So that’s it – all done. The butterfly shaped gland that caused me so much trouble has now been incinerated and I doubt I will ever know why I joined this merry-go-round.
My thyroid has, I am guessing, been incinerated and with its removal from my body I have switched from hyperthyroid to hypothyroid. An over active glad gone and so I can be nothing else but underactive because nothing is controlling my endocrine system – well no part of me.
But there is this little white pill that has to be taken every day at around the same time for the rest of my life. This photo was taken three weeks after the operation
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The butterfly has flown
What a crazy two years and it was all over in just two hours.
On April 3 I went to my appointment at North Manchester General, known as Crumpsall, to have my pre-op. Staff explained that they were behind, so the following one-hour wait came as no surprise. I watched patient after patient be seen and then they explained that their appointment would be on Tuesday 11 or Tuesday 18 and this filled me with hope.
Eventually Catherine Watson-Levack was called and I followed a nurse through to the consultation room. I recited the same information I have detailed so many times before and that by now is as well-known as my date and place of birth.
‘Yes I am taking beta blockers,’ I said. ‘Well we need to do an ECG,’ says the nurse and she proceeds to place various leads on my leg, and chest and I get hooked up to a machine. Oh no, thinks I, is this going to delay things further?
However the simple monitoring procedure is over quickly and I proceed to speak to the more senior nurse.
‘We don’t have a date for your op yet,’ she says. A look of horror crosses my face. ‘It just isn’t listed yet and I can’t give you any indication of when it might be.’
‘But, but, I was told by the booking department that it was scheduled for mid-April?’ I exclaimed. I went on to explain that I was self-employed and had ‘cleared the decks’ for two weeks so that I had scheduled recovery time. Panic began to spread as I contemplated how to deal with the op if it was eventually scheduled in the middle of May or, heaven forbid, June which is always my busiest month both professionally and personally with the carnival.
Seeing my concern the nurse wrote down a number on the back of the information leaflet and told me to ring the booking secretaries, explain my predicatment and ask to be notified if any cancellations came up. I thanked her and headed back to my car. First passing on my ticket to a lady and her son who were just about to pay a fortune for parking at the hospital.
The way back from the hospital provided thinking time and before I went on to the M66 I decided to stop and make that call. I explained the situation to the booking officers and she said she would put my name down, should there be a cancellation.
At home I fretted, what if? Oh the thought of a late operation filled me with dread. So the following day I rang my consultant Mr Sheppard’s secretary and went through my personal circumstances again.
‘No one can tell Mr Sheppard who he should operate on first,’ she explained. ‘He very much sets his own diary, however the best think you can do is ask about a cancellation.’ After saying that I had already taken that action, she admitted that there was really nothing more to be done – except wait.
On Friday – just four days after the pre-op – I was enjoying an unusual day off and joined ladies from a community group Weir Pride on a Spa Day. After enjoying the sauna, steam room and swimming pool we all went to shower and change to go through for Afternoon Tea. I was first out and changed and checked my mobile, a missed call and an 0161 number. I listened to the voicemail and was informed there had been a cancellation.
It was Friday April 7 and I thought – great I will be in as I hoped for April 18. ‘There has been a cancellation – would you be able to come in on April 11?’
‘Yes,’ I said. Without giving it a second thought. I couldn’t quite believe it and it sounds strange, but I was in a state of euphoria. I hastily went back into the changing rooms and told the ladies my news. The Afternoon Tea tasted extra special and I couldn’t take the stupid grin off my face.
There really was no time to think and I hastily rearranged the few jobs I had planned, packed my back and prepared for the big day, At 6.45am my husband drove me down to Fairfield Hospital in Bury and at 7.30am I was being checked in. More questions just the same and more paperwork.
There were a lot of people in for surgery and I looked around the room. I though to myself, I am going to be at the back of a very long queue. Then I overheard a discussion with another patient who was going to be ‘first down’.
When the first of several people came to me the paperwork began. ‘Could you be pregnant?’ ‘Definitely not,’ says I. ‘I have been sterilised.’ ‘We still need a sample to check just to be sure.’ Obviously that came back negative and the rest of the form continued.
Then the registrar introduced himself, and the anaesthetist, more forms and more signatures. A band with a bar code was placed on my wrist, pillar-box red as I am allergic to penicillin.
I was given a pair of forest green knee-high stockings to prevent DVT both during an post-op. Once I eventually managed to get them on I looked a sight, as did all the waiting patients.
Then came another shock. ‘You are going down first, I will be back shortly to walk you to theatre.’ Whoa. This is really happening, now I start to feel a bit scared.
The nurse walks me along the corridor and through various doors, and along another corridor then my wrist is taken and scanned in just like a purchase at the checkout and I am led to a waiting room and left on my own. Operation gown topped on with a dressing gown for modesty, surgical stockings for safety and my slippers. Some inane breakfast TV programme yabbers on in the background and someone calls at the waiting room and says ‘You’ll be all right.’ It is Mr Sheppard in scrubs and a patterned hat – I have watched Casualty you know.
Another nurse arrives and says she will take good care of me and leads me by the arm to the room marked Theatre. I talk constantly, must be the nerves. As I lay back on the bed the anaesthetist I met before puts a cannula into the back of my left hand, it is all now becoming real and I am scared. The mask goes over my face and I am told to breathe, but my nose has been blocked and I can’t get a deep breath, I move the mask slightly higher and then I breathe deeply and then nothing, the medication takes effect.
Around two hours later I am coming too and I think I am being sick, but I don’t know if that happened. I know I am not right and I can hear people around me concerned and talking about high blood pressure, I think I moved from side to side and I think I was given morphine, Eventually I settled a bit and was moved through to the ward, still in a very confused state. I can hear the nurses saying, ‘Why have they brought her here so soon, she shouldn’t be back here in this condition.’ Then they ask me about the Beta Blockers and I say Propanolol and they disappear to the pharmacy, eventually returning with a blue capsule and some water. ‘Take this Catherine.’
I drift in and out of consciousness until 6pm, when I wake I am sore, but I am surprised that I can move my head. My hand is not strong enough to pour water into the glass and I have already drunk what was there. I try to speak, but hardly a sound comes out. I motion to another patient and say, ‘Water please.’ She kindly assists, several times.
I wake enough to eat something, but not having ordered I ask for a sandwich. Unfortunately the white bread s like cardboard and the cheese isn’t grated it is a hard slice that is almost impossible to eat, but I know I need to eat something.
I ask a nurse to help me to the toilet, the drain in my neck goes down to a container at floor level and she obliges, slowly and carefully I get to my feet and it feels weird. I had downed enough water from the jug that the lady said she would give me 2 jugs for overnight so it was hardly surprising that I needed to go.
New people were brought onto the ward, one a post-op patient who had also just has a TT – Total Thyroidectomy, another who I found to be quite rude and a third who moaned a lot, but she did apologise the following day. I got next to no sleep as the ward was very noisy all night.
Post-op Day 1 I felt better, had made several trips to the loo since and now went unaccompanied, very slowly. Ready Brek for breakfast was delicious and the toast and marmalade was slowly devoured. I had been frequently checked for obs throughout the night and given a constant stream of medication which I duly took. I also swallowed my first Levothyroxine tablet. No thyroid and so I know that I will be taking that tablet for life.
The doctors on the ward checked me over, noting how much blood was in the drain and said I would need to be in an extra night, fine by me, I explained that, ‘This isn’t my voice.’ I know that sounds crazy but it wasn’t, it was almost like someone else was talking. It was deep, gravelly, barely audible and very difficult to understand. I didn’t feel in a lot of pain but I had swallowed regular paracetamol. My wound was squeezed together with metal clamps that resembled staples, but the incision was not as large as I had feared it might have been. They arranged to have a look inside my throat.
In the treatment room a camera was inserted into my left nostril until the vocal cords could be seen. ‘Say Aaaaa Catherine,’ I was told and I duly obliged, although it didn’t sound much like Aaaa and more like Argh. ‘Your left vocal cord isn’t moving,’ the doctor said. ‘But the right one is doing what it should.’
Lunch was a sandwich with softer brown bread and tuna with mayonnaise, much easier to eat. My husband and younger son visited later and I tried to communicate, but my voice was pathetic and I couldn’t finish sentences without needing to grab a breath half way through.
I drifted into a lovely sleep when the ward went quiet and was woken by a man I remembered to be the registrar. He told me something about my voice, but goodness knows what, and then he said I was fine to go home. I did protest, but he was determined saying, ‘There is no clinical need for you to remain in hospital another night.’
So that was it, I was being ‘kicked out’. I texted my husband asking him to return and then waited for the drain to be removed, discharge papers to be written, medication to be provided and tea! Butternut squash curry – delicious followed by rice pudding. Removal of the drain was an interesting experience, because alongside the lengthy section outside my body, there must have been almost 20cm inside too. While it was being pulled out I felt two fierce pains up the back of my neck and into my skull. Ouch.
Once back home, I slept and slept and slept. Whenever my body told me to do so, I would sneak back into my lovely bed and disappear into zzzville. The clips were removed on the Friday allowing me to move my neck more freely and my headaches were brought under control when I listened to my nurse friend Rachel and took the tablets.
Now I am in a routine, wake 6.30-7 take the tablet, then breakfast around 7.45. My wound looks incredible considering how short the time has been and I am sure it will virtually disappear. I shan’t ever forget this journey though and I am now on free prescriptions as I am on medication for life.
Photos taken Day 1 post-op, Day 3, Day 5 and one week later.