For five years I’d put off having a hip replacement.
I knew things were getting worse when our dog Poppy had to keep waiting for me to catch up as I slowly shuffled across the fields.
I wasn’t so much scared about the pain or things that could go wrong in the operation. The main problem was I had a very strong aversion to hospitals, with other people in control, staying in a nightie and bed all day, being told what to do, not being allowed to leave and feeling like a victim. I’d even chosen to be born at home. I’d happily visit people in hospital, cheering them up, and then escape into my freedom again.
But this time the option of having the operation in my own bed at home wasn’t a possibility.
At my pre-op I asked my surgeon if it was possible for me to go home the day after the operation. He looked at me in surprise and said it was rare as people were often in for 5 days but if I wanted to be fast-tracked he’d see what he could do.
My next question, “Could I have an epidural and not a full general anaesthetic?” left me looking at him in surprise when he agreed.
And my final request, pushing the limits as much as I could as this was an NHS hospital, was ” Any chance of my own room please?”. I thought he’d call me a cheeky monkey but instead he said it may be a possibility if I were to be fast-tracked.
And so I’d begun to feel more in control, asking for the things I knew would make it a better experience for me.
Two weeks ago, when the morning of the operation dawned, I’d done a lot of work on my own mind to change fear and anxiety into excitement and optimism and the belief that this would be the beginning of a new chapter. Hopefully I’d begin to live with less pain and soon I’d be keeping up with Poppy.
As we arrived at the reception area of the hospital the room was jammed full of other people waiting anxiously for their operations. Being a shy person I would have normally slunk to the back and melted into the wall. But, with my mind on a different setting, I walked into the room filled with fellow cripples and announced “It’s ok, I’m here now to sort you all out”. Laughter and smiles washed over the atmosphere in grateful waves and I was lifted higher.
And so it continued. With every specialist who came to see me before the operation, with all the people in the pre-theatre room and most importantly with myself I kept remembering I had a choice. I could face this with fear or with a mind full of possibilities, laughter and hope.
Later, as I came round in Recovery I was told that even with the sedative I wouldn’t go to sleep. I’m not sure my surgeon, with a tight schedule, was very pleased but I do remember repeatedly thanking them all very much in advance in case I wasn’t able to later.
We have a choice at times like these how we do it and as the days of my recovery lie ahead I’ll try and remember that and focus not on the pain or the things I still can’t do but on the tiny steps of progress I’m making, the love and care that’s been around me and that one day in the future I’ll be the one waiting as Poppy dog catches me up.