memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for July 18, 2011

Another Walk through the Valley

The years seem to fly by, do they not? I sometimes feel that Time is hurtling our lives away and wish it would slow down or, even better, skid to a stop for a while. There is still so much richness and beauty to be mined from the wonderful earth. (Where is my lost decade?)

In December 2008 the small tumour in the left side of my frontal lobe had grown to the point where the surgeon decided to remove it. We might as well take it out early in the New Year, he remarked casually as though he was talking about removing a zit.

So the following March on a Monday morning I checked into the by now familiar hospital. The same surgeon, now the Clinical Head of Neurosurgery, would be operating on my brain for the third time. I had decided to adopt a new approach. I decided to be positive and show a bit of courage (I’ll try anything once). And it worked like a charm, even though the night before the operation I’d received a visit from the anaesthetist, who put to me all the usual questions and then asked me if I had any questions about the procedure. What could go wrong during the operation, I asked: well, he replied, three things – you could have a heart attack, you could choke on your own vomit or of course you could just die. (Thanks doc.) Then I asked him about Dr. Mario, the surgeon, and he replied with admiration that he was a great surgeon, having both good hands and a good mind. I put my worries aside, put my life on hold for the duration and was in the right frame of mind as, the next morning, after being prepped, I was taken on one hospital trolley to the operating area, transferred over a counter onto another hospital trolley and wheeled into the sterile waiting area outside Theatre no.8. They were just cleaning up after the previous operation, hosing down the blood and what not. After about half an hour the theatre door opened and out came the surgeon (the Man), sleeves rolled up and wearing his brightly coloured non-regulation cap; he smiled in his usual friendly manner and said briskly right, let’s sort this one out, shall we. One of the theatre nurses made reassuring conversation in English while the anaesthetist plied his trade … I counted back from 10 … 9 … 8 …


I came to in the ICU ward that evening. It was very quiet (I was the only patient) and the lighting was dim – a duty nurse was working at a desk opposite my bed under a shaded lamp. When she saw that I was stirring she came across to my bed and waited patiently for me to return to the world. I first searched my mind for the reassurance that I had not turned into a cabbage while I was under. When it dawned on me that I was still compus mentis I felt elation. I then patrolled my body; everything seemed as it had been before except a tendency for my right hand and arm to curl up and go numb and out of control. I tried speech: did everything go ok? I asked the nurse and she smiled at me, everything went as planned, everything is ok. I consulted my memory; to my surprise I could remember the  topic I’d been discussing with my brother Gam the previous evening in the ward (about muscle atrophy), moreover I remembered the day and date and the where and the why and who I was. Satisfied with this preliminary mental scan I slept. Whenever I woke during the night I would ask the nurse if I was really OK … it is always a rush surviving a life-threatening operation.

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