As my children prepare for their upcoming tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, they can barely contain their excitement. They are practically giddy. For them it’s a big adventure, and they can’t wait to experience what it’s like being admitted to hospital, tended to by doting nurses and stay overnight in a hospital bed. This surgery wasn’t a routine overnight stay for me 33 years ago the way it is now. It also was not, as it is now, recommended for the patient to take 2 weeks off school due to the risk of bleeding. The surgeon didn’t mention this, so when my friend brought it up as the key reason she didn’t book it for her own child, my mouth formed a perfect O. 2 weeks off school? Outrageous. No way were we doing that. What’s the difference, I reasoned, between them bleeding at home with me and bleeding at school with a teacher? Either way, they’re 6 and 9, old enough to tell us promptly if there is a problem, and the school will contact us pretty much instantaneously.
They are so trigger happy at that school it irritates me no end. “Mrs Leslous? Yes, I have Euphemia here, she’s had a nose bleed for the last 45 minutes, and it keeps oozing. I can’t really send her back to class like that so how soon can someone come and get her?” Ah no. The child has a nosebleed. Due to trauma. From her own finger. I won’t be taking non existent time off work to collect her. Nor will my husband. And no, her grandparents are not available. Sorry she’s in the sick bay interfering with your work environment. May I remind you that this is actually part of your job. It is not, though, part of mine right now. An actual emergency? Sure, of course. This? No. 30 minutes later the oozing stopped and she went back to class. I was not amused. But the upshot of this is, I know they’ll act swiftly.
What the girls don’t know is that they are likely, with my track record with general anaesthesia, to have some interesting post GA experiences. I don’t do it well. I counted that I have had GA a total of 15 times in my life. Every time I wake up from GA I am dysphoric, to say the least. I have woken up writhing in pain, vomiting my guts up, unable to lift my head (“Dad,” I mumbled through tight, drawn lips, “I can’t move my fucking head”), and desperate for the toilet but unable to walk (my mum and sister helped me get there and wipe my arse).
But mostly, I wake up sobbing. I am nervous about this element for the girls. Ironically, after my last GA, Christmas Eve 2019, I woke up feeling sad, but only due to the fact that I’d just had the contents of my uterus scraped out after a missed miscarriage at 9 weeks. GA-wise, I felt fine. I didn’t even vomit. Well done doctors, well done. A bad GA reaction was the last thing I needed that time.
When I think of the girls I can’t help but be reminded of the oft-told infamous tale of my first ever reaction to GA after having my tonsils and adenoids out at age 5. I reportedly woke up so cranky, that after demanding to have the drip taken out of my foot (why was it in my foot anyway? Presumably less annoying/accessible for the child?) and being refused, I took matters into my own hands and ripped it out myself. Hard. Core. My stunned nurse, not accustomed to children having a voice and will to reckon with, told me how silly that was and that now I would have to drink water instead of having it delivered to me through the drip. I didn’t care. Mean old hag.
I sipped my water and promptly began coughing up blood. I was furious. Hot tears sprang from my eyes as I screamed, “You STUPID woman! Now look what you’ve made me DO! You’ve made me get blood all over my NEW PYJAMAS!” Apparently that was the moment mum checked out. “Newman, I think I’ll leave you to it.” She was a medical rep. She didn’t need her daughter throwing a temper tantrum in her place of work. Dad probably thought it was funny. I certainly do now, although I feel for my 5 year old, anaesthesia-addled self. I was a pretty intense child but that display was out of character, even for me.
So no, I don’t do GA well. As the girls excitedly count down the days to their surgery we can only hope they do not follow in my footsteps. If they do, though, god knows I’ll be ready. But I might advise a little extra micropore over those cannulas, just in case.