Thursday 8th March marked International Women’s Day 2018. For me, it was spent in hospital (Russells Hall, Dudley) undergoing minor surgery. Could be worse, I suppose!
Due to the fact I have Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy (a muscle-wasting condition), people are often horrified when I tell them how many general anaesthetics I’ve endured throughout my life (at least 10 – honestly, I’ve lost count!).
Although it is obviously best avoided, I’ve personally never encountered any problems or complications as a result of general anaesthesia.
I’m a big believer in knowing your own body and what you, as an individual, are able to withstand. When undergoing any form of surgery, communication is key – particularly when you have a disability.
A Few Tips:
Go prepared: Take all relevant documentation to your pre-operative assessment(s), including names and contacts for all the medical professionals you see regularly.
Meet with your surgeon(s) and anaesthetist: It is not always common practice to see your anaesthetist prior to surgery, but in my case it is essential. Explain your specific requirements and concerns, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Ensure everything is in place prior to your admission date: If, for example, you use a Bi-pap or C-pap machine (non-invasive ventilation), tell your medical team – nurses included. Make sure they know your settings and have your NIV machine ready for you to use post-operative.
I usually discharge myself on the day of surgery or, as soon as I know I’m well enough to manage at home (again, I hear you gasp). Anyone with a disability who has spent time as an inpatient will appreciate why I prefer to escape as soon as physically possible.
Don’t get me wrong – I cannot fault the care and conscientiousness of the doctors and nurses. I am a big supporter of the NHS and frankly, I would not be here today without it.
However, the sad fact is, hospitals in the UK are not equipped for those of us with disabilities and complex care needs. Trust me – having been admitted many times, to various hospitals, for various reasons – I am well versed!
On this particular occasion, it was necessary for me to stay in hospital overnight. My Mom was with me all day but went home at around 7pm when it became apparent that I was unfit to leave. This essentially left me alone and stranded in bed (one that didn’t work!), unable to move, reach or sit myself up.
I couldn’t and wouldn’t expect Mom to stay with me all night, in order to assist with my physical care needs. She herself has recently had a full knee replacement and was exhausted.
After a long, uncomfortable night spent clock-watching, I was incredibly relieved when my folks returned at 11am on Friday to take me home. My home is set up for my care needs. Unfortunately, hospitals are not.