Sunday, 04 December 2016
Erica's blog 3: September 19

Operation day. I was booked in for the second slot of the morning which gave me time to have a shower, get my compression socks on and to look longingly at my room-mate´s breakfast. No food for me! Then I was wheeled down to the radiology section where they inserted a metal wire or ´harpoon´ as the Spanish refer to it, into the tumour in my breast as it was difficult to find and the surgeon wanted to have it perfectly located in order to operate. Then I had a mammogram with said harpoon in which was not the most pleasant experience I have ever had but was over quickly and made much better by the fabulous medical team. By the end of the experience I had given an English lesson to one of them, promised to have tea with another´s children and tell them about my life abroad to encourage them to travel and told how lucky I was to have the doctor that I had…because in his own words he was much easier on the eye than the other specialist! Just the Spanish way of relaxing you.

I was then whisked back up to my room and shortly after they came for me to transport me down to surgery. It felt like the films, lights flashed above my head and the nurse complained that whoever had designed the bed had given little thought to dimensions as we scraped through doorways and into lifts. She was an expert and maneuvered me around well until I was in a holding area where I was wished luck by my loved one. Once inside I was asked all the pertinent questions by my anesthetist and then wheeled into surgery. After a few deep breaths with the mask on I was under.

The operation lasted about three hours. 17 lymph nodes were removed from my right armpit, the tumour in my breast and additional micro tumours that had not shown up on the mammogram but were regarded as suspicious by my surgeon. I came to, felt cold but in quite good shape and was given an update by my surgeon and then taken back to my room.

The rest of the day was spent feeling ravenous but after having some tea and biscuits and holding that down well, I was given lunch. Some people react badly to the anesthetic and are very ill when they first eat, not me, if they hadn´t given me lunch I was going to nip down to the hospital café and grab a sandwich…either that or start eating my bed sheets. 36 hours without food is not ideal! The ensuing days were spent looking forward to visitors, lots of cakes, chocolates and flowers, meal times and general updates on my progress. The nurses changed my dressings and controlled the two drainage globes to check the levels were dropping. The drains were the most awkward things as it made it difficult to shower, as the bandages had to be kept dry and I had to be careful that the drains did not come out. I wasn´t in a great deal of pain but the staples in my armpit were uncomfortable.

Being bored and in need of a pen to do a crossword I went down to the shop in the entrance of the hospital.  I was shooed back upstairs as I really shouldn´t have been down there but I was a little fed up with the circuit on my ward. I think it essential to carry on as normally as possible. It´s what the Brits do isn´t it? Keep calm and carry on. I insisted they took my drip out the day after my operation and didn´t take any more pain killers. I got up and moving about as soon as possible. I got to know the staff well and enjoyed joking with them and they even kept my surplus of cakes in their fridge. I can´t speak highly enough of the care I received. People often complain about the service in general in Spain but if you are respectful and polite, they are the kindest and most helpful people you could ever wish to meet. The most amusing thing for me was being woken up in the middle of a blissful sleep and being asked if I wanted a sleeping tablet at 11:30 at night. If you have any procedures in Spain remember that their timetable is different. They come round with tea at 11pm!

Finally one drain was removed and the other was left in. I had had enough of hospital and opted to go home. The doctor gave me the ´alta´ or permission to go home. This gave me a huge boost, I was desperate to see my children and basically be in my own home. I was given various instructions to follow and then had to wait for the results of the operation to see what the next step would be.

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