Pre-prep prep

A nurse, Lorraine, arrives to talk to me, and Mike decides to take
his leave. He looks guilty for leaving me.

Lorraine’s job is to reassure me and to find out all those little
things they’d rather know in advance, like the fact that I’m allergic
to elastoplast, I’m vegetarian, etc.

She tells me I’ll get a visit from the anaesthetist and the
surgeon, and just before 8am they’ll take me to get prepped for
surgery. Then she leaves me to undress and get into the highly
fashionable and sought-after standard-issue velcro-fastened hospital

I spend the time before the anaesthetist arrives pacing again. It
seems an age before he turns up.

“You look anxious,” he diagnoses correctly. He looks like a
prototype Lord Dr Robert Winston, TV’s favourite medic, the one who
presented that televisual atrocity Walking With Cavemen.

He disappears, and a few minutes later the surgeon arrives. He takes me
through the procedure: discectomy, laminectomy, feraminectomy. Clear away
the disc leakage, cut away a bit more of the disc, and cut away a bit of
bone to allow the nerve root a bit more room to move.

The risks: there’s a 1% chance of “foot drop”: where you can’t
control the foot properly. Like Inspector Morse, he says, I might end
up with a splint. And of course there’s the catch-all: a
one-in-a-thousand chance of a “spinal catastrophe”. He freely admits
that this is a generic term that means “something really bad might

He scribbles this down on the consent form, and I sign. He leaves
me alone again.

I have no idea what time it is; I’ve taken off my watch, and
there’s no clock in the room. But it must be 8am by now.


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