Anticipation was building, as the day of my surgery got closer. Excitement isn’t the right word to describe how I was feeling. I was eager for the day to come. An Achilles repair is not a major procedure. Patients are on the operating table for between 45 minutes to an hour. You spend a night in hospital and then you’re free to go.
The weather was miserable as my friend Dani drove me to the hospital. I met my surgeon who briefly discussed the operation. He marked my right leg with a black arrow and said, “just to make sure I remember which leg to open.” I’m not sure if it was his dry sense of humour. Maybe he was being serious?
The fear factor didn’t really hit until I was wheeled into the waiting bay. Being so close to the operating theatre, you can sense what’s about to happen. My heart rate began to rise. A needle was pushed into my hand, filling my veins with a cool fluid. Instantly I relaxed. I tried to fight the anaesthetic but I couldn’t. I attempted to count to 10. The curtain tracks above wriggled like snakes as the voices around me mingled into one.
“Heat 2… Abby”. My heat of the beach flags race was being called. I fixed my racing cap and made my way over to the line. “Abby”. My eyes opened slightly. I closed them... back to the race. But it was too late. My name was called again.
This time it wasn’t the race marshal it was the nurse. I had just been in a better place than where I was now. How could I to get back there? I closed my eyes again. Attempting one last time to put myself back in the dream. But the dream was over, at least for now. I couldn’t work out what was going on. My body was dead weight. I felt like I had been ‘hit by a bus’. The grogginess started to wear away and I came crashing back to real life. This really had happened. There was no way I would be getting to that race, which had, so recently seemed like reality.
My anesthetist had put a ‘numb block’ on my leg. He explained that it would last for about 20 hours. This meant there was no immediate pain and no feeling in my leg, from my knee down. The doctors and nurses kept pinching my toes. I couldn’t feel a thing. At first I thought this was wonderful but as the day wore on, the fascination wore off. I just wanted my toes back.
At about 4am, I got exactly that. My sleep had been restless and I woke in the early hours of the morning. Feeling was coming back to my leg; it was full of pins and needles. On a scale of one to ten, the pain was about seven. The nurse left to get something to relieve the ache. Until now, I had felt fine. In a matter of moments my right leg had returned.
I have never experienced physical pain like this before. I was in agony. As though a knife had been pieced into the back of my ankle. Now the pain was about 20 out of ten. Where was the nurse with the painkillers? Uncontrollably my eyes filled with tears that I couldn’t fight. I couldn’t stay still, yet moving amplified the pain. Finally the nurse arrived and I swallowed down the drugs. I thought they would work instantly. But I battled the tears, the agony and the knife for a little longer. Before to long I crashed. Falling asleep and unaware of the pain I had just experienced.
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