“Hello I'm Alan. I’m going to put you to sleep for a while. Are you right-handed?”
He lifted my left hand and the rubbed the back. “I’m looking for a good vein.”
I felt him insert the cannula.
“This will feel a bit cold at first. Think of the five things you enjoy doing most!”
He was right - it was cold. I thought I could hear a rushing wind. I got as far as a glass of red wine and that was all I remember.
Sometime later I heard a gentle female voice speaking my name, “Andrew come back to us. The first part is all over.”
I opened my eyes and tried to look around. But my head seemed to be fixed in one position. I could see a bulge at the end of the bed where my feet would be. I was propped up. There was a tube in my left arm. My right arm was free so I could feel the catheter with a sense of relief. My head was woozy. I closed my eyes.
Then the gentle female voice spoke again. She patted my right hand. “Come on Andrew, time to wake up.” I became aware of something tight around my middle. I groped with my right hand. It was a very wide dressing that was wrapped tightly around my body.
“I’m thirsty, can I have a drink? Please!”
The gentle voice whispered, “Of course. Here let me help you.”
She brought a plastic cup to me; in it was water and a straw. I felt like a child.
“Take your time; your inside will be very empty. You’ve had nothing now for nearly two days. Your insides need to settle. There may even need to be another short procedure, perhaps tomorrow. The surgeon will be coming to see you soon.”
“You were the last on his list today, because he knew it would take a long time. I think he may be relaxing and having a cup of tea. He’ll be here soon enough.
“Will he give me something for all this pain?”
“Oh yes, he has prescribed some morphine for you. But you mustn’t have too much. Oddly, it’s not good for you to have too much!”
She had such a nice gentle voice, it suited her manner.
“Here he is, now”
“Hello Andrew. How are you feeling now?” Mr Lacey had a strong and firm handshake. That continued my confidence in him.
“Thirsty, hungry and I have a pain somewhere down there.” I pointed to my middle.
“I did tell you that the problem was in a difficult place. The ileocecal valve is a bugger to get at. So you have quite a deep incision. I’m keeping you off food for the time being. The next twenty four hours will critical for you. You can have plenty of water; I have set up the drain pipe at one end and a drip to feed you at this end. You will sleep in this position; the nurses are available on this button to make sure that you stay upright. I do not want you sliding sideways one way or another and most certainly not on your right side.”
He called a nurse over and asked for another pillow to support the area of the incision; and then a small one to ensure I stayed upright. A lot of fuss I thought because I was as comfortable as could be expected.
“You mean there’s more?” I did not like the sound of this too much. I hate anaesthetic at the best of times. It always takes weeks to wear itself out of my system. It stops me thinking any creative thoughts.
“I will give you something to help you sleep tonight. I’ll be back again in the morning. I’ll check the bottle to be sure your kidney is still working, and then I’ll decide what’s next.”
With that he smiled and left.
I was closing my eyes again when a new voice regaled my ears.
“Is there anything I can get you?” I wondered whether it was my imagination, or do they all have gentle voices.
“Yes please. Is there any chance of some kind of flavour in this water – like orange for instance?”
“Not tonight there isn’t. In your situation, we have to be patient.”
“You mean I have to be patient?”
“Yes, but when you are in my care, I will try and respond in any way I can help, within the surgeon’s demands. You have had a deep cut into your insides. He is a superb engineer, but he cannot wave a magic wand and get you better instantly. So we all have to be patient, especially you. We can talk if you wish, or shall I leave your door open?”
“Yes please.” With that I closed my eyes again. I think I dreamed of walking on a hillside somewhere in Wales. It had a river that babbled over stones. Beddgelert is one of my favourites. But I could hear talking. I was glad that my door had been left open; the room was so warm. But I did not know who or what was the subject of the conversation.
“He’s never lost anyone before.” This was a new rather mature voice.
“His notes are clear; if the patient survives the night, he will try in the morning to explore whether all is well.”
“Is it that bad?”
“The man had obviously ignored the pain, until he finally went to see his GP. It’s a good job he has private health insurance.”
“There’s a priest in the next ward, do you think we should mention this chap?”
Then the voices faded.
I had pain in my head as well as in my body. Their conversation could just have been about the value of private health insurance or about another patient. But it did disturb my thinking.
I have always thought that prayers might be worth more if the supplicant was on his knees. That was not possible in my situation. So I closed my eyes and just asked the Almighty if there was any purpose in me continuing to live.
He obviously thought so.