Dot writes: I was thinking this post would need to link back to one from September 2011, which was the last time Frank went to the Surgical Day Ward, but I was surprised to find the description of his last operation, such as it was, buried in the middle of a more general post. I suppose it was less of a big deal that time round, or perhaps it simply was that I had a lot to report on (Frank turning two was the other big topic; and we were also in the middle of moving house). This time it was definitely a big deal. Bigger operation, bigger child, bigger fuss all round. I suppose ‘fuss’ is a bit pejorative; but I don’t want to reach for words like ‘trauma’, even though I’m pretty sure he’ll remember this one.
The operation was on Wednesday. We were called for 7.15am and most of my own pre-op nerves focused purely on getting there on time. I don’t think Frank had pre-op nerves, as I’m not sure he had much concept or memory of what an operation involves (last time there was no visible wound site and he was just slightly sore for a day or two). What was chiefly bothering him was not being allowed his morning milk; he had a big cry about that before being persuaded to have a little water just before the absolute cut-off time of 6.15am. Anyway, I slung him in the car right after that and ended up arriving half an hour early. The journey took far less time than normal on the traffic-free streets.
Once at the hospital the next challenge was coping with the waiting, but this was much easier than it might have been. There was an initial wait in the lobby for the Day Units to open (registration was in the Medical Day Unit before transfer over to the Surgical Day Unit). This we survived with the help of a story book (Creaky Castle – a cheery favourite about ghosts, skeletons and vampires) and the beach-themed mural on the wall. Then there was a wait for registration, but there were some toy trucks in the waiting room that took care of that. Then a longer wait in the Surgical Day Unit, but the waiting area there is very well provided with toys and amusements, at least for the younger child. In fact from Frank’s point of view he kept on being annoyingly interrupted in his playing. First there was a lady who wanted to tell him a story about Barny coming to the hospital and having a trip to the sleepy-room. She was followed by a nurse who wanted to take his blood pressure, weight and temperature, and who provided Frank with an apron-like hospital gown; a member of the surgical team called Peter who got me to sign the consent forms and very politely asked Frank’s permission to examine him (he was wilting by this point and asking in a small voice if we could go home now, please); an anaesthetist coming to check most of the same things we’d been asked by Peter; and finally the call to go through to theatre. Frank had hardly had time to retrace the truck he wanted to play with. I was given a blue gown and cap and we were led round several corners, bringing the toy truck with us. I rather suspect we ended up within a few yards of the waiting area, but the conceptual separation was important. The theatre was empty when we entered it except for us and one nurse; I don’t know whether they do it that way so as to be less intimidating or because the hierarchy of such places is that the most important people enter last, but I think it would certainly have been harder for Frank to have come into a room of gowned strangers. We were joined shortly by the junior anaesthetist who had seen us earlier and a more senior anaesthetist. Frank was placed on my lap and given a little mask to blow into. It seemed to take quite a long time to get him under, but eventually he succumbed and was lifted out of my arms onto a high bed. The nurse took me and the truck back to the lobby. This was at about 9am.
I confess that the very next thing I did was to go down to the cafe and buy a big cup of tea and a sausage-and-bacon roll. I’d been fasting with Frank – it seemed only tactful. The sausage-and-bacon roll was pretty awful really but I gobbled it up. At around 9.30 the surgeon called my mobile phone to report that the operation had been a success and to give me some helpful details that I couldn’t entirely hear thanks to the noise in the cafe. Then I went off to the chapel and had a bit of a cry.
I’d been told it would be one-and-a-half to two hours from the start of the operation before Frank woke up. However, I went back up to the Surgical Day Ward at 10am, and I’m glad I did as I was called through to the recovery area almost immediately. Frank was awake and crying bitterly on a trolley: “Mummy, where were you?” He was put into a bed and I got in and gave him a cuddle. He was extremely keen to get rid of the small cannula (referred to as ‘Freddy’ by the nurses) from his arm; also to have some milk. When he’d become a bit less tearful he was also very keen to eat biscuits and toast. So I set up the table over his bed and got in behind him so he had something to lean against (the table wouldn’t wheel back far enough for him to prop himself against the pillow), and once he’d done an efficient demolition job on the food he fell asleep, leaving me to listen to the sounds of the ward filling up with variously unhappy children.
Getting out was interesting. I think they were rather keen to have the bed back, so I was gently encouraged to wake and dress Frank. However, it turned out his legs were a bit wobbly. Apparently he’d been given a local anaesthetic as well as the general and it had gone down his leg a bit. We ended up going down to the carpark with Frank in a wheelchair pushed by a nurse. The help was most welcome as it took multiple trips in and out of the hospital to get the right form of payment for the wretched machine in the carpark. (Two stony-eyed attendants in a booth were entirely unhelpful.) The wobbly legs were evidently something of a psychological blow for the afflicted boy, who lost faith in his ability to stay upright and insisted on being carried everywhere for much of the rest of the day. I began to wonder if he was destined for a life of genteel indisposition and minor verse on the sofa.
He isn’t allowed a bath until Monday. This is to allow the wound to stay dry but it’s not great for his scalp. No matter. We have to apply cream to the wound site twice a day (this is not popular; it’s cold); also, vaseline has to be spread inside his clothes to stop them sticking, and he gets regular doses of calpol and neurofen. The wound does seem to be healing but he has had a couple of temperature spikes which is slightly worrying. I was given a leaflet about aftercare but it is rather vague about what is normal and what isn’t. Julie has been a star; I stayed at home on Thursday morning and Friday afternoon but I’ve needed a lot of extra help in the mornings and evenings to deal with the cream application and so forth, and she is great at being gentle-but-firm over such uncomfortable moments. Hugh has been very good too, amusing his brother by falling down in hilarious slapstick fashion and mostly not fighting with him. Ken is back for the weekend now and Hugh is lapsing slightly, but he does tend to have a virtue slump at the weekend. Today Frank had his first little outing: Ken needed to run a beer-related errand to Leixlip so we took a brief trip to the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, which is not the most thrilling of destinations but quite a good choice (being indoors and with food and loos) for a slightly fragile small boy. For Frank has been far from his normal bouncy self, even though from time to time he has had some quite noisy games with his brother. He has been sleeping more than normal, wanting a lot of cuddles and moving slowly. Happily he does seem to be on the mend.
Verdict: no more operations, please.