I had no idea what to expect when I went into hospital for my styloidectomy a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d share my hospital experience to help others who may be considering surgery or are worried about what to expect.
I arrived at the Day Surgery Unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital at 06:30. I’d removed my gel nail polish and eyelash extensions (OK, I’m high maintenance!) and had not eaten anything since 20:00 the previous evening or had anything but water to drink since 06:00, all as instructed.
I checked in at the check-in desk and then waited for a short time in the waiting room (which was very busy and a bit overwhelming at 06:30). I was then called and taken to a curtained bay a short walk down the corridor. I was asked to change into a hospital gown, open toed compression stockings and ankle socks (the compression stockings were very tight fitting and quite difficult to put on).
I then sat in a wheelchair while my belongings (including my usual medication) and overnight bag were bagged up. These were all recorded on a form, which I was asked to sign, and then taken away for safe storage.
A nurse then took my temperature and blood pressure readings and we went through a questionnaire about my medical history. Hospital name tags and an allergy warning tag were put round my wrist and ankle. A registrar then popped in and asked a few more questions, marked the surgery site on my neck with a pen, explained the risks associated with the surgery and I signed a consent form. Since Addenbrooke’s is a teaching hospital, I also gave consent to the use of photography, audio or visual recording and the involvement of students.
The anaesthetist then popped in, introduced himself, told me what to expect and asked a few questions, followed by my surgeon, Mr Axon, who had a quick reassuring chat with me.
All of them invited me to ask questions and gave me comprehensive answers.
At about 08:00 the nurse told me that I was ‘first up’ and that I should use the bathroom if I needed to as I wouldn’t get another chance before going to theatre (the hospital is huge and I managed to get lost on the way back).
At about 08:30 I was wheeled to the anaesthetic room, adjacent to the theatre, where I had to leave my husband outside (he’d been with me up to that point).
The anaesthetist that I’d met earlier checked my name and confirmed the operation I was expecting. He attached a heart monitor and pulse oximeter and inserted a cannula into the back of my left hand, put a mask over my face and told me to take some deep breaths. I assumed it was an oxygen mask but that was the last thing I remember until I woke up in the recovery room.
I woke up in a busy recovery room with a number of other people who were at different stages of coming round. A nurse who’d been seated beside me introduced himself and asked me how I was feeling and whether I’d like a drink of water. I had a nasal cannula attached (a device used to deliver supplemental oxygen) and I was given a cardboard ‘vomit dish’ just in case I needed to vomit (fortunately I didn’t).
I did, however, cough quite violently for about half an hour and the roof of my mouth and inside my bottom lip felt rough and sore (I assume this was caused by a breathing tube used during surgery). Sips of cold water through a straw eased this. My vision was very blurred for several hours.
The nurse stayed with me and monitored my heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level at regular intervals. At about 11:00 I was wheeled up to Ward M5 (Oral and maxillofacial surgery and ENT) on a trolley and my belongings were delivered to me.
I was still in my hospital gown and compression stockings, still had the nasal cannula and IV cannula attached and had a small ‘lantern’ drain attached to surgery site on my neck (the drain was about the size of a Christmas bauble). There was an adhesive dressing on the wound and I found that my hair had been shaved about an inch all round my ear.
I was transferred to a bed in a bright, clean and comfortable room with three other women. The room had its own bathroom with sink, shower and toilet (towels provided on request). I was encouraged to get out of bed and was able to go to and from the bathroom unaided.
My husband appeared shortly after I arrived on the ward. Visiting was permitted between 11am and 8pm and seemed to be unrestricted.
Nurses came round at regular intervals (every hour or so?) to check my vital signs. Hot drinks and iced water were offered frequently. I was offered some lunch at about 12:30 (I managed 2 fish fingers and some mushy peas!).
My surgeon popped in briefly to check how I was doing.
Mid-afternoon I was asked if I needed any pain relief. My head and the side of my face was starting to throb so the nurse gave me a dose of liquid morphine.
I was offered dinner at about 17:30. A nurse came round at about 22:00 and gave all four of us in the room a blood thinning (?) injection with a choice of buttock or thigh injection site - I chose thigh. The ward lights were then turned off (I’d recommend ear plugs as there was quite a bit of noise and people moving around overnight).
The thing that I found most uncomfortable overnight was actually the IV cannula attached to my hand, which I kept lying on and catching on the sheet.
A nurse checked my vital signs at about 07:00, breakfast was offered at about 08:00, followed by another nurse dispensing medication (I was given the medication that I’d usually take at home).
The registrar came round shortly after, checked my wound and drain, gave me a copy of my discharge report and said that I was OK to be discharged once my cannula and drain had been removed.
A nurse came round at about 10:00 and removed the cannula and drain. There was one stitch holding the drain in place and this was removed (the rest of the wound had been glued, not stitched, and was left covered with an adhesive dressing). Apart from a bit of ‘tugging’ these procedures were virtually pain free. The nurse gave me a supply of extra dressings and told me to keep the wound dry for at least five days.
I removed my compression stockings, showered (carefully) and dressed in my regular clothes and waited for my husband who arrived at about 11:00 to pick me up. That was it!
My whole hospital experience was very positive and without exception the staff were friendly, caring and professional.