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Friday, 16 July 2010

Second Outpatient Appointment

My Week

After my overly-exhausting walk to my GP's office last week, I took a few days off from wandering around. Even going across the courtyard to my neighbour's house was leaving me pale for several minutes afterwards. But then, over the weekend, I was feeling better and asked my neighbour if she would go for a walk with me, along the bus route. I asked her to tell me if I started looking pale.

SigridWe walked about a kilometre, sat for a long time on a park bench and walked back. It was fine. I was feeling happy to be ok again. I went to the grocery store the next day, with Paula's help to carry stuff and then hung out the rest of the evening, felling completely normal. A lot of friends were coming around to see me. I wasn't going out at all, but had enough company to stave off loneliness. Things were pretty good.

On Tuesday, I picked up a novel before bed, intending to read a couple of pages. At 3:30, I realised I had read the whole thing and was up later than I meant to be. I've been going to bed around 1, so it wasn't that much later.

I woke up the next morning feeling like crap and in pain. I could barely stagger around my flat. I took a bunch of pain pills and when they didn't perk me up adequately, I called the Hospital to delay my appointment. I suddenly felt very fragile. They said I would be mostly recovered by 2 weeks and it was just shy of that and I couldn't even manage to stay up slightly late.

1 week + 1 day rightMy friend Jet had asked if I could play some improv bass for her theatre piece on the 25th. Aside from not really being up on generic improv, I suddenly became worried that maybe I wouldn't physically be able to do it. I started asking around and most guys are saying it's not actually a good idea, but one shared a story about having a major recording session about 3 weeks after. Meh, I really want to do the gig!

1 week + 4 daysMeanwhile, I was changing my dressings everyday and taking photos of my chest while the bandages were off. My right side is still looking perfect. It has hardly any bruising at all and the wound healed completely within a few days. The adhesive from the bandages began to irritate my skin, but, aside from that, there were no problems.

My left side is probably more typical. It's bruised and swollen. The haematoma has gradually decreased, but not vanished entirely. The dark band of necrosis on my nipple seemed to be decreasing in size, but the whole lower half of my nipple was oozy and gross and seemed to be slowly dissolving. It was sticking to my bandages. I tried not to pay too much attention to it.

Thursday

So when Thursday came around, I asked the TFL for a route with minimal walking. It sent me on a short walk to a long bus ride east to catch the DLR to Bank. Climbing the stairs to the DLR platform was surprisingly tiring. But the route was ok and had a lot of escalators. When I got to Tooting Broadway, I walked to the hospital rather than riding another bus.

Thursdays, the Dressings Clinic is not in some back corner of the hospital, but mysteriously moves to a ground floor clinic in the same wing as where I had my operation. I saw a different nurse than last time and asked a lot of questions.

People have been urging me to try Arnica, which is a flower that is rumoured to help with bruising. I had been concerned about drug interactions or possible allergies, but then I learned that Austrians make schnapps out of it. Anything that's made into schnapps has got to be relatively harmless. Still, I asked the nurse and she said that there were no studies that indicated that it had any effect at all. She did say it was harmless, so I bought some gel on the way home.

She said that the rash I was getting from the bandages is probably not an allergy, but from the irritation of pulling off an outer layer of skin every day. She suggested that from now on, I should peel off the bandages while in the shower, as the water would weaken the adhesive and thus spare my skin.

Because my right side has closed all the open wounds, I don't need to wear a bandage on it at all anymore, but should massage in moisturiser around the edges. She was demonstrating this and I felt a bit of pain where she was poking me, which is actually good, because it means my numb spots on that side are nearly all gone, except for my actual nipple, alas. My skin is really itchy, but this is apparently a sign of it re-awakening to sensation. Also, I've been feeling a lot of weird sort of stabbing sensations, like somebody is poking me with something kind of sharp. This feeling is nerves reconnecting and waking up. So despite it's being somewhat annoying, it's a good sign. And, I mean, some folks would pay good money to feel like they were being sharply poked repeatedly in the nipples.

My left side is still way more numb than my right side, but in the last couple of days, the sensate portions have dramatically increased. And it's got the stabby thing going on a lot more than the right, so it's continuing to heal. Ironically, that nipple is often itchy and has more feeling than the more perfect looking one.

The nurse said that the generally gooey yuck of the left did not mean that it was dying, just that it needed to dry out. She confirmed that the necrotic band had really reduced in size. In order to dry out my left side, she switched the sort of bandages to put on it. Now, I start with an iodine-soaked piece of gauze, which i press into the folds of my wound, as much as I can. Then, I put a regular sheet of gauze over that. And then a non-waterproof adhesive on top. Theoretically, the new bandaging is breathable and the iodine should encourage dryness. It was much less yucky when I changed it this morning, but alas, I pressed in the new sheet perhaps too gingerly.

She gave me all the stuff I'm going to need to bandage myself for the next week, including a disposable pair of scissors. The dressings clinics gets sterile pairs of steel and plastic scissors, uses them once, and then incinerates them. I was flabbergasted last week when I saw the nurse throwing them into a sharps bin. She said they used to autoclave them, but not anymore. I really find it hard to believe that many germs could survive a trip through an autoclave. If it's good enough for tattooing equipment, which actually touches blood, it's got to be good enough for scissors that only touch sterile dressings. If this is cheaper, it's certainly a false economy. Nothing that wasteful can seriously be a good idea.

Jara playing guitarI talked about how fragile I felt after staying up too late and asked about playing the gig in a little more than a week. She was cautiously encouraging but stopped well short of saying it would be fine. What she said was that the consequences of doing too much would make me feel over-tired and bad, but it does not actually impair the healing of my wounds. So the risk I would be taking by playing the gig was not any further harm than exhaustion. I'm not going to mess up my operation.

2 weeks + 1 dayShe said I should work up to it. I intend to do this by getting gradually more exercise leading up to the gig and also by practicing every day and making sure I have the stamina to play bass for the duration required of me. I'm not going to move any gear and I'm going to play while seated, so there's very little actual, physical stress. The only concern is exhaustion, which, while uncomfortable and definitely something I want to avoid, has no long-term consequences.

I feel cautiously optimistic. Anyway, taking walks and getting better at bass playing will both be good for me.

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