Thirsty Work

I have to go into hospital tomorrow and it is the first time the medical profession will have had me under its control for an extended period of time. I suspect this will not end well.

When people ask me why I am so scared of flying, my answer is not that I am scared of crashing, more that (a) I am made to be a passenger and (b) I have no wings. If I am in a car that breaks down, I can walk, if I am on a boat, swimming is something I can do, but my talents do not extend to remaining airborne without the surrounding structure of an aircraft. Plus someone else is driving, and driving  a plane is something that I can’t do. If I am the only one on the plane who has not had the fish for lunch when the captain and co-pilot are rendered incapacitated with food poisoning, then we are all still going down.

I had a bit of a trial run for this a couple of weeks ago when I went with my father to the same hospital I will be at as he was admitted for day surgery. From this I have learned:

– I need to leave all my jewellery at home because they are going to make me take it off anyway.

– I will also not have my iPad with me so unless I am super organized, and get something in draft tonight, I may not be able to post Monday’s blog until Tuesday. (Everyone assures me that I will be unable to stay awake after the operation, much less write something).

– Not to lever up the foot rest in one of the very comfortable waiting room chairs as they are almost impossible to get out of unaccompanied.

– Hospital time is roughly aligned to but not concurrent with real time – so they will expect you there at 11.30 am if that is your check-in time, but ‘day surgery’ can mean anything from 10 hours to two weeks, so I am taking overnight gear just in case.

– There will be a series of people who will ask me the same set of questions over and over again, because they never write down the answers, which are on your admission form. I think it is a kind of hospital small talk.

– They are going to ask me how much I weigh and this means I have to weigh myself, which means I will depressed.

– They are going to ask me a heap of questions about what I have been shovelling into my body in the recent and distant past to make sure I don’t choke on my own vomit while under the knife.

They are very, very keen on this last one. My admission time is 11.30 am and although I am allowed a light breakfast, I am not allowed any food OR DRINK from 7 am. I get in at 11.30 am, that is already four hours without fluid, admitting me will take at least an hour, then the doctors will go for some jolly nice lunch and I will be lying like a stranded fish waiting to be knocked out for hours, because my operation is supposed to be quite simple, which means I will be bumped right down the surgical list so by the time I get into theatre I will be as dessicated as a coconut.

This has been stressing me out for some time. I don’t care about the food, God knows I have enough fat reserves to keep me going, and I know that it is unlikely I will have a reaction to the anaesthetic, based on various family members’ experiences and where I sit on the statistical bell curve of medical disaster, but no drink?

When I did my First Aid course, they talked about the rule of three: you can survive for three mins without air, three days without water and three months without food. Well when it comes to water, put me down for three hours.

More than anything else, I hate being thirsty. Before my knee gave out and I was running half marathons and 10 km races, I would never start a race without a bottle of water in hand. I carried water as I trained too, which may explain my  Popeye- style right tricep muscles.

Even though my exercise is currently limited to walking the dogs, I start every morning with a pot of tea and will have generally have had at least half a litre of water before lunch and another half before I get home from work, ready for another cup of tea. I will have at least another half litre before I go to bed and there is a bottle of water beside me as I sleep for when I wake up thirsty. There is a bottle of water beside me as I type this. Now I read that list, it seems amazing how I have functioned without nappies for so long.

I tried pumping myself full of water last night to see if I woke up less thirsty, but it only had the effect of increasing the number of times I needed to get up during the night to pee. I am now reduced to my other plans (as yet untested) which are to get up at 5.30 am so I can drink a load before the cut-off time, or to lie. Yeah you heard it. I reckon I can probably have a couple of ice cubes up to around 8 am and then just tell them I behaved.

The one thing on my side at the moment is the unseasonably cool weather. If it can hold out at pleasant for the next day or so, I may just be able to make it. I just don’t understand this rule. They say you can’t have anything to drink six hours before anaesthetic in case you choke while on the table, but surely it does not take that long for water to travel through an empty stomach? In fact, I read on the website for anaesthetists in Australia that they have trialled giving patients a drink up to two hours prior to surgery, and that not only did they not die, they woke up feeling better. The problem is that for the hospitals, there’s no benefit to risk allowing thirsty Mavericks like me to buck the system. Hospitals never get thirsty so they do not understand. They will be adamant that I can have no fluids and then will give me a tiny cup of water with which to wash down my pre-meds. What is so special about that water, I wonder? How come that water is allowed?

So in just over twelve hours, my tap will be turned off and I will start the long slog hoping to get to the oasis before I pull a mini tanty at some nurse who is only doing her job – although maybe if I do, they will give me some hospital-strength drugs and I will float around, more worried that the ceiling is wobbling than that my mouth and throat are seizing up with dehydration.

So if you pass a water fountain tomorrow, have a drink for me – and hopefully I will be back on the flip side, thirstier but looking forward to  a slightly less painful knee.

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