February 9, 2018

7.00 am: Rise. The weather was angry and inconsolable. A ‘beginfast’, as opposed to a breakfast, was the order of the morning. I so missed that first cup of tea. 7.45 am: Preparations for my return to teaching (mid week) needed to be completed, my inbox emptied, and registers updated. Putting my affairs in order, as it were. Too dramatic? Perhaps. On the other hand: ‘Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring’ (Proverbs 27.1).

While searching for a defunct cassette tape to unwind some days back, I alighted upon:

It, too, was now inoperable. I’d purchased the album, released in 1973, one Saturday afternoon at one of the several independent record shops in Abertillery. My first experience of the music was in mono on a Sanyo AutoStop System G2000 cassette recorder, which was later also made inoperable after a circuit-bending session. The album was very hissy. So much so, that I couldn’t hear the very quiet parts. There’s something about the physicality of cassettes – their rattleyness, contours, moulding, hiddenness, and moving parts – that makes the CD format seem so coldly efficient and anonymous. At night, I used to lie in bed with the cassette recorder on the pillow beside my head, playing the music softly. I didn’t use the flesh-coloured monaural earpiece that came with the recorder; it made the sound resemble a crystal radio set. And, there’s something disconcerting about hearing music only in one ear. ‘Mono headphones?’ Not in Abertillery. And not on my pocket money.

10.00 am: All set: admission papers; iPhone; iPad/keyboard; iPod (my old 5th Generation), noise-cancelling headphones (you could not have imagined such a thing when I was young); book to read; Book of Common Prayer to console; notebook; pen; slippers; dressing gown; hairbrush; etc. (‘You’re only there until late afternoon, John!’)

10.40 am: Off to the hospital (which is little beyond a stone’s throw from my home) and the Day Surgical Unit. Then, the wait:

11.10 am: Onto the ward for a pre-operation assessment. Bronglais Hospital is a relatively small and very supportive environment. The staff are efficient, busy, and polite. Every so often, doctors walked passed my bed carrying cups of tea and coffee. (This was torture.) I’d not had a cuppa since 1.30 pm yesterday. I connected to the Cloud in order to monitor the outside world. But I was content to remain in my warm and scrubbed-clean bubble, with nothing to do other than reflect, read, and write, while listening to the bleeps of monitors and other patients’ consultations close by. The operation was scheduled for mid afternoon. The NHS, embattled as it is, rises above the limitations imposed upon it, maintains dignity and courtesy, and ploughs on with a determination and grit, like the British during the war. Exemplary, laudable, and astonishing. We should be far more grateful:

The physician drew:

The risks associated with the operation were described in some detail. It pays to be not too idealistic in one’s expectations. The lunch trolley passed. (Sigh!) The smell of hospital food filled the ward. Any food smells delicious when you’re hungry. The surgery session would begin at 1.30 pm. I waited in a queue like an aeroplane for its turn on the runway. (The patient patient.) Several other non-definable medics checked vitals and confirmed my identity and which arm required attention. 1.35 pm: I disrobed and dressed in a rather fetching pale-blue gown (back to front, the first time) for action (or, rather, profound inaction). Soon, I would lose an hour of my life irredeemably while in a state of near oblivion. Curiously, the prospect excited me:

To my left, the first aeroplane took off. The anaesthetist came from behind the curtain to ascertain answers to questions that I’d been asked twice already. But I could appreciate the need for thoroughness and to avoid litigation. Apparently, the anaesthetic included eggs among its components.

2.40 pm: I was wheeled to the Preparation Room, where the anaesthetic was administered, and, then, into Theatre. As the bed moved into the operating table, I remember thinking: ‘What extraordinary equipment they have in her …………. ‘. (Gone. I’d surrendered to Morpheus. ) 3.50 pm: I opened my eyes again in the Recovery Room, feeling like Dorothy awaking back in Kansas.

After a stint back in the main ward, and several cups of very welcome tea and a bowl of rice crispies, I was in a position to appreciate the onset of pain and inspect the ‘damage’:

5.40 pm: Release. ‘I’ll be back’ (I thought, in an Austrian accent) for my right arm to receive the same treatment. As medical interventions go, I couldn’t have hoped to receive better attention.

6.30 pm: Home, dinner, catch up, and rest.

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