For some reason I've been humming and ha-ing about whether to tell you about my most recent operation for a hernia and I don't understand why I've been hesitating. Anyone who's looked at this blog over the last 4-5 years will know all about my ailments and operations for a slipped disc in both 2007 and 2008 so, in a sense, this is just the latest installment. I had been hoping to get through 2009 without an operation but that was not to be - I had the operation on 30 December. Let's start at the beginning and , hopefully, this might be of use to anyone in a similar situation.
Back in October I noticed a slight lump in my stomach, just above my belly button. I had no idea what it was and then started worrying that it might be cancer (the mind can play interesting tricks sometimes). It only showed when I stood, not when I lay down. I was seeing my doctor for a check-up anyway, so I mentioned it and was sent straight-away for a scan at St George's Hospital in Tooting that identified a small hernia, followed by a specialist assessment that confirmed it and decided I needed surgery to correct it. A few weeks later I was given a pre-admission appointment to check that I was fit enough for an operation and I had that on 23 December, at which point I was offered admission on 30 December for the operation in the day surgery clinic. I said 'yes'.
What is a hernia? In my case, it's a weakness in the stomach wall that allows a part of my upper intestine to poke through my stomach wall and manifest as a small lump. Because it's beside my belly button (in my case, just above) then it's an umbilical hernia. That's the simple description. It might have been years in the coming, gradually weakening my stomach wall, or could have developed from being too energetic a few months ago, no-one knows. Interestingly, although I talk about my 'slipped disc', it's actually a herniated disc, so I have some history with the 'H' word.
I was advised by the nurse to get some sweat pants/joggers or, as I'd rather think of them, tracksuit bottoms, to avoid putting any pressure on my stomach, so I bought some from Primark for £2.94. £2.94!!! I was stunned but, hey, I've been wearing 'em!
I turned up just before 12 noon on 30 December to the day surgery unit, filled in forms and then changed into the backless gown, the paper underpants, put on knee-length surgical stockings, then put on my socks and slippers to keep warm, as well as my dressing gown. Various medical chats later, blood pressure taken, blood sugar taken, anaesthetist telling me what will happen, surgeon drawing an arrow on my stomach to show where the hernia is and then I sat reading until 3.20pm when I finally went through to the operating surgery. This was it. On came the monitors on my chest, in went the drip into my wrist and then on came the gas mask, deep breaths, very deep breaths trying to go out as quickly as possible to get it over with ...
... and then I was drowsily awake in a ward, throat very dry, not seeing a thing because I didn't know where my glasses were. And a distant pain in my stomach. My head was telling me that I was in the clouds while my belly was pulling me down to earth. I think that was about 5.30pm and I had a glass of water and a cup of tea with two slices of thin white bread toast (my mouth was too dry to eat more than 1.5 slices of toast before the tea was finished). I was impatient to be off and leave the hospital so every time I spotted a nurse I pretended to be fully awake even though I was drifting in and out of sleep and my head was fuzzy with the drugs.
I was eventually allowed out of bed around 7.00pm and was escorted to the day room, then allowed to get changed (when my sweat pants came into ther own) and I had a chance to see the dressing covering the wound on my stomach. I saw the slightly blood-stained dressing but what I really noticed was my shaved and partially hairless stomach - that's what looked really odd to me. Around 8.10pm I was given two kinds of tablets and allowed to leave since Chris had come to pick me up in a taxi to take me home.
Since then I've had good days and bad days, I've discovered the joys of the afternoon nap and the difficulties of going to the toilet (the sit-down kind) without putting any pressure on the stomach that might break the stitching of the stomach wall. O joy. I went to my doctor today for more pills and a medical certificate and was reminded that I'd only had the operation four days ago - because of New Year and the weekend it seems like a long time ago, but it isn't really. I still need pills. I haven't dared change the dressing yet - with my back, I wanted to see the scar, wanted to twist and turn to see it in a mirror, but with this wound, it's right in front of me every time I have my shirt off or I'm naked, and I'm sort of trying not to see it. Maybe once my stomach hair has returned to hide it a bit then I won't be so squeamish, but, for the time being, I'm happy to leave it a while longer before I see it.
So, there you are - my latest operation. The wound is a bit sore at the moment and that's a reminder to take the tablets before bed. I need to keep moving, to do a bit more each day to help it heal healthily. I'll take the dressing off in a couple of days time and see what it looks like (shudder). If you're unlucky I *might* post a photo...