Not The Weekend I Was Expecting

As I start typing, it’s about 11.00am Saturday morning and I am laying in a hospital bed having been admitted yesterday afternoon due to a suspected “incarcerated umbilical hernia”. A long way from Silverstone, where I should be on the Caterham Academy 2011 handling day.

I have suffered with, what I now know to be an “everted umbilicus” (sticky out belly button as the children would say) for the last few years, my only concern being a cosmetic one, created by a weight increase over the past decade I assumed.

As I entered the Caterham Academy for 2011 I started a dedicated weight loss regime through change of diet, lifestyle and exercise from October 2010. With such a high drop in weight over these past months and consolidated by consultants and surgeons yesterday as a good thing, I thought this condition would have disappeared by now with such weight losses. Indeed it was my plan to pop into the quacks in the summer if such everted protrusion was still visible.

Yesterday morning I woke to a tremendous pain in my abdomen, initially put down to the ‘no pain, no gain’ aftereffects from Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s ‘beasting’ in the gym. However and jumping into the shower before heading for the office, while washing I found said umbilicus to be hard and sore, including the surrounding area. Suspecting a hernia as I have heard of such complaints, at 10.00am I telephoned my GP and obtained a noon appointment.

As eggs are eggs, the quack (pardon the pun) confirmed my prognosis but instead of dismissing me with the favoured ‘I’ll give you some pills and go away” answer, bowled me over when she used the word “operate” and “today” in the same sentence! A quick telephone call later and I was told to attend the Acute Assessment Unit at Basingstoke Hospital.

Appraising people by email at home of the situation and grabbing some things, it was about 2.00pm by the time we reached the hospital and within 30 minutes of me arriving at the unit, I was  having a blood sample taken, checked for MRSA, barraged with a thousand and one questions followed by a little pushing and prodding by a trainee (though under the supervision of the House Nurse (which I was happy about)) as to my condition. Blood pressure and ECG readings were taken (56 BPM resting heart rate which I hear is good) and I was taken back to the waiting area. No more than 5 minutes later, the trainee, House Nurse and Consultant came along discussing things once again and stating that a bed was being allocated.

The funny thing is, I was quite excited at the prospect of surgery as I have never really been a patient in a hospital, well not requiring a bed anyway. My wife was with me and our youngest daughter, who had been discussing doctors, nurses and hospitals at nursery. She was quite intrigued to know I was going to get an X-Ray and wanting to come with, but before she could control her excitement a porter was on the manor instructing me to sit. “I’m happy to walk” I admitted, but her beaming smile was all that was needed and my daughter’s “Can I come too” plea, for me to take a seat in the wheelchair and be whisked away to a ward.

Not a minute since our arrival at the bedside, when another smiling lady with a name badge of ‘Staff Nurse’ was introducing herself and handing me a gown. Curtains closed I was told I could remain in Civies as we would have ten minutes subsequent to me being called to theatre.

“Deep Vain Thrombosis” was mentioned and another nurse, male this time was measuring my calfs again with a smile stating he was going to issue me with tights very much akin to those you may wear while flying. Me, I was more worried that such attire would not do any favours as I am still haunted by Doris Luke‘s varicose vein socks storyline in Crossroads (aired between 1964 and 1988).

My wife decided to go home with the promise she would come back later with my laptop, DVD drive, headphones and DVDs. While away two more smiling nurses came in, this time holding a saline drip bag and wanting to plug me in. By this time I had already put on Ms Luke’s tights and it became quite apparent that my shirt would have to come off in exchange for the aforementioned hospital gown. Thankfully my embarrassment was diluted in that everyone else in the ward was wearing similar and there was no-one hear I knew and certainly no cameras.

Alone and with boredom setting in already, I reached for my trusted iPhone and started to re-appraise friends and colleagues by text and email, plus of course the obligatory ‘Facebook update’! It was nice to read some kind and comical remarks which lightened the mood. However, no grapes had arrived.

The anesthetist was next to arrive, the time now about 6.00pm. Quite surreal really as less than six hours ago I was in the quacks waiting room expecting to be ejected with a prescription for antibiotics. The anesthetist was too smiling and asking many questions, including asking me to move my head and jaw in various positions. No, nope, none, null were typical answers to the majority of her questions, in that I had no past medical issues and no allergies. She explained exactly what was going to happen and that she expected me to be called in about an hour, around 7.00pm to 7.30pm.

Are you seeing a trend here? Lots of polite and smiling people who I could see the distinct ethos of professionalism with a caring persona. Other patients within the ward were being treated with dignity and privacy when needed and I started to understand why the NHS is so important within our society and why we should all support hospital staff, from porter and tea lady to consultant and surgeon.

My wife popped back at 7.30pm and typically non-technical, brought my laptop with USB connector than DVD drive. Smiling, I jovially asked whether she could get a DVD into a USB slot!

We then sat and waited until 08.45pm when I was beckoned by two Pilipino theatre nurses to get ready. Having been told earlier that I would walk to theatre, I laid back on the bed for the short ride to the anesthetic room. Smiling and chit chatting away, I was looking towards the ceiling lights whisking past, reminiscing those US drama series when typically someone is too being whisked to theatre with a gunshot wound! Entering the theatre anesthetic room, my wife was asked to wait outside and would be called when I was in recovery.

It was now 9.00pm and there was a shift change. I was introduced to three anesthetic nurses who again exchanged pleasantries while we waited for Marjorie to come too, the other side of the theatre doors. It was now that I learnt that this was the emergency theatre and albeit my surgery was not critical, it was if a severe nature. We waited another half an hour while Marjorie came too, hearing her name being called the other side of the doors. The surgeon introduced himself and shook my hand and took a look at the job at hand. Explaining the procedure and any ‘what if’ scenarios, the new shift anesthetist came in too and questioning me again, got me breathing some gas while pumping white fluid into my arm. I noticed the time was 9.40pm.

The next thing I recall was waking in the recovery room with the pain gone, or well, until I moved and a few minutes later, my wife came into the room. I don’t remember much as I was still a little woozy.However I was able to drink water for a sore throat as I had been ‘Nil by Mouth’ since arrival at the hospital and three parts of a rather large dose of morphine was syringed into me, which became my best friend quite fast. I was taken back to the ward about 1.30am when my wife went home and I settled down for the night.

The night could be considered as comfortable, though not too much turning in bed as it was a little painful, though my sleep was interrupted more by the constant snoring and coughing of the other patients on the ward, more so the guy two beds away who was not only talking in his sleep, but sounded like he was making a public address for 10 minutes at a time!

I finally woke about 6.30am this morning with the saline drip plugged in my arm, though for the first time in 24 hours fancied a piss! Problem was, do I drag the drip around with me or wait until a nurse comes along. During this few minutes of deliberation, my thoughts must of been heard as the smiling nurse came along, holding a urine bottle and asking for a sample. Hallelujah, I was uncoupled from the drip and hobbled out of bed to the little boys room.

Once back in bed, it was time to start catching up on Facebook and Twitter chit chat and emails. Quite honestly I think I would have gone stir crazy unless I was able to interact with the outside world. Kind words and gestures were coming through the virtual world, though still no grapes in my reality ward!

The sun was now bright and shining through the window and other patients were starting to wake. “Tea or Coffee” was being announced by the tea lady, again another beaming smile and it was great to have a cuppa for the first time in a day. Breakfast followed soon after and a quick look on the menu, found it to be more akin to a typical hotel style room service menu, though settling for a low carb porridge and OJ being kippers and poached eggs were off the menu 🙂

It was about 9.00am when the surgeon came by. He explained that the operation went well as expected. He said that he was able to address the hernia with little trouble though perhaps if I was admitted just a few hours later, there would have been additional complications. My main concern now was a planned holiday in just over a fortnight and next weekend’s trip to Spa. The holiday shouldn’t be a problem he said, though any Motorsport should also be off the agenda for a month at mimimum. Indeed he said I should keep away from lifting any heavy weights for three months! Drastic news as this now scuttles any gym activity at least until I get back from holiday, if not longer and of course, this weekend’s Academy handling days, Tuesday’s track day, next weekend’s planned trip to Spa Francorchamps and my first planned test day at Brands Hatch a week Tuesday, all now will need to be cancelled. What a bummer! Asking when I may be able to go home, his answer was only if I was able to make a bowl movement, interesting I thought as I have been ‘Nil by mouth’ and until breakfast, had not eated since Thursday night.

Resting for the next hour or so, it was amazing to watch the nursing staff take care of the other and older patients around me. Treating each patient as an individual and tending their individual needs, helping with breakfast, changing beds and washing were duties undertaken. The nursing staff were certainly calm and reassuring to patient needs, one lady helping an older patient answer and make calls on his mobile phone, a device he had never used before though left by his son last night.

It was 10.45am and I had another visit from the surgeon, this time with the House Nurse, Consultant, trainee and two other people, asking how I felt. They were all happy with my progress but reinforced the surgeon’s previous comments about gym, Motorsport and weight lifting restrictions. The good news was that I could go home later that afternoon. No time was given but my dressing would need to be changed and pain killer drugs to be dispensed.

I now had time to deliberate and it then struck me, I would have to cancel four track and test days, the next time I will drive Miss Daisy would be the 29th April at Anglesey, the day before the first Academy competitive event at Aintree on the 30th. What a complete bummer but with foresight, albeit disappointing for the next month or so, if this was to have happened in a fortnight time, I would certainly have had to cancel the family Easter holiday and certainly would miss the first sprint at Aintree, if not the second at Curborough too.

So here I start to write this blog post while waiting for drugs to be dispensed and dressing to be changed and of course, put wheels in motion to see if I can amend and cancel both business and personal appointments before holiday.

So all’s well that ends well. I was allowed to leave about 3.30pm today and as I said to my daughter, when I got home, daddy won’t have his ‘sticky out’ belly button on the beach! My thanks goes to all the NHS staff and I look forward to getting on track again soon.