I've been out of hospital for a bit over a week now, and I have to say I'm enjoying my new-found freedom. It has a been bit surreal sleeping in my own bed, enjoying my own shower and reacquainting myself with every nook and cranny of the place my boyfriend and I lovingly refer to as "tiny flat."
Last Monday I got the all clear from the surgeons who said I could leave that day. The only loose ends I needed to tie up were getting the Hickman line removed and getting a few week's worth of prescriptions to hold me over until I had a chance to get an appointment with a GP at my local surgery. Both went relatively smoothly, though removing the Hickman line was a bit interesting.
I was a bit nervous about having the Hickman Line removed for one reason or another. I mostly was worried it was going to feel really weird when it was moving out of the vein in my neck and under the skin on my chest. The first thing the lady did was feel around on my chest for where the cuff held the line in place. She needed to find this so she could inject some anaesthetic and make an incision to remove the line. Unfortunately, the anaesthetic stings like hell, and she didn't find the right place the first time. Not only that, but she didn't realise it was the wrong place until she had done a considerable amount of digging which I could feel against my sternum. It wasn't that it hurt, but it felt incredibly weird.
Eventually she found the cuff was actually located very closely to the exit site for the line, and once she numbed that area up, and made the incision, it was only a matter of seconds before the line was out. And because I had been injected with an incredible amount of anaesthetic, I didn't feel any part of it coming out--in fact, I hadn't realised it had been removed until she said all was over and showed me the line. She then proceeded to stitch me up, and told me to keep lying down for at least 30 minutes to minimise bleeding.
Once I got wheeled back to the bay, I noticed the dietitian had kindly dropped off a box of supplement drinks. I was a bit worried at first because the side of the box said strawberry, and I already have something like 72 bottles of strawberry flavoured Fortisip Compacts at home. Luckily, it was only that the box said strawberry on the side, and she had provided me with a variety of different Fortisip and Fortijuce flavours which I've been trying out over the past week. It turns out these drinks are much more palatable when I'm not feeling completely rubbish, and I've been managing three a day--an extra 900 calories total--quite easily.
Since I've been home, I've been keeping relatively busy. My dad has been here to help me carry things. Since I have an 8-inch incision running vertically down my abdomen, I am not really supposed to be lifting anything more than 10 pounds, or partaking in strenuous activities. This means that food shopping by myself is out, and I can't do too much housework. I have been managing to get out for walks around Richmond and the local area, and participating in "light" tourist activities such as a boat ride down the Thames from here to Hampton Court. I've also been cooking again, which has been really nice.
In the past week, we've enjoyed a number of delicious, home-cooked meals:
Tuesday - Spaghetti Pie and Garlic Cheese Bread
Wednesday - African Drumsticks (a Nigella recipe) and Long Grain Rice
Thursday - Yellow Curry Chicken and Jasmine Rice
Friday - Orange Glazed Pork Chops with Baked Sweet Potatoes
Saturday - Meat Loaf with Creamed Peas and Potatoes
Sunday - Meat Loaf sandwiches with Chips and Onion Rings
Not only that, but I've been able to enjoy meals out again, which has been really nice. Today, my boyfriend and I had what I'm going to call "America Day" where we went to an American deli for sandwiches followed by a trip to an American bakery. The deli--the Pickle and Rye in East Sheen--has a brilliant sandwich menu. I went for the BBQ pulled pork sandwich, and my partner opted for The Toronto. Both sandwiches were impressively large (how American of them!) and were served with a proper dill pickle spear on the side. I love dill pickles, and was quite pleased to finally have two proper dill spears (my boyfriend kindly gave me his--apparently he has not caught onto the brilliance of these things). The BBQ sandwich was also good--really good. The meat was incredibly tender, perfectly sauced and piled nicely on a soft roll with some lettuce and home made coleslaw. I was a bit sceptical about the coleslaw at first, but it offered a nice peppery flavour to the sandwich which paired well with the BBQ pork.
The American bakery--Outsider Tart in Chiswick--is a favourite place to visit on Bank Holiday Mondays. They offer a great variety of baked items one typically finds in America (whoopie pies, loads of cookies, certain kinds of cakes, etc.), and they make amazing coffee drinks. Seriously, trekking to Outsider Tart for the coffee alone is worth it. I've not had a latte with milk so smooth since I worked at Ancora Coffee Roasters my last year of university. But, if you're going to trek to Chiswick for coffee, you may as well enjoy some delicious American baked goods as well. Today we picked up two chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting, a lime curd bar (similar to a lemon bar but with lime) and some sort of apple crunch cake. Obviously my hunger is getting the better of me since I picked two items for myself, but we also got something for my dad, hence the four in total.
So my recovery is going remarkably well in all. I've not really used any pain relievers over the past week, and if I have it's only been paracetamol. I have a follow-up with the GP Friday to get my prescriptions sorted out, and another appointment the following Friday to have my staples removed. In the meantime I'm waiting for a follow-up with my gastro consultant and the dietitians in Kingston to see how I manage my disease going forward, and optimise my diet so I can get back to a healthy 50 kilos or so before too long.
Even though I have a load of appointments to follow-up on, at least it's been a nice change to be out of hospital and getting on with a semi-normal life.