Saturday, 29 December 2007

15 days post op

Didn't weigh myself today for fear of what I'd discover.

I am very very weary and fatigued. CDB warned me that the blood transfusion would leave me tired for 3 - 4 weeks and it has. There is so much I'd like to be doing with the children this holidays, but mostly I'm just lying around. Went to sleep last night at 10pm and didn't waken till nearly 11am; I'm not being lazy (which would be quite possible :-) I am medically exhausted.

Then I got up and ate some chocolate - not a wise decision, but lunch didn't stay down at all. So maybe that makes up for it calorie wise.

now later afternoon and I still don't feel like food, just like sleep. Oh well, here's hoping next Christmas is very different :-)

There is no way I am feeling strong enough for exercise right now; and I'm beginning to wonder if the scar on my tummy will have healed enough for CDB to access the port on the 11th. Don't fancy an injection into a raw scar - tho maybe the port isn't there exactly, I can't feel it.

Do many of you feel yours?

I get depressed reading about people who are two stone down two weeks out; I am not going that way at all; but then I don't have much mental energy to put into healthy eating or exercise; I am more just in survival mode right now

Thursday, 27 December 2007

The Battle

I realise now this is not a physical process, but a mental one.

The band is making me stop and consider what I am putting into my stomach; before I just ate - while talking, watching TV, typing, reading - I never eat meals at the table if I can help it, I am always too busy.
And when you eat without thinking you over eat. Or I do.

Now I really need to get my head round some sort of eating plan. All my life (my mom wasn't great for routines or discipline of any kind - we never ate regular meals, brushed our teeth or tidied our rooms) so I've grown up just eating what I feel like when I want.

The concept of three meals a day just doesnt' exist for me - tho, strangely, I am very careful to make the children eat 3x a day sitting at the table. I just don't do it with them.I need to plan ahead what I am going to eat, and stick to it.

That will be hard for me, I have no self discipline. But I also have no excuse not to.

If I am going to graze all day on whatever takes my fancy, my band is not going to work. And that is a very painful thought

Not easy

I am not sure what I was expecting, but I didn't expect life with a band to be so . .. difficult.

Despite the research and stories I'd read, I didn't realise that every single thing that goes into my mouth has to be thought thru carefully, chewed carefully, swallowed carefully and may yet still come back up less than carefully.

I spent the first week on liquids only, which was ok, so long as I took ages to drink them. I'd never before realised how much I "gulp" fluid instead of sipping it. Might have to resort to drinking from a teaspoon.

Then I moved on to soft food, and that has been a disaster. A few carefully chewed mouthfuls of scrambled egg and I feel like I am choking - and trying to drink water to flush it down is hideous, the water just comes back out. There is nowhere for it to go. And it hurts like mad.

I've been sick several times a day over the last few days and have put myself back on to a liquids only diet for a week to see if that will let things settle down. I only have 1ml in my band and am due for a fill on Jan 11 (15 days)

The odd thing is that it is not always the same, sometimes I can eat a small portion of cottage pie or something soft like chocolate mousse or jelly; other times that seems to choke me.

I am beginning to wonder if this was a good idea. In fact I am quite sure it was not! But give it time, I tell myself. Christmas is not the easiest of times to have restricted food intake since there is so much (lovely) food around. My self control is rubbish, so sometimes I just eat something hoping for the best, and of course it hurts and I'm sick and I feel stupid.

As stupid as a goose and as stuffed as one at Christmas!

I am also realising that I am hopeless at telling myself when to stop eating, even "good" foods like soup or protein drinks. I've been trying to analyse it (not much else to do, as I am lying around exhausted most of the time after my blood transfusion). I have discovered that unless there is food in my stomach I feel slightly nauseous, so without thinking I go to eat something else.

I am not sure if this is related to my reflux problems, over production of stomach acid or what. Any of you who have been pregnant might know what I mean, if you get too empty you start to feel sick. But I've not been pregnant for years, so that isn't the reason.

Old habits die hard. I just hope I don't die along with them :-)

I'm still in quite a bit of pain from my wounds, esp the long one with the stitch still in it; and am very very tired from lack of blood. Glad dh is home to help with the house, I've done nothing much else but get on the PC and watch TV - tho I am too tired to watch that often.

Didn't weigh myself today; and going to try to only weigh myself once a week, as it is too disspiriting seeing the scales go up and down and up again.

Stitches - this is me 10 days out

Went to the NHS nurse at my local surgery to have my stitches out today. Might as well have stayed home.

First thing she said was "oh, you haven't got any stitches".

Oh yes I do, I showed her one inch of plastic sticking out of a wound.

Oh. . .but these are dissolvable

No, they are not (I've had dissolvable stitches before, and these weren't; plus CDB had told me they weren't)

Oh. Oh well, I just pull.

And pull she did. One stitch came out; she snapped the ends of two others and assured me that the last two were so tight there was nothing they could do.

Would the wounds heal with stitches still in them, I asked.

Oh, not sure.

Would they get infected?

Oh, not sure.

What do I do now?

Oh nothing. Maybe they come out, maybe they stay in.

Very comforting, not.

Friday, 21 December 2007

And now the beginning

I realise that this is now no longer about travel and tourism, or about operations and hospital risks, but instead this is the beginning of my new eating habits and weight loss journey. That is not going to be so easy to write about, but I will try to be honest.

Because of pain and medication I have spent the first week with next to no appetite, in fact my biggest concern has been lack of fluid. You are meant to have 2 - 3 litres a day, yet only 100 mils at a time, with 15 mins between each drink. . .that is 400mils and hour. So the first week I've been concentrating on drinking water. Not hungry as such, but so used to eating food when I am tired, crosss, happy, angry, sad, bored, fed up, excited, have nothing to do, have something to celebrate etc, I have a lot to unlearn.

I am booked to go back to Belgium on Jan 11th/12th for a double fill and hopefully that will help some. I also need to get moving a bit more, but till now my stitches have been really painful, and I'm quite bruised, and with losing so much blood pretty weak, so not doing too much round the house.

I need to learn to treat food like fuel. Not like an end in itself.

It is now one week post op and I am slightly heavier than I was pre op. Must be fluid retention cos I've hardly eaten anything. I hope it starts to go down soon. It is dis-spiriting to hear of people losing 30 lbs in their first three weeks, etc.


Finally Sunday I got up and dressed - took a while, and started walking round the corridors a bit, to make sure I could actually walk faster than our tortoise (we have a pet at home). It was painful, but I didn't feel too weak.

The blood transfusion had obviously given me extra strength.

The hospital called a taxi for 12.45 to take me to Bruxelles Midi, and I went down to reception to wait, and took some shots of the hospital:


Outside the hospital:

There was a bit of a hiccup in that the taxi which was meant to take me to Bruxelles Midi had been told he was to take me to the station at Vilvoorde, and he had no intention of changing his mind. So he dropped me in Vilvoorde. Since it was daylight I felt fairly confident about doing the journey (and saving myself 60 Euros in the process:-)

Once I was on the platform I realised why (in daylight) people say you can't miss the Campanille. . . and felt rather foolish that I hadn't found it easily when I arrived on Thursday.

It was an uneventful trip back - tho I admit to travelling first class (never done that in my life either :-) Because I had to buy a ticket at short notice (my original £29.50 ticket was only valid for Saturday) it was going to cost £154 anyway, and for £200 I could go first class - and save myself from being cramped into a corner like I was on the first journey - the journey went fast, and I met dh at St Pancras very quickly.

Saturday morning

I had been hoping to get the 7pm train home on Saturday evening, being discharged at 1pm, but having had two lots of surgery and four units of blood, I wasn't sure I'd make it.
CBD had also told me he'd done an "abdominal lavage" - which I guess means washing out my insides, and that he'd removed a lot of blood clots along with the 900mls blood)

(Blood going in one end. . . .)

and out the other . .
(this is my hand holding the drainage tubes which were carrying blood and "stuff" from my insides to the collection cannisters under the bed)

CDB came round about 12 and asked how I felt. I said I was in a lot of pain and worse, very weak. He asked if I could walk across the room; I said no, at that point I could not stand. So he said no discharge. He did say - quite cute the language differences "I cannot stop you from leaving, but I cannot let you leave".
It would be bad medicine, he said, to pump me full of painkillers so I could catch the train that evening. He could not make me stay, but he would not allow me to go to travel on my own (nor I suspect with company -if you can't walk there is no point in having someone with you, unless they have a wheelchair :-)

I consulted with dh and he said I could remain in hospital till Sunday and travel home then. Like someone on the list said, "religion has its exceptions". I was relieved to be able to sit still and start getting better.

Hadn't eaten anything except water. At 12 I'd been offered fish soup (which I wouldn't have eaten unless I was dying of starvation :-) and some round funny sort of Dutch toast. Couldn't touch any of it; tho I really enjoyed the coffee.

I had a bed bath, and got my dressing removed and replaced: scroll time for the sensitive :-)

These show the drains which were continuing to drain blood and other fluids (presumably the saline that had been used for my "abdominal lavage")
More pics of my post op tummy on Saturday lunchtime which was approximately 12 hrs after my second operation, and more than 24 since my first.

And with new dresssings on:

The small dressing to my right is where the leak was found, and where he stitched the muscles to each other (or something) and it was by far the sorest part for the next couple of days - that and the site where the port is placed. So I am stuck, I can't sleep on my left side cos of the port, nor on my right cos of the bruising from the stitching.

The bruising and pain got worse over the next couple of days, but I guess that is inevitable, since the pain relief wears off and real life kicks in a bit.


Recovery the second time was fairly similar to the first. They told me immediately that it had been sucessful, I had been leaking blood from the right hand keyhole, and CBD had stitched it extra hard, stitching it to my muscle (not sure what that meant - but it hurt worse than ever).
I asked, relieved, "oh, so he only reopened one keyhole?"

No, apparently he opened them all. I didn't even ask (didn't think it would help to know!) if he'd re-done the hernia too.

I was given blood at a fairly fast rate in the recovery room; they told me they'd taken 900mils out of my abdomen.

I am very very grateful to CBD for coming out to the hospital on a Friday night, to redo the surgery, rather than wait until the morning, when things could have been much more serious.

As he said later "it is not so much what happens in surgery that matters, but what matters is how we deal with it if it does happen". Very true.

I was finally back up to the ward with a permanent bp machine attached for several hours and a drip and my blood transfusion.

Oh, and thankfully while I was in recovery they offered me a bed pan (all the intravenous fluid going in had left my bladder full) I said no thanks, but did they have a catheter instead. They seemed surprised at my choice, but after a lot of pregnancies urinary cathers are practically second nature, tho I've never used a bedpan in all my 41+ yrs!

I saw the nurse who'd wished me goodnight several hours earlier, and we both smiled and I said "it has been a long night". Yes she agreed.

I asked, and my bp had been down to 70/40 and hb to 7 right after surgery, which explained why the blood was given so fast.
I was on oxygen through one of these nasal tubes for the rest of the night.
Another praise is that when I got into recovery, one of the ward nurses called dh and told him it was all safely over (2am) so he could go to bed now, without worrying. So when I got back to the ward she told me she'd told him I was ok, so not to worry about trying to ring him now. So I slept.

Theatre II

So back to theatre. It was silent and empty compared to the morning and they had to waken the anaesthetist who was napping in one of the side rooms. He was really really nice and kept joking and being friendly

CBD was quiet and confident and very competent. I asked him for the second time as they were strapping my arms down, if my life was in danger. Again he said no. But then he added, I am not God. Which I found reassuring. I know statistically that patients die from bleeding that can't be stopped and sometimes there is no reason why they can't stop the bleeding. I prefer a surgeon who says he will do his utmost, and that he believes he will do it without error or ommission; yet it is good of a surgeon to know that he is not God.

What is the worst thing that could happen? I asked him.

I am not sure if he was stressed or just doesn't have a sense of humour, since he said "I have already told you the worst, we check your - not sure of the word he used, it meant keyholes - and find the one that bleeds and sew it up, that is the worst"

(lol, I know lots of other things could - but for the grace of God - go wrong, but he wasn't even going to consider them)

(when I had my hysterectomy, I asked the same question and the doctor said deapan
"the worst thing that can happen is always death; but I think that is unlikely, and if you want to know the worst thing that ever happened to me in an operation is that one of the lenses of my glasses fell out : -)" - which made us all laugh and kind of relieved the tension. )

How many patients have you lost in surgery, I asked CDB? None he said, emphatically, out of more than 3000 operations.

"Oh dear, doesn't that mean that statistically it is bound to happen soon?" I joked. Everyone else laughed.

CDB looked at me sternly and said (maybe getting fed up with my levity - I was just trying to stay unstressed)

"From now on you must trust me. Leave the worrying to us; leave it all to us; you will be fine"

I said thanks, and once again looked at the huge theatre lights. This time I was more aware of maybe not coming round in this world. I thought of each of my children and what I would have wanted to say to them; but again I was not distressed or upset or crying; very calm, God gave me a lot of peace.

They tried to knock me out via breathing oxygen - I've seen this done with some of my dc being operated on, but I could not breathe deeply enough because of my low bp; so I saw a nurse draw up a needle full of fluid, and woke up at 2am

Long night

About half an hour into my trying to sleep - I was out for the count most of the time, thru pain and weakness, tho I don't think I had much real sleep, if that makes sense.

The nurse who had stabbed me in the wrist had not managed to get much blood out, and the lab had sent it back an hour later, asking for me. So she had a long difficult try again and got some, and I tried to settle back down.

Till I woke with four nurses round my bed. One immediately took two full syringes of blood. My immediate thought was "that is them taking blood to cross-match for a transfusion"

(when I've had babies, there have been worries I might bleed, and I know the procedure whereby they get blood to the lab to be cross matched and typed and ready -looked very much the same procedure in Belgium)

What's up I asked. Mumble mumble, no one wanted to say too much. It wasn't a language gap, just an information one. Finally I asked what my last hb had been. No answer.

Then she told the other nurse in Dutch - and I do know a tiny bit of Dutch, having lived there for 5 months one summer as a student 20 yrs ago) - and I asked straight out did you say it is down to 8?

Yes, my hb was down to 8, and she said, it is now necessary that we give you blood, but also maybe re operate. (thankfully the Ultrasound doctor had warned me about this, so it wasn't the shock it might have been)

Ok I thought, I'll have blood. I got the impression I was to be given blood, then wait an hour or two, then think about re-operating.

Wrong again, I'm afraid.

I did not have time to ring dh before they ran my bed back into theatre. No blood yet, reoperate first apparently.

CBD joined the team pushing my bed and explained that he thought one of the keyholes had not closed properly and was leaking too much blood, he'd have to re-sew it. Nasty thought.My stiches had been healing for 12 hrs now he wants to cut them open again?

I asked him several questions about how much blood loss I had, how he was sure it wasn't an artery/vein leaking or that he hadn't nicked an organ during surgery. I also wanted to know my current hb and bp, as well as risk factors and other possible complications. . .

He looked at me quizzically and asked if I had a medical background when I asked all these questions. I said no, I just like to research a lot. (I was going to add that knowledge is power, but he didn't look like he wanted that kind of response)

I asked was my life in danger, he said no, not now, but if he'd left me till the morning it would have been. "So that is why we operate now"


After I was settled back in my ward and the nurses were told what the ultrasound had shown, they went to ring CBD, must have been around 7 or 8pm.

Nurse came to check my bp and said "oh that is a lot better" - so I looked and it was up to 90/45 . . .now I wouldn' call that a lot better, but they thought so.

Just need to take more blood, they said; and this time since my veins had completely collapsed round my elbow, they used my wrist. That is a sore place to take blood (I mean the front of the wrist where you can see all your veins and where people try to comitt suicide, not the back of my hand which would have been bad enough) ( it hurt. it hurt a lot; but since I was getting better, then that was ok, I could cope with it)
But for the moment I was getting better, the bleeding was slowing and the scan had shown it did not appear I was losing blood for any major reason and my bp was up; on the mend. Really glad, could have been worse. Called dh in England with update, tho was very weak trying to speak to him.
Just wanted to sleep, asked for sedation but nurse said no, she had to log my reactions every time she saw me. So I settled down for the night, they got me an extra blanket - low iron makes me cold, and I was hoping to sleep. . .tomorrow would be another better day, DV

Things speed up

My recollection of time here is muddled, since I wasnt' fit to take any notes. I was dozing most of the afternoon/evening but aware of the nurses taking blood pressure and checking my drain collector. Then they took a blood sample (not easy for them or pleasant for me)

I became aware of a tension in their voices as they spoke to each other when they came back to get another blood sample an hour later - and even tho I didn't understand a word of it, there are things you can understand without words; they were beginning to worry about me

My bp started being checked every 15 mins, and the nurse was clucking and shaking her head. I had a quick squint at the machine (one of the modern electric one) and it was 90/50; not a disaster for me, tho obviously it was concerning them. They then put up another drip "this one to stop the bleeding" they said. I was a bit confused, cos you are meant to be on anti-coagulants after surgery, not something to cause my blood to clot.
This to-ing and fro-ing making with slightly worried scowls went on for a couple of hours between maybe 6pm and 8pm. I noticed I was getting weaker and found that I had to lie completely flat or the room would spin. This isn't like me cos I am normally a "sleep half sitting up type".

(there was a very funny moment just before all through this. I'd come to the hospital complete with painkillers and valium for getting me home safely, since, unless I didn't mention, I was meant to be going home alone the Saturday after Friday surgery) While rifling in the locker drawer for my watch, I knocked strip of valium out on to the floor. Major panic. I couldn't leave them there (is valium possession legal in Belgium - and would they think I'd taken any and refuse to give me any more medication), but could I pick them up?? It took about ten mins to struggle into sitting on the bed with my legs hanging off. One nurse looked at me very quizzically and I promptly stuck my foot over the pills. She must have thought I was batty.

The anti-embollism stockings are sort of open on the sole . . which turned out to be a blessing, cos try as I may, there was no way I could get my hand down to grab the foil strip. I sat there, covering them up, and when no one was looking, managed to get them stuck on to my toes and picked up. Wheeew! I'd have thought my bp would have been thru the roof by then!)

I asked what my blood count was (haemoglobin, tho I notice mostly they work in haemocrit which means nothing to me) and it was 11 - I said that is ok for me, but since it had been 14 on admission a few hours ago, they weren't happy. They upped the "stop the bleeding" drip so it ran faster.

Next blood sample I was getting dozier which was just as well cos it took her ages of poking around wiht a needle inside my arm to try to get blood - if I'd been with it I'd have yelled.

That sample came back as 10. They broke the news to me that I had to go for an examination. The nurse didn't know the English word, but from her signals I guessed an ultrasound which was right, she said "like when you have baby".

And suddenly it was fast and furious, four of them ran my bed into the corridor, into the emergency lift - the pressed all the lift buttons and were muttering come on, come on, to the lift which seemed to take a while to arrive.

I was then pushed, running, into the ultrasound room, where a doc did a scan of my tummy. I watched the screen, and could see black pockets (fluid) - and my bladder. I asked if that was my bladdder, yes he said, and pointing to another big black bit, that is fluid.

Do you mean blood I said? (let's call a spade a spade, I thought :-)

Yes he told me. He was very frank and pleasant, looked at the collection box I was draining into and said that I had lost a lot of blood, and if it continued I would be back to theatre for "reversion surgery".

Not what I wanted to hear, but I like to know the truth. I think the drugs and lack of oxygen from low haemoglobin meant that nothing much bothered me too much.

A bit of a blur

Came round from the anaesthetic coughing (which is not a good idea when your oseophagus has been replaced and your stomach stitched into place, along with five keyholes held together with dental floss - well, it looked like that :-)

Checked the clock, 10:50am
I did not feel sick! What a blessing, since I get nauseous easily, and fully expected to be retching after the GA. Yelped for pain relieft and got a morphine shot in my bum.

Vague about the next few hours, but I remember being told all had gone well, and the band was fitted and back to my bed I went. I was dying of thirst it felt like, and when I was told that I couldn't drink till 8am Saturday I just about cried

The nurse took pity on me and gave me a mouth sponge and half a glass of water. I have to admit to being naughty and drinking some of it; and when it ran out, I asked a diff nurse for more, and then another, so must have had about 150 mls of water all afternoon.

Was lying in bed, a bit dopey, but able to ring dh and say I was ok.

I was aware of the nurses checking my blood pressure often, and also the drain - a thick plastic tube from one of my wounds into a bottle about the size and a shape of a coke can which lay on the floor. I did wonder (as the bottle filled up quite fast) how come it didn't drag the drain out of my skin - only later did the nurse show me the wire (yes, definitely wire, barbed wire came to mind) holding it in. Glad I didn't know that then.

I got back to the ward about 12 noon, and watched the other patient eat her lunch. By about 2pm I was thinking this wasnt't too bad and that I'd be able to travel back to England on Saturday as planned

I watched the other patient have her supper about 5pm, while I was cadging more water out of anyone who'd listen, wondering if I'd live between pain and dehydration, but altho I was whining a bit I wasn't really in too bad a state.

I was on a saline drip, so I wasn't really dehydrated, just thirsty. I started practically halluciating (think of people lost in the desert) about mirages with a huge glass of diet coke with ice. Oh no. I'm going to make a rotten bandster if my immediate post op thought is for huge mouthfuls of fizzy drink! (which will never be a good idea, far less 2 hrs after the operation)

Thursday, 20 December 2007


I was amazed at how efficient the nurses were. First I got a gown (thankfully it fitted quite well); and within half an hour max of being admitted bp taken and my temperature checked. One nurse told me that I was now first of the list, because the other lady had changed her mind.

That didnt' exactly fill me with optimism, since she'd been due the same operation!

Then they came to take a blood sample, ask me lots of medical history questions and told me I'd be next. I said yes, but not till the afternoon, I'd been told. Oh no, they said, in about half an hour (this was 9am). I was asked to remove my wedding rings, but they are tight and I said I was loath to lose them, so she let me keep them on. As it turned out everyone there is very honest as I had two expensive mobile phones and a camera, and none of them was touched, despite being left on the top of my locker in full view.

Panic! I'd been moved to the first patient of the day, and before half nine was indeed being wheeled to theatre. I left the camera behind, and took this shot later on .. Just had time to ring dh and tell him to pray for me, and soon I was summonsed. It was a little unreal, I felt like I'd hardly sat down in my cubicle, hadn't read a newspaper or done any waiting around; and here I was, off to theatre.

I offered to walk, but no, I had to be wheeled on my bed, and then rather awkwardly had to be slid on to a much narrower operating trolley. I was scared to breath in case I fell off - there were three staff, but none of them looked like they would catch me if I overbalanced, and the floor was a long way down . ..

Made it. Second problem, my nose was running like mad. I think it was an allergy to Belgian air or something, since it didn't turn into a proper cold, and I needed somewhere to keep my tisssues. Had put some under my pillow which was fine till I had to vaccate the bed, but still I had some in my gown pocket. Whenever a nurse saw one it was confiscated with a bit of a "tut" - but what could I do?

I was left in a "bed waiting area" till CDB came round to say hello very briefly and shake hands (is it a continental thing - I don't shake hands much and certainly not with doctors - think of the cross contamination!) He asked if I had any qs but was out the door before I could say no.

He reappeared in green theatre clothes, gown, mask, and not for the first time, I failed to recognise the surgeon when he was dressed for work! But at least this time I didn't mistake him for a porter, which I have done before when one of my children had surgery!
Wheeled me (still on this narrow high trolley) into a big operating theatre, and a team set to work putting electrodes on my chest, a bp cuff permanently on one arm and a needle site in the other. The nurse on the ward had suggested that she run the line into my arm "if you have easy veins".

Since I don't , she was glad to leave it till theatre and so was I.

The whole time I wasn't thinking of anything. Not of dying, really, tho I knew that was possible, I was thankfully v emotionless, not distressed or upset, just watching carefully what they did, and looking up to the huge theatre lights wondered if this was the last glimpse I would see of God's earth.

I was aware, CDB had warned me, that since I had a big hiatal hernia, I might wake up without a band, if he couldn't fit it as well as do the repair. But I thought he would manage it. . .I wasn't worried he wouldn't. I wasn't, mercifully, worried about anything. . .

Since I had a previous major op under local and was able to "watch" I was kind of wishing I could do the same here, but knew I had to be asleep. I saw the anaesthetist with the needle, felt nothing - tho I had been warned, and previous experience told me it might sting; glanced at the clock, 9.30am and fell asleep.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007


Got the taxi the 5 mins or so to the AZ Jan Portaels Hospital.
I was checked in quickly and from reading the list upside down while the check in lady typed my details, I could see that CDB had two patients that day, the other lady had checked in before me (so I suppose I was going to be even later)

(lifts at the waiting area)This poster about hygiene says "You are in good hands" - I thought it was amusing; I hoped I was in good hands!

Was quickly taken to a waiting room, then to a very clean, tidy and spacious (if you are used to London hospitals) ward. On reflection, to be fair to our NHS, most hospitals (if not all . . .) I've ever been in here have been old. They were built in the Victorian era a lot of them, or the 60s or 70s; or they've been converted from some other equally elderly building, so no matter how "upgraded" they've been, they still can't look as impressive as a bright, shiny new purpose built hospital is bound to look.

It was here it struck me rather forcibly that the "tourist" bit of my journey was over. My worries were no longer how to find trains or buses, or how to avoid getting my 4000 Euros pickpocketed. From now on, I was a patient; and my worries were surgery, anaesthesia and how to survive it; and then pain and how to manage it.

Very quickly I was no longer a person, but a patient with a number and a wrist tag.

And a risk factor.

The nurse explained that we all had our own sink to avoid infection - the room has three beds and the fourth corner is the toilet/sink area. One of the nurses groaned about the lack of space given to each patient . . lol it seemed a lot of space to me.

I took a couple of pics of my tummy pre op - no holes or cuts or stitches. Tho plenty stretch marks from pregnancy. . .if this grosses you out you might want to stop here! Or if you are interested, scroll down. . . . I'll post post op ones too, God willing.

Last Supper

I didn't take my camera to the Campanille restaurant, which is probably a shame, since it nearly was my last supper. I ordered the "special of the day" - cordon bleu chicken, and it arrived rather burnt on the outside (deep fried) but after a couple of mouthfuls I realised it was raw on the inside.

I am not an assertive person normally, but after ten mins of poking it, comparing it to past experiences of cooked chicken, etc, I called the waitress and apologised for the food being raw. She said nothing, returned to the chef, and left me waiting for 20 minutes. She then brought me a new one of the same.

I said I was sorry, there is no way I could think of eating that dish again - having nightmares of food poisoning. It would be a shame to have got so near, and then go down with I-ate-raw-chicken-and-got-food-poisoning.

So I ordered an omlette, which took another 20 minutes, and the chef himself brought it to me.

I'm not criticisin the Campanille, these things happen with that sort of ready-prepared food; but I wish I'd taken photos; it wasn't just a little pink; it was plain white sort of translucent uncooked chicken. Bleugh. And I'd eaten some of it.

The omlette was great, but I'd kind of lost my appetite by then and left most of it. I noticed a largish man near me order soup and two omlettes and immediately wondered if he was having WLS or a band adjustment, since that is bandster kind of food. Or maybe I was being paranoid.

I have to say I did look hopefully at everyone with a BMI over 30, just in case they were going to CDB or the hospital same as me, but no luck. I don't think CDB had any English patients except me on Friday. But then, as it turned out, I kept him busy enough!

Pre Op Consultation

When I checked in to the Campanille I asked the multilingual receptionist to get me a taxi for 7pm so that I cold get to Dr De Bruyne's house for the pre op consultation. It was late, turning up eventually at 7.24, after she rang it twice, but thankfully he drove really fast and I don't think I was too late for my 7.30pm appointment.

Taxi drivers (all drivers?) in Belgium zoom around pretty madly and I kept inwardly twitching cos I thought we were going to hit something because we were on "the wrong side of the road" (I did warn you I've led a pretty insular life :-)
Dr De Brune (CDB) has kind of extension to the left of his house, bit like converted garage, only it is not. It is a big modern house, and I did notice his Lexus - and a motorbike outside.

He showed me into a waiting room, but it was empty, and I was his only patient, so I went straight through to the consulting room. He ran through what the band is and isn't, and what it does and doesn't. I definitely got the impression (it was Friday evening) that he wanted to say his piece fast and get on with his life. I could hear his children playing around in the rest of the house, he apologised and said "what can you expect with three children?" I agreed.

He didn't tell me anything I didn't know, since I'd researched the issues quite extensively, except to tell me he'd done 650 of these ops last year, 254 on foreign patients, of only whom two had to remain in hospital more than one night. Pretty good statistics, I thought. (But I should have remembered I am not a statistic, I am a human being, and it's with human beings things get screwed up, not with statistics)
I've put these pics in, so that if you are going to CDB you can visualise where you are going.
After his 10 min talk, he got me to weigh myself and asked me what the scales said. I was amused he asked, cos I could have lied :-) He was sitting at his desk and didn't know. I decided against taking off a couple of kilos for my clothes and just read out the scales to him. He then very businesslikely asked was I paying in Euros or sterling.
I'd been carrying Euros around all day, scared of getting mugged and losing them and was glad to hand them over. He did tell me which I thought was interesting that some people won't come to him (altho he is the cheapest European provider I know of) because they don't like to pay in cash (risks of carrying it, etc) He said he won't take any other payment for "administrative reasons"

Since I don't know any Belgian administrative law, he may well have a point - but payment in cash normally saves you paying tax as well. I mentioned that light-heartedly and he kind of scowled at me and repeated "administrative costs". Ooops, sorry. I can understand that cash payments make life a lot easier for paying hospital costs, etc, and it means payment upfront instead of chasing credit cards or cashing cheques. And if it means the end cost to me is less, I am happy.
He didn't charge me the 50 Euros pre op consult fee which was very good of him, and called me a taxi back to the Campanille, telling me to enjoy my "last meal" (he then laughed and said he hadn't meant to say my last meal - like a condemned prisoner type of meal) and to be in hospital at 7.15am.
Surgery would be late morning to mid afternoon (groan, I hate waiting, and since I was going home the next day really wanted an early op.) He said there was no way he could do me earlier since I'd need blood test analysis back, etc, so to be ready to wait till 2pm ish if necessary. Oh well, better to know it's a late op, than to lie there hopefully for hours thinking I'm going to be next.
Off back to Campanille . .

Travelling light

Since I was going alone, and only expected to be away one night before getting the train home; I didn't want to take too much with me. I'd been warned here I'd have a lot of pain on discharge and wouldn't want to be carrying big bags.

So I took very little with me; lol, not sure whether to be proud of my achievement in travelling light, or to think I was crazy :-)

That is it; money belt; hair brush, painkillers, tissues, nightie, slipper socks, underwear and a journal (had a pen in my money belt along with cash and passport and tickets)

Carried in a small rucksack. Wasn't heavy, tho, lol, heavy enough when it came to getting home. And of course I had my camera - I never go anywhere without it.

Vilvoorde at last - Campanille

Just when I was beginning to catch my breath, and relax knowing I was on the Vilvoorde train, there were all these "Dames en Herren" announcements, followed by the same again in French and I couldn't work out what was happening.

The train was stopped for about half an hour, but thankfully two young Asian girls opposite me translated, and explained that there was a technical fault with the train in front and we'd be sitting tight till that could be resolved.

Wheew, at least we didn't have to change trains, etc.

I finally got into Vilvoorde about an hour late, and set off for the Campanille Hotel, which "you can't miss".

LOL, when I saw it later in daylight, I agree, but it was dark, I was tired, hungry, dehydrated and kind of losing touch with reality. The effect of being alone in a strange place when you aren't used to that.

Wandered around for ages, looking for said hotel, but in the end swallowed my pride, went back to the station and asked a young woman, who spoke good American English. She explained I'd been going completely the wrong way, and that I had to go out, turn right, go under the bridge and turn right at the lights. Dat klopt (that worked!)

So I arrived - nice little hotel, like a Travelodge, but nicer I thought. At last, safely in one place for a while. Big sighs of relief.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Bruxelles Midi

I finally arrived in Brussels, which seems to have as many stations as central London (well not quite) but there is Bruxelles (or Brussels, depending on your language choice), then Midi, Zuid, Centrale, Noord, KappelleKirk and Gare du Midi

Just as well Eurostar stopped at the end of the line, or who knows where I might have gotten out. (Did I mention I have enough sense of direction to get lost in a phone box - the old fashioned red kind - I push every door but the right one trying to get out . .. maybe you can see why travelling alone was kind of daunting)

However, I did as was recommended and "followed everyone else".
I found the station concourse easily and although I checked all the recommended departure boards, and found the train for Antwerp and Essen (I think), I could not find one that showed Vilvoorde. Rather irritated with myself that I couldn't even do something that simple, I queued up to ask the information man. He told me platform 20, but when I got there, there was a typical "London" scence - notice up saying in French "do not board" and lots of harassed commuters (it was now after half four in the afternoon) asking where to go and running this way and that; and harassed officials talking animately but doing nothing

Decided that I would not risk just following everyone else, so went back to the information man (after wandering around, hoping to see a timetable that made sense; but I gave up on the time tables. They are in three languages, and worse have domestic, intercity and international trains. I had this irrational fear of getting on a train going non-stop to Russia (Siberian, even), so decided that I'd have to go back downstairs and plead ignorance again.

This time I was amused - my pronunciation of "Vilvoorde" (in Dutch it sounds like "feel-four-duh" - was good enough for him to answer me in Dutch. I had to humbly ask for the info in English, and this time was directed to Platform 17 for the 16.28.

Looked the right sort of train (grin, how would I know) so on I jumped. I was reassured going passed the "red light" area, as one other forum reader had described it, so thought I must be going in the right direction (and I had a PC print out showing the stations along the way. Whew time to relax)

Monday, 17 December 2007


If you are a seasoned traveller who thinks nothing of hopping across the continent on your own, esp to have surgery where you hardly speak the language, you might want to skip this post, it will be boring :-)

St Pancras is all new and shiny:

I got on to Eurostar and was shocked how old and tatty the train was - just cos St Pancras is new, doesn't mean the trains are. And worse I had one of these seats in the corner of four, with a table; and worst of all, the ignorant goat opposite me decided that all the leg room under the table (heck and under my seat) was his. I could not move without hitting his knee (and he grinned at me a few times till I felt like spitting at him), and as soon as I thought I'd get slightly comfy he'd put one of his feet down on my toes, and expect me to move my foot. Where too? There is only so much space and he had huge legs and feet.

My departure board

I spent most of the journey cramped, looking out the window. (I wrapped a scarf round my head, makes me look less approachable, and thought he might stop catching my eye and grinning whenever his knee rubbed mine. It worked in that it stopped the grinning, but not the knees. Some people are soooo inconsiderate)

As the journey went on he got tireder, slid further down his seat till he was practically sitting on my lap; and no, I was no prepared to stick my legs out in between his knees to get comfy - it would not have been comfy - morally or physically.

His partner sat next to him, I nearly asked if I could change places, so he could squash her, not me; but chickened out. Next to me sat a slim, elegant, professional black lady - about late 20s? She had just as little leg space as me, as the Mrs Goat seemed to think the leg room was all hers too; but slim elegant lady next to me pulled her knees in and sat slimmly and calmly the whole journey, only moving once to answer her blackberry, and once to cross her legs.

Oh to be slim enough to fit into a Eurostar seat. Brought it home to me what this surgery is all about. . .you (I) get so used to be "large" that I've forgotten how it feels to be normal, and to fit into normal spaces (even tho we weren't being given "our" half of the available leg room. Slim elegant woman next to me didn't shuffle or scuffle or strain or twitch trying to get comfortable, she just sat and relaxed, while I inwardly groaned and whinged all the way to Brussels.
Oh to be slim and elegant and just normal sized - not to mention, oh for the confidence to say politely "Excuse me Old Goat, but your knees are hitting my seat, could you move out of my way?"

I wanted to get off the train kind of last so I'd get some photos of it, don't know if it shows here, but the seats were closer together than they are for my dh's commute from Kent to London every morning.

D Day

Or D day minus one.

I am off in a few minutes to the station to meet dh (dear husband) at London Bridge, for Eurostar at 12pm, Brussels 16.03 etc.

Weight this morning was 91.12kg - BMI 31.9. So I suppose I am within limits, depending on height and clothing. Kind of wish I wasn't. I feel like if I had stuck to the "pre op diet" for more than a week I might have lost enough to take my BMI under 30 - but then I might not have been eligible for the op, and sure as eggs is eggs (where does that saying come from) I'd have put all the weight back on as soon as I knew the operation was off

I'm a hopeless dieter, it wasn't until I only had 8 days left till the op that I got round to dieting and all I did was take appetite supressants (they work for me short term), and drink Cambridge Diet sachets (to make sure I get all my vitamins etc) (The Cambridge Diet also works for me short term, till I have a crisis of some sort, or get fed up or down or lonely or hassled, then Food comes along promising instant help, relief, and comfort and every time I believe it, and slam, into a week long binge I go (or more than a week) and any weight lost comes straight back on

As of today, Thursday 13th, I haven't had anything to eat for just ages, (just diet drinks) don't think I will have much today. I don't like eating while travelling esp while stressed - IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) which rarely bothers me, might rear it's ugly head and leave me rushing around looking for loos in foreign places.

I hate the waiting to go somewhere like this, once I've made up my mind I like to go now, and I am bound to be far too early. Why am I always far too early? Hope I don't die too early.Will report back later, DV (Deo Volenti, if God will)