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…?’