Thursday, 24 January 2013

Preparing for Pituitary Surgery

?Aloha! Had a good day today and yesterday. I have managed a gentle potter around the village and a hot chocolate at the local pub with my dad and auntie, which was really nice although it left me totally shattered.

I thought I'd try to keep things in vaguely chronological order and write a bit about preparing for my pituitary surgery. Of course, as discussed previously I'd been doing my MRSA eradication protocol, and I'd packed my bags ready to go in. Super diligent readers may recall that I once published a list of my top tips for people about to have pituitary surgery; number one on the list was  "shave your inside elbows". This is because of the sheer number of blood tests you have after surgery - the tape they put over your elbows is put on and pulled off  until it feels like you're being given an extremely incompetent and lengthy elbow waxing.

Instead of shaving, however, I went one step better and bought some hair removal cream, slapped it on the night before and boom! hair free inside elbows without that stubbly regrowth you get from shaving. By the time I left hospital, despite all the blood tests my arms were so much less painful than last time I had pituitary surgery - highly recommended!

On the morning of my surgery, I got up early - I had to arrive at the hospital at seven am - and took off my nail polish - with regret, because it was awesome.  "But why are you not allowed to have nail polish on during surgery?" I hear you cry? Because a) nail beds changing colour during surgery is a warning sign of Something Wrong, and b) some (but not all!) colours of nail polish may interfere with the machine they use to measure blood oxygen and heart rate (a pulse oximeter), which clips on to a fingertip and works by essentially shining light all the way through your finger.

No matter how awesome, it has to go!

I was quite nervous as we left and drove to the hospital. We were sent to wait in the neurosurgery day room, which was pretty rammed with impatient inpatients. I was the first one to be called through to a ward, given my own bed area, had my bags tagged with my name and hospital number etc. Highly attractive lime-green-and-white compression socks were issued to me, and my legs duly squeezed into them; then came the sexy hospital gown. My hospital is good for having gowns which actually wrap the whole way around and don't leave your arse hanging out the back (technical medical term there), but unfortunately actually tying the tags up is like a complex macrame manouvre.

Next came the doctor parade. I arrived at the hospital at 7am; I was due to be wheeled out to the theatre for my pituitary surgery at a quarter past eight. In that time, I was due to be seen by a neurosurgeon, an anaesthetist, an endocrinologist, another different endocrinologist, and a nurse to run me through giving consent. Plus I had to change into the aforementioned garments and get my hospital and allergy tags.

It might have been fine, but I didn't get seen through to the ward until twenty past, meaning that there was less than an hour to see five different people and change. Unsurprisingly, I ended up late. Most of them were coming to have a quick chat and check that I understood the procedure, so they didn't take too long, but there's no clear timing for each of them, so there were times when two people arrived at the same time and one of them had to leave, and times when I was sitting around kicking my heels with no one there. The additional endocrinologist had requested my permission to keep part of my pituitary tumour after the surgery for research purposes. TSHomas (pituitary adenomas which produce thyroid-stimulating hormone) are extremely rare, so I was happy to consent - but it takes some time to run you through the yays and nays and signatures and things. To be honest, I think it was a little silly that they left it right until the last minute to ask me to take part in the research; they could have gained my consent at any one of my numerous pre-surgery hospital trips.

And the nurse had to take me through a relatively long questionnaire. Because it's neurosurgery, they have to be very careful about whether or not you may have any increased risk of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (which you may know as mad cow disease). The prions which are believed to cause this illness are extremely difficult to deactivate, and are potentially transmissible on surgical equipment, so they have to check whether you have any increased risk of vCJD.

Consequently, it was a quarter to nine before I was wheeled out of the ward and off to the operating theatre. The ward nurses were stressed because I was half an hour late and they'd been getting angry phone calls from everyone waiting in the theatre. I said a quick goodbye to my parents. It was pretty nerve-wracking, and also strange because I'd never been through that part before - last time I had surgery I was wheeled off "for a CT scan", and then my surgeon dashed into the scanner waiting room, announced I was supposed to be in surgery, and wheeled me off. The porter who wheeled me off regaled me with tales of his childrens' teenage pregnancies. There was a brief moment of difficulty as they struggled to fit my bed into the lift - apparently I was in an extra large bed usually used by pregnant women and morbidly obese patients: cheers, hospital - and I was off...

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