156: There will be time

Image courtesy of   Cheryl Rawlings   

Image courtesy of Cheryl Rawlings 

-"You've made getting half a lung removed, look easy."

-"Erm, what? Have I?" 

-"Totally. Easy to forget - if you'd lost an arm or something, it would be hard for me to ignore, but this feels easy to forget, to ignore." 

Sure, I don't have no gaping wound: it's a delicate, single purse stitch keyhole wound beside my right breast. It's hidden beneath whatever t-shirt I've managed to fumble on with the absence of a bra for however long it takes to heal. I sometimes grab my side, sometimes grab my boob even, when the pain shoots through. Sometimes my entire chest aches and then dissipates. I try to elongate my arm to switch a light on or lift my phone off charge and I remember I can't, I can't quite stretch. I have to give my arm a little extra support to brush my teeth, or pour the water on my tea bag. And I catch a glimpse of my reflection and notice I'm slightly lopsided, compensating for the dull ache that I've quickly grown accustomed to. I get tired from a poor excuse of a shower I can muster because I can't lift my arms above my head to wash my hair - so I don't. I'm often back in bed within moments of having got out of the shower. 

What they don't tell you about recovery from surgery is that it starts quick and then suddenly slow rights down. Those famous words "the next twenty four hours are vital" are so true - make progress well, and so much can change so quickly. I came out from ICU with a morphine drip in my left arm, and a drain from my lungs into what I affectionately nicknamed my "handbag" on my right side. My handbag was pumping all the fluid out from my lungs making my handbag go a pinkish red colour. Lush. I spent a night in ICU cared for by my Irish nurse Katie whom, when I couldn't sleep, happily told me every detail about her upcoming wedding. Every time I hit the morphine, I'd want to sleep. Which would last for all of ten minutes before I'd feel the need to hit the button again. I think I cumulatively slept for maybe two hours that night in five minute bursts. 

The following morning, the physio came along with my day nurse - Beena (who we affectionately nicknamed Ribena) - urging me to get out of bed: "you get out of bed, you get out of ICU". Right. I tried this getting out of bed thing, and felt the room spin some ten fold and almost regurgitated what little breakfast I had mustered. Try again later? Beena was tough on me. "At least sit in the chair, Rebecca." I was out of ICU by 3pm after my physio had coerced me into walking around my small ICU room and once Beena had persuaded me to sit / sleep in the chair for some two hours. I had managed two wees in the space of forty eight hours and still they were feeding IV fluids into me. I slept the rest of the day. 

My drain was removed, as was the morphine. What made me look ghastly - this tube coming out of my body and a hardcore painkiller on constant refill - suddenly was no more. I looked "normal". 

People came to see me, helped me change my clothes, wash my face, brought me gf treats. I slept. I looked at the clock.

I had a pneumothorax on my lung develop. I had to stay longer. (The pneumothorax hasn't dissipated either, and today I was offered another chest drain and stay in hospital to encourage quicker recovery. I declined. We are monitoring at home in the hopes it will recover but recovery will take longer now.) My rating of pain went from a 7/8 to when I was in ICU to a manageable 4/5 on the ward. I'd lie in bed looking at west London wishing I was well enough to walk the streets and grab a flat white. I hadn't showered until Wednesday and it was almost Saturday. And yet remarkably, people kept saying I looked "better" or "well". I can't say I felt it but looks can be deceiving and all. 

I went home Saturday late. I saw Mini B. I collapsed on my bed after I was helped to wash. 

And this is how it's been: sleep, eat, briefly wash, repeat. 

I can't lift Mini B, I can't carry Mini B, she can't sit on my right side. I can't drive and I can't do many fun things for at least 3 weeks minimum. 

Recovery or improvement feels slow - stunted - now. 

Things are quiet. Even my phone. 

Sometimes I want to shout "I had half a lung removed". 

But even shouting is off limits.

There will be time. So much time.

Be good and bake well,

Lady Bakewell-Park