Long. Not necessary to read. I'm just saving my life for myself.
Last time I went to the hospital I misread the bus timetable. I was much more careful this time and was in good time at the bus-stop so I waited, and waited. And waited – until a pedestrian told me the bottom of the road was flooded and no buses were running. Good start. Even though I had to walk to the nearest point a cab could get to me I still arrived in the dark before my appointment time. Then sat in a hospital chair from 7.10 to 9.30 while all eight people who arrived after me were called. Two of them, it appeared, had been mis-booked, and had to sit in the pre-operation room completing the questionnaire that should have been done at a pre-assessment appointment. One of them was not expecting an operation today, and chose to leave. (It was a pre-assessment appointment that I wrongly had two of – in July and September.) I began to wonder whether my file had been ‘archived’ again so checked at the nurse’s station. ‘No,’ they said brightly, ‘here it is on the bottom of the pile.’
Some time later I discovered that the people who’d been summoned for 10.30 were also going through before me.
When I did get to see a consultant, for the first time in this whole 16-month process, he told me that the special lens that had been ordered in for me after my hasty impromptu interview with a doctor at my previous mis-booked visit – which had then not arrived (not been ordered, perhaps?), hence my date last week being cancelled – was in fact the wrong lens for my condition. Luckily what I needed was in stock so things could go ahead and I was told my operation would be at 4pm. By now I’d become chair-shaped so I got permission to go for a walk. I used to think that if I were ever imprisoned, I could manage if I had enough books. I now know I couldn’t. I had a book, I had a notebook and pen, I had music, I had my camera and I couldn’t focus on any of them. All I knew was tedium, boredom, frustration, wanting to shed my skin and run.
Then suddenly, three hours earlier than I expected, a wheelchair arrived for me. I laughed and said I thought I could still walk, but no, I had to be docile. Then a trolley, kind nurses, eye drops, a consent form I couldn’t read, a hair-cover, a huge bright light in the middle of everything, voices behind my head, a paper stuck to half my face to stop my good eye seeing what was happening, local anaesthetic painted over the other eye, a piece of equipment above me just visible through the blinding light, a swirling, the piece of equipment above me gradually disappearing (I knew my own lens was going and I mourned it), another swirling, the piece of equipment appearing again (I knew my new lens was being carefully positioned and I welcomed it), a soft eyepatch, a plastic cover, a disembodied voice telling me it was over. Fifteen minutes.
I was wheeled back to the waiting room for another 90 minutes on the fearful chairs where I was so desperate to be horizontal I nearly spread myself out on the floor. Last time I had this operation, in the dark, outmoded 18th century building, where somehow everything seemed to work despite long corridors and huge pipes, curled-up lino and rattly windows, I was given a welcome bed for two hours. But I have it on reasonable authority that when this new PFI building was built, the costs were borne not by the hospital as a whole but by the departments that moved into it, so they now have less money for beds and sheets and efficient appointment-bookings…
Then a cab home to celebrate my daughter’s birthday – with less energy than ever before except, perhaps, the night she was born.
But I am thankful. Sight is a miracle anyway, and to be given it back is astonishingly lucky.
Edit: I am amused to see that I was waiting a year ago too.