The first time I had surgery I was 26 years old. I was living and working in Renmark, South Australia, and it all began with what I thought were late-night “hunger pains”.
If you’re hungry at midnight, of course, you go to the kitchen and eat a little something and hope they’ll go away. A few hours later, even after breakfast, I was still “hungry”. By mid-morning the “hunger pains” were still there and getting worse.
The complication by now was that I was actually on radio, presenting “Riverland Today” on ABC Radio 5MV, as it was called back then. At about ten-thirty, during a song, I left the studio and told my manager he would have to take over as I thought I needed to go to the hospital.
Several hours later my appendix was removed.
As I suffer from keloid scarring http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keloid, I still have a rather prominent scar from the emergency appendectomy. The nice thing about it all was that I got to stay at home for a week or so, enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the garden, and even painted a series of Frida Kahlo-inspired self-portraits of my experience. Yes, seriously.
Ten years later, aged 36, my recovery from surgery was at the Myall Lakes property of a friend’s family. Having been through three bouts of surgery for the same condition – a fistula – we didn’t hesitate to say yes when the offer was made.
That was a difficult time for me. I had a problem that just wouldn’t go away. The first operation seemed to work okay, but a month later the problem re-occurred. The second operation also seemed to work okay, but exactly two days after returning to work, and I was in agony again, and back on the operating table. Thankfully, the third operation seemed to fix the problem once and for all. I have also never felt so much pain in my life, both in anticipation of the operations (the morphine they gave me “wore off”) and with the subsequent need for a drainage tube in a sensitive spot, and an inability to go to “empty my bowels” for ten days. I still remember the joy of the Saturday afternoon when finally I could go to the toilet. I rang Damien, who was working at the time, with tears of joy. “I’ve gone to the toilet”, I told him.
By comparison, this latest bout of surgery, earlier today, was a breeze. Although I’ve been in pain for a few days – thank goodness for Voltaren Rapid – it was a reasonably simple and straightforward operation to remove a sebaceous cyst on my back that had become infected. Unlike the previous occasions, it was just day surgery.
In contrast to the formality of Renmark Base and St Vincents, there were four of us waiting for operations in a small suburban day surgery today. I’m not sure about the first woman and why she was in, but the bloke sitting next to me, close to eighty, was there for a lump on his lip. The only other person waiting was a woman who told us she was there for something “self-inflicted”. “I’m having plastic surgery”, she told us. Later she revealed she was there for a boob job. “I only had nipples and I was sick of wearing two bras and having to pad them”, she told us. Also last year, she revealed her boyfriend left her “for a younger model, an eighteen-year-old with big boobs”. She was twenty-four she told us.
The staff at the surgery were all very lovely, and things went swimmingly. No sooner had I taken a few deep breaths of gas and I was soon awake and feeling good in recovery. I don’t even remember counting backwards. After a cup of tea and a biscuit, The Best Judge picked me up from the surgery and brought me home (to make sure all was okay post-operation). As I was expecting to feel pretty groggy after going under for a general, I was surprised at how good I was feeling after it all. Minutes after he left the house, however, I was comatose on the lounge with the television blasting away, but that’s how I spend most nights anyway.
I’m off work until halfway through next week, and so I’m looking forward to a few days of recovery, and daily visits to get “my wound” properly dressed.