DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT ONLY A PRETTY LONG BLOG POST, BUT DOES GO VERY IN-DEPTH ABOUT SURGICAL PROCEDURES AND WHAT TO EXPECT. I WOULD RECOMMEND READING ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE DUE THIS KIND OF AN OP YOURSELF, BUT BE PREPARED IN CASE YOU MAY GET TRIGGERED.
All packed and ready to go, I was scheduled to check into the hospital at 7:00am which meant waking up crazy early! I hardly slept the night before, maybe an hour due to the thoughts and worries flitting through my mind, but I think this can only be expected before my first major surgery. My thoughts would flit from panic over the anaesthetic, whether I’d have a spinal needle, to concerns about the surgery failing and how much pain I would be in.
(Last night I took some pictures pre-op so I can monitor my progress over the next 9 months)
The hospital where I had my surgery was called Spire Hospital in Harpenden, UK. It’s a private hospital where my reasons for choosing private care was the rate of time between an NHS appointment and going private, I would have had to wait many months and the additional time may have caused my Meniscus to grind on itself when I walked, running the risk of damaging it further. It was imperative to be treated asap.
I was shown to my private room in the Ambrose Ward and unpacked everything listed in my previous blog post ‘What do I pack for an operation?’ I was given a little time to settle, but the nerves were still a jumble. I was first visited by my surgeon Mr Kalairagah who reassured me and had me sign off on the consent forms which detailed the risks of the surgery. One which surprised me is that there will always be a numb patch round my hamstring which my brain will forget about, unless I remember it is there. I think this is an important detail for anyone going in for an Arthroscopy or ACL surgery. He drew a big arrow on my right knee in sharpie (nice and obnoxious) so everyone knew exactly which knee was being operated on,
Next I was visited by the nurse looking after my ward and was told I needed to provide a urine sample for a routine pregnancy test, a big ask for someone at 7:00am who had already had their morning loo visit. I was given a compression sock to wear in order to prevent blood clots on my left leg and changed into my surgical gown. It was all beginning to feel VERY real.
Finally came my biggest foe – the Anaesthetist.
I am not a fan of needles, but over the past year I’ve been subjected to a lot of acupuncture which was my only saving grace. My biggest concern was that I would need a spinal injection or a muscle relaxant like my grandparents had for their hip surgeries. I was reassured that as I was young (23) I would only need the canuella put into my hand and the anaesthetic would be pumped in through there. A BIG RELIEF!
Your twenty-minute call time
I was informed I was first on the list to be seen that day, and if all was well I’d be called into theatre in about twenty minutes. My mum was allowed to stay in my room and wait for me while I made the walk down to theatre, ready to make my starring debut.
I was taken into a small room, sat upon a bed and told this was where I would fall asleep before taking me into theatre. Despite my trepidation about the Anaesthetist, both were incredibly kind and mindful of the state I was in. I must say how important it is to school your thoughts and go into that focal mindset. If you are a performer like myself, it’s a very similar mental state to when you are about to go in for an audition. The set up, the call and waiting times are all very similar and I think this kind of preparation really benefitted me when it was time for my operation. The canuella was inserted into my left hand while they took my blood pressure on the right. It was a whirlwind of activity but that was best in the long run as I had no time to freak at the needle being inserted into my hand. I won’t lie – it did hurt. It is a prick into a vein after all, but nothing to be alarmed about. An oxygen mask was then placed over my face and before I knew anything else I was out for the count.
It does feel rather similar to what you see in the movies and Casualty episodes. However, I was left feeling very confused as I was receiving no communication from the theatre staff responsible for bringing me round. I found myself asking lots of questions like:
Why am I wearing an oxygen mask?
Why is my blood pressure being taken?
Can I see my family? Do they know I’m out?
The main problem I faced was that no one was communicating with me and when the staff discovered some heat rashes they immediately went to find someone for a second opinion rather than speaking to me and making sure I was alright. I could feel the panic rising with the confusion and had to shout out that I was really hot from the duvet and sheet on me and that was probably why I was suffering with heat rashes. When the bedding was removed I began to cool down immediately and the rashes soon disappeared, but it didn’t help the state I’d been worked into in the meantime. I was left waiting in the recovery room for quite a while, again having to ask when I could go back. Finally I was wheeled back to my room but I was not a happy bunny.
Now I understand that some people are probably not very coherent when they first come round from surgery and some prefer the necessary tasks to just be taken care of. I’m one of those people that like things explained to them. I felt the reassurance just wasn’t there and it really impacted me the first hour of my recovery time. I was crying in confusion and felt lost even when I was placed back in my room and had to be calmed down by my mum. It was sad to go through as I was told the operation itself was a complete success and I was in no pain whatsoever. I am sure that not everyone goes through this experience and I don’t want anyone to become worried about the treatment they may get when waking up. But if this does happen to you, I want you to be prepared. Focus on your own healthiness and if like me you are pain-free and relatively coherent, that is the most important thing and this really is a small portion of your entire recovery time. Try to keep your emotions in check and trust that the theatre staff are doing what is best for you. You could always state before heading in that you want to know what is going on at all times, as this is something I would have done in hindsight.
The remainder of the day was spent slowly recovering in my room. I was fitted with some vibration massage cuffs round my ankles to help the blood flow through my legs and my right knee was wrapped in a giant fluffy bandage. I was also given a breathing tube and a blood pressure pad round my right arm to monitor my oxygen levels, which I did not expect and had no prior knowledge about. Let me tell you, breathing tubes are not comfortable and I have major respect for all who must wear these on a regular basis. I think the sight rather affected my mum, seeing me like that. Things became brighter after, I was completely pain-free and continue to be so thanks to the visits from many nurses topping me up with Paracetamol, Ibuprofen and Morphine. One thing to note about me is that I am one of those pain in the bums who cannot swallow tablets. The nurses were incredible at making sure that liquid options were always available to me and if you are like me and are not a fan of tablets. Please do not worry about this. Often times I have been given tablets and been expected to just ‘get over it’ and take them. I was so happy to be given relatively nice tasting pain relief and to be met with so much understanding and kindness. Within an hour’s time I had changed into my pyjamas and was up for receiving some family into my room.
How you should expect to feel
This is the part I don’t want to sugarcoat. I was very lucky to have recovered so well from the anaesthetic, but I want to give an accurate account of what to expect to feel. You may not experience all of this but it’s handy to be prepared!
- Nauseous – I experienced this in waves every time a new flavour was introduced to me during a meal. No matter how plain it was I found myself battling with all my might not to throw up, and the urge was strong, very similar to food poisoning. I knew it was VITAL to keep my food down to keep my strength up and managed to keep down four bouts of nausea. If you do experience this then make sure you have something nearby in case you cannot hold it, I didn’t think I would be able to and make sure to keep breathing through it. Regulating your breath is the best way to cope!
- Pain-free – This most likely won’t apply to everyone, I expected to have a constant dull ache upon waking as was described in most blogs I read. My pain was very tolerable and only started to throb a little when I started physio the next day. Make sure you notify your nurses if you are experiencing any pain whatsoever. Don’t be a martyr!
- Weak and tired – This surprised me the most. Perhaps due to how early I was admitted and the lack of sleep the night before, but I did not have to strength to cross off what I wanted for breakfast on a piece of paper. I was constantly dozing yet unable to fall asleep for long periods of time due to the nurse visits and drugs in my body.
- Lack of focus – To go with the weakness, for the remainder of the day nothing held my focus, not even the iconic Ru Paul’s Drag Race could keep me engaged. I could barely retain conversations and was in no place to blog which is why my post today is so long. This really did surprise and annoy me, I’m someone who is always multi-tasking and the frustration at not having that sharp focus I pride myself on was very annoying.
- Irritable – I found myself getting snarky about the littlest things, if I couldn’t find the button to raise my bed, or was very uncomfortable. I think it was just a side effect of the drugs though, I’m quite a bubbly person usually. Honest!
- Hot – This was another thing that took me by surprise. I’m a winter duvet in summer kind of girl, but I could not sleep with even a sheet on. I would wake up sweating everywhere, in the compression socks and everywhere till I stopped trying to cover myself up at all. Again this might not happen to everyone, but if you do feel hot don’t worry, keep your body temperature regulated.
- You cannot go for a wee or anywhere without a nurse – It’s not so much how to feel, but so important! If you need to get up at all you MUST CALL A NURSE! Don’t try to be brave, even if you have a relative or friend with you. They know how to assist you and are used to everything. They’ll get you in there with some reassuring words and pull your knickers down for you. There’s no need to be embarrassed at all!
Finally I was visited by Mr Kalairagah after the op. He checked I was okay and got me to wiggle my toes and ankles to check the blood flow. Then he gave me the news I was most anxious to hear – my Medial Meniscus was successfully repaired and fixed back into place and the surgery was a complete success! I was so happy to hear this and that the Meniscus wasn’t just removed as was a likely scenario if it was too badly damaged.
The risk of developing arthritis earlier on in life is higher without a Medial Meniscus. While many people live happily and get on absolutely fine without a Meniscus, due to my age and being a dancer I would always recommend having your surgeon try to fix it. As performers our bodies are SO SO IMPORTANT and we need to get as much time out of them as we can. I also asked Mr Kalairagah to ensure my stitches were dissolvable and as neat and good as can be, sadly aesthetics are still important in a body-beautiful industry, not to mention for my own confidence. Upon knowing the surgery was as great a success as it could be I was able to relax a lot easier and finally get some sleep.