A flare for the dramatic
Posted by Oli on Monday 20th November, 2006
23.01, Sunday 19 Nov
K brings me the phone, which she’s just answered, “It’s Nicky, from Harefield.”
“How are you feeling, Oli?”
“Okay.” Shitting myself.
“Any problems that you know of?”
“Nothing new.” My heart’s just stopped.
“We have a match for you on paper. It’s early in the process at the moment and our retrieval team is on the way there now, but we’d like to get you in. It might be a wild goose chase.”
Surprisingly calmly (this being my second call from Harefield since I was listed 18 months ago), I gather my things and K gets un-ready for bed. 20 minutes later, we’re at Mum and Dad’s and squeezing into Mum’s Polo, my bro having borrowed my dad’s nice spacious estate for the week to move his stuff out of his barracks in Canterbury.
It struck me as we sailed down the empty, wind-swept, rainy M1 towards London that this may prove to be the most short-lived chronicle of a run-up to transplant in the history of the blogosphere. Wouldn’t that be upsetting?
We arrived at the hospital about half twelve and Nicky, the coordinator for the night, told me that the retrieval process was just starting and that there would be no news till after 3-3.30am.
The ever-efficient team then set about the myriad tests and odd-jobs the docs and nurses have to do pre-op. In no particular order (it’s somewhat of a blur, to be honest) I had 14 vials of blood taken, a venflon inserted (small cannula in the arm for giving drugs through), height, weight, temperature, blood pressure and O2 sats checked, a chest X-ray, and ECG (heart-monitor thing) and a few pieces of paperwork about me to fill in.
The most wonderful part of the exercise was without doubt the full-body shave and alcohol shower. Wonderful little clippers provided by the NHS did for what little body hair I had above the waist, and there were certain other bits of delicate work to do, too. Followed immediately by a shower using a full-body alcohol scrub like soap. And yes, if you’ve just sucked the air in through gritted teeth, that’s exactly what I did, too. Nice.
Prepped and gowned by 2.30am, we set about waiting. And waiting. It all seems to have passed in a blur now, but it was interminable at the time. As the clock ticked past 4am, I began slowly to unravel from my tightly-wound coil of security and self-knowledge.
Bizarrely, what starting playing on my mind wasn’t the fear of the op itself, nor the fact that I might not make it through. Instead, my mind fixated on what it would be like when I came around and I was enveloped in a fear of claustrophobia should I happen to come around while still attached to the ventilator afterwards.
The thing about anaesthetics and post-operative sedation is that it tends to meddle with your memory. So while you may be fully awake and alert and responsive, you may not actually remember it afterwards. Not remembering means that, to all intense and purposes, to you it didn’t happen. So I became somewhat obsessed with wanting to know at what point I would “wake up” – when my awareness post-operatively would kick in.
It wasn’t until 4.30am that Nicky came back to us, by now huddling close together in the room with everyone trying to seep strength into me. The retrieval surgeons had been in and looked and while, on paper, the lungs looked good, on closer inspection the team weren’t happy with what they saw and decided to abort the retrieval process.
It was a no-go.
It’s hard to describe the deflation of news like that – the total release of tension and relief mixed with bitter disappointment mixed with adrenaline-fuelled exhaustion.
Venflon removed, gown cast off, re-dressed in street clothes, I shuffled my way into a chair for a ride down to the car and the journey home. Arriving back at the flat at 6am, I flopped onto the sofa and did my morning dose of IVs which were now due, then slipped into bed, slid onto my NIV mask and promptly fell asleep.
Looking back on the experience today, after a totally lost morning and an afternoon of bleary-eyed chilling-out, it has been a lot easier to cope with than my first false alarm. All the way through the process I was a lot calmer than I was last time, largely helped y the fact that there were no surprises, I knew the drill and knew what to expect. The deflation, while marked, isn’t anywhere near comparable to last time and the roller-coaster of emotions is much more sedate. Gulliver’s Land compared to Alton Towers, tea-cups to waltzers.
I was interested by my reaction and how my fear manifested itself. the post-operative period has never really bothered me before, but that’s what my mind chose to focus on last night. With hindsight, it’s clear that it was merely the way my brain dealt with the general fear of the unknown, latching on to one element and amplifying it to take control and form a focal-point.
I spoke to Dad this afternoon and he’s already started a book on how many times from now we hear, “Third time lucky,” from people. I’m confidently predicting double-figures.
The best thing to happen today, however, is nothing to do with CF, Transplant, false-alarms or anything else. Suzanne, the practitioner and workshop-leader I work with at MK came over for a cuppa with her hubby this afternoon on their way home from Costco, the bulk-by warehouse and brought with them what can only be described as a VAT of Flumps, the little marshmallow shapes. I haven’t seen proper, official, perfect little flumps for YEARS and I’ve been searching high and low. And now, I’ve got a vat full of them!
It may have been a roller-coaster day, but my flumps will keep me smiling through it….!