The not knowing is a killer

By Mel Ball

This is the second part of my story – you can find the first part here

I had recently undergone an operation for Carpel Tunnel Decompression to help stop the pain in my right hand. I’ll start with the happy side of it, it went well and three days after I am now typing again as normal.

The bad side is, I’m reliving the pain of it all.

I had to wait just over three months for this operation, the waiting for it to happen was a killer. In this time I couldn’t work, I failed my driving test, found out my nana has dementia, and had phonic tics from medications, and all the while trying to deal with the things in my own head and the excruciating pain in both my hands. My life was a mess. The thoughts of failure kept running through my head – how I have let everyone down, how I could not support myself or my family. Virtually every day I was crying for what I felt was for no reason at all.

I stopped for a while with the whole ‘sorry for oneself’ for a bit. I actually found some solace within myself to help myself out of this pit of gloom that I had put myself in. I threw myself into my partner’s business as it was somewhat lacking. My sister helped me out, she was the one who told me to get on with it and do something with a business that isn’t doing anything at all. Great, some work. I started with working on a local charity photo-shoot. It didn’t take me long to put together as I already knew the people in charge and they did a photo-shoot with us last year too, which was very successful.

Once I did that and saw how productive it was, I started working on our wedding photo shoots. I haven’t quite cracked that one yet, but I’m getting there. Anyway I’m side-tracking a bit. I’m going straight to the week running up to my op.

The Saturday before, we had a wedding to take photographs for. It was a lovely sunny day and the theme was sunflower yellow. I felt as nervous as the groom. Several times while the ceremony was happening, I had a panic attack or mini-breakdown. I kept losing my focus, I couldn’t remember where I was supposed to be, when I was supposed to move and still fighting back tears of pain from my hands.

A camera on its own isn’t that heavy, you may say, but once you have added a lens, a flash and a light bender it becomes very heavy, very quickly when you have carpel tunnel.

I hated being there, I didn’t want to do the job, I didn’t want to meet people I didn’t know, and yet I didn’t want to let down this wonderful man and wife and their guests. The mixed feelings are enough to make anyone sick, but I’m glad I had my partner with me. He made me feel that it was all right to be scared because you don’t want to screw up the couple’s happiest-day-of-their- lives photographs. I made it through the day still with the feeling of dread, still not knowing if I had done a good enough job.

The rest of the week running up to the operation was fairly uneventful. I barely worked on any new Facebook posts, I didn’t make any progress with the up-and-coming charity shoot. I could not focus on anything. But the one thing that surprised me was that I wasn’t thinking about the operation. Not until I got to the hospital that is.

I get there a few minutes early. I had to be there for 1:30pm, but I had no idea when the operation would happen. I leave my partner and youngest in the waiting room while I head upstairs. He was being hopeful, that it would only be an hour at most that I would be in there for, and that I would be back in time to collect the eldest from school. It most certainly was not just an hour. Anyhow, I was shown to my waiting room. On the bed was some information about the op, post-care and my appointment card for physio.

Getting a bit nervous now. I start to play with Final Fantasy on my phone, I love it; it keeps me distracted. My room soon became a little bit busier, the staff nurse came to make sure I am who I am and various other details. The surgeon doing my op pops by to let me know what is going to happen and to get my autograph. And an older lady, by the name of Georgie, who settles herself down in the chair opposite me. I found out she is in for the same op but on the opposite hand. She tells me she also has to have both hands done too. We talk for a bit about various things, but I am getting increasingly anxious and more scared by the minute.

Soon enough I get called to have my right hand operated on. I start to shake with nerves. I get into the operating room and lie down on the bed. I’m shaking even more. They ask me if I’m cold. I’m not, I reply. They introduce themselves though I can’t remember any of their names except for the surgeon’s. I am so grateful to the nurse that held my left hand and let me cry into her. The operation was done by local anaesthetic. I’m awake for the whole thing! The first needle was the most painful thing ever, I cried like a toddler. I constantly screamed out “I’m so sorry! I’m sorry for being such a big baby!” I apologised to everyone in that room. Two more injections and more crying later I couldn’t feel anything. I was still apologising to the nurse, she was so kind and forgiving. She comforted me so much, she said it was OK to be scared, and to cry because it hurts: “It’s the unknown of what is about to happen.”

Pain on top of pain is a killer. Then they had to stop the blood in my arm by tying it off. Excruciating pain. Thankfully, I couldn’t feel the first cut, and before I knew it, it was over, just ten minutes it took. It felt like a lifetime. I sat up after they bandaged me up, I felt slightly dizzy. I stood up and proceeded to pass out.

I woke up in the recovery room, I felt so silly and embarrassed that I had passed out. Again apologising for something that happens all the time, it’s not a natural thing for anything or anyone to pierce your skin, let alone cut into it. I had everyone come up to me asking if I was all right, the worst for now was over. I’m all right.

I get wheeled back into my room and my new roomie looked a bit worried for me. I reassure her I am all right and just passed out because I hate needles. I told her what happened, I told her everything that had happened over the last three months. She listened and I cried again. Georgie tells me she suffers from anxiety and depression too, I am just grateful someone else is here willing to listen to me and knows what it is like. Eventually, after nearly a full litre of water, I got dressed and was discharged with various instructions and appointments to make.

For now with it being three days later I am happy that the pain is no longer an issue with my right hand. I’m glad it is working nearly as well as before. But I now suffer from the flashbacks of that day. I’m sure over time they will fade, but will resurface again before I have to have my left hand to be operated on for the same thing. I am not, but also looking forward to that day, when I have completely pain-free hands.

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