To the Operation Table a Hero

Just How Kind Your Students Can Be – Part 3

by Professor Fury

On the day of the operation a posse of four girls arrived with the declared intention of remaining until I was off the slab and back in bed again. Very touching indeed.

The time came for me to be “taken down” and someone who could easily have been mistaken for a Russian olympic shot-putter appeared pushing a gurney. “What’s that for?” I asked, incredulously. “To take you for the operation” said one of my girls. To hell with that, there was nothing wrong with my legs. “Just show me the way and I will walk, I’m not being embarrassed like a criminal being paraded on the way to his end at Tyburn!”

The wife of the poor fellow with smashed legs commented in Chinese that I was a hero – also that if I walked back afterwards I would be superman. I decided I would indeed be superman, after all it was my shoulder going under the knife, not my legs, wasn’t it?

This is where things became Kafkaesque. The operating theatre was pointed out to me, so like the condemned man, I strode in, only to find “my” operating team still had someone on the table and were working away! Unconcerned, they greeted me with cheery “Good mornings”! Err,  think I will wait outside until you finish!

I waited on a chair in the corridor for a while and eventually the anaesthetist emerged, saying “You have a choice”. I knew that, I could refuse to undergo surgery, surgery even to this day I am not sure was entirely necessary. No, you can go to sleep or stay awake. I really do wish this had been discussed beforehand.

Now, I have a pathological fear of general anaesthesia, more specifically, not waking up. Ever. I asked one question – how much pain will there be? I can handle pain thankfully (except toothache) and two hours wasn’t so long. “None” was the response from the newlywed that morning. I wasn’t brave when I replied I would stay awake, it held less terror than being put out.

And then I was on the marble. Two and a half hours passed like twenty minutes in a surreal, half-sedated state. I was talking to them throughout, was fully aware of the drilling and chiselling and hammering of my bones but felt virtually no pain. I was though unaware of a catheter being inserted until I was back on the ward, nor of something else they did.

At the end they told me they were done, and determined to make good on walking back to my bed, I went to get up I couldn’t. Hold on, why does my left hip hurt when you operated on my shoulder? “Oh, it’s normal”. It seemed jolly odd to me but then they hadn’t warned me they would be removing part of my pelvis to use in my shoulder! I could no longer walk.

Back on the ward, they put one of those stupid oxygen things with two outlets, one for each nostril, on me. Aside from the fact I doubt you get any oxygen it is damned annoying and feels more like you need to blow your nose so I ripped it off.

Before surgery they had warned me I would get an infection and fever. Not might, would! And boy, did I. For two days I was delirious, all I was conscious of was being soaked in sweat and constant streams of students mopping my brow with cold, wet towels. That was kindness indeed.

Once the fever abated, I started to recover, no thanks to the 6 large bottles of salt water they insisted on stuffing into me daily intravenously. No such thing as a bed bath there, it was a case of once I could hobble, if I wanted to clean myself I had to take my dripstand to the toilet, grab a stool and clean up as best I could with one hand, enlisting students to help with the hard to reach parts.

One day an old man came in and started talking in Chinese. I enquired what he was asking me. My students told me he wanted to know if I wanted my ears cleaned. As an avid user of cotton buds and exponent of clean ear canals, I did. Utilising an impressive array of implements and brushes, he expertly went about his task and strangely I felt much cleaner once his ministrations were complete. I subsequently learnt that the craft, once widespread, is inexorably dying out. It was though one of the most bizarre experiences of my life.

To be continued…………………….


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