Adventures in PTSD: Meeting the Surgeon

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.


6 thoughts on “Adventures in PTSD: Meeting the Surgeon

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  1. Aw man, this sucks. I know what you mean. I had the minuscule operation that was supposed to take care of my ingrowing nails years ago. It was supposed to be simple and easy. Except I had it 8 times. Want to know if it helped? Hint: they’re still I growing. I paid tons of money and spent months healing every time for… no reason. Didn’t help. As of then, I don’t really trust doctors. So I can really get what you mean.
    Hang in there. Keep believing in the best. They do succeed too. They’ve helped me with other things. So really want you want to look at here is not how minuscule the chances of failure are, but that there are chances of success. Even if you don’t trust them, they’ve succeeded before, so there’s a chance to succeed. I find that one easier to believe that thinking “oh hey they fail so little, yet keyword: fail”.
    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It would be okay if they were just really painful. They get infected and then, well, you can’t really even walk. It’s ridiculous that something so small can do something so big 😃 it’s like that story about the elephant and the splinter or something. Or was that a lion.


  2. I really feel for you. I understand that feeling of being in the office and feeling like I’m just another number. I had two surgeries at once a couple of years ago and I was terrified. I’m divorced and I have a daughter who’s already at the age where she can sense my anxiety and has her own anxiety which makes it worse. So I spent the time before my surgery waiting until she was asleep to be worried.… Which didn’t always work but I tried.
    I imagine it’s even harder for you with PTSD. Anyhow, I just wanted to say that I understand some of what you’re going through send you some good thoughts. 🦋🌸


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