Wednesday’s experience of day surgery – or chirurgie ambulatoire– was relatively stress free. The visit to the Clinique St Jean in Montpellier was to have the thermocoagulation treatment agreed on a month ago.
First the ritual of repeated bétadine (antiseptic) showers – head to foot – the evening before and the the morning. And then, because I would not be able to drive myself back, I had the usual VSL (ambulance taxi) trip to Montpellier. My driver was Sonia, the photography and drone enthusiast who is responsible for my entering the world of drones. So we had an amiable trip down, discussing photography and techie subjects.
Then, suddenly into the world of hospitals as I was ushered up to room with half a dozen beds in the day surgery wing and handed the usual pile of paper clothes to change into. But someone has performed miracles: instead of the usual too small outfits with immodest openings at the back, I was given a far more fetching set of garments. The trousers were, literals huge, like giant pyjamas with a drawer string to hold them up. And the top was an equally generous-sized tunic which amazingly went all the way round – no acres of flesh to bare to the world. (Instead, when the anaesthetist wanted to put electrodes on my skin, she simply tore little holes into the paper!)
I even enjoyed the inevitable wait near the operating room, lying on my stretcher in front of a television where there was a fascinating program about the Big Bang (pronounced beeg bong in French). I was disappointed to be collected by a porter before the end of the program.
Dr Dhenin, the surgeon, was again reassuringly polite and friendly, as were the nurses assisting, who went to great lengths to accommodate the mobility problems of my shoulders when I was stretched out on the operating table on my front.
The disconcerting thing about day surgery under local anaesthetics is of course that you are only too aware of the lack of dignity of lying on your tummy while the surgeon performed on the base of your spine. But the whole procedure was rapid and painless (helped by some additional cocktail in the anaesthetic, I suspect) and soon the surgeon was shaking my hand and saying he would see me in a month.
Then, after the usual boring hour or so in recovery before being allowed to go, and then back home in the VSL. That was perhaps the least pleasant part of the day. It is difficult to describe my symptoms, but for the rest of the day until about midnight I felt distinctly unwell – distressed, restless, unable to concentrate or do anything, and more aware of the misbehaving lumbars 4 and 5 than usual. I imagine it was a reaction to the anaesthetic, but it is the first time that has happened to me.
Luckily by morning I felt back to normal. It now remains to be see how effective the treatment has been. I now know of four people in this area who have had this treatment (which I had never heard of before). Of these, three said it made a great improvement, though the effect only lasts a year or two.