So, my bunion operation was scheduled for Wednesday the 14th. My wife started a new job about a month ago. She could either take time off to drop me off to the hospital or pick me up once I was ready to be discharged.
I told her I'd get a cab to the hospital. That would make it easier for everyone. Besides, I knew that seeing her when I was discharged would lift my spirits no end.
I wore the Submariner 5513 on the Tuesday, the day before the op, since I figured it would be a while before I wore a nice watch again. Looking back, I should have probably taken one or two days off before the date of the surgery. Things felt a little rushed as the fateful day drew nearer. I've been in this new job of mine only since late March, so I haven't clocked up enough leave time to cover the 6 to 8 weeks of recovery time that I'd need. Ahh well, couldn't be avoided. If you read my previous post, you may recall that I was called by the hospital and given two dates to choose from for this operation, one in August and one in September. I'd been on the public waiting list since mid-2019 and, while it would have been more convenient to have had this procedure done in December or January, I really didn't have a choice in the end. My boss was very understanding, told me not to worry about work. It would all get done in the long run. It is what it is, as my wife will often say. Good news is that I tied up as many loose strings as I could before I took the work laptop home with me. I won't crack it open for the first two weeks, but I'll tackle emails a few days a week after that.
Our bathroom renovation is still ongoing, and I should have been a little more productive with organising the shower installation, but that's okay. It'll get sorted while I'm at home recovering. It can all get arranged with a mobile phone and internet access.
I began packing my overnight bag a couple of days before. Thought about taking a book along, but wasn't sure if I'd have enough time or energy to read any of it. Would prefer short stories, to be honest, so that I could stop and start where required without interrupting the flow of a longer novel. In the end, I didn't take The Thin Man with me. I did, however, mix up a Dry Martini, one more thing that I wouldn't be doing for the next month or two. As far as a wristwatch goes, I decided to bring along the Casio MRW-200H-1B. All plastic case and strap, quartz-operated, plenty enough water-resistant, and with day and date function. Robust enough (I think) to take some knocks and cheap enough ($38.ooAUD off eBay) to replace if it breaks or disappears. I was a little wary of hospitals. My mother had her wristwatch and transistor radio disappear on two separate hospital stays back in the Seventies and Eighties. I'm sure things have changed since then, but I was just playing it cautious. Last time I was in hospital was back around '94 when I had an endoscopy procedure for a stomach ulcer. Prior to that was 1971 when I had my tonsils out as a kid. So, hospitals make me a little nervous.
Okay, so I took a cab to the hospital, tipped the driver - 'cos he got me there in good time - and made my way to the Day Procedures building. Gave my details to the lady at the desk. Sat in the waiting area for about 45 minutes. I'd gotten to the hospital at 11:20am. The procedure was to be done in the afternoon sometime.
I checked my phone. There was a text message from my wife;
Please take a photo of your lovely feet for me.
She meant post-op. My feet were gonna look a mess pretty soon. I sent her a quick reply, along with hospital rules regarding visitors;
No visitors 😞. Covid rules still in place.
What wtf!!! Can't I do a covid and come in
Nope. You're to go to Main Entrance tomorrow morning around 9:30 and they'll contact the Day Procedure Centre and bring me round.
Is you there now?
I guess we could face time
Yep. Here now. And we can face time! Good call.
Forty minutes later...
Going in. Radio silence for now. We'll see how I go once I'm out of the theatre. See ya
I began to feel alone and a little nervous. I wished my family was here. I compartmentalised this feeling for the time being. Put it in a box, slot it away for the moment, teeritz. Deal with it later.
As I sat in the waiting room, a young nurse approached and introduced herself. She then escorted me to a small office where I was given a mask, a Covid/RAT test and my blood pressure was taken. A plastic medical strip was put on each wrist. I would lose count of how many times I would be asked for my name and date of birth during my stay.
I re-signed a consent form, since it had been over a year since I last did so. Looking at the info regarding the risks of the surgery, it listed possibilities such as infection and ongoing pain. There was a third item listed also, but doctor's handwriting being what it is, the nurse and I couldn't make out what it said. She then led me to a bank of lockers and handed me a hospital gown and basket.
It was happening.
I was pointed towards a row of changing rooms and slipped out of my civvies and into the gown, with those annoying string-ties at the back. Off came the Casio watch. I put it inside a shoe. Along with my wallet, which contained my Medicare Card, my ATM card, and a $20 note. I crammed my socks in after them. My mobile (cell) phone went into my other shoe. I made sure to put it on Silent mode. My wedding ring was being a little stubborn. I left my underwear on and asked the nurse if these needed to come off as well. She said that it would be okay to leave them on, since they'd be operating down at my feet. My ring, which refused to come off, was wrapped in masking tape. I was then led back to the office, where I glanced at the wall clock on numerous occasions for the next forty minutes or so.
Pretty soon, it was time to move location. They asked if I wanted a wheelchair. I declined. This would be my last smooth walk for a while. It was a short distance from the office to the ward of beds near the operating theatre. I lay down on the bed, with its raised section where the pillow sat, and one of the anaesthetic nurses approached and asked me my name and date of birth. She asked about allergies and such. I explained that I'm a mild asthmatic who smoked for 35 years and quit in January last year. I use Symbicort (a preventer) from time to time and Ventolin (a reliever) from time to time.
Do you get short of breath if you go up a flight of stairs?, she asked.
I told her that I work on the third floor of a building and when I take the stairs, I feel out of breath once I get to level three. She said that's pretty normal. Another nurse came over and fitted a cannula (IV needle) into the back of my left hand and fastened it down with surgical tape.
It was happening.
I was now beginning to feel alone, since it was some hours since I'd seen my wife before she left for work. And I hadn't seen the kids since the day before. I was a little nervous about this whole endeavour to begin with. My Dad suffered a stroke while under anaesthetic during an operation back in 1981 and he never fully recovered. A little imagination can sometimes be a dangerous thing, and I began to think about something going disastrously wrong during the procedure.
Five minutes later, one of the assisting surgeons came over and asked how I was doing. He said the operation would be taking place soon, and did I have any questions? A little late right now if I did. He took a Texta (Magic Marker) out of his pocket and drew a circle on my right foot and wrote an upper-case 'R' in it, followed by a long arrow pointing down towards my toes.
Is that in case you forget which is which?, I asked.
About ten minutes later, the surgeon appeared, with two other doctors who'd be assisting him.
Do you know what you're having done today?
I wanted to say 'sex change' for a gag. But instead; Yes, you're gonna take one of those little electric saws, like you get from Bunnings (a hardware chain), and you're gonna make a long zig-zag cut through the bone. And I think some titanium screws are going in there as well.
They would be performing an osteotomy. Specifically, an Akin and Scarf Osteotomy, to deal with the bunions on both feet. One big toe (L) would get a small wedge of bone cut away from it, the other toe (R) would have a bone cut and realigned and held together with two titanium screws.
Is there anyone at home?, he asked. You know, to look after me once I'm discharged.
Yeah, I replied. A builder who's taking his damn sweet time to complete a bathroom renovation. And two kids who - I looked up at the clock on the wall. The time showed 1:17pm - are probably still asleep right now.
I liked this doctor. I felt that I'd be in good hands. About 20 minutes later, they wheeled my bed towards the operating theatre, which was a short distance away. They lined my bed alongside the operating table and began to make moves to lift me up and across.
Do you want me to slide over to this one?, I asked. I felt like I wanted to help them, since they'd all be very busy soon enough. I lifted myself up and sidled over to the operating table. I glanced at wrists. A couple of Apple watches, natch, but nothing else to be seen. The anaesthetic nurse on my right told me to rest my head on the pillow. I looked up at the huge lighting array above the table. An IV tube was attached to the cannula taped to my left hand by the nurse to my left. I began to shiver a little, my lower jaw quivered. Was it cold in here or was I getting nervous? The nurse to my left gave the IV tube's valve a slight twist and a felt a slightly icy sensation inside the back of my hand. The nurse to my right placed the oxygen mask over my nose and mouth.
It was happening.
Somebody's calm and soothing female voice told me to take a few deep breaths. I drew the oxygen deep, going for that abdominal breathing - where you fill your entire lungs by making your stomach rise as well as your chest - and made sure I breathed evenly and calmly. Despite the butterflies fluttering around behind my sternum.
That's good, just one more, she said.
I took another deep breath.
And maybe half of another.
I opened my eyes and looked at the end of the bed. I felt a little tired, but still awake and aware enough to know what had happened, and where
I was. My bandaged feet felt numb, which was good. I slowly bent them towards me, at the ankle. My throat hurt a little. I had two thin
cotton blankets over me and the room temperature was pleasant. I felt
tired. I slowly reached for the basket on the chair next to my bed. It
had my clothes in it. I reached for the shoe with the socks in it and
fished out my Casio wristwatch. It showed 3:25pm, approx. I got my phone out of my other shoe. Checked it for emails and messages. All clear. Read an article or two on BBC.com about the arrangements for Queen Elizabeth's funeral. Wanted to send a text message to my wife. She was still at work. I didn't want to disturb her, but I wanted to let her know things were okay. She beat me to the punch about half an hour later;
Waiting for you to wake up
wondering how you are 💗
Woke up in recovery/Post-Op about an hour ago. I'm lucid, but talking slowly, feeling a little punch-drunk. And sleepy. Otherwise all good. Please do not worry.
Love you glad okay rest
They took my blood pressure a few times. Feet feel numb. Love you too. Thanks for all your help and reassurances. Staff here are great. Like 24 Hours in A & E. *
*24 Hours in A & E is a British documentary series which follows 24 hour periods in one of London's busiest Accident & Emergency hospitals.
Everybody I spoke to in the lead-up to this op told me not to worry, but the only person I listened to was my wife. She knew of my concerns regarding the anaesthetic and she provided the soothing voice of reason whenever my worry surfaced.
I slowly drifted into sleep.
Dinner was around five-thirty pm. The tray was placed on the over-bed table. I lifted the plastic lid off the main dish.
Warning - The following photo contains images of hospital food.
There's that long-standing gag about hospital food being inedible. Truth be told, I wasn't all that hungry, but I felt it may be wise to eat whatever's put in front of me. Fuel the healing process wherever possible. If it tasted bad, I'd leave it be.
I took a photo of it and sent it to my wife.
Mushy peas!!! was her reply. Diced lamb, carrot, peas and rice. Actually, the menu slip accompanying this meal stated that it was Braised Lamb with Mint, with diced carrot, steamed rice and, yep, mushy peas. It was warm. Would have been nicer if it was hotter, but that was a minor quibble. It tasted fine.
If anything, I was more in the mood for the cup of tea that was on the tray. Sometimes, a cup of tea works wonders.
And, I think I shouldn't have had the Tiramisu.
I was feeling tired after dinner, so I think I may have closed my eyes and had a snooze. Woke up at some point, checked my Instagram - why, I don't know - and quickly clicked a tab on my phone which landed me on a wristwatch forum. Just wanting to see that the world hadn't changed significantly while I was gone. Nope, all still the same. People still putting up pics of watches on their wrists and asking if they looked to big or small for them. People still complaining about how long it takes to repair a wristwatch. People still joining up on the forums to ask if their newly-inherited wristwatch was real or fake.
I then switched over to the BBC.com tab and read some more news about the lead-up to Queen Elizabeth's funeral. I don't think I'm a royalist, but it really does feel like the end of an
era, and the end of a certain type of monarch. You can say what you will about the necessity or relevance of a monarchy in this modern age, but there's no denying that Her Royal Highness took her role seriously throughout her 70-year reign. That alone is to be commended. The old-world term 'steadfast' - a word that really isn't used much these days - applies to Queen Elizabeth II. Certainly, she held those old-fashioned British values of 'show little to no emotion' and 'keep a stiff upper lip', but you have to admire her consistency. Also, let's face it, over the years, she did appear to show her humourous side from time to time, just to prove that she wasn't totally different to the rest of us.
Having read so much
espionage fiction over the years, the term 'Queen and country' cropped
up often enough to give the phrase a certain gravitas, in my view. A certain nobility and higher calling which goes beyond merely doing something for the benefit of one's government. The term holds that very old-world notion, which dates it back to an earlier era, be it the 16th, 18th or 20th century.
Hmm, maybe I am a royalist. I've included this 1955 portrait by Pietro Annigoni, who was famous for painting in the Renaissance style. This portrait was briefly seen in the Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Dir: Peter Hunt, 1969), when - SPOILER ALERT - Bond hands in his resignation from the Service and raises a glass of Scotch to the painting hanging in his office.
Slept for an hour or so. Just had some antibiotics into the back of my hand, and an injection into my stomach to prevent blood clotting. Not feeling very sleepy right now, but the nurse may be back at one am to give me Panadol. If I'm awake. Nighty night!
- T xxxooo
Now I'm feeling a little tired...
Ok sweets won't ring sounds like you've got a lot in your system
I fell asleep shortly after and, sure enough, at around one am, the nurse came in and gave me some tablets.
Here's the Casio MRW-200H, ticking along.
The next morning, three doctors came in to see how I was doing. By now, the numbness and painkillers were beginning to wear off and it began to feel like somebody was slowly, oh so very slowly, slicing open the top of my big toes, at the first joint, just below the nail bed. The toe of my right foot was beginning to bruise also.
How are we this morning?, one of them asked.
Well, I said, it feels like a razor blade is cutting the top of my toes.
Yes, that'll be the anaesthetic wearing off, he replied.
A few more minutes of chit-chat. They seemed happy with how the procedure went. That was that. Off they went.
I was due to be discharged at 9:30am. Before that, I would be visited by the pharmacist, physiotherapist and I'd have to get another set of x-rays done.
Things started happening a little faster. I had breakfast (corn flakes, two slices of cold toast, orange juice, a cup of tea) and then was put into a wheel-chair - on which I had to fold down the spring-loaded foot-rests myself, for fuck's sake! - and was whisked over to the Radiology room to get some sexy pics of my foot skeletons taken.
That done, I was wheeled back to my bed. Pretty soon, I got a visit from the pharmacist, who informed me of the medication. Firstly, I was instructed to take paracetamol tablets regularly for the first three to five days. I was also prescribed a five-pack of Endone, a painkiller, to be used only for strong pain. She handed me the prescriptions for the painkillers and wished me well.
Okay, now to get out of this hospital gown and into my own clothes. This would take a while. Last thing I wanted to do was put any pressure on the stitched-up parts of my feet. I had a plan, though. The trick would be that, no matter what I did, I was to stay aware of the position of my feet at all times. And, I should ensure that I was 'anchored' properly. That is to say, I'd better not lean too far forward or back, to avoid slipping.
Because that would really ruin my day.
I had brought in a pair of Zanerobe ath-leisure (hated term) jogger pants. They had a draw-string waist. No belt. Good. One less thing to worry about. The cuffs were wide enough to allow my bandaged and swollen feet to get through. Good.
I took my time. Got both feet into them without screaming. Then a T-shirt. Then a hoodie. I sat back on the bed and raised the pillow higher so that I could lie back a little more upright.
It was around 9:30am by now.
wife had already sent me a text message to say that she had arrived. I
told her of the delay. She replied, saying that she'd grab a coffee at
the nearby cafe and text me back when she was on her way back to the
The physiotherapist arrived soon after, to ask if I'd need a chair for use in the shower once I was back at home. I explained that we had a metal stool that would work well enough. She then told me of a medical supply store nearby that sold the plastic waterproof leggings that I would need to wear in the shower, in order to keep the bandages dry. I took the address off her.
Finally, she explained the crutches to me. I would have free use of them for the first month, but after that, they'd cost me $8.oo a week to hire. No problem. I signed the paperwork for them.
A few minutes later, I was good to go. I slung my overnight bag onto a shoulder and bid farewell to the staff, and especially the nurse who looked after me during my stay. Thanks, Lily! They asked me if I wanted a wheel-chair. No thanks, I figured I'd get used to the crutches that I'd just slid my forearms into. My mobile phone buzzed, to say I had a message. Another nurse walked me slowly round to the reception area and out the door where my wife was waiting for me. Man, she was a sight for sore eyes!
She asked me if I wanted her to bring the car around. It was parked about four car spaces away from where I was standing. We walked over to it and she opened up the rear passenger side and placed the crutches in. I eased myself into the passenger seat in front.
On the way home, we stopped off at the medical supply store and the pharmacy. Then we got home and I slowly worked the crutches along the driveway and got myself into the house and parked on the couch where there was a foot-stool with two cushions on it.
That's where I stayed for most of the day.
Finally got back into reading once I'd settled into a sort of routine at home. I finished off The Man With The Golden Gun
and then promptly began Anthony Horowitz's third Bond continuation novel, With A Mind To Kill
, which takes place two weeks after the events of TMWTGG.
Forty pages in and I'm very curious to see where this story will go.
The Casio still on the wrist.
These bunions first began bothering me sometime around 2008. They would ache from time to time during the day, but it was at night when I got into bed that I would really feel the pain. My feet would feel as though they had been run over. I knew I had to get them operated on at some point.
It's been a long time getting to this point and now, the recovery was just beginning.
I wanted to give it the best chance possible.
Let's see how I go over the next few weeks.
Thanks for reading!
Thank you for the detailed article, I felt like I was there — but without the razor knife to the toes! Wishing you a speedy recovery.ReplyDelete
Heal quickly! Hey, now you've got downtime to write more blogs and letters! :DReplyDelete
Good luck with the recovery. Take the opportunity to polish off some books on your "will read someday" pile.ReplyDelete
Glad it went smoothly for you. Just reading your description of the post-op pain creeping in makes my feet ache in sympathy!ReplyDelete
@ Joe V, Thank-you. Recovery has had a few hiccups, but all in all, it's going okay.ReplyDelete
@ Ted, Thank-you. I'm currently writing the next installment. Figured I'd do short updates during the recovery period. Time permitting, of course, since I am back to checking work emails a few times a day.
@ spoonman, Thanks. Finished re-reading "The Man With The Golden Gun" and then got straight into the Horowitz follow-up book, "With A Mind To Kill", and have just started Gayle Lynds' book, "The Assassins".
@ Ted P, Thanks. The pain hasn't been too bad, to be honest. What's scared me more has been the anticipation of pain, which never eventuated.
"We suffer more often in imagination than reality", as Seneca once said. Or words to that effect.