Do you ever have a night where it feels as if you don’t actually sleep at all? You’re exhausted and desperate to slide into the pool of oblivion but instead, you lie rigid, brain fizzing, eyes popping, muscles poised to act. Occasionally, you seem to skate over the surface of sleep like a swan or a water boatman but never, not for one moment, do you dip your head beneath and begin to float away.
But in the morning, tight eyed and tired, you tell your Significant Other, and he says, “What do you mean? You were right out. I heard you snoring.” No! Surely not! I tell you, I was awake ALL NIGHT!
Well, that’s how it was on Thursday after my operation. And I was expecting to sleep well. After all it’s not every day you travel to London, have a screw put in your skull and are home by teatime. Whether it was the relief, or the general anaesthetic, or the fact that this 360 degree sleeper would be confined, for a week, to one side only, I don’t know. But whatever the Rev says, I tell you I didn’t sleep AT ALL…
I tossed and turned (and tossed back again – I’m not meant to turn) all night. At 5, light began to twitch behind the curtains so I decided I might as well go through the strange events of the week in my head and then, maybe, just maybe, my brain would give me some peace.
I had wanted this operation and knew I was blessed to be eligible. The years of ear infections had stolen my hearing and this metal screw, soon to be fitted with an abutment and later on, a tiny detachable speaker, all under my hair, would change my life. I would stop saying inappropriate things (maybe) and regain my confidence in social settings (definitely).
I only got the phone call three weeks ago, as I had just embedded my jaws into a towering scone at a posh hotel. My husband grabbed it while I mumbled stickily into the mobile. Yes, I’d been waiting a while. Yes, I was still up for it. Yes, I could go for a pre-op assessment next Monday.
The pre-op was terrible. The journey was long and the nurses didn’t know (or had forgotten) I was going for a hearing op. They spoke quietly, in masks, in unfamiliar accents and when I explained, they just shouted. I understand people have to raise their voices but there’s what-I-call nice shouty and mean shouty. Having said that, when it’s not your first language and you’re trying to communicate with a deaf person from behind a mask, I get that it’s hard. I really do. It was just the part where my heart rate was so high they insisted I have an ECG and kept roaring RELAX! JUST RELAX! THINK OF SOMETHING NICE!! I won’t tell you what I was thinking would be nice at that point. You would be shocked.
The day of the operation was better. Everyone was kind. The surgeon was youngish and Irish with sparkly blue eyes and he was nice shouty. I told him I was worried about general anaesthetics because you hear all those stories about people not waking up again, and he listened with a serious face, and said he had never seen that happen and it would be alright.
I asked him if he’d ever had a general anaesthetic and, without a beat, he said “Yes.” My husband laughed. “That didn’t work, did it?” he said to me. My husband also has blue, twinkly eyes. He could have been a surgeon.
The anaesthetist was also nice. He told me he’d been doing the job for 28 years and if there was the slightest risk, he wouldn’t have agreed to put me under. There was a lady anaesthetist who was also very kind and patted me on the shoulder and said things like, It’ll be over before you know it and Shall I look after your glasses? Instead of, You have to take your glasses off now.
Then they popped the cannula in and there was that slipping, sliding feeling where you’re drifting away and the room closes its eyes and no one can see you any more. The next minute, you’re waking up, and it’s over. They kept asking me if I was alright, if I felt sick, if I was warm enough. I felt great. They had unplugged me and I closed my eyes but I woke up again.
One day, I think, I will close my eyes and never wake up. Not in this world, at least. When He sees me, will God pause what He’s doing and say, “Oh, hello, it’s you. Made a bit of a mess of things down there, didn’t you? Oh well, I suppose you’d better come in…”?
You know, I don’t think He will. I think He’ll turn and break into a huge smile and say, “Hello, You! Come in! Don’t worry about the mess you made down there. It would’ve been far worse if you hadn’t let me help you.”
There’ll be cheers and hugs and welcoming angels with lattes and Green and Black’s chocolate, or similar, and reunions with people I knew in this world, but without the cancer or dementia or deafness. And all will be well.
At that point, I think I must have ducked under the surface for a while because when I lifted my head, it was light, and there was cold tea in a mug. And outside were sun and wind and leaves, gold-spinning past the window like tossed coins.
And I watched them for a very long time.