It’s been 2 days since I went to the hospital to meet my surgeon and get a date for my cholecystectomy. My body is tired and heavy and my brain is much the same. I’m very much in comfort mode: stuffing my face, buying new books, cuddling in blankets.
I’m already starting to worry about the surgery. Struggling to sleep, obsessing about the risks, holding my little one a little tighter in case I don’t come home.
Let me be clear: there’s nothing inherently frightening about this surgery. The hospital is fine, the procedure is common (and very necessary) and, raging gallbladder aside, I have no major health concerns. I am at no extraordinary risk.
My appointment was standard. The consultant was cold, calm and efficient, which is everything you want a guy to be when he’s going to be slicing you open.
It’s just not what you want them to be when you’re a crying wreck in their office as they half-heartedly warn you about the risks of your operation.
“If you’re happy with that, sign here please.”
I get it. Mr Surgeon does this procedure dozens of times a week. For him, signing up a patient is a boring admin task. Most patients will be fine with this. He’s probably blase about the risks because they’re so rare he never sees them.
Allow me to let you in on a secret: once you’ve been that statistic, that procedure that went wrong, that once in a career story that still gets shared around the hospitals nearly six years later, you don’t care how rare these risks are. You care only that they are risks. That they do happen. You have lived them happening. And it’s very hard to convince your brain that they won’t happen to you.
My brain cares not for your statistics and logic.
It despises hospital. In hospital, I can’t always tell the difference between now and then. The worlds get a little muddled. This corridor is that one. The smell is the same. The signs are the same. The rooms are the same. The consent forms blur into one. During hospital procedures, my brain has been known to abandon me altogether. Diassociation protects me from the worst effects of the PTSD but it does not help me to adult my way through a procedure. And an adult should always be able to adult in hospital.
I hesitate over signing the form.
“It really is a very straightforward procedure.”
I want to yell at him, but I am acutely aware that it would be unwise to anger the guy with the scalpel. My hesitancy isn’t fear of this operation: it’s memory of the last one. It’s a flashback of being asked to sign that consent form. Remembering the relief that it was in the hands of someone who knew what they were doing. The safety of knowing the worst was over and, later, the shattering realisation that it wasn’t. It’s the fear of this operation being the same, and it tipping me over the edge, and the knowledge my family and I absolutely cannot do that again.
I sign. I cry. The nurse gives me a tissue. I leave and Mr Surgeon moves on to his next patient. I am nothing more to him now than a date in a diary.
For me, it’s going to be a long 52 days.