On the 8th of Feb I woke up at 3pm having been under general anaesthetic for just under 6 hours. I woke up feeling calm, relaxed and reasonably aware. The first thing I noticed was that I was in a ward with three other people opposite me, that it was daytime and then I lifted my left arm and saw that I didn't have a dressing there. I also didn't have a feeding tube in my nose. Immediately I knew that this meant best case scenario and that the surgeons had decided on Plan A! (See blog 3 for Plan A & B)
Day of partial glossectomy and neck dissection surgery
I got up at 5.30am which allowed me to have my pre-op drinks and some water before the 6am cut-off for me to have nothing more to drink. We woke the girls at 06:30 and Jo and I bundled them into the car and headed to the hospital. I was due in at 7.15am to prepare for the surgery. I was calm but very tense in the morning, it helped that I needed to put on a calm happy demeanour for Maya and Erin.
Jo dropped me at the door (COVID meant she wasn't allowed in) and it was hard for both of us to say bye because of not knowing the extent of the surgery I was going to go through. I imagine Jo felt helpless and somewhat alone as I walked off to the pre-op department.
After bloods, observations, chat with Physio, chat with Aneasthetist and final chat with Surgeons I donned the infamous backless gown and waited for about an hour to go through to theatre.
As I was taken into theatre it was a lot to take in. The room was full of people, possibly 12-15, it being a university hospital there were a number of trainees too. I tried to take everything in and wasn't sure who I should be looking at because the room was just full of people wearing masks and scrubs, it was impossible to say hello to that many people meaningfully in 10 seconds as someone quickly ushered me onto the table under a warming air blanket. The operating table was oddly narrow but that makes sense because otherwise the surgeons would have to lean far over and would get easily fatigued. Surgeon Mr Hughes popped in briefly to say hello and I was very grateful that he did and felt comforted as he'd been so good in leading my initial consultations. The anaesthetists put a needle in my arm, gas on my face and although I know I was awake for more I don't remember anything else. Maybe my short term memory didn't get a chance to save the data in my long term. I know they put three cannulas in my arm, one in my groin, pipe in my nose, catheter up my you know what and I think that was it.
Then the next thing was waking up to the best news I've had in months. Plan A it was. Apparently Etienne the other surgeon spoke to me then but I don't remember that at all. I felt like I could get up and go home then except I was attached to the bed by two drains from my neck and my catheter. The drains are to draw excess liquid from the wound in my neck. I was smiling inanely and waving and chatting to everyone, the nurse looking after me pronounced her name "Cheery". The other patients in the recovery room weren't as excited as me.. I only got one polite wave back.
At 4pm I was transferred to ward 609, room 6.19 bed 8. And had a little tub of cheap chocolate ice cream which I enjoyed immensely.
That night I struggled to sleep. I could only sleep on my back or my right side and the drains
were getting caught and tugging on my neck. I was struggling with saliva as well because I couldn't move it around easily and swallowing was painful. It's amazing how much your tongue does all the time.. focus on it for a few minutes sometime. I got about 5 or 6 hours of sleep in short stints and wide awake in between. Ivor 'shouty man' next to me was talking all night till about 6am and Graham opposite corner (end of life care) was very aggressive and personally insulting to the nurses when they they were attending to him in the evening, that's all I've heard from him in two days. Rob opposite, lovely bloke from Somerset, had lung cancer tumour removed, he has a drain from his lung. He's been in for a month but hopefully he'll be going home soon.
Dr Cox and Surgeon Etienne came to see me first thing and talked through how the surgery
went. The nerve damage was for me the main worrying aspect as it could potentially impact my work through losing strength in my shoulder but they had good news for me in that all the important nerves had been preserved. They are somewhat bruised so I have a lot of numbness on the left side. The best bonus bit of news is that Etienne managed to preserve the nerve to the front of my left tongue, it's numb now but feeling will come back and this
will greatly help my speech recovery. I know the docs always prepare you for the worst but I'm so happy with the outcome, the sense of relief is uplifting. I didn't even dare to hope for this surgery outcome. We will still wait for the outcome of the Lymph gland biopsy and take it from there.
I had a good day overall, spoke to family and some close friends on video calls and was up on my feet for a couple of hours. I could feel my body slowing down as the anaesthetic
hangover started to kick in and the endorphins stopped flowing. My blood pressure has been high since coming out of theatre but it is coming down again gradually.
I had a good night's sleep. Saw Dr Cox and Mr Hughes this morning and they're still very
happy with progress. They might push my release back to Fri/Sat but head and neck nurse Rob has said it could still be tomorrow depending whether my remaining drain keeps going so we'll see later or in the morning. I've had one drain taken out this morning which was a very odd experience. The pipe went under my skin from just below my adams apple to under my ear. The two pipes cross over each other to drain excess fluid from the area operated in the neck dissection. Jenna, speech and language therapist has just been and is very happy with progress too. My tongue is more swollen and my speech worse than yesterday, Jenna however said she thought it was very good even now so that's great news.
My friend Claire who's a respiratory physio therapist here popped in to see me this morning so it was nice to see half a familiar face. I thought I would feel worse in myself today but I'm actually feeling ok. Reminiscing and listening to some 90s hip hop (Cypress Hill, Mos Def, Busta Rhymes, Dre, Fugees, Nas, Freestylers....). I feel a little bit on the low side and drained but a chilled day of tunes, napping, watching movies and a couple of video calls will see me through.
I'm in a mixed ward with lots of different people with different problems. The ward is sandwiched in the middle of the hospital so nothing to see out the windows, except more hospital and windows. Outside one window I can see a bit of sky and there is some anti bird netting with a dead seagull in it. Is this what it's like in prison? I nearly got stuck outside the ward, I was exploring for a bit of exercise and went out the ward door.. I had to dash back in as the automatic door closed when I realised only a pass opens the door from outside. That's the extent of today's excitement. Rob opposite is still here, poor chap, he's not being given a clear idea about if he can go home. He's not well, he has air leaking from his lung under his skin but he's frustrated with being stuck here. I'm on meals that are called 'Level 4', basically they cream everything and reshape it to look like the original thing. It's better than only being able to eat mashed potato, gravy, custard, ice cream or yoghurt.
I'm not allowed visitors at all so Jo arranged a little care package that my bro and his wife dropped off with some diet additions that will help me to keep the intake at a healthier level. In it was also a cycling magazine and handmade cards from my girls so all is well.
I just woke up from an epic 2.5 hour deep sleep this afternoon and Rob has gone home, I'm sorry I didn't get to say goodbye and good luck.