When I had my pre-op assessment in October 2018 I’d been issued with Hibiscrub and Bactroban to ensure that I didn’t have any issues with MSSA Methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus. Dr Google says this about it “MSSA normally presents as pimples, boils, abscesses or infected cuts, but also may cause pneumonia and other serious skin infections. MSSA affects people of all ages and has been known to cause outbreaks among sports teams, families, prison inmates and people who live and work in close quarters, such as military recruits”. My guess is that I probably picked it up at one of the schools I’ve worked at. I’ve never had boils, abscesses or infected cuts or pneumonia but I am very careful about washing my hands and using hand sanitiser when at school. As with before the mastectomy it was a case of washing from the top of your head to the soles of your feet in Hibiscrub for 3 days prior to surgery and sticking Bactroban up your nose three times a day for 3 days too.
My backpack was packed with essentials which I’d been told about from one of the online forums I’d been following. Hand held mini fan, extra long charging cable, book, wet wipes for face and body, cordial, sports bottle with built in straw, few snacks and boiled sweets. One nightie, huge Bridget Jones support knickers, sports bra, dressing gown and slippers (but I forgot to put these in). I’d had a last big drink of water at 6.30am and by 7.15am we were on the road. The traffic was light, there was no issue parking near Oncology and then walking around the back of the hospital to Freedom Ward to check in.
I handed my letter over inviting me to turn up and Nick and I went into a side waiting room. There were only a couple of other people there, it was warm so we opened the window.. then two Prison Guards appeared with a sallow, lanky, dark haired prisoner who was handcuffed to one of them. It was interesting! The prisoner wore washed out jeans and a blue striped shirt whilst the Prison Officers wore their uniforms. They all seemed quite affable but before I could be any more inquisitive my name was called and it was through to the next room.
Here one lady in scrubs handed me over to another – Chrissy, wife of one my colleagues who was just lovely and put both Nick and I at ease. The clock was ticking for theatre and there was no faffing. Chrissy went through my pre-op documents, attached the wrist band with QR code, name and hospital number. Next it was clothes off, into the gown and wrestle with the surgical stockings.. I had left my new slippers at home so had to put on my shoes until they found some polyester slip on things for me. Back in the small office there was a new visitor. A young surgeon (he looked about 12), very softly spoken with a South African accent had the double page A3 yellow document of death for me to sign (consent form). He went through all the contra indications – bleeding to death, infection, failure of new boob, brain injury…. I still signed it. Next Mr A appeared in scrubs wielding a marker pen. I stood up and he drew some hieroglyphics over my tummy – dots and lines, he then measured the nipple on my good side and drew a line on the cannonball. Yesterday when he’d examined me I’d pointed out the scar where the sentinal lymph biopsy had been carried out and he told me he’d be plumbing in the new boob into the vein in my axilla (underarm!) and into my chest. I’d imagined that they would just be opening up the area where the nipple had been but that wasn’t big enough to push my tummy fat in. I told Mr A that his colleague was about 12 and asked if he was a real doctor, was that a stick on beard and tattoos that the youngster had glued on to face and chest… but no he really was a doctor – I think Mr A is about my age, perhaps a bit younger and fortunately he laughed. I did ask if doing this sort of surgery was like a recipe and he said yes there were different phases of the operation. The first phase would be to remove the cannonball. I didn’t ask to keep it as a paperweight as I’d be delighted to see the back of it.
In the next moment I was laughing as I met Mr B the consultant in anesthesia. Mr B told me I could call him by his first name but Nick would have to call him Mr B. He was extremely funny Scottish chap and put me at my ease, he knew Inverness and the Black Isle where my dad’s family are from. He looked at my hands and wrists and said “ummm good man veins” those will be easy to use then we talked a bit about pain relief and he said see you in a minute. We agreed that I wouldn’t have oramorph as that makes me sick and that was all I was worried about. He asked what I did and it turns out he has a child who is at our studio school. Plymouth is a village. When nervous I need to pee… so I asked to go to the loo before we got going. As I walked out I saw Salvo our friend from Stoke, Salvo is a surgeon and was in scrubs and white wellies. He gave me a hug and shook Nick’s hand… “don’t worry Mr O, she will be fine”. It seems Derriford Hospital is village too.
It was time to go. I handed over the bag of treats for “break time”, Nick gave me a kiss and said “see you tonight”, it was about 8am and the theatre was waiting. Chrissy walked me the short distance to the anesthetic room, I hadn’t forgotten my name or why I was there and hopped onto the bed offering my man veins for the sharp scratch..I don’t even remember if I was lying down. There was no time to listen to up town funk or anything else I was asleep, zonked out and would remain that way for the next 6-8 hours. Phase one done.