I give my name to the receptionist and a nurse leads us through to the waiting room. I am back in the pre operative assessment clinic which also doubles up as the surgical waiting area. Rather than being admitted to a ward the night before the procedure, everyone booked for an elective operation comes here at 7:30 am to be seen by their anaesthetist, changed into a surgical gown and wait to be called. It is a surreal environment.
There are others here too, waiting to go under the knife and I guess the lady to my left is expecting a new knee as a cheerful young man in scrubs draws a large arrow on her shin pointing to the soon to be removed joint.
If ever a place needs to be somewhere of peace and calm then this is it, somewhere to mentally prepare for what is ahead. This strange room in which I have no idea how long I must wait, doesn’t seem to fit that bill. The television is on, perhaps it is thought that this will be a distraction, a dose of normality in a most abnormal environment. I am distracted but not in a way that can possibly help my gradually rising anxiety. Daytime television at it’s most inane bombards my fragile senses. Piers Morgan, full of his own self importance argues loudly about something no one else cares about and is followed by the contemporary version of Bedlam which is Jeremy Kyle and I am in no mood to visit the asylum for entertainment today.
I have had no specific bowel preparation, no heavy dose of laxative the day before to clean me out ready, but I am to have an enema administered just before to make sure the surgeon has a clear field of vision. There is however nowhere suitable, ie affording a degree of privacy and the close proximity of a toilet, which can be found and so I am escorted back through the long hospital corridor, holding on as securely as possible to my gaping gown, down to the ultrasound department, where a room with adjacent lavatory is available. I think I have moved beyond embarrassment, I know the routine for this, lie down on my left side, knees bent and prepare for something to force it’s way unnaturally into me. “Try to hold it for at least 5 minutes” I’m told. “After you’ve been to the toilet, make your way back to the surgery waiting area”. I am a little confused. They want me to walk unaccompanied back through all the waiting ultrasound patients and up along the busy corridor whilst desperately clenching my cheeks to avoid leakage, I am wrong, I have not moved beyond embarrassment. “Actually, it may be better if we bring a chair and collect you” the nurse concedes, and fortunately that is what happens.
Up until now, Sharon has been with me but now I must walk through the double doors where relatives cannot follow and climb up onto the pre-prepared table. This is the anaesthetic room, wires are being attached and needles inserted and I feel almost as if I’m an observer, watching someone else being prepared. Then the screen goes dark the show is over and time itself seems to stop.