ANNE GILDEA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - REAL LIFE - Anne.gildea@mailon­sun­day.ie

through the DIEP foob op­er­a­tion? Well, it’s an ex­pe­ri­ence that could have been cre­ated to go along with the words ‘emo­tional roller­coaster’. Like OMG. OMG. O. M. G., da’ya hear me?

When the hos­pi­tal bed was fi­nally con­firmed the af­ter­noon be­fore the op­er­a­tion, I had to get to the hos­pi­tal within two hours for the MRI. What MRI? An hour-long one, ly­ing un­com­fort­ably on my stom­ach in that weird ma­chine, think­ing, ‘Oh, have I packed the right stuff, enough stuff?’ Like what? Like pa­per tow­els: there will be blood, re­mem­ber? And aspirin, to cover your­self if they don’t sup­ply you with enough med­i­cal-grade

At 9am I go un­der anaes­thetic and at 9pm come round again in the re­cov­ery room. It has been done. There is pain

heroin, or what­ever it is they use af­ter what’s about to hap­pen, which you chose.

Then there was a stom­ach ul­tra­sound scan, which, com­bined with MRI imag­ing, helped in the draw­ing of thick, pur­ple marks all over my belly. ‘Th­ese will guide the in­ci­sions to get the nec­es­sary blood ves­sels up from deep in the mus­cle wall; that takes the long­est time,’ the lady said when I asked. What lady? Some lady.

Specifics wob­bled out the door when the words ‘in­ci­sion’ and ‘deep’ were com­bined — in re­la­tion to me and my tum in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture. Now I was on a trol­ley, in a gown, be­ing wheeled down a cor­ri­dor bunched with peo­ple dressed as if they were in an Amer­i­can TV drama. But no: ac­tion!

It’s your pre- op. The main sur­geon, Lovely David, has to mea­sure, weigh up, look, then draw all over your torso — thick lines around boob, and foob-to-be, and right down the mid­dle. A deep el­lipse, all round the belly area, mark­ing out the large flap that’s go­ing to come off the tum. All skin within those tum lines — and all the fat, down to the mus­cle wall — will be shorn off. Still con­nected to those ves­sels, the ‘deep’ ‘in­ci­sion’ ones, re­mem­ber? The space will be closed by join­ing the two sides to­gether — a tuck. Yip. Ee.

At 9am I go un­der anaes­thetic and at 9pm come round again in the re­cov­ery room. It has been done. There’s pain, I’m trussed up in a tight corset, afraid to move a thing. It’s swel­ter­ing; I’m in a heated blan­ket, be­ing kept very hot. I wish I could run into a fresh­wa­ter sea, gar­nished with a slice of lemon, and drink it. I’m not al­lowed to drink (if the flap doesn’t ‘take’, I’ll be im­me­di­ately back to surgery, so to­tal fast till next day).

In­stead, balls of sponge dunked in wa­ter are oc­ca­sion­ally pat­ted in my mouth. I uniron­i­cally think of Je­sus on the cross, the sol­dier dab­bing his lips with vine­gar (an­other cru­ci­fix­ion sim­i­lar­ity: I’ve just spent about nine hours cru­ci­form on an op­er­at­ing ta­ble — the op­ti­mal po­si­tion for chest sym­me­try. From this, one pre-in­jured arm aches worse than any­thing.) I must be kept hot. For 48 hours min­i­mum. I hurt every­where, as if cat­tle have not just tram­pled me but have had ‘six-legged’ bul­lock races, back and over me. For hours.

‘OMG, what have I done?’ is all I can think. This, bar noth­ing, is the most un­com­fort­able thing ever. At midnight I’m wheeled to the ward. Some­how I’m on the bed. Alone, can’t move, in shock. And all I can think, for now and the next day, is ‘What have I done, what have I done, what have…?’

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