By Emil van der Poorten –
I closed last week at the point that the Attendant shaving my entire body with a razor blade held between his fingers had created the opportunity for me to enter one of those faiths that require circumcision. As an atheist, that would have been a rather unfortunate fate, to understate the case!
Anyway, I was trundled back to my bed in the gurney that left something to be desired in the matter of basic cleanliness, leave alone the asepsis that one would except in a hospital.
In the bed next to mine was the young soldier who was awaiting the same procedure as I and, as is typical in such situations, entered into conversation with me. He was, needless to say, more than a little surprised at the failure of the attendant to take him up on his offer of a new disposable razor at the time I had to be shaved.
Soon we were wheeled away to our respective fates in the Pacemaker-installation chamber!
I was placed, on my back, on a “bed” not wide enough to accommodate my shoulders and instructed to keep my arms horizontal, not letting them drop. Try it sometime when you have the time and inclination to engage in such an exercise and don’t fail to let me know how you prevent an unsupported arm or arms from shaking uncontrollably! While this comedy was unfolding the assistants to the doctor who was to put the Pacemaker in were being directed to run hither and thither, putting on lights and extinguishing them in a manner that would have done the Keystone cops proud!
When it was finally acknowledged that both my arms needed support, a rough board was wedged on the side of the arm that was shaking uncontrollably to keep it still. That worked!
Then began the actual process of installing the Pacemaker.
The anaesthetic was still working when the cut was made because I didn’t experience any pain. A trip down the internet highway to locate “Doctor in the house” a classic film of its time might prove most instructive and entertaining in the context of what followed however!
The exertions of the “Pacemaker-installer’s” conduct was uncannily reminiscent of Dirk Bogarde and company, as young interns, doing a pantomime of their curmudgeon of a senior surgeon (James Robertson Justice) closing up an operated-on patient, jumping up and down on his sedated body in order to get his innards where they belonged!
Anyway, let me return to the narrative.
After having rammed the pacemaker into the (inadequate?) cavity in my pectoral muscle, our worthy then set about sewing up the cut.
This required the occasional request from yours truly that he could feel the suturing needle going in and out of me and could he please do something about it? The response was that, since I had a heavy body, the dose of anaesthetic administered initially was inadequate and, in all fairness to the man, he did give me more of the fluid as and when requested thereafter. Also, prior to the commencement of the suturing and during the procedure, my shoulder was pushed as far inwards as possible, supposedly to ensure that the wound did not open later. In this the doctor performing the procedure had the assistance of his two helpers, fortunately neither of whom was a body-builder!
My travails seemingly over, I was wheeled back to the ward and soon my soldier friend and I had recovered from the sedation and began recounting our respective experiences of “the procedure that didn’t amount to surgery.” Despite the fact that he was slim, verging on skinny, he too had had to request extra anaesthetic because the initial dose had been inadequate to numb the area of his body being worked on.
That evening I began to experience pain in the area of the incision. This grew steadily worse and I texted, on my mobile phone that I had smuggled into the ward, the doctor who had performed the procedure. The garbled response appeared to suggest I use an oral anaelgesic (which I didn’t have access to).
As there were no medical personnel in the ward, I inquired from a neighbouring patient where I could seek help. He told me that the nurses were in their room which was in the space between the male and female wards. I hobbled over there and the nurses who had finished their evening meal told me to go back to my bed and that they’d attend to me. I did so. When the pain reached unbearable proportions, I made my pilgrimage to the nurses’ room once more, only to be shoo-ed away by them again. Shortly thereafter I passed out on the floor accompanied by a degree of consternation on the part of the “care-givers” in that part of the medical institution I subsequently learned!
(Next week: the conclusion of this hospital experience!)