For about eight months now, I’ve been having pins and needles in the ring and little fingers on my left hand. I got by with these pins and needles for about three months before mentioning it to my rheumatologist at a check-up. As it turns out, it’s not the kind of thing you can just get by with after all. That’s just something only I think is okay.
I mentioned it at my appointment in passing really, on my way out of the room. I then had to quickly sit back down and be examined by my doctor again. He said that because my elbows don’t straighten at all, and haven’t for some years now, he expected that a problem like this might arise and was going to send me for some examinations anyway. So, when I told him it actually was a problem, he sent me for them.
What followed was a nerve conduction study; a barrel of laughs by anyone’s standards. A nerve conduction study is – regardless of what medical professionals might tell you – half an hour of electrocution. Yes, half an hour. 30 minutes. On both my arms, because they needed to test what normal nerve conduction was for me, so that they could understand fully what was going on in old Lefty.
This study was in January, and only six weeks later (!) I received my results, by accident when my doctor mentioned a letter he thought he had already sent me in The Flare-Up Appointment of Valentine’s Day. This letter, he told me, explained that evidence of ulnar nerve irritation had been found at my left elbow and that the only way to sort this out would probably be surgery.
Given this was a totes emosh time for me, I probably didn’t take the information on board as if it would be something that would actually happen. Let’s face it – I’ve been a given a date to have my hips replaced FIVE YEARS AGO, bought a cross trainer to get me some muscles, booked the time off work, and then still not had the operation FIVE YEARS LATER – I don’t exactly see surgical options through the NHS as anything that is ever likely to happen.
This assumption was another error in judgement – classic Collette – because a couple of weeks ago, I attended a pre-surgical assessment appointment. In this appointment I had to complete a questionnaire on everything that has ever happened to me health-wise throughout the whole of time, to make sure I was medically fit for surgery. I am, which is good. The assessment is only valid for 12 weeks, so it seems reasonable to assume that I will be having the surgery at some point in the next 12 weeks. I was put on the 18-week long waiting list for surgery in March as well, which only gives me until the end of July in theory.
The aim of the surgery is to decompress the nerve at my elbow, and potentially move it round to the front of my arm so that there won’t be any future irritation. This will actually be the first operation I’ve ever had; the first time I’ve ever been sliced open and had bits of me moved around and poked at. It’s quite exciting really.
The hospital seems to have quite a relaxed attitude to the whole process, which I think is alleviating any serious concerns I might have. On the day of my operation I will go into hospital, wait around for a few hours, have my operation, recover and then go home. No overnight stay for me. The ward I’m going to be on is a day ward and doesn’t allow visitors apart from those dropping off and collecting people, and I’ll be casually walking down to the operating theatre myself. The surgery itself is minor, so I don’t really know what I was expecting in terms of drama. I’ve been under general anaesthetic many times in the past, but never without my mum holding my hand. I’m not sure how happy I feel about being on my own this time. Will they let me have a teddy? Am I too old for a teddy? Do I really want to walk around a hospital carrying at teddy at 22 years-old?
I’m not allowed to wear nail polish so they can take my pulse with one of those finger clip things, but I love wearing nail polish and I don’t think I’ll be able to paint the nails on my right hand myself for some time afterwards. This is quite a commitment to not wearing nail polish; a commitment I don’t think the NHS has realised the full consequences of. And I’ve been told to wear clothes that are easy to change back into post-op. But I don’t even have the date for my operation yet, so I don’t know what the weather will be like, which means I can’t plan my outfit yet.
I will also probably only get two weeks’ notice for this as well, and I’m not sure that’s enough time to do all this admin. Also, it’s my birthday in July – what if the operation is in the two weeks before my birthday and then I can’t drink on it? Or what if it is on the day of my birthday – is that a valid reason to ask for a different date? I suppose these are all concerns that probably won’t pan out to be that big a deal anyway, I’m just sweating the small stuff. Scar on my arm? No problem. Potentially losing all feeling in my ring and little fingers anyway? Not bothered, mate. Nail polish ban and no booze on my birthday, and I’m freaking out. And that, my friends, is what we call prioritising.