Sunday, 22 December 2013
Trigeminal Neuralgia – belief in relief
This week has been hairy. And I don’t mean in a need-to-exfoliate way. Although a quick peek at the legs has reminded me that exfoliation is overdue. No, it was hairy for very different reasons. Last Monday my son, Robbie, had brain surgery in an attempt to ‘cure’ his Trigeminal Neuralgia. To say he was nervous was an understatement. As his mother, it would be fair to say that my own anxiety levels were on red alert.
We were up and out of the house at 4.30 a.m., arriving at London’s Wellington Hospital by 6.30 a.m. A kindly nurse checked us in. The anesthetist visited and discussed his part, and finally the surgeon took us through the operation.
‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ he asked. ‘This is brain surgery, after all.’
Robbie has had almost a year of back to back attacks with pain that is meant to be worse than childbirth. He’s been taking sixteen different drugs a day, suffered allergic reactions that have put him in hospital, adverse effects that have left him collapsed in the street with passers-by stepping over him and assuming he was a druggie, and on another occasion suffered a reaction leaving him drug-drunk and unable to cross a road. When he asked a stranger, in a slurring voice, for assistance in crossing a road, he was given the sort of look that conveyed he should be ashamed of himself. Was he sure about this operation? Definitely!
After being told a list of potential complications that included deafness, numbness, facial palsy, and death, he signed the consent form. My son might be twenty years old, but he wanted his mum nearby. Together we walked with the medical team to the lifts, descended down to the bowels of the hospital and found ourselves in an artificially lit corridor. A powerful antiseptic smell instantly hit our nostrils. Doors led off to left and right, each being a theatre.
‘You’re in Theatre 5,’ said a nurse and led us into the anesthetic room. A man walked through a set of double doors.
‘Hello, you’ll soon be asleep,’ he reassured.
I stared at him. Who was he? Rob and I exchanged glances as the anesthetist leant close to the nurse and whispered. I couldn’t help but hear.
‘I don’t recognize this young man. Where are his notes?’
‘Oh, so sorry,’ said the nurse to Robbie, ‘you are in the wrong theatre!’
‘Ha ha!’ the anesthetist laughed, ‘bit of a mix up, eh?’
Er, quite. Nothing like awakening from your drug-induced sleep to be told your Trigeminal Neuralgia hasn’t been cured, but you’re heart transplant was a total success.
We joined in the polite laughter, but in a shrill and rather demented way you understand. As we moved into Theatre 6, our stomachs were churning like washing machines in overdrive. Rob grabbed my hand as the anesthetist inserted a cannula into his other hand. I averted my eyes and concentrated on not fainting. The smells of gas and general sterility were almost nauseating. And suddenly my son was asleep and being trolleyed off through doors which swung back in my face. I did what all mums do and burst into tears.
Needless to say the operation was a total success. Thank heavens for the marvels of modern medicine and skilled surgeons. A couple of days later, family took place.
‘I’ve got a board game for us all to play,’ Robbie beamed as we walked in.
‘Oh no. Please don’t tell me it’s Monopoly,’ Eleanor groaned.
‘It’s called The London Board Game,’ Rob said to his sister, ‘and it’s based on the tube system.’
As we’d just spent an hour battling our way around the underground, staring at a board map and its criss-crossing lines and where to change, this was a game we weren’t really keen to play. However, patients have perks. Doing their bidding is one of them. So there we sat, throwing the dice, picking up our plastic train marker and moving it forward one, two, three stops before collecting a Hazard Card which then gleefully informed we had to return to Liverpool Street on the other side of the board due to engineering works. It was all rather too life like for our liking. We were saved by a uniformed man sweeping in holding a tea tray aloft which he then set down on our board game thus scattering counters and cards in all directions.
My son is now home and recuperating. All that remains is for us to enjoy Christmas. I know it will involve more board games! Which reminds me. Parker Brothers have brought out a political version of Monopoly. Apparently all Members of Parliament get an instant ‘Get out of Jail’ card…