Updated: Sep 3, 2022
I slept well through the night and I was pleased to have no more nocturnal dramas. The machines were all unhooked and the remaining two cannulas had been removed from my right hand, which I was really glad about as it was hard to keep the octopus-like little tubes from dangling in my food! My left hand was returning steadily to more normal proportions.
The food at the Nuffield hospital had been a pleasant surprise. Food is something I feel passionate about as anyone who has done my Sacred Vessel course knows. I believe a great deal of our health rests upon a foundation of good nutrition and it is vital to eat a wide range of fresh foods. A member of the catering team took my order from the varied menu each day. It was more like bistro service than hospital catering. I was pleased to see fresh fruit salad as an option for dessert and I really appreciated it.
I had been dreading hospital food as I have such a healthy and varied diet at home; I need not have worried. My only disappointment was that my appetite was reduced at first and I couldn’t manage more than a few mouthfuls on the first day.
I finished reading Crawdads that morning and put the telly on. It was the Thursday of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend and the pageantry was just beginning. I watched the Trooping of the Colour. I’m not a big Royalist, but I have respect for the Queen and I find Charles’ passion for the environment heartening for the future. If I had to name a favourite I'd choose Princess Anne. I admire her forthright, down-to-earth attitude. She is a strong, inspiring woman and that morning she cut a dignified figure on horseback.
A nurse popped in to talk me through daily anti-coagulant injections which I would need to administer for the next 10 days. The nursing staff had been giving them to me in hospital. I was issued with pre-filled syringes and a sharps disposal box. I didn’t really fancy injecting myself, but I was confident that my husband would handle this responsibility well, as indeed he did. ‘Stabby belly’ became a fun part of our morning routine! Honestly the needle hurt very little and sometimes not at all. We weren’t given any sterile wipes to clean the skin first, but we used some from the first aid box at home and topped the kit up later. You should find the wipes in the medicines aisle if you need them.
I was given a booklet to read through regarding aftercare and a big pack of painkillers which included paracetamol, a bottle of liquid morphine and some nefopam which I was unfamiliar with. I gave back the box of codeine as I didn’t fancy more vomiting!
My surgical dressing was changed for the first time. Nobody had looked at the wound up until that point. Now I got my first sight of the most impressive, huge, black bruise I’ve ever seen. It covered most of my tummy. I do bruise easily; it took a long while for this bruise to fade and it went through various shades and colours in the process, but as I write this nearly 10 weeks on my skin is the colour of milky coffee. Scroll right to the bottom for a bruise photo!
The wound itself was tucked in the natural crease just under my belly. I couldn’t see it, but the nurse reassured me that it was very neat. She swapped the original dressing for a shower-proof one, which I was pleased about. My hair was getting seriously overdue for a wash; it is fairly unmanageable at the best of times and all the time spent in bed meant it looked wild, but not in a good way. I couldn’t wait to get home and wash it. She advised the dressing could come off completely in another four days. She gave me a useful tip for drying the wound hygienically after that – don’t rub it with a towel, which could make it sore or cause infection in the early days – instead use a clean hairdryer on a low heat. That was really useful advice and I continued to dry the scar like this through the healing process.
I was still drifting in and out of wakefulness. I dozed off again, just for a short while, perhaps 15 minutes. When I opened my eyes all I could see for a moment was golden light. It was absolutely beautiful. My feeling is my Guides were using these naps to give me some healing. I continued to nap several times during the day over the next few weeks and noticed how much better I felt when I woke each time.
As it got nearer time to leave I called for help to pack my hospital bag. My initial impulse was to bend and try to lift the bag myself, but I stopped myself in time. As it got packed I realised how optimistic I'd been packing day clothes. I’d worn nightdresses through my stay and I only needed a dress to arrive and go home in.
The nurse recommended I ask my husband to bring a soft cushion or pillow to put across my tummy to ease some of the pressure from the seatbelt. I did text him, but our terrible mobile phone reception meant my message only arrived as he was partway on the journey. Fortunately I had a soft quilted gilet I could fold and use this way.
As I left my room and walked along the corridor the place was amazingly quiet. I am sure NHS hospitals would still be bustling whatever the occasion, but at the Nuffield it looked like everyone was taking the long Jubilee weekend off. The car park was almost deserted.
It was great to see Steve waiting in the car park with our dog who was ecstatic to see me. What a welcome! The journey home was not very comfy despite Steve’s careful driving. I felt every single bump in the road and there are plenty between Hereford and Mid Wales. I tilted the car seat back and tried to doze. I still wasn’t up to chatting.
Steve parked outside our house and helped me upstairs to the bedroom. We’d spent some time redesigning it for my return. The dressing table had been cleared and given a wipeable tablecloth to hold medication and basic tea making facilities so that I didn’t have to go up and downstairs too much at the start.
The bed was freshly made up and Steve had taken the padded headboard from my son’s bed (he lives away so won't miss it) and cable tied it to the metal headboard so that I had something comfortable to lean against. Steve had put a vase of fresh flowers in the room to welcome me back. It was lovely to be back in my own space.
My laptop desk was repurposed to go beside the bed, which gave me somewhere to eat meals in the early days. As time went on the table became less necessary for meals, but it was still a useful place to put crosswords, embroidery, books and a cup of tea down. I had a reusable water bottle and a glass beside the bed to stay hydrated and to take painkillers too.
We’d made a few other preparations before I went into hospital. It occurred to us that we might be able to use Alexa as an intercom. With one echo device in the bedroom and another in the kitchen we found the ‘Alexa Drop-in’ command meant I could call downstairs for something without shouting and Steve could check whether I needed anything bringing upstairs. Sometimes it backfired which was funny. I would hear Steve downstairs having an argument with Alexa when she was refusing to understand the drop-in command. I’d take pity and make the connection for him as she seemed to understand me, no problem!
I really needed that system of summoning help at the start. Whereas I could haul myself up to sitting using the bars of the hospital bed I couldn’t manage it from a normal bed. I needed pulling upright so I could shuffle off to the loo. That was frequently as my bladder felt bruised. My voice was husky and weak for quite a while after the operation and without the intercom I wouldn't have been heard. I found crossing my arms over and being pulled up by both hands worked best for me.
I would stress that anyone having a hysterectomy will need support in the early days at home. If you don’t live with someone, please ask a good friend or kind relative to come and stay, or even consider hiring a carer. I absolutely could not look after myself straight away.
Read on to hear about the first few days back home.
Note: I am sharing my personal experience of having a hysterectomy and letting you know what I found helpful or unhelpful. This is not medical advice. Please consult your medical practitioner if you have any questions or concerns about your own treatment.