Well not straightaway it didn’t. Had a call to say it had been put back a week, but I was at least given a date for the stomach tube, or Radiologically Inserted Gastrostomy (RIG) to give it its proper title, to be inserted.
This turned out to involve a two night stay on the cancer ward. On my part of it there was me and five other men, all with different cancers at different stages. It’s almost definitely not a place anyone in their right mind would choose to be. In the first conversation I overheard, the guy two beds down was saying very calmly that he was going to die where he was. And soon.
But while clearly sad and horrible things can and do happen on the ward, the prevailing mood seemed to be fairly stoical.
The staff had seen it all before and seemed quite able to take just about any development in their stride. We patients, wherever we may be on our ‘pathway’, are at least all in the same boat. Or at least travelling on the same river. So I felt an immediate and automatic sense of fellow feeling.
And there wasn’t much time to sit about wallowing in self-pity. There was a fairly fully-packed agenda. The first procedure I had to navigate during my own two and a half day stay was a blood test. Another blood test. I REALLY dislike blood tests. I’m being prone to getting queasy and light-headed, feeling giddy and on occasion actually fainting. And before you say ah, fear of needles, well no, I can and have injected myself quite happily in the past. For a few years I was prescribed a drug called Rebif for MS which is self-injected three times a week. No problem. But there seems to be something about the mechanics of anything intravenous that, as they say in these parts, turns me up.
Well there’s no getting away from blood tests. Lots of Star Trek technology might have made it into real life, but the nifty device that Doctor McCoy uses to diagnose, the bleeping box you wave over a patient and it tells you everything you need to know about their state of health, well that remains obstinately stuck in the twenty-fifth century.
But being a brave little soldier, I got through the blood tests, passing the FBC, Liver Function and clotting tests. And then it was onto the stomach tube. First the insertion of a camera into my stomach via my nose and throat. This involves triggering the gag reflex, which can invoke a spot of light vomiting which I was fortunately and more by luck than judgement, was able to avoid.
Then a canula was inserted into a vein on the back of my hand. Now once in, the canula is a handy device. When it’s in place it’s where any drugs you need get delivered, quickly and easily. Now I’ve had canulas before and mostly they’ve been fitted quickly and easily. But not this time.
This time it took three different people (one nurse and two doctors) six attempts before they finally managed it. I got a collection of bruises,puncture wounds and plasters, but they managed it.
Then I was wheeled across the hospital to the x-ray department where the operation got done. I recall pretty much everything until the word morphine was mentioned, after which I just recall being told the procedure was all over and successful. The radiologist and his team had made an incision, inserted an inflatable bag into my stomach, then a tube leading to the outside to which a syringe containing energy-rich food could be added. I was wheeled back to the ward and had a bit of a nap.
When I woke up the morphine and any other sedative they’d given me was starting to wear off. There was a bit of pain and a bit more discomfort. Think of having a grumbling toothache in your guts.
But I got given some paracetamol and ibuprofen, a combination that seems to work well.
Then to bed and a surprisingly good night’s sleep. So good I even managed to only barely register that the guy in the bed opposite had died. The chap who I’d heard say he’d be gone soon was sitting up eating breakfast.