STORIES Breast Cancer Awareness Doing the double part 2 First night post op was unpleasant. When I’ve been for my pre surgery appointments I was told I’d wear a ‘bair hugger’ after the surgery. It sounded lovely. A lightweight blanket that filled with warm air to keep the boobs warm and aid healing. It sounded lovey on a crisp March morning, being snuggled under a pillow of warm air. The reality however was quite different. I was hot anyway and this thing just made me so hot and miserable. I couldn’t wait to get it off. I had 2 oxygen tubes up my nose that just itched constantly. I had a catheter in. I had a morphine drip in one side. I had a saline drip in another cannula. An IV drip of something else in my foot. I was well and truly ‘hooked up’. Nearly all of them itchy and uncomfortable. The morphine drip was self administered but I could only push it once every 20 minutes. The light would come on to say I could now have more and I couldn’t press it quick enough. The pain was just mounting and mounting. At some point in the night I pointed out my button had stopped working. The nurse looked into it and I’d maxed out the daily limit. No more morphine for a while. So it was on to pots of painkillers. Whatever they could give me. Just make the pain stop. Getting any sleep with all of this going on was nearly impossible. As morning started to come round I was getting worse and worse. I was in pain. Everything was uncomfortable. I started pulling the oxygen out of my nose, ripping the ‘bair hugger’ from me chest and grabbing anything to vomit in. I remember screaming in pain and then I retched. That was it. I blacked out. I came round to a sea of floating heads over my bed. There were about 10 filling every gap around my bed. The head holding my throat said “she’s back”…. Where did I go?? What was happening?! I was drifting in and out of consciousness and just catching snippets of what was going on. The angelic blonde head over my shoulder said “we’ll look after you, don’t worry”. So confused. Was I still alive?? Or was this Heaven’s receptionist checking me in?? “The Angel Gabriel will show you to your room now….” I had no idea what was going on. They were talking about the huge amount of blood collecting in my drains (a weeks worth in 2 hours). They were discussing surgery, blood transfusions, oxygen, morphine, what was causing this? All I could think was just cut off my head and get me a new body!! This one is screwed! The floating heads were shouting commands at each other and words I didn’t understand were going over my head. Then the head above my head shouted “STOP, lets start at the head who is doing what??” One by one the heads stated what they were doing. With 3 cannulas in one arm, one in my foot, a blood pressure cuff around my leg, 2 people on my arm, Everyone was grabbing and prodding to get blood out, get drugs in, just keep me alive! Blood pressure was low. Very low. I could feel my eyes closing again as someone whacked some pads on my chest. “NOW” Blackout She’s back Voices carried on floating over my bed. I could not think at all. I tried to keep my eyes open but it was fighting a losing battle. They would keep shouting “STAY WITH US!” I’m trying!Eventually I was keeping my eyes open longer and the the floating heads started to come into focus. They told me I’d need a blood transfusion before emergency surgery. A piece of paper appeared before me to sign for my consent. They went through bits but I didn’t care, just do it. Just stop this!! Everything was happening so quick, they mentioned transfusion then what seemed like seconds later 2 bags of blood were at the foot of my bed. Two more bags were waiting in the fridge for surgery. As the clean blood started to flow into my veins I started to feel more stable. Peoples voices began to sound more regulated, there was less panic in the air. Some of the heads started to get legs and walk around. A new head and body arrived to tell me what the surgery would involve. The nurses said I should have someone here. I knew my mum would be just starting the school run and it would only worry her. So I said phone my sister. They took my phone and asked her name…cue awkward pause….”Smelly Cat”. May be time to start saving people under normal names! She didn’t answer so they asked for someone else. Phone the ex husband. They got through to him and he would head straight here. Then Smelly Cat phones back. She was on her way too. Two of the nurses stayed with me and just chatted to me while we waited. I have no idea what about but I know it was comforting. It felt like they were my best friends, and we were just having a bit of a goss before going out on a Saturday night. As time passed it became clear my “guests” wouldn’t arrive in time. I felt so guilty that they’d turn up and I wouldn’t even be there having made both of them drive all the way over! But we needed to get down to theatre. So it was back down to the loading bay and in for surgery round 2. 5 hours later…. It was such a relief to wake up without the pain of the previous few hours. I felt like I’d had a new body attached! But the dreaded bair hugger was back on. The surgeon came in to talk me through what had happened. She said it was a lot of little things that all added up rather than one big thing. The final straw seemed to be my retching opening one of the internal wounds causing a haemotoma (pool of blood caused by internal bleeding) the surgery sealed off the offending blood vessel and flushed out the area. As we came out of recovery and were heading up to the ward I could hear a familiar voice…my brother. He lives in Singapore and had flown over a few days before to see my before the op then the plan was he was visiting me today before his flight. I kind of messed that up though with my dramatics. He was having to leave for his flight but wanted to see me. So it was a very quick hello as he walked with me round to the ward, took a quick picture of us together then he was off. Not quite how we had intended on spending time together before he left! I arrived back on the ward feeling a million dollars and a bit of a celebrity! Patients, nurses, porters, all of them made a passing comment“Gave us a fright there love”“Well that was a bit of drama”“You look like a different person!” Catherine and Matt were also there to keep me grounded…”bloody drama queen!” All the floating heads came to see me at various points to let me know what had happened. All provided various snippets. I’d told the doctor off who was holding open my airway as she was hurting my neck. I’d demanded cherry Coke as I was being wheeled down to theatre. The usual! Catherine and Matt stayed for quite a while. Catherine couldn't believe how much brighter I seemed after this surgery than the last. I felt better too. Then matt went to swap places with my mum so she could come up. I think relief was the overriding emotion of the evening. As I began to get tired they left me to sleep. With strict instructions not to pull another stunt like that! Everything felt a bit more comfortable, the oxygen, the bair hugger, the various IV’s. I was confident tonight would be a more comfortable night. I always thought you fought for your life. That while faced with death you did everything you could to keep yourself alive. And if you decided you couldn’t do it anymore you went. I don’t think that happens at all. I did not want to die. I didn’t want to give up but lying there nothing I did saved my life. No amount of determination or positive thinking kept my heart beating and blood flowing. The doctors and nurses did that. The 4 people whose blood I used did that. I had absolutely no control over it. I haven’t been able to give blood since I was in my mid 20’s. I am anaemic and my blood is not desired! But to the thousands of people who do give blood I thank you. I don’t know what I would have done without them. To have the blood there ready, to have it at my bedside the minute I needed it was literally a life saver. To the floating heads and the 4 people whose blood I used…I can never thank you enough. If you are able to give blood I beg you to do it, and exert your full bragging rights. Your blood could be the thing that stops two children being told their mother didn’t make it. And you can never ever put a price on that.