I can believe it-it's finally here. Today is the day that I am going to begin a new journey to recover for my vision loss. I'm still not nervous, but last night I did find it a bit difficult to sleep mainly because I was thinking about my donor and my donor family. I felt really sad knowing that this was a difficult time for them, but at the same time I felt overwhelmingly grateful. I kept silently committing that I was going to take good care of this gift.After a quick shower I go downstairs to have a light breakfast. I can have nothing to eat after 7 AM, according to the day surgery instructions. These instructions were given to me and August 15 at my pre-op assessment. If you click on the the picture it will send you to a PDF link where you can read the instructions in full.
But basically day of surgery fasting instructions, with anaesthetic/deep sedation means I can't have anything to eat from 7 AM onwards. regarding drinking - you may drink clear water only, not fizzy
(and no more than 500mls), up to 11.00am and nothing after that. You should not chew chewing gum.
Anyway, the hotel breakast as horrible!
I'm instructed to arrive at Sedgwick Ward (female only ward) by 12 PM. But Mr Neil, who is way more nervous than I am, insist that we leave at 11:30 AM. The short track across the road to the hospital is relatively easy, especially once you're on the hospital block because there is a huge green line on the sidewalk that leads directly into the hospital.
At Sedgwick Ward I check in with the receptionist and I'm seated along with a few other women and their spouses. The surgery list does not begin until 1:30PM so I don't really know the precise time that I will go into theatre. However, at 11:35 I'm called through to the ward. Mr Neil is instructed to wait in the seating area until called.
Inside the main part of the ward there are many beds. Next to each bed is one chair. Because there is limited space of the ward each patient is only allowed to bring one friend or relative and they are instructed to use the chair and avoid sitting on the patient's bed. Apparently, there are also signs everywhere instructing people NOT to sit on the patient's beds. I can't see those, of course. Some women have already had their surgery and are resting quietly.
The head nurse, who seems Jamaican by her accent, is very intimidating as she shows me the locker to put my stuff and instructs me to disrobe, put on the hospital gown, compression-wear stockings and disposable shoe coverings.
The anesthesiologist arrives soon after and assures me that he has prepared a special concoction to prevent any nausea and vomiting that might follow the surgery. After that, I'm instructed to lay down and relax, but the glare from the numerous windows around the room is hurting my light-sensitive eyes.
Once all the female patients have changed clothes, male friends and visitors are allowed to enter. They are all given the same disposable shoe coverings. Mr Neil comes in and being an oddly intelligent but clumsy former medical professional, promptly SITS ON MY BED much to the horror of the head nurse, who flies over fuming, "Sir, yah nuh see the sign? Don't sit on the patient's bed! That seat there is fa you!"
Mr. Neil mumbles "Sorry" and swiftly moves to the his seat. SOOOOOO embarrassing.
Right on schedule, they start to call patients into the theatre. I am hopeful that since my last name begins with a that I will be one of the 1st to go into surgery. No such luck. One hour later I'm still waiting and starting to get hungry.
Some of the first patients for the afternoon surgery start to be brought back in to recover. With a bandaged eye, most seem quite talkative and in very little pain. Not every patient is having the same procedure as I am, but I'm still encouraged that within a short while they are up, dressed and headed home.
I am getting very thirsty.
Suddenly, the fire alarm goes off!
Are you kidding me? I'm so worried that anything will derail my procedure from being done today after having come this far. But after a few anxious minutes, the head nurse tells us to ignore the alarm.
Then, in the midst of all that noise a junior doctor comes over to do some final checks before my surgery. He takes me to another part of the ward, but I can barely hear him as he examines my eyes, again confirms that it is the right eye that is being transplant/grafted, explains the risks involved the surgery and has me sign an agreement to the procedure. Next, he marks a green arrow over my right eye. Then, he asks if I would be willing to take part in some research for Keratoconus which would involve me giving blood. Agreeing, I sign another paper and go back to my bed to wait...some more.
Oh no-not again!
The bumbling, but hilarious Mr Neil has again flustered the head nurse! This time he removed his disposable shoe coverings. Whatever was he thinking? Once again, she came flying over admonishing him to cover his shoes immediately!
Even though I am exhausted, I couldn't help but laugh.
The kids called to see how things were going and are surprised that I haven't had the surgery is yet.Just then I hear
my name being called-FINALLY!
THIS IS IT!
The head nurse asks me to confirm my date of birth and that it is my right eye that is being grafted. The male nurse then leads me into a small room next to the operating theatre. I can see the MIRACLE WORKERS (doctors) dressed and waiting in the operating theatre. But in this first room, I'm greeted by a female assistant and the anesthesiologist, whom I'd met earlier. They cover my hair and start tapping for veins. The anesthesiologist explains that he is going to take some blood now for the research I agreed to. They start squeezing and squeezing my arm, but for some odd reason cannot get any blood. "No worries", he says, he'll just get it while I'm on the operating table. Next, he starts giving me the sedative and assures me that I feel fine. But suddenly I don't feel fine - my chest feels very tight. I start to panic and tell him I'm not fine, but he just smiles at me and then I'm enveloped by darkness.
I can hear my name being called, but it seems to be coming from somewhere far away. As I slowly I open my left eye I become fully aware of the horrible pain in my right eye. A nurse continues to tap my hand and call my name, "Rabia, you need to make up now."
I manage a groan.
I'm still groggy from the sedation and only mildly aware that I'm being wheeled back to the main ward. Once there, the head nurse brings a sandwich and tea. She insists I try to eat. I tell her I'm in so much pain and she agrees to get me some medication. I'm confused-how were all the other women able to recover so quickly? I thought they said that this wasn't going to hurt. I feel shattered. The pain feels like it has engulfed my entire body and I'm thinking that there is no way I can walk across the streett to my hotel without collapsing.
They give me some codeine for the pain and I wonder how long it'll take to kick in. Mr Neil insist I eat at least half a sandwich which I barely managed to do. Squinting, I see the head nurse talking to Mr Neil. Then, she tells me that she is not confident that I will be able to get to my hotel safely, so she's admitting me to the ward upstairs for the night I want to hug her! I'm so grateful, but I only managed to whisper a "thank you."
They wheel me upstairs and get me into bed. The duty nurse introduces herself, but I cant remember her name She says she can see I'm in a lot of pain. Desperate like a junkie, I ask for more medicine and she leaves to get my chart to see what she can do. When she returns, she says that she cant give me any more medicine but she will check on me during the night and I should try to get some sleep. I don't know how I will be able to sleep because with so much pain. The codeine doesn't seem to have helped at all.
Mr Neil stays for a little bit, sitting in another chair, not on my bed - lol.
At some point he leaves and I drift off to sleep, on my left side.
During the night, I'm mildly aware of the door opening and closing as the duty nurse checks on me. Even with my eyes closed the soft light feels like torture.
Still, I'm glad I did it.
I lay there thinking that there's still a long road ahead, but I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for all the people helping me recover my vision.
I think about the donor, their family, the head nurse, Mr. Neil, the team of doctors (especiallly Dr. Larkin), my kids, my family...the faces of all these people who have had such a massive impact on helping me through this flash through my mind as I drift in and out of sleep.