Well I made it. Four weeks post operation and I am finally back home on the boat. Its been some journey. The first couple of weeks in St Georges were, to be frank, hell. And as for the ICU – as Prof Touquet told me – its best enjoyed unconscious. It’s all hyper-vigilant nursing in association with every machine that could possibly go ‘bing’. Sadly I was awake for most of the the time, where they fed me a heady mix of morphine and saline to dull the pain and keep up the blood pressure – by the time I was released into the general ward (three days later) I looked like Homer Simpson in a Mumu, having gained 10 Kilos, all of it water. I couldn’t even move my toes for fear my feet might explode. Fortunately a short course of diuretics later, and I went down to 68 Kg. Low, even by my standard.
For the uninitiated, there are only two things that recovery after a major operation is all about. Sitting in the corner, and breathing. This is what you will do, all day, every day, until your breathing becomes easier and you can actually get up out of the corner and start to move about. No one told me that, and through a fog of oral morph I didn’t really get it for a few days. Once you do get that, it becomes a lot easier. The routine becomes bearable. The morning medicine, the breakfast order, the coffee, the BP / temp / pulse readings, the afternoon medicines, the lunch order, the readings, the dinner order, the evening meds and readings and then sleep. Its all routine – always starting in the same bay, and always ending with me. No changes allowed. That’s the way it had to be done. I was in there for nearly two weeks thanks to complications (chest infection, inability to swallow easily).
My top tip – try to avoid hospital at the weekend – not only are they short of staff, but also limited in quality. For example, one nurse in charge of the ward gave me some one elses’ medicine, then hid the evidence in a locked bedside cabinet. On another occasion I had asked for soluble paracetamol (due to swallowing issue) – they still gave it to me in tablet form – when asked why, they just said “I don’t know why I did that, I just did” they then shrugged and walked away. However, these incidents pale into insignificance when compared to the top quality care that I received for the rest of the time; seriously I cant thank the staff enough – they all did a brilliant job. After two weeks I was more than ready to leave, and I did.