As you may know, on Saturday I was booked in to have my tonsils removed. Which was my first surgery!
I left work at midday on Friday as I wanted the time to (try to) relax, and do a few last minute errands. I wasn’t the most relaxed but I wasn’t too bad.
Friday night itself wasn’t great. I had a chunk of sleep until Ben came to bed at 12.18am. Then I was awake for hours. I think I did do a lot of light sleeping in this time, but it was frustrating & unrefreshing. Ben also had to get up quite a few times; we lock our dog away at night but she decided to get sick with the runs so she would cry when she needed to be taken to the toilet.
After that finally settled down, I did fall into a really deep sleep. I had some dreams about sneaking around places. And another one where I was yelling at another adult to shower, because, and I quote from my dream, “everyone else does it!”
My alarm went off Saturday morning at 4.25am. I was in a deep sleep at the time so it was one of those really jarring wake ups. I dragged myself into the shower because that was a pre-op requirement (along with no moisturiser/deodorant, and usual things like fasting from midnight & no water from 5am).
Ben fed the dog and packed himself food while I did last minute checks of my bag & medical info. I had decided to show up in PJs, dressing gown & slippers and that was a very comfy choice.
Our ride (my mother in law) to the hospital showed up right on time & we were off. As the only driver in my house, I find it really strange to be in a car that I’m not driving. It almost makes me anxious because I think I have to do the breaking! Just a weird habit thing. I was really tired so I wanted to close my eyes but found I couldn’t, because of weird “but I’m driving, right” car thing.
We got to the hospital 10-15 minutes before my 6am arrival time. It was really quiet and I checked in quickly with the admin staff who take care of the billing.
And side note, while I really only got a Saturday surgery date as a matter of coincidences, can we take a moment to thank and appreciate a public health system that hasn’t bankrupted me for having defective tonsils?
I wasn’t in the ground floor waiting room for long; they quickly sent us up to the 4th floor, where the Surgical Day Care Unit is. I tried to open the door twice before I realised it was locked & the receptionist was coming to open it. Yeah, it was too early!
We waited a bit here, and I mocked some cooking show on TV. Also, cooking shows are probably not great viewing when you’re not allowed to eat. Anyway. Ben then said he wished The Katering Show was being broadcast instead & the next thing that was made on this cooking show was HOT WET RICE! I prodded him & told him that was entirely his fault.
I had no idea how many people were the same day as me, or what order I was in. I’m sure I could have asked where I was in the theatre order but tiredness & sore throat kind of stops you from things like talking. I was hoping (irrationally) that first in, best dressed applied.
Someone showed up. Then someone else showed up. I wasn’t feeling positive by then. I was a bit bummed. While I was stressed & anxious in the lead up due to the unknown of surgery I had a feeling my worst moment would be if I had to wait & be last on the roster. Based on how waiting when I was electrocuted made me panicky, I thought the same would apply for surgery.
One person got called in and I was a little bummed. Then I got distracted for a while as the staff tried to find a missing patient. Apparently someone who was booked in today couldn’t come in due to tonsillitis. Poor person! Later on I heard there were originally 5 of us planned & 2 called in sick with tonsillitis. That would be so unbelievably frustrating for them. I hope they get rescheduled soon, for their sakes.
Not too long after the first person went in, the nurse came and got me. She took my vitals & did some basic paperwork. Then she took me to the change rooms & got me to put on a purple gown. I was allowed to keep my own underwear. It seems from what others have told me that this is a win! I couldn’t tie up the back well so she had to do it for me. Then she also put compression stockings on me, with some booties on top to keep the stockings clean. I also got a hospital dressing gown which was fresh from a warmer thingy and that was nice!
I was then off to the recliners to wait. I didn’t have my phone on me for most of the time and I was really exhausted so I didn’t have a great sense of time. They had some morning “news” show on and bizarrely it didn’t enrage me. Normally waiting room TV does my head in. Though the nurse was offering us the TV remote and volume if we didn’t like it, which was nice. I said anything on TV Saturday mornings is pretty much crap so it didn’t really matter. We were situated near a 23 hour care ward (or some name like that). It was really busy there – I have no idea what they do in that ward but buzzers were going off constantly and all the people kind of looked like they’d been brought in with acute injuries that needed (fairly, I assume from my non-medical degree position) minor surgery. When I came out of surgery, the area was completely empty.
Ben was able to come in with me to the waiting area and spent some time with me. He did leave for breakfast with his mum at some point. I tried my hardest to sleep but I couldn’t. I’m just not a napping person. I was uncomfortable but not too bad. Towards the end of my wait I started getting a headache; I’m not sure if it was stress, tiredness, dehydration or some combination but it was annoying. The nurse did tell me to let her know if it got bad and I could have paracetamol, but it mostly irritating rather than bad. It was during this wait time before surgery that I really thought I was going to get anxious or panic. And I didn’t. My theory was that I was just too tired!
I think it was after 10am by the time someone came to get me for my turn. I had a red surgical cap for allergies (nothing major, just some tapes leave my skin red and irritated, like after a blood test) which I struggled to get my hair into.
I said goodbye to Ben (I think) and followed a guy down a bunch of hallways. He took me to a really small room. It fitted a hospital bed, a bench with computer & supplies and not much else. The room was connected by door to the operating room.
The guy who walked me there & someone else came in. He introduced himself & he was an anaesthetic technician … I think. He got called away. I was laying in this weirdly inflated bed, alone, with a non-feeling feeling of waiting. I later worked out that, to me, it felt like the start of some roller coasters; where you are moving, but slowly and you can’t see what is up ahead but you know any second you’re about to be flung at speed into the great unknown.
A nurse came in, and introduced herself. I still have no idea what any of these peoples names were! She asked me how I was. This is when I got panicky. My voice cracked and I got teary for a moment. She told me her face often makes people cry 🙂 I told her I’d never had surgery before. She sat down on the bed next to me & we had a chat. I said it’s just a complete unknown & it overwhelmed me. She talked about how many people will be watching me & monitoring every single thing. And how dog cuddles when you get home are great… all things I knew and accepted. She was very lovely & my moment passed pretty quickly, for which I am very thankful.
Another woman came in after that & told me she was the anaesthetist. I told her I was a bit uncertain & she was also a very calming woman. They both ran through checking my name, DOB and so on. Then I was given something to calm me. They called it “two glasses of wine”. Remarkably accurate! I even got a quick head spin from it! It was good though, whatever drug it was did relax me & I even got drowsy from it. I’m not entirely sure if they told me all the drugs they would use on me for the operation; I know we discussed antibiotics via IV during the surgery & I couldn’t tell them how many mg of penicillin was in my tablet that I had taken that morning. I think I kept saying it’s the usual one, which must have been so useful to them haha. They said they had a Spotify playlist in the OR & that I’d probably fall asleep singing. There was a clock in the room and I kept trying to read the time but was unable to make sense of it. It was sometime after 10am and I think before 11am? My mind couldn’t work out hands on a clock.
I’m not sure of the time span from here (because drugs), but sometime after the “two glasses of wine” I was wheeled in. I thought I would go straight through the door of the room I was in, but I was actually wheeled into the hallway, and into the OR via what I assume was a bigger door. Again, I was barely conscious.
Once I was in the OR the dog loving nurse was saying something about it being a great room & very fancy medical equipment… I said that I agreed, it was by fast the best I had seen! True, I guess 🙂 I actually didn’t really look around. I guess I was already fairly out of it from the “two glasses of wine”.
The reason for the bed being weirdly squishy became apparent. They inflated it around me! It was like being in an inflatable dinghy. They used that to pull me over to the operation table. They asked me if I was in the middle of the bed and I couldn’t really work out where my arms were to tell. I think I kept hitting the bed they wheeled me in on, so they took that away and then it felt like I was in the middle properly.
Then the guy who I assumed earlier was the technician put a mask on my face & I think he said he was giving me oxygen. I remember being mildly irritated by the shape of the mask. For about two breaths.
Then I was woken up to someone saying my name loudly. I was in the post anaesthetic care unit. It turns out you get your own nurse to watch you for two hours following a general anaesthetic. I think I had slept most of the first hour in that room. The nurse said something about me being groggy so maybe I had been in & out of it & talking to them but I have zero memory of anything before this point. I was pretty comfortable & relaxed, happy to nap there with my (actual) oxygen mask on. I don’t think they were concerned as such with my sleepiness, but that they needed me to stay awake to see how I was doing. I assume. I drifted in & out of a light sleep while smiling at people. I’m pretty sure one of nurses told me Ben had been asking about me and she’d go tell him I’m ok & in recovery. I asked how long the surgery took and I think they said half an hour.
I think the pain was quite high for me at this time. It was sore & raw not speaking or swallowing, but very sore if I did either. I think they kept asking me for my pain rating and giving me more narcotics. I have a feeling I had a good 3-4 strong doses of I don’t know what to get me down to a more acceptable level of pain. Which probably also went with the dropping in & out of sleep. They were also checking my vitals & throat (with a big yellow torch, like this one) regularly. I could hear the person who had gone in before me talking happily to her nurse so I figured she was doing well and I would be soon too.
After I had been there an hour, they swapped me from a mask to a nasal flow of oxygen. Unlike when I had a home sleep study, this nasal tube didn’t bother me in the least. It was either a better quality tube … or, you know, I was doped up on painkillers. I also noticed I had a blister or something on my lip. The nurse said it would have been from the instrumentation used to keep my mouth open during the surgery. It’s still a bit raw and sore but it’s only a blister.
At some point it started raining outside & the nurses were talking about how they could smell it. It felt unfair to be on oxygen at that point. Why did I get denied fresh rain smell, you know?!
It was very quiet & the nurses were having good chats with each other. Most of us in the unit at that time were very stable; the patients who were less so had much more nursing attention. At one point the nurses started talking about what to have for dinner. One of them said chips & then realised she was talking in front of us who can’t eat such things right now & apologised. I thought it was funny and I think I laughed at her. Another nurse said salt & vinegar chips are totally great for people who have just had tonsils out 🙂 Love me a sarcastic nurse. Then he admitted he’s going to Korean BBQ and then I wanted Korean BBQ. Also, I’ve never had Korean BBQ.
I don’t really know how many painkillers they gave me but it did feel like it only barely kept me ok, but at the same time, I wasn’t bothered by the pain, even though I knew I had it. It’s hard to describe. I asked the nurse at one point if I could spit so she got me a kidney dish and helped me rinse my mouth out. I felt a lot better for that, and it helped her keep an eye on the wound better.
After I had been there two hours, they drew the curtains & helped me into a big padded wheelchair. I was taken back to the recovery recliner chair room that I started in. I also learned I had to do two hours there, but Ben was allowed in to sit with me. (All of the paperwork and discussions prior didn’t tell me how much of my day I would spend there. I thought I’d be home by midday if I was one of the first few on the surgery list! However, that’s not a complaint at the care level, as that was top-notch. I just didn’t know how it worked & no one explained it to me beforehand.)
The recliner room nurse gave me water and food. The water was cool and it was amazing. I managed to eat the yogurt pretty easily (again, cool). The nurse ran through post surgery care with me & Ben while I ate the yogurt, and gave me my medical certificate & prescriptions. I asked Ben if he could go fill them for me so we didn’t have to stop on the way home, so he went off to do that. He later told me he first went to the hospital pharmacy, but they said they’re doing drugs (great choice of words, right?!) for the entire hospital so it could take them hours to get to his scripts. They recommended he go to the regular retail pharmacy within the hospital. $40 later he left with a box of endone and 10 tablets of amoxicillin. Seems a bit steep, frankly. But I guess they know they have a captive audience of people who just want to get home. But having said that, if an entire surgical procedure and hours of care only cost me $40, then I feel I’m not justified to complain!
I went back to eating, as I hadn’t eaten in about 18 hours at that point & was hungry. However, I struggled badly with the sandwich. I got 1/4 of it down, then asked for more painkillers as it was really painful to swallow. I think I was given fentanyl. That reduced it from painful to merely a large discomfort to swallow.
Shortly after having eaten most of the sandwich, I was given the chance to stand & go to the bathroom & get dressed. All of which I managed on my own with no wobbling or dizziness, which I thought was great.
Around 3.30pm (nearly 10 hours after arriving), I was discharged. Ben & I walked out to the main waiting room, where his mum was. Poor, patient woman!
We went down to the ground floor & sat out front while she brought the car to the pick up spot. I think I was lightly dozing on the way back as I jumped in & out of conversations a bit. I guess all I need to get over my “can’t sleep, I’m the driver in every car” is a crapload of narcotic drugs. Who knew?!
It was nice to go straight to bed! Ben went and took care of the dog (who we were half expecting to have escaped, but she didn’t) while I went to bed.
I spent the rest of the day dozing, eating ice cream, taking drugs, eating cheese & writing this. I really wanted to get it down while it was fresh, and to mentally debrief myself.
I think the two best things about this were:
- Not knowing I was falling asleep for the surgery. I had no pre-anaesthetic momentary panic. I went under really fast (as least to my own perception, which frankly, is all that matters to me).
- Saturday surgery. It was really quiet. I think more people would have made me more stressed. They clearly have capacity for a LOT of day surgery patients at the RBWH so in a area that seated at least 12 patients at once (with another large section right next to it), it was very nice to be one of only three. I really think it helped my level of calm.
I’m glad to be at home recovering, and while I’m far from happy and comfortable right now, the best feeling is knowing that while I may have a painful and shitty two weeks, that’s it! I should never, ever have tonsillitis again. Much better than living a chronic life of throat pain from those dangly bastards.