If you had to be in hospital and feeling poorly, this was surely the best bedside view to have.
|view from my bedside|
My bed was literally two feet from the window and my chair even closer, tucked against the windowsill. I took two magazines and a chunky novel with me and touched none of them during my 11-day stay. Aside from my concentration being all over the place, the view was far too compelling. I watched lone joggers as early as 6am ploughing along Westminster Bridge, followed much later by droves of commuters on their way to Westminster, followed even later still by hordes of tourists taking photos of every angle of London. River traffic was busy - there were huge crammed tourist boats turning on a penny to moor at Westminster Pier to pick up even more people; there were cargo boats pulling their heavy load of small containers. I even saw the royal barge Gloriana pass by
on a Sunday afternoon with golden oars working fit to bust. The London Eye turned and turned from early morning to very late at night. I wondered how many people in their little pods could see me at my window. Why on earth would I want to ignore this flurry of activity against an iconic backdrop only to read a stupid magazine instead? Of course there were disadvantages to being right by the window. The curtain designed to go round my bed for privacy stopped before it even reached the window. The window side was not covered at all, so when I needed a commode or had to have a bedside wash-down, I bared all (literally from head to foot) to the passers by on foot, bus, boat or at the Marriott Hotel opposite. I reasoned I would probably never see them again, but if you were one of those passers by and saw my butt, please keep schtumm. I'd hate to see my personal bits all over youtube.
Views from the day room were good too
|View from the Day Room|
and at night I would go to sleep gazing at this....
|View from my bed at night|
The operation nearly didn't go ahead. I developed a tickly cough a few days before admission date and dutifully informed the hospital, as they had requested, half-hoping for another few weeks' leeway. But they decided to go ahead anyway. The GIST tumour growing on the wall of my stomach was very close to the oesophagus and removing it was going to be tricky. The very gentle female consultant came to see me the night before and half-terrified me. They have to tell you the worst case scenario, just in case you wake up with something they had not warned you about, but she said she might have to remove a small piece of my upper bowel to reconstruct the oesophagus if they damaged it. Kay and I (in an attempt to lighten the situation) decided to name the GIST Geoffrey, as in the past I had called a fibroid Phyllis and we still refer to her now, fifteen years on. That night, Geoffrey the GIST slept peacefully for the last time. I can honestly say I hardly slept a wink.
The next morning,I was surprised how calm and cheery I was, as they wheeled me off to theatre. To blot out reality, I found myself interviewing everyone from porter to nurse to theatre sister about all manner of things including where they trained, where they lived, what they did. I was gibbering non-stop - I half suspect they gave me the anaesthetic to shut me up! I was first given an epidural as pain-relief for when I eventually woke up again, then given the general anaesthetic. I remember looking at the clock at that point - it was 11am. The next thing I knew, it was 3.30pm and I was coming round in recovery, The operation had lasted three and a half hours. Geoffrey had been safely removed and sent off to the big laboratory in the sky, my oesophagus was intact and there had been no need to dissect any bowel to reconstruct it (phew!) Again, even in my semi-drowsy state, my loquaciousness bubbled to the surface and I recall having a very intense discussion with the recovery sister about all kinds of things. I recall no pain at all, because the epidural was already doing its stuff.
The next day, I was more compus mentis and able to take in the facts. They had only removed a small part of my stomach and stapled the hole with titanium staples which are there for life (God help me if I go through an airport scanner). They had tried to do the operation first with two laparoscopes, but had not managed to continue in that way and had had to open me up after all. On looking at my abdomen, I have a sort of smiley face - two round hole eyes where the laparoscopes had gone in and a six-inch vertical scar for the nose. The crease of my tummy is the mouth.
It took a further nine days to get to a point where they could discharge me. I was on epidural pain-relief for 6 days, but when they took that out of my back, boy, did I notice the difference. I was downgraded to morphine which disagreed with me and in the end I am pleased to say I coped OK with just paracetamol. I was on a three-day water-only diet to start with. Then, after a barium swallow x ray revealed the stomach was watertight and the staples were holding they introduced me to soup and porridge, but by then my stomach had shrunk and my appetite was poor. The doctors urged me to try to cram some calories in as I was getting weaker and weaker, so even prescribed a bar of Green and Black's chocolate. I was to suck on a cube to give me some energy and perhaps encourage me to eat something else. I must have been poorly, because for a few days even my chocoholic side would not kick in and it must have been about six days in total when absolutely nothing passed my lips. Gradually, I started to eat morsels and to date I am able to eat light sloppy meals like soup, custard and ice cream. Eventually I am supposed to build up and add mushy solids and then real solids. I crept around the corridors like a hundred-year-old trying to make it to the toilet or the shower.
Kay had started a new rotation recently and is working till late evening, but did manage to visit me at the weekend in the middle of my stay. She was not able to get time off at short notice on the day I was discharged so I came home by hospital transport to an empty house. I was a little tearful, as it made it all the more poignant that Greg is no longer here to help me in adverse times (or any times for that matter). I was able to manage all the stairs I have (see here) and cooked a poached egg for my supper before collapsing into bed. It's onwards and upwards from now on, though I am told full recovery will take 4-6 weeks.
The absolute good news is that I have lost over half a stone in weight and Geoffrey is thankfully no more.