I’ve been putting off writing the full story of what my surgery was like, as I’ve really had my heart set on doing the tale justice and providing an accurate and honest account of my experiences, but the truth is that no words will ever adequately explain what it was like to be disabled, have brain surgery, and then be cured and free for the first time in years. There’s so many hazy memories and so many strong emotions that are just so hard to convey through written word, but here I go. I will do my best.
We headed into Macquarie University Hospital in the early afternoon of February 21st, 2012, one day before my surgery was scheduled. With me, I had packed two pairs of pajamas, my toothbrush and toothpaste, a dressing gown, some reading material, my small statue of White Tara, my prayer mala and my little stuffed lion toy named Snort. I may have been scared, but my family and I were in great spirits, taking as many chances as we could to laugh and joke. Admissions was very easy and the admissions woman was lovely (but very loud!), and within 15 minutes of arrival I was being shown to my room.
The rooms at MUH are wonderful. It was a private room with ensuite bathroom and a small fridge to keep food in. There was also a computer interface with access to the internet and some basic television. Someone came in quite quickly to take my order for dinner, then a nurse came by to run through the admission questionnaires with me, which took quite a while. Over the course of the evening, with much waiting in between, I was checked out by the two training neurosurgeons who would be assisting Prof. Stoodley and was given a blood test and chest x-ray. All the staff seemed very friendly and quite confident that my surgery would be a success, and all sung the praises of Prof. Stoodley. We were all feeling very confident that I was in good hands, although I had decided that my stomach certainly wasn’t, as my dinner had been dreadful.
That night, after my family left, I spent most of the evening talking to Pat on webcam. I was feeling less nervous than I had anticipated, and actually managed to get a bit of sleep. From midnight onwards, I was fasting for the surgery.
The next morning it was up bright and early at 6am. The nurses came in with a gown and some antibacterial wash that I used to scrub all over, including my hair (which I gave an extra two scrubs to be safe). I removed all of my jewellery, then I was free to wait until 7am for my family and the anaesthetist to arrive. I had one last real anxiety left, and that was that I’ve shown bad reactions (as in, severe almost stopped breathing reactions) to certain painkillers in the opiate family, and I was very unsure as to how my pain management would work. Everything I had read and heard said that the neck pain after decompression was agonizing, so I was naturally very concerned. Thankfully, my anaesthetist was a lovely man who assured me that he had tricks up his sleeve for difficult patients like me and that he would certainly find something to manage my pain. Feeling terrified and yet somehow excited, I said goodbye to my sister and father, ready to be rolled up to the operating theatre (my mother and Pat were allowed to come with me).
So they roll me up in a bed, we’re still all laughing and joking although I’m feeling quite sick to my stomach with fear. Before I know it, my mother and Pat are waving goodbye and I’m going “Oh god this is really happening…”. My anaesthetist was really good though, keeping me busy with talk of what I was going to do with my life after surgery and talking about my love of animals. He put a cannula into my hand, which stings for only a second, and then said “I’m going to give you something to make you calm now. You’ll feel a bit spacey then you wont care or remember much about anything”. Boy was he right, that stuff was great, before I knew it my mind was floating off in the clouds while they wheeled me into the operating room. There were so many people around me, talking and setting things up, and I felt so happy and curious about all of it. Then I heard the words “Okay you’re going to sleep now”… and then nothing.
I’m going to leave you all hanging there, as it’s time for me to get some sleep! I’ll continue tomorrow 🙂