Sunday, 12 December 2010

NHS Hip Replacement. The post op days.

It's 4pm Monday. Marion has just left after visiting time and I'm starting to take in my surroundings. I've only been in hospital for nine hours but the op has been and gone. Whatever stimulant they gave me at the end of the operation, it's one hell of an upper and I don't think that I have felt as alert in years. I find time to make a couple of phone calls from my bedside. I'm linked up to one of those monitors that you always see in films and there are all sorts of electronic charts creating a constant stream of data being fed into it by a number of electrodes. I'm wearing some snazzy white stockings to reduce the risk of DVT and around each of my calves is an inflatable cuff that rhythmically expands and contracts at regular intervals. A similar cuff is attached to my arm and my blood pressure is monitored through this.

I find that there's a clip on my index finger and that sends info on my oxygen levels to the monitor. Unfortunately my circulation is poor so the monitor keeps going into alarm and bringing in one of the nursing staff. "You don't have Reynauds?" she asks."I did when I was small" - that explains it. So I keep massaging my fingers to save the nurses wasting their time.

I'm still wearing just a hospital gown. From my groin area a clear tube carries a regular stream of urine from my bladder into a plastic bag. From my leg wound another tube is full of blood directed into another bag and to the cannula in the back of my hand there's a tube sending fluid in the opposite direction. The cannula that had earlier been the gateway for my sedatives is now channelling a nutritious saline drip into my body. Later in the day the same cannula is used to deliver anti-biotics and to empty my full blood bag back into me - the ultimate in recycling. Best of all, shortly before lights out I get a dose of a morphine painkiller that works instantly.

I planned to read during my stay and I carry on with The Finkler Question. When Marion comes back at 6.30, I've had a few slices of bread and some soup and we spend the visiting time planning my TV viewing. I love Monday's on the BBC and after Marion leaves I start with University Challenge and , being in my own room, I can shout my (usually wrong)answers at the telly. Then there's Miranda. I adore Miranda. Then there's Liverpool writer Jimmy McGovern's brilliant drama The Accused. Andy Serkis is a low life stalker who wastes his money on gambling and abandons his wheelchair bound MS suffering wife for the unaware victim of his stalking. Blimey Jimmy anyone watching this would think that scousers were miserable bastards. Viewing finishes with Coogan and Brydon's culinary journey around the North West - The Trip. Brilliant.

I spend a few minutes doing the Professor Layton puzzles on the Nintendo DS before the morphine kicks in and I'm fast asleep.

It's six on Tuesday morning and before the ward gets active I finish The Finkler Question. I bought this specially for hospital as it was acclaimed as a comic novel and I could do with a laugh. There's no questioning that it is a brilliant literary work which draws the reader into the inner sanctum of Jewishness. But comedic? I see it as more tragic but maybe that's my state of mind. I start a new novel The Silver Linings Play Book by Matthew Quick. Breakfast of Weetabix and toast bulked up with my own pear and banana is welcome. At nine I am visited by a couple of care workers who help me to have a bed bath. There's no point in prudity or modesty although the women do treat me with great dignity.

A few minutes later I'm feeling refreshed and wearing a T Shirt and some clean boxer shorts. A nurse comes in and asks me if I mind a couple of student nurses getting involved. "Not at all". I chat to the girls and discover that they enrolled in September and today is their first work experience and their very first step into hands on nursing. And their first "hands on" experience? Checking my backside for bed sores - that's a memory that will stay with them. Actually one of them - I'll call her Susan- had another experience that she won't forget in a hurry a few minutes later. After checking my bum, the next job is to remove the drain from my wound. "Ok girls stand back and watch this" says the leader. I watch Susan and her colleague as the lead nurse pulls the long blood filled tune from deep inside my leg. Susan turns green and then white and I ask if she's OK. "Do you mind if I step outside?" she asks and the poor kid has to leave. I've certainly created an impression.

As morning progresses I'm unhooked from the monitor and told that the physio will be be along soon. By eleven o'clock, less than twenty four hours after the op, Charlie the physio helps me to my feet and into my zimmer frame which I use to drag myself a few feet to the bedside chair. There I remain for the rest of the day reading The Silver Linings Play Book which, a few questionable plot issues apart, is a highly entertaining study of depression and recovery from mental illness. I fly through the pages and by visiting time I've finished it. We do the Guardian Quick Crossword and Marion brings me some books published under the Friday Project label by Scott Pack who blogs and tweets entertainingly as meandmybigmouth (he's on my blog list up at the right). I choose Confessions of a GP by Dr Benjamin Daniels as it seems somehow appropriate and Like Bees To Honey by Caroline Smailes. I eat some pasta and the nursing staff help me back into bed. At the six pm visiting slot Marion once again helps me to choose my TV viewing schedule. She heads for home at eight and I settle back to watch and fall immediately into a heavy sleep.