Friday surgery retraction statement

You know… I probably jinxed it by telling you all it was happening…

But I got a call earlier in the week saying they ‘couldn’t find a consultant’ for Friday.

I don’t really understand what that means, I thought it was meant to be my surgeon, Mr K who did it. But I guess maybe not? Maybe it’s just a lucky-dip, nab an unlucky intern who can consult.


Though I wonder why they are so cagey about giving me details about things.

So I’ve now cancelled a few things I was planning on doing and the like, which is a bit of a pain but I guess I can’t really complain, I guess these things happen.

I’m grateful to have a date, but I do feel a bit deflated that it’s now been moved… But what can you do. On the plus side my recovery will now be during the week as opposed to over the weekend, so I’ll have to have a few days off work. I guess that’s something!

In other news, I was asked to speak a few weeks ago to the ‘Airway Management Hub’ at UCLH (pic below) about my experience with the dreaded tracheostomy (post surgery breathing tube, for any of you who aren’t familiar with the terminology). I had a great time (at the talk, not with the trachy), and was able to provide some input about the patient perspective. The tracheostomy is a pretty scary thing and I would like to be able to help make the process better for the people going through it, so hopefully more will come from this, I think there are some important conversations to be had.

Anyway, happy Friday, friends. Looking forward to sleeping all day tomorrow!

Happy 70th birthday NHS

It is the 70th birthday of the NHS.

Where to start? I suppose with something that’s obviously close to me.

Looking at cancer alone – 50% of people get cancer. That means you, and your mum. Or your partner and your dad. Or your sister and your best friend. I know of people in the US who couldn’t afford treatment, or who have gone into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. I wouldn’t be able to afford that, would you? Even in Australia, when my father got an MRI checking his prostate cancer, he had to pay $600/go and that’s on top of private health care.

Even just looking at MRIs… I have to have one every 2 months. No way could I afford like £400 2 months, and that’s just for maintenance scans! Who even knows how much everything else would (have) cost.

Thanks to the NHS, I’m not forced to go into ridiculous amounts of debt just to have a chance of staying alive. The beauty of us all paying that bit of tax to the NHS means that anyone can get the treatment they need regardless of whether they manage to have a job that gives them lots of money. Their fate will not be sealed by their pay check. And it’s there for when the rest of you need it.

And I haven’t had to settle for a sub-par surgeon or someone who isn’t a specialist in my area, I’ve been able to get the surgeon I need, in fact one of the best.

When I was diagnosed, some people asked me if I would move back to Australia for treatment. This confused me a lot. Why would I decide to leave my life and the country I want to live in just because I have cancer? There’s no need to necessarily give up on life just because you have cancer (not for me anyway, I know everyone’s cancer is different)! What a depressing thought that I would suddenly quit everything of the life I have built and want to live.

But that aside, why would I want to go back to a country where you’re not looked after? Where you have to fend for yourself and if you’re not rich you must go into a lot of debt to have a chance of life? I say this with not a lot of knowledge how it would be to have my cancer in Australia, maybe you can get some funding to help and maybe Medicare can help with some. But going off my dad’s experience, it is no NHS.

And the people who work for the NHS… they are the most heroic people. The doctors and surgeons are making miracles happen, the physios, anaesthetists, radiographers, therapists (ok, I’m not going to go on naming all the types of professions in the NHS, if you’re one, you are the best) are irreplaceable, the nurses are absolute angels, even the people cleaning my room when I was in hospital brought me so much joy.

Sure I’ve had moments where things haven’t been great. I’ve had blood work lost, I’ve waited in a room in A&E until 3am waiting for a bed in a ward whilst in the absolute worst of my neutropenia and illness during chemo (but they did manage to find me a private room eventually), I’ve had dentists ignore my cancer (though to be fair they were NHS but made me go on private to get an appointment quickly), I’ve had doctors forget to come around and discharge me from hospital, I’ve had doctors in hospital causing me unnecessary pain and discomfort when they thought they were doing the right thing but didn’t take a moment to think… but it takes time to go through my memory to find bad moments, and they are only a small handful of thousands of fantastic ones.

I feel like people who complain about the NHS are those who haven’t needed it yet. Or even if not, I know there can be bad experiences in anything. But the amount of people I know who the NHS has saved…

The NHS makes me proud to be British. Growing up in Australia, I never felt Australian, I knew I was British. And from the first time I stepped off that plane in London 3 years ago, I knew I was home. I don’t feel like I could ever leave. There are many things that make me proud to be British, and a few things that don’t, but above everything is the NHS. This is something so important, special, necessary to our lives here. It underpins everything, looks after us, and it’s something we’ve helped create. What a fantastic thing. I know it struggles, I know more needs to he done to help it out, I have no suggestions of how to help it, I wish someone did. But I do know we need to protect it, to keep it alive.

Happy birthday NHS. I think everyone who has ever worked for the NHS in any capacity can really take this as their own personal celebration too. From the people who used to drive blood donations around from the donor to the receiver whenever needed before refrigeration existed, to the clinical trials which ended up saving lives, to the doctors working long shifts to make sure everyone gets seen and we all live.

We thank you all. So many of us are here because of what you’ve done over the years.

Happy birthday. Have a champagne, NHS, you deserve it. But don’t let your hair down too much, because we need you, every second of every day.

The wonders of anaesthetic

Anaesthesia isn’t for me. Though I’m not sure 16 hours of it is really for anyone. But to be fair, I had a fun time going in to it.

But I’ll rewind a little. I had stayed in the ward on the Sunday night before my surgery. They had taken out my PICC line a few days before and assured me I’d had my last bloods. Turns out they wanted more, which of course ended up with a couple of people having a couple of tries and fails each. Always a pleasure.

I met Debbie who worked in ICU, who invited me to join a study to help detecting infection earlier in bloods. I said as long as it doesn’t require any extra stabbing, she could count me in! So in I was, and she informed me she would be popping in to take blood from one of my lines over the course of my stay in the ICU. Great, always happy to help. And also happy to have a familiar face I’ll see on the other side of the surgery.

Checking in took forever and we missed dinner. So once it had all been sorted and I had a bed, Dad popped out and got the three of us Honest Burgers, which we then ate in my hospital bay. Sorry other inpatients, my dinner is better than yours was.

I made my first friend that night – one of the nurses, Kirsten I think was her name. We chatted as she sat waiting to see if the aggressive shouty old lady in the bed across from me had fallen asleep (the lady who had shouted ‘hello’ at me earlier as I walked past and asked the nurse if I were boy or a girl).

After my last solid meal, I had to ‘carb load’ and have some special drinks at 8pm and then before 6am. So I got woken up at about 5:30am and I had my drinks. Then I had to have a shower with some special gel and put my surgical robe on (I found out later that I had it on backwards). I saw Deepti had come to say hi quickly before surgery, which was amazing, and I also met the… uh… Like anaesthetic registrar or something? I don’t know these terms. But she was awesome too. I felt settled as soon as I saw Deepti, and I was rushed by an orderly to put my special socks on as it was time to go zooming down the corridors to the theatre!

I went in and the girl I had just met came with me, and I met someone else who I think was maybe managing the theatre? Did I make that up? Anyway, he was awesome (and alerted me to the backwards nature of my gown. He was going to leave the room so I could change but I just pulled my arms in and spun it round and pretended I had it right all along).

We chatted as she prepare all the drugs they were about to give me, and people were zooming in and out. I was in a little room, lying on a bed-type thing, just off the main surgery room. Occasionally my people would pop in and say hi, or any other staff would be running around, all in maroon scrubs, all cheery. I was having a great time. I got little snippets of view through the door as people came in and out, that alerted me to what I was about to go in to. They had a big meeting in the other room, then it was go time.

I don’t remember there being a massive issue with cannulating me, though I feel like there might have been a few attempts. I don’t remember any counting down, nothing like that, I just don’t remember anymore.

The next couple of days were a blur. I woke up with a catheter, two cannulas (one in my hand, one in my groin), a tracheostomy (breathing tube in my neck which meant I couldn’t talk), a feeding tube in my nose, a sore shoulder, a very swollen face and a lot of confusion.

I remember my doctors coming in and having the same conversation with them about 3 times (either they were trying to mess with with me or I was hallucinating/dreaming… I feel like they probably didn’t have time for the first option so we might have to settle for the second). I remember not being able to work out that in order to stop the pain I had to find a specific cord that had a button on it and then I had to press that button in order to cause a series of events to happen that resulted in the pain apparently being better. I remember thinking it was the middle of the day, getting up and sitting in my chair and asking why no one had told my parents I was awake (turns out it was midnight and they had already come to visit). I remember my parents later telling me they had seen me when I woke up from surgery but I have no recollection of seeing them then (apparently I was quite preoccupied with the pain in my shoulder). I remember the catheter causing me loads of pain. I remember having no end of problems with my tracheostomy, thinking I was constantly choking (which went on for the whole 11 days I had it). I remember falling asleep constantly, mid conversation, whenever.

I think it was about 2 days post surgery when I started to get a little bit more sense. But we’ll save those stories until the next post.