It all started two years ago when the bilingual 5-year-old son of a friend pointed to my nose and said, ‘There is sangue.’ I thought he wanted to know what sangue meant, so I said, ‘blood’.‘Yes, blood,’ the small child persisted, so I went to look at myself in a mirror. Quite right. There was a spot of blood on my nose. A spot which wouldn’t go away and went from blood to scab which was pushed off by another spot of blood. After two years I was fed up with trying to disguise something which persisted, so I saw the doctor. He also happened to be a skin specialist. So I was booked in to have the spot of ‘non-invasive cancer’ removed.
Daily we are reminded that the NNHS is in crisis because there aren’t enough beds. Patients are ‘blocking’ them because there isn’t enough back-up in community care for them to be discharged. However, the Outpatients Plastic Surgery Department was serene when I went for my afternoon appointment. I was taken to the surgeon without undue delay. He came from Egypt and spoke perfect English.
‘Aren’t your skills needed in Egypt?’ I asked.
‘Yes, he replied. But they don’t have the best facilities and people are polite here.’
Well, that’s a nice compliment, though I didn’t notice that Egyptians were impolite when I visited the pyramids and sailed down the Nile. He told me I was the third patient he would operate on that afternoon. I had plenty to read and the sun was shining into the wide corridor with blue walls and blue and yellow curtains round the bays. Sky and sunshine colours.
My time came after nurses had helped me change into operational garment tied at the back. There the surgeon was with two nurses. I lay back, was told that I would be given injections – he wouldn’t say how many – a mask and I would hear him speaking to the nurses, not to me, except to ask me to turn my head. There were three injections, and then the work began. I heard,
‘Leave the fat, please,’ hoping that there wouldn’t be too much of a hole! As explained beforehand, a graft of skin was taken from in front of my left ear (where there is skin to spare) and put over the hole, a white one and a half centimetres square. I was warned there would be lots of bruising after it. Half an hour later I was back in one of the bays being offered tea or coffee and biscuits, for John as well, who was called out from the waiting room.
What could be simpler? I was back home before the rush hour started at 5 in the afternoon, but my nose wound was bleeding and covered the graft. It was also swollen, but not really painful, even when the anaesthetic wore off. The day after I felt rather groggy. Not pain, though the nurse had advised me strongly to take a painkiller tablet every four hours. I didn’t need to.
Since then I have been out shopping and into the Minster. The wound is running so I have to keep my nose in the air like a mare Everyone looks at me slightly longer than usual, but only some ask if I have fallen over. Others may think I have been the victim of domestic abuse! I try to say, ‘Just a simple operation,’ and move on.
A couple of years ago I knocked the side of my head on the linen cupboard door. It left a large bruise round my left eye. John called an ambulance, explaining what it was. In five minutes an ambulance car came and took me the A & E, with John following in our car. I was first seen by a nurse, then by a specialist nurse, then by a senior nurse and finally by a doctor.
‘There are a lot of ways of getting help,’ he said gently.
‘Why?’ I asked, bewildered.
‘Domestic abuse is quite common…’ he started. I almost wanted to laugh out loud and ask him to look at the anxious faces of my husband and son waiting outside for me.
Now the wound isn’t running so I don’t have to keep my nose in the air like a mare, but it is large and scarlet. My nose is still swollen and there is a clear cavity. I wonder whether I shall have a changed nose? Tomorrow I return to Plastic Surgery, Outpatients and will ask them.