76: Short term pain for long term gain

Having survived the first night I had another 20 hours or so under the bair hugger.  A staff nurse looked after me all that day (10th July), measured my inputs and outputs and the 15 minute observations changed to 30 minutes and then hourly as the day progressed.

There is a routine and flow about a hospital ward.  After rounds breakfast was served, followed by a morning drink, a member of the housekeeping team takes an order for supper, visitors arrive on the ward, the cleaning team do their work, the drugs are dished out from a locked trolley.  My room had a window to the outside world, a window to the nurses station and a big window which looked onto the ward.  Fortunately, they all had blinds as otherwise it was like being in a goldfish bowl.  The door had a blue blind which went around it and I asked for this to be drawn too as just in my line of vision was a poor gentleman in a bay close to the nurses station who had a large dressing over half his face and when I looked over he was the person I could see and it made me feel a bit  nauseous.

I drifted in and out of sleep during the day, I was firmly attached to the bed via drains, etc and covered by the bair hugger so the room was fairly tropical.  The window and the door were shut to keep the heat in.  One reason why sleep was so intermittent was the explosive calf socks which had to be worn to keep my circulation going.  Just as I was drifting off there would be a loud “pffff” and one of the calf socks (no doubt they have a proper medical name) would expand and squeeze my calf.  I started to count in between the “pfff” but that didn’t send me off either.

Legs in ward

Nick returned to see me in the evening just as the housekeeping teams were delivering supper – a crisp turkey salad.  It was nice and Nick enjoyed eating most of it. I didn’t have any appetite, not least due to the heat and the amount of water I’d been drinking.

As in the morning all the activity ramped up to prepare for the handover to the night shift.  At about 8pm Sister D was back on duty and making sure I was comfortable.  She looked at the flap over the new boob and did the capillary rebound test.  She didn’t like the colour it appeared to be and by 9pm one of the plastics team came to see it.  He had a slightly new technique as he pressed the handles of a pair of scissors onto the flap, counted to 5 and then counted the time for the refill… it appeared to be taking more than 2 seconds.  He then called his boss and a Major from the Army Medical Corps duly arrived and examined the flap.  Was a vein? Was it a bruise? Was the blood flowing.  He started talking about taking me to theatre and investigating what was going on – I groaned (how ungrateful) and said I didn’t want any more surgery, but he said it was a possibility.  They had also phoned the consultant, Mr A.  He then appeared in theatre scrubs and looked at the flap.  The surgeons had a good old conflab at the end of the bed, Mr A looked again and said it is fine and take the bair hugger off…. hallelujah.  He was keen to get this off as my skin has started to blister where it was in contact with the cling film element of the dressings.

The relief of being just under a sheet (with the gamgee over my chest) was fabulous.  Once the surgeons had left, with the youngest one promising to look in later, Sister D changed the dressings on the top of my tummy over one drain and the one under my arm.  She applied some form of barrier ointment to the blisters which had ripped as the dressing came off and used sterile scissors to cut, drain and dress the other blisters.  It was easier to sleep without the hot air blowing over me.  Crisis averted, new tummy boob still viable only bruised and no need to head to theatre.  Phew.

Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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