On Not Being Infallible

I’m one of those people who takes things in her stride. I’m pragmatic, sensible, practical: if something needs to be done I do it, worrying about any emotional ramifications later. You’ll rarely see me panic or cry and I’m a big fan of the band-aid method; if something difficult needs executing (that’s someTHING not someONE), do it as quickly as possible to minimise future discomfort.

I imagine I’d be a great person to have around in a nuclear meltdown, alongside Jeremy Hunt who seems determined to never go away. Keep Jeremy away from the hospitals, though.

Before last week I felt pretty much indestructible, unflappable. You could call me in a crisis and I’d be the friend to talk you down from panic, to tell you everything is going to be OK. I’d be the friend who could organise kids, food, babysitters, a clean house: SORTED. It’s all under control. Don’t worry, Alice has this in-hand, Alice is infallible.

And then I went into hospital.

It wasn’t a surprise. I’ve been waiting on this operation for a while, a laparoscopic procedure to blast out my endometriosis. It’s something I’ve had done before 13 years ago so I wasn’t too worried, knowing what would happen, when it would happen and how I would feel. The op was planned for 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I expected I’d be home by eight, recuperating on the sofa with my loving and caring children tending to me (in my fantasies my kids don’t have a 7pm bedtime and are allowed to boil kettles).

In reality it was awful, and was the first thing in a while that made me realise I’m not indestructible.

The first thing that got me was the pure fear of the anaesthetic. I’d been given a leaflet at my pre-op assessment that listed something like one person per 13,000 dying due to general anaesthetic and, though in my rational mind that figure took the elderly and very poorly into account, it terrified me. I mean, I’m a woman who hates flying because I’m borderline convinced I could be doing a better job than the pilot, so the feeling of submitting my entire body to being knocked out so someone could do whatever they wanted to it was scary as hell. I knew the surgeons were there to do a job and that job was to make my body better, but what if they laughed at my knees or judged the shape of my earlobes while they were at it and I was fast asleep?

That weird train of thought was an extra bonus alongside all the scary premonitions about, you know, dying.

I went down for my operation at about 5, returning at 7. And, once I was over the initial euphoria about still being alive, I felt AWFUL. Having primed the anaesthesiologist that I usually get sick after anaesthetics he’d pre-empted my illness with medication, but it didn’t work. I went through three different types of anti-sickness drug before I could move my head without feeling vommy. So that was fun.

The one golden lining (I can say that now the experience is over) was haughtily telling the post-op nurse in the recovery area that this was the worst spa I’d ever been to, and if they wanted their clients to feel relaxed they’d have to turn the lights down and work on the ambiance. She complied and then ribbed me about my post-anaesthetic weirdness for the next hour, which I was totally fine with as I was on a morphine drip.

It was about 9pm when I finally cried for the first time, feeling so sick and sorry and helpless, realising that as I couldn’t move there’d be no way I’d be re-united with my kids that evening. I KNOW, I CRIED. Alert the elders, hell has frozen over.

I felt so wretched and wasn’t sure if I’d ever feel human again.

By 11pm I’d managed to eat most of an egg sandwich (the middle, not the crusts) and two slices of cucumber, but only because I was holding out some hope that forcing down food would make me feel less sick. It didn’t.

My night was a restless affair: I was up once an hour, the pain from the gas they used to inflate my abdomen during the operation feeling absolutely awful. Worse than childbirth. At one point I buzzed my nurse, telling her quite seriously that I thought I was about to die and would she mind getting me some oxygen and a doctor, and maybe a priest for my last rites though I wasn’t religious so wasn’t sure of the exact protocol. She laughed and levered me out of my bed to walk around, the only thing that would make the gas dissipate from where it was hanging out around my lungs. Much fun as I couldn’t stand up without getting sick again. OH GOD.

This nurse was a godsend, though. She was so lovely, so caring, and tucked me back into bed each time I was up, fluffing my blankets and making sure I was warm and cosy. Without my mum staying in hospital with me she was the next best thing.

I went home the next day, getting in to my own bed all grey and weak and not even that hungry (unheard of). And that is where I’ve remained since, despite a brief and pretty silly venture into the outside world yesterday as a warm-up for the school run I knew I’d have to do today.

It’s funny, I totally imagined myself back up and running as normal today, working, walking, cooking. Not so. Instead I’m snoozing at every opportunity, trying to keep prodding hands and little tight arms away from a tummy that’s so swollen it could be full of a five month old foetus.

I’ve learned how important it is to realise that, yes, I’m not infallible, but that’s OK, I’m only human and to nurture myself properly I have to listen to what my body wants me to do. Which right now is to sleep a whole load and eat Byron’s spicy wings with blue cheese sauce (if anyone fancies bringing them to me right now I will be forever in your debt).

I’ve also done a bit more research into the time off one is supposed to have after this kind of surgery, which is around two weeks rather than two hours. So I’m working on resting a bit more as prescribed, with the upside being that Dry January is proving much easier than last year.

Things might be a bit slower round here until recovery arrives, but I can’t wait to come back with a bang (and a refurbished uterus). See you soon!

10 Comments
  1. Oh the gas pain is the worst! As for anaesthetic; don’t get me started…the fear feels much worse when kids & responsibility are involved. In the 5 minutes before i was knocked out i convinced myself the kids would be motherless and the poor nurse was having to hold my hand whilst I counted back from 10, the relief to wake up with the same amazing nurse still stroking my hand was immense! What would we do without them. Sounds like you had fantastic care too.

    Revel in the enforced rest; all the Netflix and all the ‘recovery’ food! Hope you feel back to yourself soon.

    1. I had exactly the same thoughts, Mel!! I was terrified that I would be leaving my children orphaned and really worked myself up over it. The relief from not dying has definitely helped with the recovery though ;) x

  2. So glad you are on the mend and the operation went well (albeit the obvious painful recovery). Its so difficult to rest and relax when we become programmed to being proactive but take time to make sure you are 100% (or as close to it as you allow yourself) before getting back to the norm. Live a bit too far away to drop some Byron Wings in but hoping someone closer takes on board the hint ;-)

  3. Oh Alice, I feel your pain! I had fibroids removed a few years back and the thought of letting go and being under someone else’s control was more than I could bear. I sobbed and sobbed (in terror) until the charge nurse told me that 99.9% of patients feel that way and they’re mostly women. She explained that although men are supposed to be the “warrior”, everyone knows it’s the women who hold the power. Take the time for yourself and your body to heal. Best to you.

  4. I remember the gas pains from the D&C I had after a missed miscarriage w/twins – nobody told me that would happen, or that’s even what they were, and I remember being quite convinced they’d actually torn my inside to shreds by accident and I was going to die (not helped by the heaviest post-op bleeding IN THE WORLD). It wasn’t until a few weeks later when I mentioned to a midwife friend that I’d been in excruciating pain that she explained what it was. If I’d known I’m sure I could have squeezed out some belting farts. Bastards.

    Anyway, get some rest lovely. Don’t go doing yourself an injury by doing too much too soon. All the best x

  5. The pain from the gas is what brought me to tears after my second op. I felt so sorry for myself, high on oramorph and trying to work out which pain was worse. Wishing you a comfortable recovery!

  6. When my children were the same age as yours and also a single mum I had a severe case of salmonella and had to be hospitalised for several weeks. There was one point where I didn’t care what happened to me or the kids if anything happened to me. Which in single mum land is unheard of but apparently that was when i was at deaths door. So after that i always knew everything was ok if i was worried

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