Tuesday, 10 March 2015

So Del was saying to me the other day, "I am so happy with my life right now. Everything is great... This can't be right. Something terrible must be about to happen." And I have to admit I had the same feeling. What the heck, things NEVER work out this well. Also I have been working on my brain a lot (mostly perceptions, goals, strategies for managing The Anxiety, that sort of thing) and am not used to feeling quite so enlightened.

But don't worry, the universe has righted itself.

I was terrified about the surgery (because I always secretly think I'm going to die on the operating table) but actually it went really well. Super interesting to compare the New Haven/private Yale insurance experience with the NHS, because it was almost exactly the same surgery. For the Yale one, they had me come in for a full health checkup beforehand, and sent me a bunch of post including a giant '80s-illustrated book about What To Do Before Your Surgery. The NHS called me up about five seconds before and asked if I could fill in for someone who had dropped out. They did call me the day before and actually tell me which hospital and which ward, and also what time, so that was helpful... but yeah, not a lot of info.

On the day - the New Haven clinic was pretty posh, nice waiting room for Dad, glassed-in receptionist... I think they even had one of those pod coffee machines (not that I could eat or drink). They took me back to a private area and made me take a pregnancy test, then the incompetent nurse screwed it up and dumped my urine sample, and then I had to be stuck with an IV to give me 45 min of fluids before I could give another one. (NOT FUN).

The NHS - there were four beds, with all the patients just hanging out with whoever brought them in. Nurse was super, though. No preg test - they just asked if you were and left it at that. They let you write down what you wanted to eat after and brought the anesthesiologist, surgeon and about five med students around to say hi (and draw on my leg).

Then I had to wait around for quite a while. If I recall correctly, they put me under in New Haven in the same private area - but at the Nuffield I got to go for a ride all the way upstairs in my bed, pushed by an Australian porter*! So that was pretty cool. The surgeon asked if I was "Mrs or Miss" for my sick note, so I said "Doctor", and he sniffed and wrote Miss**. But the anesthesiologist was great, no messing around and she gave me some anti-emetics so I didn't feel sick after.

In New Haven, I woke up to a nurse shouting and me and sternly telling me I took a really long time to come around. Not so in Oxford, where it was much calmer, and the nurse was super helpful and went and brought me toast and tea and blackcurrant jam. The physio came by eventually and showed me how to crutch, and had me practice walking up and down stairs. Then she gave me a photocopied book of exercises and had me practice them. (New Haven: Six weeks free physio at a super posh gym, with dedicated physiotherapist and handouts and physio bands to take home). 

After a while Del came back, and eventually the surgeon came down to tell me what was up. Bad news though - there was a small additional tear as well as the fragments, AND he saw evidence of degenerative damage. This is what I feared, given the state of Mom's knees. He said he wouldn't advise running or anything involving pounding :( BUT! He did say it might be okay for short periods if I wear super padded shoes. We shall see. Clearly not going anywhere for a while at least.

Anyway, since then have basically been sitting on the couch. I've weaned off the worst of the meds and have been doing my little exercises, so now am able to mostly bend my leg. Crutches are much more awesome than the US ones, but still haven't braved the stairs. Considering working from home tomorrow since I feel kinda guilty (although the surgeon gave me a note for THREE WEEKS off so really, it should be fine).

Can't wait to be up and running again, though. So to speak.

* Heard about his potential weekend BBQ.

** Surgeons here go by "Mr" for some reason, so maybe he was jealous.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

more surgery

It's been a difficult week, medically speaking. Del could barely get out of bed on Monday (he works with a large number of those disease vectors known as parents) and was off Tuesday as well. They let him work from home on Wed so as not to re-spread the germs. I thought I had avoided it - felt a bit off on Monday but was fine the other days - but woke up exhausted and headachy and very ill today. Bah. I stayed home and hopefully will be fine tomorrow.

Meanwhile, my supervisor's wife has been very ill and he has barely been in the lab, and one of our collaborators has had to go home to Finland (?) as she's caught pneumonia.

Then today, while swooning on the couch feeling sorry for myself, the Nuffield Orthopaedic hospital called to say there'd been a cancellation, and could I come in for surgery on Saturday! Yikes! This is very similar to how they booked my MRI - the consultant said he put me on the list, then I suddenly got a call on a Saturday morning at 8am asking if I could come in for a 10am slot. Efficient but not big on notice, has been my NHS experience. I can only compare this to the American experience, which involved being sent a lot of letters about exactly what needed to be done, where to be, what to have on hand etc, and then given a full medical examination before they'd touch my knee. However, this is just an arthroscopic surgery to fish out a fragment (of cartilage, I assume) that either didn't get picked up in the first surgery or broke off later. So maybe it's less major. The doc thinks the fragment is causing my symptoms (knee locking up, soreness, knee feeling like it's twisting the wrong direction) so hopefully this will sort it all out once again.

Anyway, no idea what to expect but the receptionist says someone will call tomorrow and hopefully tell me what to expect. Luckily I now have a permanent Del, so no need to get anyone to fly out and take care of me!