A year ago today I went into St George's Hospital with lung cancer. A daunting prospect at the time. The next day I was operated on by Mr Hunt and he removed one third of my right lung. (He did have my permission.)
A few hours later I came round in Caroline Ward. Felt okay, no discomfort, no pain. Heather and Cyril visited; doctors came round and checked me over and said I could go home. Great, I thought, but I could tell Heather wasn't so keen on the idea. "It's a bit quick, don't you think?" She said.
She was clearly thinking of last year, after my bowel cancer op in East Surry Hospital. I was discharged after about four days and then, the next day I felt so bad, so sick, I was rushed back in. But I got over it and after a couple of follow-ups with Mr Smith, the surgeon who had operated, I was fine, cured, cancer gone. Until, a year later, it was found on my lung.
So, this time I was home for less than a day before the pain started and I felt as if I couldn't breath.
Back into St George's.
Not a happy time for me, or Heather, or Cyril. To my relief the pain was tackled first. Two doctors came to see me and suggested I have a spinal nerve block procedure which, they assured me, would sort the pain out. It did. And much more.
The evening following the procedure, I was taken in a small fifteen-seater bus, with other patients from the ward, to a Redhill restaurant where we ate. A nurse kept coming to see me concerned about my pain, but it was now only coming in waves, there were periods when it left me altogether. The two doctors who had performed the spinal block procedure were there, talking to another patient and persuading him to consider having it too.
An hour or two later we were back in the ward. The pain had gone but that night I had some dreadful dreams preceded by psychedelic patterns on the wall opposite my bed. I concluded there was some sort of fault in the lighting circuits causing them. The swirling abstract colours slowly spread across the ceiling and were difficult to ignore. Also difficult to ignore was one of the nearby patients who seemed to spend the night calling on God to help him. It seemed that God didn't for he kept repeating the plea until the morning when he eventually fell asleep, as did I, too.
In the morning Heather was there smiling down at me, but looking concerned. Still no pain. There were large flies buzzing around the bed that I kept flapping my hand at, as I told her about the night before.
"What are you doing?" She asked as I continued my attempts to brush the flys away.
"Flys." I said. She gave me a strange look.
"You went to a restaurant?" she asked
"Yes," I waved my hand around the ward, "there was a bunch of us. They took us in a coach."
She smiled, shook her head, "I don't think so, Tott. I think you are on some sort of drug.""
"What do you mean?"
She shook her head, "It didn't happen. You have just had a serious operation, you are in hospital. They wouldn't be zipping you around the countryside in a mini-bus, visiting restaurants, like something out of Öne Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"would they? Think about it."
I thought about it. But it was so real and it took quite a while for me to accept I hadn't gone to a restaurant in Redhill with some of my fellow patients. The spinal nerve block procedure I had undergone allows the slow release of morphine which stops the pain but, of course, has side affects - one of which is hallucinations. I had another revelation later that day: I thought the ambulance that had been called for me had taken me back to St George's - but no, I was in East Surrey Hospital!
I have never taken drugs so had no conception of the affect they can have.
I know now.