Arriving for surgery is a graduated process of admission into an inner sanctum that most people only ever rarely see and barely remember. Like the watch house after a big night. First, you’re fooled into thinking you’re about to stay overnight in a five star hotel. They have those gold luggage wheely things and everything. Stylish walls, comfortable lounges. There are signposts however, hints to remind you that you are handing over control of your everything to people you have never met and are unlikely to remember (they give you stuff to make you forget). The sense of vulnerability is uncomfortable. There is the signing of your name like a hundred times. There’s the file. My file was placed on the counter top as I was signing away and, being the curious person that I am, I had a little flick through. Who wouldn’t want to know what they’ve got on you in that file? When I returned to signing, the staff member behind the desk (not so) subtly slid the file along the counter and out of my reach like I was trying to access Scott Morrison’s Irregular Maritime Arrivals data.
Ater the fake five star hotel waiting area, there is another area where only one person is allowed to accompany you. After an hour or so I get interviewed and tagged. I felt I was getting closer to the exclusive bit. Except I wasn’t. Here is where you wait, starving, while your surgeon’s morning list blows out and instead of two hours you end up here for four. But finally, a sign of something more inner sanctumy happens and I am changed into their clothes. The paper undies! I’ve now been moved to another waiting area (having lost my husband two hours ago because he couldn’t stand all the not eating) to a chair with a number on it. Now I belong, almost. Yet another hour or so and Sonia Kruger comes in to take me to the waiting bay. Oh good, because I was keen to do some more waiting. Sonia Kruger and I hit it off somehow and in the two minute wheelchair ride from waiting room three to waiting room four, she managed to share with me her dilemma about whether or not to have a third child. I wasn’t able to offer her much useful advice because I was in the middle of fighting back a panic attack. The humour was not lost on me that I was actually there because of too many large children inside me.
I’ve finally made it to a bed and I’m exhausted. I feel that they may as well not bother with the general anaesthetic because I could sleep for days completely unassisted. Dashing Dr Sleep comes in though and I think hey, may as well use your services seeing as how I’ve paid you an hourly rate equivalent to that of Gina Rinehart. When I finally see the guy who will actually stick knives in my belly (let’s call him Dr Knives), I know this is real. He draws all over me with a Sharpie and I’m thinking, a Sharpie? Really? Isn’t there like a hospital type sterile version of Sharpie? I’m also thinking f*** it’s cold in here.
So I am drawn on, tagged, paper panted and ready to go. I get wheeled a long long way down some corridors, which is plenty of time for my panic to resurface and roll down my cheeks. Anther kind soul pats my hair just like your Mum would. And then there it is, the inner sanctum. Lots of people, lots of lights, fricking cold. My shaking is visible under the six blankets on top of me. There is some kind of kerfuffle with the blow up operating bed (yes I said blow up operating bed) and a comical scene ensues in which Dr Sleep and the nurses try to figure it out. What could possibly go wrong I say out loud, which seems to strike a disturbingly funny cord in the room and everybody laughs pretty big. Do you want me to name the ways, asks a nurse who I will call Nurse Ted, for reasons that will become apparent. No I really don’t, I reply. I really really don’t. Having lightened the mood, I’m now moved across to the blow up bed and people start putting needles in me. I notice it is about five to four. Nurse Ted knows I am almost in full panic mode and comes and stands really close. He holds my freezing, shaking hand in his massive, warm, bear like one and pats me. I tell him I’m alright and he says no you’re not. That thing happens when people are so kind to you it just makes more tears come. Nurse Ted wipes my tears away. I have a strong image of myself jumping up in front of him with a sword in my hand to protect him from the state government. But that might have been the drugs, because in the next moment, I am gone.
The clock says it’s about six thirty in the evening. I’m sore and dry and there are lots of tubes and short beeps. There is a nurse sitting right at my side. Let’s call him Gen-Y-Hipster-Bearded-Nurse-Guy. Gen-Y-Hipster-Bearded-Nurse-Guy was surreptitiously playing with his phone, which was hidden in the bedside table drawer a bit like you do at school. Hey there Hipster Nurse, I’m just saying but you know, if there ever was a moment that I can legitimately claim is all about me, this is it. This is a put your phone away moment yes? I decide not to argue. I can’t speak or move so there’s that, but if any of these short beeps turn into long uninterrupted beeps you better put that candy crushing aside dude.
I get wheeled up to the ward and I am delirious to discover that it is indeed just a bit like a hotel room and even better, that I have no roommate. Which is good because I was about to get inappropriate. I needed to, let’s just say adjust some things and exposure was a certainty. I was in need of some under the sheets adjustments and was shocked to discover that this whole gig came complete with what appeared to be a bonus full Brazilian. I know right now this may feel like far too much information; to say that I thought long and hard about the appropriateness of including this detail would be a complete lie. I’m just going to go with the fact that somebody put me in charge of my own drugs. Hospital. The only safe and clean place to have an acceptable love affair with controlled drugs.
It’s about three in the morning and the past twelve hours or so have got me thinking, not just about drugs, but about nurses. I guess in every profession, there are some who love their jobs and some who don’t. In the last twelve hours, I’ve yet to come across a single person who does not have a unique style of warmth and compassion that comes from within and cannot be taught. Every single person along the long chain of events that led me here to this high and painful moment, seemed to know exactly what to say to me and how to say it. Sonia Kruger knew that I needed a cheery, light conversation, one Mum to another, to keep my mind off my panic attack. Nurse Ted knew that it was all getting too much and, provided kindness and a warm hand to hold; some human connection in a cold and scary room. Nurse Business, my ward nurse, gave me practical, get the job done kindness. Even dear Nurse Hipster gave me material for a funny anecdote in this post.
Nurses work very very hard. For a very small percentage of what Dr Sleep and Dr Knives take home. Sure, Dr Sleep and Dr Knives have the expertise and the long long years of study. But without these good nurses, Drs Sleep and Knives would find that they are not nearly so successful at their jobs. Nurses change bed sheets, clean up shit, wee, vomit and blood, hold hands, wipe tears, make tea and have a whole range of clinical medical skills and knowledge and Doctors would be incompetent without them.
I had great doctors and I thank them, but the nurses pulled me through. Thankyou.