I’m cruising through Newtown and over the hill to Kilbirnie. Before I know it I’m launched into the air over Lyall Bay.
The rocks that surround Moa Point, jagged and sharpened by centuries of Cook Strait swells look like the teeth of an ancient, sleeping Taniwha.
I’m sure I see an eye wink amongst the windswept grass – the beast is threatening to rip me to shreds.
I climb higher and slowly turn. I see an unfamiliar, narrow inlet and wonder what it is, before realising it’s the inlet to Port Nicholson – Wellington Harbour.
Despite the channel’s width the choppy waves breaking on Barret Reef make it hard to believe two ships could pass each other through there without both vessels and crews holding their breath.
I soar on. Past Pencarrow Head and around Cape Palliser, heading north.
I’m going home!
I climb higher and before I know it am above the clouds. White, fluffy merengue below, bright blue and radiant sun above.
Is this what heaven looks like?
Should I be disappointed that it all seems a bit clichéd?
Anyway, where was I?
“The chief anaesthesiologist says “Right, Andrew, we’re going to start sending you off to sleep now, just relax and breathe.” I relax, breathe, blink and..”
I’m in “PACU” (Post Anaesthetic Care Unit) as it’s called in Wellington Hospital.
A couple hours have evaporated in the blink of an eye.
I don’t know what they’ve done to general anaesthetic these days, but it’s become a narcotic ninja!
I remember operations years ago, where you were aware you were going under – You’d feel woozy or your hearing would go all funny and then “zonk” – Not any more.
It takes a bit to regain full lucidity, but out the corner of my eye I see one of the head anaesthesiologists who visited me the yesterday before the operation, at least I think I see him – Things are still a bit ethereal and I imagine guardian spirits have learned to wear clothing to suit their surrounds by now.
His presence reminds me of something one of the doctors said and I touch my chest to make sure they haven’t had to crack me fully open – I can’t feel any bandages so breathe a little sigh of relief.
Instead I have a ten centimetre, curved scar just under my left breast, with a chest drain tube inserted into a hole just below that.
(Once the bandages are off it looks like I’ve had a boob-job and then been shot.)
He says the biopsy was a success – In fact, instead of getting three samples, they were able to get four!
I give a tired, even more relieved smile.
We’ll soon know just what this thing is.
I’m kept in PACU for around two hours – Which would feel like a long time if not for the drugs, comfy bed and numerous cups of tea and sandwiches.
I tell the nurses it appears the Wellington real estate market has followed Auckland’s maniacal lead and the bed space I left in the Heart Unit that morning has been bought and sold three times while I have been in theatre and recovery – hence the delay.
Sadly I get no share of the profits, but it provides entertainment.
Throughout my stay I’m reminded of the “Deadpool” movie trailer I’ve seen numerous times (it’s all I’ll get to see until its DVD release as the movie’s run in theatres coincides almost perfectly with my enforced hospital stay) where one of the baddies say “The one thing that never survives this place is a sense of humour” and our eponymous protagonist played by someone as equally chiselled, charming and um… Commonwealthean(?) as yours truly, Ryan Reynolds (he’s a year older than me, but I’m six inches taller than him), replies “We’ll see about that”.
Stay positive, make jokes.
There’s someone out there worse off than you.
I have a couple of the bigger IV lines removed which I am grateful for as they looked big, uncomfortable and, well, “icky” and am eventually wheeled back to the Heart Unit, but put in “Step Down” which is an open-plan room where the nurses can closely monitor six beds at once rather than a more widely spread “pod” of individual rooms.
Having had nothing other than tea and sandwiches since the night before, lunch and dinner are well received and quickly vaporised.
As I eat, though, I keep bending my right arm, which in turn makes an IV line in my arm move and sets off the alarm on the line’s pump. After an hour of sporadic beeping (and accompanied quiet cussing from me) one of the nurses jury rigs the line to my arm with a cotton swab and some sticky tape.
The pain-relieving epidural they put in before the operation has numbed me from roughly armpit to thigh level, so I’m confined to bed for the rest of the day and night.
This numbing poses some extra challenges:
As this this large area under anaesthetic includes my heart, it means the heart doesn’t pump as much as it usually does. So to make up for this they hook me up to a saline drip and basically substitute blood pressure with water pressure – Around ten litres of fluid goes into (and out of) me in roughly 24 hours to try and make up for the depleted pumping.
But this, the nurses tell me, can have a side effect –If your body has too much fluid going through it, it can have the same result as getting too little fluid (dehydration) and cause an electrolyte imbalance and can send your heart into dysrhythmia and TACHYCARDIA!
You must be freaking kidding me!
After all the hoopla of hospital and tests and weeks of waiting – the tachycardia, to my thinking at least, WAS CAUSED BY DEHYDRATION?!
This means the discovery of the growth on my heart was basically just happenstance?
Oh, come on!
I suffer through a night of broken sleep due to the nurses constantly monitoring (and worrying about) my low blood pressure. This is compounded by a lamp on the nurses’ station deciding to join in on my irritable insomnia by somehow positioning itself to shine right at my bed. It isn’t until early morning that one of the nurses moves a curtain and curtails its caustic candle power.
Breakfast the next morning is accompanied by a physiotherapist named Daniel who gets me to get up out of bed and take my first cautious steps in 24 hours.
The movement, breakfast and change from horizontal to vertical planes is just what my blood pressure needs and it miraculously returns to normal straight away (or maybe it was just bored).
That morning my wife also arrives for her second visit of my Wellington stay. This time her trip is funded by wonderful friends of ours (thanks Kim and Reza!)
The next three days are devoted to rest and recovery.
I have my last two major lines (the epidural and a catheter that has been looking after, um, “water flow” removed a day or so after the operation and the freedom it provides (despite having only been in place for a few days) is remarkable.
Mrs Frame goes on supply gathering missions (she is even stricter about me leaving the ward, let alone hospital grounds than the medical staff!) and more Wellington Twitter friends come to visit us (thanks Jim, Morgan and Mike).
As I’ve said, the Wellington nurses are great – and just to prove it, on the day I go home all the ones I have had contact with over my stay come to say goodbye and give me a hug – Four of them line up to do so as I’m leaving, much to the chagrin of my wife and the orderly who is supposed to escort me down to the transport centre.
Before I know it (and, as it turns out, several hours before my wife’s return flight home is due to leave) I find myself cruising through Newtown and over the hill to Kilbirnie in yet another Wellington Free Ambulance with another patient and her daughter, before launching into the air over Lyall Bay (see what I did there?) and flying home in the Hawke’s Bay Air Ambulance.
It will be a week before I find out the results of my biopsy, so what better place to recover and wait than at home?