by Dr Anne Malatt MBBS, MS, FRANZCO, FRACS
I have never been a patient person either, but I recently had surgery as a patient, and truly felt what a profound opportunity for healing it can be.
I chose to have the surgery at the hospital where I work. I love and trust the staff there and knew I would be in the care of people who love me.
I chose the timing of the surgery so that I had time to prepare adequately beforehand, and so that I had a chance to take time off and rest afterwards. It was a little later than the surgeon would have liked, but I knew that if I did it any sooner, it would have been more stressful for me and I would not have taken enough time off afterwards.
The day itself was amazing.
I felt no fear, and was only worried about being thirsty, as I had been told to fast completely from midnight and I had been asleep since 9pm! Even though I knew this was excessive, I did not want to question or break the rules in case they cancelled my operation! It’s funny how your mind thinks differently when you are a patient. Just so you know, for I have since spoken to several anaesthetists about this (why did you not ask beforehand, you may ask!), you can eat up to 6 hours before surgery, and can drink clear fluids (not including wine, as some patients have done!) up to 2 hours beforehand.
I was treated with love and care from the minute I walked in the door.
The staff were dedicated to my care, whether or not they knew me personally, and when I went into theatre, where I knew everyone, I felt blessed.
I truly felt what an amazing effort goes into making sure you have the correct operation and no harm is done. Most of us – patients and staff – experience it as annoying paperwork, but I was able to see and feel the big picture and how important every little detail was. Everything flowed smoothly and I felt I was part of a graceful movement of love.
Afterwards I felt no pain or any adverse effects really, just some minor discomfort and tiredness. My partner gave me some chakrapuncture afterwards, which really helped me to clear any effects of the anaesthetic and assisted in the healing process.
It was also amazing to lie on the couch and allow my family to help me – all my relationships have deepened and grown because I have allowed myself to be vulnerable and to be helped.
I learned a great deal, as a patient surgeon.
We consider surgery as something to be avoided at all costs, as a sign of failure, as something to be feared. It is challenging to surrender to surgery, knowing all the things that can go wrong.
If you are faced with the prospect of having surgery, choose to be part of the plan. See it as an opportunity for healing and be part of that healing. As much as possible, choose the timing so that it works for you, so that you can prepare for it beforehand and rest afterwards.
Care for yourself as deeply as you can, and allow others to care for you.
Listen to your doctor and take their advice. If they say take a week off, take a week off. I did not listen, went back to work too soon, and have a huge haematoma (secondary bleeding and bruising) to show for it!
Allow yourself to feel what you feel, but don’t feed any fear.
If you have questions, ask them. Ask again if the answers don’t make sense. Get a second opinion, if you feel to.
Make sure you trust the doctor you are entrusting your life to.
See yourself as part of the process (they can’t operate on you without you!).
The more responsibility you can take for the situation you are in, the more can be healed before, during and after the surgery.
It has been profoundly healing for me to realise that what I do, can heal too.