Operation transformation complete
I’ve just had that breast operation I wrote about a few weeks ago: the lifting and matching of my remaining breast to the reconstruction. Although it’s currently bruised, bandaged and trussed in a surgical bra, it’s clear that overall I’ll be left with a marvellous rejigging. Pert as a teen’s (almost), 100 per cent natural-looking (nearly), overall aesthetically better than the pre-cancer originals (clothed). Granted, they’ll lack sensation, be scarred and will never feature in a ‘me, topless on a beach’ scenario (sorry for your loss, Sandymount). But there is something hugely uplifting about it: namely, the uplift.
Oh, Anne, can you be so trite as to care whether your previous chest was a bit droopy, when that’s natural? Are you so influenced by the images of ‘perfect’ females that we’re deluged with every day? Do you care about the minor detail of ‘looking better’ when there are so many more pressing issues in the world? Yes, yes and yes! I love my younger-looking lady lumps. And though, of course, I’d never ask the plastic surgeon if it would be possible to have a go at giving me a 21-year old bottom, the thighs of Naomi Campbell and Anna Kournikova’s abs while he’s at it, I can’t help but wonder… It’s amazing what can be done with a cosmetic scalpel; all it costs is money and a few weeks in bandages. Not that you’d be ever tempted, like. Would you?
Speaking of money, as I also mentioned previously, I went private for this operation. I got a call from the clinic the day before. ‘You’re coming in to us tomorrow?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You’re aware your medical insurance doesn’t cover the whole cost?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘There’s an excess to be paid.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘It’s €840.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘It’s payable tomorrow when you check in.’ ‘Don’t worry,’ I said, ‘I’ll be waving my Laser card as soon as I set foot in the gaff.’ And that was the end of the call. No blathery niceties of the ‘yes, I am very nervous about the operation but I’m sure I’ll be in safe hands in your moneyfarm, sorry, caring-professional clinic’ ilk. I found the bluntness of the call rather amusing. ‘Have yiz got the cash? Just checking.’
Gosh, can’t we Irish be very direct when it comes to hard cash? Unless of course it’s a case of coming clean about your retirement remuneration from your charity CEO position — but sorry, aren’t you sick of hearing about Paul Kiely and his retiring hundreds of thousands? Why am I shoehorning him in here? Sure, that wasn’t even about hard cash! It was soft dosh, handed over by
Outside my spacious private room on the hushed ward, a fountain tinkled as I awaited my longed-for operation
mushy-hearted citizens concerned that fellow citizens in need of specialist medical care would have access to it. The eejits! Ha ha! Kiely and cohorts might as well have laughed.
It was all over the news as I was going into the posh hospital. It’s sickening, I was thinking, that essential medical services must be provided for under the auspices of a ‘charitable’ foundation in the first place. And more sickening that there’s evidently a whole class of ‘charitable’ executives who earn handsome livings from their roles, and see no anomaly in that (private health insurance included, naturally). And overall most sickening that for a small, newish republic we’ve engendered quite stunning levels of remuneration and, ergo, class inequality (why are executive roles deemed exponentially more valuable than frontline, actual, care providers? Why?) Sickening sickening, sickening, I was fuming to myself, having been immersed in the news before arranging to get a lift to the fancy pay-at-the-door clinic. ( I’d have taken public transport but, naturally enough, there’s no nearby bus stop. Not presumed necessary for the tier of society being serviced?) And isn’t this just a monument to the ideological void of this nation state, I thought to myself, as I crossed the gleaming foyer to the receptionist/ cashier, then climbed the curving marble staircase to the spacious private room that awaited me on the hushed, un-busy ward, with only the tinkle of the fountain outside to enhance the peace as I awaited my longed-for operation.
What do I really think about this kind of set-up? I was still this debating to myself, the next day, having left surgery. Then I had lunch. Oh my God, it was as bad as any hospital food I’d ever had, even more so. Hurray! Some glimmer of equality, my inner communist sighed. It was with great relief I was discharged from the place the following day. The isolation of my paid-for privacy was too much. I like to see, hear, meet other people, patients, medics: to be part of a community of care, with an opportunity to share, to help with a kind word or picked-up pillow, to contextualise my own experience in the humanity of others. I met not a single other patient, had no chat other than what was immediately pertinent to my breast op. Is this the prize of hard cash, I wondered. That one can afford a sense of elevation above the everyman reality of ordinary society? The issues of others are kept out of sight, out of mind. I just prefer the public hospital, I guess... not that you’d be going to one of them if you fancied a 21year-old bottom.