EPIDURAL REPORT: WARNING
- May contain scenes of self aggrandisation. Those of a sensitive nature should go read popbitch, or somesuch.
It all went according to plan this time round. Up and at 'em at 6.30am, after a wonderful night where I dreamt that I was on a rugby team, but couldn't play because of the pain in my back. I was deeply disappointed, but couldn't cry on the bench at the sideline, because that's not in the rugby spirit. So I was quite relieved to be woken. An hour's drive to the hospital later, in which both me and my mum wondered at the number of people driving down the motorway at such a stupid hour - don't they realise they could be sleeping? - and we were at the hospital.
Checked in. Found the day patient's ward much easier this time, being an old hand at the procedure. The ward was full this time, all of us patients of Dougie Howser, but only two of us in for the caudal injection - me and a big burly bloke in the bed opposite who didn't speak a word the whole day. I know all the details of the other patients because I have a habit of reading things I shouldn't, but if the nurses are going to leave charts and forms where I can see them, I'm going to look.
They unnervingly started wheeling people out of the ward at 8.15am, which was a big concern for me. I don't have the ability to keep my eyes fully open at 8.15am and my hands don't stop shaking before 10am on the best of days, so I didn't know how Dougie gets through minor surgical procedures that early without a single outlet of Starbucks in the country.
This time round I had a Chinese National explaining the procedure to me. He had a quick look at my notes, and noticed that I'd had it done before, and so his first comment was that I must already be aware of what the procedure entailed, and what the side effects could be. I acknowledged that I did. He then rattled off a fabulous list, starting with "loss of control over water works" and ending with "paralysis" with all sorts of numbness and bleeding in between. Never having had it put to me so bluntly before, I felt slightly weak in the knees, but that was okay because I was lying down. He then, completely without warning, grabbed hold of my right ankle and pulled my knee towards my forehead. I, quite rightly in that situation, gave a yell of pain and then looked at him in the manner my cat usually uses when we accidentally step on his tail. The doctor carried on regardless.
About 30 minutes after that indignity, the trolley of doom came down the corridor with a particularly jolly attendant behind it. He told me to pop up on the trolley. I considered telling him that my inability to "pop up" onto anything was one of the reasons I was there in the first place, but he declared loudly that I was only a "little one" and lowered the trolley for me. As I climbed on and he very paternally tucked me in, my Mum came over and gave me a kiss good luck. He turned around to her and apparently gave her a wink, and then turned to me and said that since she didn't seem to be about to kiss him, we might as well get going. He was, in short, pure brilliant. He told me on the way up to the operating theatre that I was far too young to be having back problems, that I should be up and dancing in no time, and - I'm assuming this was another allusion to my lack of height - that I had just fallen off the wedding cake.
- Side bar: I'm not that damn small. I'm 5'5", which is a reasonable size to be in this day and age. I have abnormally small hands, but you wouldn't know that until I hold them against yours. I am otherwise completely normal, and don’t understand why at this late stage of my life people are continually accusing me of being small. And that’s the other thing – It’s not “short” I’m being accused of. It’s “small”. Odd. –
Anyhoo. Got to the operating theatre. As you’ll all recall I’d decided that no crying would be taking place this time, because of the unholy show I put on last time round. Also, what was last time unexpected was this time wholly expected, and the knowledge of experience is a great help when you’ve got up to five needles putting various different poisonous substances in to you spine.
I’m very pleased to report that this time round there was no crying. There was even a moment of deadpan joking before the festivities began, when Dougie stood at the head of my bed and asked me how I’d been. I told him in no uncertain terms that I’d had better days and weeks preceding this event, and he asked what he was to do with me. I took this to be a rhetorical question, because if he had forgotten the procedure I was quite literally not in the position to talk him through it. The whole procedure took about half the time it did last time, mainly because the first part could be skipped over altogether as it was no longer necessary to be exploratory. The most painful injection last time had been the dye they shoot up through your nerves, so everything else paled in comparison. I did some very deep breathing and blowing out throw the pain, and the nurse told me that I was doing absolutely the right thing, but still reminded me to breathe in as well as breathe out. And then it was all done.
No tears! Check me! I even managed to lie on my side rather than my stomach for the ride back to the ward and stayed on my side for the next three hours, listening to Jerry Springer The Opera on my walkman and laughing at the swearing, because the epidural was now behind me and the painkilling could begin.