From NDA to NDE and beyond : “Death is very rare” : Appreciate Life


I was booked in for a fairly normal procedure at the hospital. Nothing life threatening, nothing too serious. Just one of those things that we have to do sometimes. I am a very rare, to almost never visitor to the hospital. Apart from Holles St (the national maternity hospital) but that was never for my health, at least not directly. I knew I had to fast the night before, and they gave me a patient information leaflet.

So far, fairly normal. I hadn’t bothered to look at it up till then, so I guessed I should have a look. There was an explanation of what they were going to do to you, and a list of things to bring. This basically boiled down to slippers and a dressing gown, which didn’t seem too difficult. From there on, they really spelled out the whole procedure, to normalise it, and give you an idea what to expect.

I was fine with all of this. It went through all of the possible side affects that might happen to you. Minor bleeding, heavy breathing, faster heartbeat, stomach cramps. Nothing too serious, and then, almost as an after thought, on a separate line, four words by itself.

“Death is very rare.”

F@@k me. Up until that point I hadn’t been too worried or apprehensive about the appointment. Now I was completely freaked out. It was last thing at night, so I went to sleep ok. But waking up in the morning I was definitely on edge now. I know that death is rare but not impossible when you get on your bike. One family member of mine feels they are risking their life every time they get in a car, but I figured that was to do with their driving. Was this like saying the operation was a success but the patient died!?

Naturally the car stereo on the way in, set to random, decides to play…

I took plenty of stuff to read, and resolved to try and breathe in through the whole process. Be grateful that I was still alive, for as long as this continued to be the case, and hope that ‘death is very rare’ would continue to be the case. Part of me knew that it would be alright, probably. However the evil monkey part of my mind was recalling the friend’s uncle who died after going in for a ‘routine procedure’. These things do happen sometimes. The grandparents cat had died only the day before. She’d reached an amazing 18 years old, but got a tooth abscess and then her kidneys packed in. End of cat.

I did my readings, blood pressure 128/98, first reading ok, second part, not so good. Heartbeat 55 bpm, fine, slow, but hey that’s me. Each step required a wait, some longer than others. I had had to fight for the appointment. Initially I’d been told I would have to wait 6 months, but I’d been in low level pain for over 6 weeks. So I pushed it, andgot one the next week, aka today. This was good, but I was still nervous now I was here.

The receptionist asked me the routine questions, though two sort of caught me out. Occupation? What should I say, founder, start up whiz, content creator, digital marketer, business development, digital project manager? Naturally she didn’t want my whole CV cum LinkedIn profile. IT I eventually said. Whew, funny, I laughed to myself. Despite all those exciting possible job titles, to the rest of the world it’s probably best to just say IT.

The next tricky question soon followed. Religion? Hm, er, ‘none’. She was a little taken aback, and momentarily lost her good natured vibe with me. I’m definitely not and never was a Catholic. To say Church of England would seem a little dislocated. I’d like to say Buddhist cum global ethical compassionate Jedi citizen, but again, it that would probably seem silly and possibly even a bit pretentious.

In many ways it all got easier after that. I also realised there was an option to not take the sedative. The whole procedure was only supposed to be about 10 minutes. Whereas the sedative would leave you zonked and unable to drive or function for up to the next 24 hours. I’d read that my event horizon I was facing was not due to be painful, so much as more just a bit uncomfortable. I reasoned if the doctor didn’t think I was being foolhardy, I was willing to take 10 minutes of that, in exchange for not being zombified for the rest of the day. He also said that if I changed my mind during the event, I could always cry mercy and receive the sedative. Oh, like during pregnancy you mean? Yes, like an epidural he laughed.

While changing into my requested slippers and dressing gown an old guy chatted to me., Said that he was in the clear, his prostrate cancer had been cured, it was just the check ups that killed him. Whew, so I thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t in for that. We’d gone past the oncology section. Is that it I asked, before being told, no, that was the cancer unit. Ops, my bad.

I sat through my various waiting posts, reading, and happy that by not being sedated I wouldn’t have to have a needle hooked up into one of my veins. I hate having needles in me. I could never be a junkie, hate needles too much. Around me the others were taken away, and then wheeled out afterwards, mashed from the sedative.

I went in, gritted my teeth. It wasn’t too bad, mostly, and, when I could bear to watch it, the tv screen was showing me. Or rather the inside of me! Yes, very weird. Mostly not pain, mostly not discomfort. Though it did reach a point where my breathing grew shorter, more jagged. The nurse, doctor, whoever she was, in blue, began to rub my shoulder. Told me to breathe, that it would be ok. At one point I exclaimed out loud, a gasped expletive. I could see the clock on the wall,  it passed from 12.00 to 12.10. We were almost done, surely. My heart beat monitor was also up in front of me. Initially I had got it down to 51, it then returned to 55, and then jumped up to 64. I was not a happy bunny. Doses were discussed, 4.5 of something, and then we were done.

I too was now wheeled out on the gurney. Horizontal like all those that preceded me. Down to an area where bodies lay, lining the edge of the room on either side. I took a moment to gather myself. The nurse / doctor dude in blue, who had performed the whole procedure wheeled me into place and handed me my dressing gown. I had thanked him and all the team back in the procedure room. I felt bad at having sworn, although, all things considered it was understandable.

I now, gingerly, pulled myself up to a sitting position. I wasn’t sure how I felt at all, but I knew I wanted to seem compos mentis to the nurses. I could hear them using words like, not sedated and discharged. All around me in the other beds were patients who were clearly not going anywhere anytime soon. The ‘mild discomfort’, ha ha, was worth it for the opportunity to not be foggy for the rest of the day.

I still had steps to follow. Much like giving birth in Holles Street there was a cup of tea and biscuits that needed to be taken first. Having not eaten since the day before I was ok with this. I pulled myself off the bed, less than 5 minutes after the conclusion of the event horizon. Walked to the changing room, feeling a bit spacey, but surprisingly ok. Got dressed, knocked back the tea and biscuits. Slightly spilling the tea, as my hand shook a little. But, like trying to walk in a straight line to persuade the policeman you’re sober. I did a good enough job. The radio came on, and the music seemed so strong, vivid and affecting.

I hadn’t succumbed on the operating table. I was alive still.

A second blood pressure reading. It was now 108/78. Wow, it had fallen loads (heart beat back to 55). Impressive how much the bodies vital figures can vary so much. I was done, able to be discharged, delighted, happy, to have skipped the bullet.

My chauffeur came to the front to pick me up. Utterly amazed I hadn’t taken the sedative, and disbelieving how perky I was too. Which then turned to laughing admonishment when I told her I was considering playing in tonight’s third place play off match too…

We would have won if we’d had the whole team out too. But really, it didn’t matter. I was no longer in pain, and quite hopeful this state of affairs might continue too.

Hooray, carpe diem.

NDA – Non disclosure agreement

NDE – Near death experience









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