August (partially mended)

I have decided that there are both good and bad elements to being temporarily housebound. The good involve being able to stay in my pyjamas for days on end and getting heaps of work done, while the bad concern being stuck within a fixed amount of walls, and the way those walls seem to compress as the days go by. Oh, and the pre-shower battle to cover my not-terribly-flexible leg with a plastic garbage bag and then adhere said bag to the skin of my thigh with industrial-strength tape - well, that's not much fun either (neither is ripping the industrial-strength tape off afterwards).

But the main thing is that I've finally had the operation done. It's over. And it was a close call for a while there when it looked likely that I would be 'bumped' off the list, which is official hospital-speak for being sent home sans operation and rescheduled (an understandable confusion between this figure of speech and the slightly more terminal 'bumped off' may explain why some of the other patients, particularly the elderly ones, were looking rather distressed). Anyway, barely had I sat down in the crowded waiting room when, to my surprise, my name was called. Now the reason for my surprise was that I have a long-standing tradition of always being last on a hospital operation list. This rule extends to even my loved ones, so that if I take my daughter in for a tonsilectomy and there are thirty-three other people waiting, the odds are excellent that she will be number thirty-four on the list. I think it's the family curse (the story goes that my great-great grandfather, in what I think displays a distinct lack of fatherly affection, cursed his son and all future generations after the son married against his wishes - the father's wishes that is, not the son's. Now my mother fervently believes that the curse relates to electrical goods and their ability to continue working either (a) immediately post-purchase, or (b) one day past warranty. However I suspect the curse is more fluid than that, with a spooky ability to change focus for each affected person. With me it's all about hospital waiting lists).

So anyway, without getting my hopes up, I mosey into a little room to get my personal particulars recorded by a very friendly nurse and am handed a plastic bag with one of those fetching bottom-baring nighties and - a new addition since last time I was in - a terry-towelling dressing-gown (or maybe they just hand these out for those whose about-to-be-bared bottoms are, let's say, slightly less firm than they once were). Then the surgeon pops in to put a large X on my right leg and adds a message that appears to be in another language (and which I find a trifle concerning - what if it says something like: 'note: this is a leg' or 'don't forget the milk and bread' or even 'amputate this limb post-haste'). But my friendly nurse seems unperturbed, which means that either she can't read the language or it's nothing to worry about. I decide to go with the latter. It is at this point that I am told, to my utter amazement, that I am first on the operation list. All those hordes of potential patients still out in the waiting-room and I am first! I win!!! The curse has been lifted!

And thus for the first time in my life, I am the patient who has to get changed in a hurry, and I am the one who the others mutter about jealously (who did she have to sleep with to be number one?), and I am the one for whom the orderly comes before any others. It is a feeling of victory against the odds that buoys me all the way to the operating theatre, and while I'm tucked onto a waiting guernsey, and while the surgeon explains the procedure (and checks his note on my leg), and while I'm parked in an alcove until the anaesthetist arrives and even when I look down and realise that I forgot to shave my legs (maybe what he wrote was: 'yea gods, what a jungle') - in fact I am cosseted by curse-free euphoria all the way through until the head nurse comes over twenty minutes later and tells me that there's a problem with my anaesthetist (no one else's apparently, just mine - and what exactly is a 'problem' with an anaesthetist anyway?). But the upshot of this alleged 'problem' is that I've been bumped down the list just a tad. How far? Well... apparently now I'm last.
Thanks, Great-great Grandad, you total tool. Thanks a bloody lot.

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