To say that I was a touch apprehensive about the possibility of another operation is an understatement. I was terrified. One thing was for sure, I was not having “routine” keyhole surgery again. Thankfully it wasn’t an option when repairing a 6 inch hole in my abdominal muscle wall; I was going to be opened up. Even so, I was scared. The last operation I had was not a roaring success (although technically it was as my hiatus hernia was fixed) and I really didn’t want to go through that sort of experience again.
I even resorted to a session of hypnotherapy to try to ease my nerves. I’m not sure how effective it was, but I certainly felt relaxed during it. By the time the operation came round, in September 2004, 18 months after the original operation, I felt a little more prepared.
Amazingly enough, it turned out that I had not been tested for MRSA enough to be regarded as clear of it so I was to have a room all to myself again. In the geriatric ward. Again. The women’s section. Again.
I went back to Poole General Hospital, settled into my room and was told that, due to an emergency admission my operation had been put back by 24 hours. Great! Another day to stew over it!
The following morning I was taken down to theatre. My last memory before the anaesthetic was a bit weird. I knew that my massive scar would go, but it was immediately above my belly button, so my last, groggy words were,
“can you ask the surgeon to try and keep the belly button?”
I opened my eyes. The recovery room. Was I on a ventilator? No. I was clearly alive. Either that or the afterlife was not as I expected. I felt terrible, but not in an “I’m about to die” way, more like an “I’ve just had major, but not life threatening, surgery” way. Oh, and there was a very unpleasant looking drain from my stomach.
I flitted in and out of consciousness as I was wheeled back to my room. I slept for about 5 months (a couple of hours, but it felt like an eternity) and woke up, sore, but ok. The pain was being eased by an epidural, so there was limited movement below the waist. I felt rough, but I knew that things were ok.
Over the next couple of days I started to feel brighter. Then a nurse came to change my dressing and clean my wound. The first thing I noticed was the nice, clean scar. It was such a difference and I knew that activities such as swimming wouldn’t be so embarrassing. With the shark-attack scar I felt really exposed if I was in a pool, as if i was being stared at. Now, however, it looked completely norm……
Ah! It was gone! No belly button!
My first feeling was shock. Followed by, “for heaven’s sake, it’s just a belly button! It never did anything for me, it just sat there accumulating fluff. Move on!” And that was it. A lifetime of having an answer to the classic training ice-breaker question of telling everyone something they didn’t know about you had started.
I was in hospital for a week. The only event of any note being the time I was washing myself, sitting on the bed, completely naked, when a very confused old lady walked in and just looked. My hands did the sensible thing and shot downwards, covering my modesty, while a nurse ran in and ushered the poor woman out.
I was off work for three weeks, then back to work. Back to normality with no hernia of any type. No operation to dread. No belly button.
I can live with that.