blood count is very low today, Daniel.”
Me: “Probably because you keep taking the bloody thing out of me…?”
I was a funny kid, a touch sarcastic.
As I aged, I began to take a little more caution when deciding to do something. I’m twenty-three now and have already started channelling Roger Murtagh of Lethal Weapon - “I’m getting too old for this sh*t.”. Accompanied with the fear of facing the surgical consequences, I armed myself with a little more awareness towards the world around me.
In August of 2020, I developed an unbearable pain in the right side of my stomach. Me, being a fool, decided to wait and see it out. Great idea, right? I booked myself to see my private GP on the Monday morning; this would turn out to be a wasted visit. He told me that it was likely to be IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and it was nothing to worry about. We quickly found out that wasn’t the case… It wasn’t until the Monday evening that my girlfriend phoned the emergency services, and I was directed to the local walk-in medical centre. There, I was able to speak with a doctor who very easily diagnosed me with appendicitis. This told me two things: I needed an operation as soon as possible and my GP is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard!
I was rushed to my city’s hospital where I was told that a bed would be waiting for me on arrival. Alas! Another lie! I spent two hours in the waiting room on my own as my partner wasn’t allowed in with me. I was in sheer agony both physically and emotionally. Lord knows what Laura must’ve been feeling as she stared in distress at me wrenched over in excruciating pain. As time flew by, I was then escorted to my bed via a wheelchair and then asked multiple questions before receiving any form of painkiller. But when the Tramadol hit, I was so relieved. I was exhausted and stressed. Exhausted because I was being prepped for life-saving surgery at 2am for a eleven am slot.
As I lie awake, alone, in a hospital bed, I was continuously fixating on the fact that I twitch quite vigorously in my sleep. So, the thought of being under the knife sent shivers down my spine. I kept telling the nurses that I had Tourette’s and instructed them many times to alert the doctor in charge of my operation. I must’ve been a right nuisance to these poor women at three in the morning. When I woke up in the morning, I was confronted by the doctor that would lead the operation and the first thing he said to me was, “So, you’re the young man with Tourette’s I’ve been hearing so much about?”. Oops. Word travels fast there. Anyways, when my time came be transferred downstairs to the OR, I was shaking. Breathing heavily as if I was trying to blow up a balloon. Constantly telling myself to breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. But, by the time I’d got down there, I was frozen solid. Like a rock. All I remember is watching The Big Bang Theory on the nineteen-inch television and being so relaxed. I think I’d just spent so much time working myself up and panicking about the operation that I exhausted myself into a state of mental paralysis. Either that, or I was just excited to be released from this excruciating pain.
Once again, I told the surgeon about my condition, and he was very reassuring that nothing would happen to me. I’ve very appreciative of the emergency services and the thousands of heroes that work for our NHS.
They rolled me into the operating room and reminded me that it was a
simple procedure that occurs very often. They attached the anaesthetic, and I was out like a light. I didn’t even feel myself drift away. It was so weird.
I came around a few hours later and instantly called over the nurse to ask if I’d maintained stability in surgery. Thankfully, the surgeon explained his incisions and the precision behind his work. He also described his timing and carefulness when noticing a pattern of my tics whilst unconscious. I felt like I had just survived a life-threatening situation and emerged unharmed (with the exception of a few battle-wounds and scars). I was told that my appendix was only a short fuse aware from bursting, causing serious damage.
I have my amazing partner, Laura, to thank for her heroic actions in what lead to saving my life. I am eternally grateful for her support, encouragement, and care for me. If you’re reading this, I love you. You’re my guardian angel and I’m a very lucky man.
Thank you for reading and I hope this was as educational to you, as it was creative for me.
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