A minor operation. A procedure I've had before, in the same hospital, with the same gynaecologist. The worst thing beforehand was fasting after an early breakfast, and missing my 11.00 coffee. I picked Paul up from the airport after two weeks away, we ran a few errands, and then he dropped me at the hospital at 1.30. The Women's hospital is a new building, and I'm in the private ward, Frances Perry House. Everything is clean and calm; and there are no televisions. The nurses introduce themselves by name. I put on my robe and climb into bed under my white cotton blanket. The pale teal curtains are drawn around me. After a while there's a bit of a bustle, a trolley is wheeled in, and it's clear there's a new baby. I don't catch its name but it's named after its maternal grandfather, I hear the father say. I don't hear the mother speaking, but the baby is learning to feed, just practising, the nurses say.
After a while it's quiet again — they have gone back to the ward, I suppose — and Olivia comes to tell me there's a bit of a delay. I'm re-reading Nice Work for a new PhD class starting this week, but after a while I put it aside and sleep. The lights are bright, but it's been easy to slip into the passive role of good patient. I can't email, or hold meetings; I can't write. So I curl up and sleep, for close to an hour, I think — there's no clock — and wake to a gentle touch on my arm. It's Deborah, wearing her scrubs and surgical cap, telling me we'll be going in soonish: there was an emergency caesarean ahead of us. She's the most recent in a long line of wonderful medical practitioners I've met in the last six years: dry and warm (speaking humorally, I see). She is kneeling at my bedside as she wakes me. What a simple thing to do: how little she loses in status by doing so; how much she gains my trust.
I love the feeling of being looked after by this team of competent calm professionals: male receptionist; female nurses; male orderly; female gynaecologist; male anaesthetist.
Graeme comes to take me into surgery, with a new white cotton blanket, which he has warmed up. I meet Andrew the anaesthetist and he and Deborah and I chat about the Melbourne model and the loss of the old Arts/Medicine degree. Another nurse deftly plants sensors on my chest, and before I know it, they have attached me to the drips. I have had almost no experience with hallucinogens in my modest life, and so am curious about the moments before unconsciousness. I keep my eyes open, looking at the white pipes across the ceiling, the lights above me, and hearing Andrew's voice. I think briefly about Michael Jackson. Then, I guess, my eyes roll back, and I'm gone.
I wake. Someone — is it Deborah? — is telling me everything went very well. I think I am back in the ward, but I hear someone telling me they are about to move me back into "day surge". I don't remember the journey, and it takes me a long time to wake up and sip some water. Later on, a cup of tea, some salty biscuits (bliss!) and a sandwich.
Another baby arrives, just with its father: the mother is still in surgery, I think. This baby is called Philip. The father is teacher at a boys' school and tried hard to find a name not shared by any of his students. The baby has a funny little cry, like a chicken... It's not at all disturbing to my calm, to hear the sounds of happy parents. The baby's big sister, five years old, has no idea, apparently, that a baby is arriving today.
I'm home by 7.30 and even manage to sit up for pizza night. Two days later, my legs still feel a bit wobbly, but it's much better than the last time I had a general anaesthetic, when I felt teary and miserable for nearly a week.
This was a diagnostic procedure, just to make 100% sure the observable and measurable after-effect of Tamoxifen on the endometrium isn't malignant. I'm expecting nothing but good news.