My reaction from the moment I discovered the date of my operation was to cry, panic and worry – right up until the day arrived! I knew I had to get through surgery to survive and look forward to my future. This was a chance of a new beginning. A fresh start, a new life for myself. I knew the operation would be beneficial, giving me a better and healthier life. A few days before the surgery, I had so many thoughts and feelings swimming around in my head, but I was assured that was perfectly normal. I worried about something going wrong, not surviving it and wondering, “Why me? Why did I have to go through it?”.

As the operation date drew nearer and nearer I didn’t know what to feel or think, the days were passing in a daze. People around me were concerned and wanted to talk about the operation, but I was fed up of talking or hearing about it. I just wanted to block it all out; pretend it wasn’t happening – however, I knew I couldn’t.

I had an appointment the day before my operation just to make sure I was healthy enough for surgery and had been using the shower gel and nose cream that they provided as it helps to fight off any bacteria.

When the day finally arrived, the staff showed me my bed and made me feel relaxed. They took a blood test, in case I needed a blood transfusion during the operation. I thought, “Wow, this is actually happening, after waiting so long, it’s happening.” And my Mum was able to stay with me.

The next morning, seemed to go on forever. I had to shower to ensure I was clean of any bacteria that could infect the incision. I had regular check-ups on blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. I met a range of different people, so many in fact that I couldn’t remember who was who. There was a slight chance my operation could be cancelled if an emergency arrived. All this waiting around meant that I began to worry about things that could go wrong, but I tried to look on the positive side, I was in the best possible hands and if something went wrong, I was under the best possible care. I focused on my life after the operation when I would be fully recovered because I felt that was when my life would actually start. I kept my mind focused on that and that’s how I got through it all.

When it was finally time for my surgery, I was wheeled down to theatre. I felt relief. It was actually happening. Something that I’d waited for a year for. We went to the anaesthetic room and, whilst they were talking to me they were slowly putting me to sleep. In a few minutes, I was sound asleep.

Later, I remember waking up to someone saying my name and I saw my Mum and Dad and instantly felt better. But I was still so sleepy. That first night in intensive care wasn’t great. I kept waking up, being sick, then going back to sleep.

Waking up the next morning was a bit of a blur, it took me a few minutes to realise where I actually was. One of the best things was, I had one to one care with a nurse in case I needed anything. A few nurses visited me throughout the morning, it took me a little while to look around at the different tubes and wires that were connected to me. I guess I was scared to look straight away. But I knew in the back of my mind they were keeping me going and I needed them. A few hours passed and my Mum and Dad came to see me for a few minutes in intensive care until I was taken up to the ward. Seeing them made my day, it made me feel better within myself. The nurses were very nice and they helped me a lot with moving about.

On the ward, I was in a room with four other ladies and they were very welcoming and nice. But I wasn’t feeling my best and just wanted to be on my own. For a majority of the first few days, I slept because of the anaesthetic. I remember seeing different nurses greet me but what got me through the operation was my Mum. If it wasn’t for her and being around, I think I would have panicked.

After a few days my mobility improved and I started to talk more, I felt more alert. Two or three days after being on the ward, all my tubes were taken out; it felt weird because I was so used to relying on them to help me breathe. But a day later I started to feel much better. I started to slowly eat things, I didn’t really have that much of an appetite but I remembered slowly starting to eat. I set a challenge in my mind to try and start to walk and be more mobile.

So one morning I took a few steps – it wasn’t that far, but I was getting somewhere. I increased the number of steps I’d take every day. Once the tubes were out I had to go to the toilet by myself. Although there were nurses to help me, and I was assigned a physio-therapist to help me walk and get back on my feet. After a two or three more days had passed I was feeling much better. Yes, I still had pains and I wasn’t fully recovered. But I was ready to go home.

The surgery team and doctor monitored me and gave me the good news – I could go home! I was in hospital for exactly a week. On a positive note, before my hospital stay I couldn’t take tablets and was scared of needles – but I had to get used to them and now I’m fine with both!

My mum was able to stay with me all day on most days – so a big “Thank you” to the nurses because I was on the youngest on the ward, it meant a lot to me.

As I’m writing this, I’m nearly fully recovered. I feel like myself again. I used to get so worried and panicky about my scar and constantly thought it looked ugly. But when I had the strength to look down at it, I loved it. This scar defines me and its part of me. My scar proves I went through a tough battle and came out of it stronger.

I can’t express how good the nurses were towards me whilst in hospital, I had two members of the congenital team by my side since the start. I can’t thank them enough for the support they gave me and how much time they spent with me, they were very patient and answered every question. Angela Bates and Chris Thornborough helped me through this and if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have got through it. I never felt silly for asking questions, if I was worried about something or needed more information they were there to support me. I struggled to tell anyone about my feelings and how worried I was. I bottled everything up and thought I had to take this on my own, but I never did. There are so many people around you that care and want to help you and support you. So if I started to feel worried or anxious, I could talk to someone about my feelings so they could help.

This was such an amazing and adventurous experience for me and I can’t thank people enough for the great support. I can now start to live my life.

Lucy Foster

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