Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A tale of spinal taps and tan trousers

LYING on an operating theatre table brings home to you just how potentially fragile life can be.

I’d had two biopsies before but this third one was a bit special, a unique and highly specific procedure called a template biopsy which has only recently been invented in London. Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester is the only place in Dorset where it is available.

In the run up to admission you develop a sort of automatic shield to protect yourself from well wishers who say things such as: “I’m sure it’s nothing.” What can they possibly know about it? That person fills packing cases for a living and probably thinks the Lancet is a sports car!

People mean well, but I’m a firm believer in not tempting fate and too much bonhomie and optimism seemed to me to be just asking for it.

So I tried to approach this operation to tell me yes-you-have-cancer no-you-don’t with a neutral even slightly pessimistic attitude since it prepared me for the worst. If I get an all-clear I certainly won’t mind having erred on the gloomy side.

Right from my first step inside DCH I received nothing but interest, care and concern with particular praise going to the anaesthetist.

When a man loses his trousers he can feel vulnerable, but DCH probably has a corridor named after me somewhere I’ve been in there so many times, so I was stripped, gowned and reading a book by the time the “gas passer” arrived.

I’d been told all sorts of useful information in advance from bringing slippers and a dressing gown to ensuring I knew what drugs I was on, had arranged an adult to be with me for 24 hours after the operation and the fact that my operation would be under general anaesthetic.

So I was slightly taken aback when the anaesthetist told me I had two options, agree to a general or go for a series of spinal injections and a bit of sleepy juice.  He explained that recovery was much faster with the spinal approach and would be easier on my throat which wouldn’t need a tube, so that’s what I agreed to.

Almost before you could say Emergency Ward 10 a nurse fitted a needle in the back of my hand for medication, gave me a load of pills to take and pretty soon I was walking to the operating theatre.

There were none of those dramatic film scenes with sweating grim-faced staff pushing the patient’s trolley along chanting medical gobbledygook. I just strolled along by the nurse who chatted about what was going to happen. Before I knew it I was sat on the operating table.

I’d love to tell you what happened next but it all took place behind me as some sort of plastic spinal guide was pressed on to my back, the anaesthetist working his way down vertebra by vertebra.

Theatre staff were chatting away with me and I almost missed his warning that he was about to make the injections into my spine. I nearly missed them as well – no worse than a very mild nettle sting – and before I knew it that part was over.

Soon I was being asked to swing my legs up on to the operating table before I lost too much feeling and then I was given a couple of shots of liquid via the needle in my hand.

It didn’t knock me out because I just sort of chatted and drifted along. At some point everything faded away and before I knew it I was being told it was all over and I was on my way back to ward recovery. It was all about as terrifying as sitting in an armchair which I suppose is how a good hospital likes it to be.

Back on the ward we swiftly dealt with more important things. I’d had nothing to drink for more than six hours and nothing to eat for nearly 15 hours, so getting a cup of tea, cornflakes and toast and marmalade was a godsend.

But because I was, for some reason, a tad distracted that morning, wearing tan slacks was not the best idea.

Discharge from hospital came complete with various tablets, various instructions and a reassuring amount of advice on what symptoms to watch out for together with contact numbers to call if any of them surfaced.

So for all of you out there facing a visit to DCH for whatever reason you will be in great hands.

I get the biopsy results next week. Fingers crossed.

Fashion exchange

A FASHION exchange night is to be held at St Paul’s Church Hall in Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth, on Friday, November 1st at 6:45pm.

Susan Wray, one of the organisers of the event, says it works by someone bringing along a good quality outfit with a coat hanger or an ‘as new’ handbag. They will be given a token for each item.

They can then enjoy some time chatting over a drink and canapés served by one of the  handsome 007 gentlemen hosts before swapping their token for another item.

Tickets cost £5 in advance and £7.50 on the night and include a glass of bubbly, hand-made canapés and various stalls.

Tickets are available from St Paul’s Outreach Shop on Abbotsbury Road or by contacting Susan Wray on 07946 533293. 

Stroke support group

WEYMOUTH Stroke Support Group is holding a special horse racing evening at the Black Dog pub in Weymouth.

The event, which will take place on November 15th at 7:30pm, is being organised by Donna Thompson.

She said: “I am appealing for companies and individuals to donate prizes for a raffle and I need the prizes to reach me by no later than November 12th so I know exactly how many I have.

“Also if anyone wants to make donation, they can contact me.”

Anyone or any business able to help can contact Donna on 01305 779699 or 07565 175165 or email her at

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