The Vein Story

I have been having varicose veins from the late 80s I remember. As I grew older it started to bother me. So when I accompanied my friend Usha to a consult a senior vascular surgeon, he dismissed Ushas condition as “nothing to worry you can leave it alone” but for me his verdict was ” you need surgery” I asked him if not surgery…how can it be managed? He said wearing compression stockings throughout my life is the only solution. I vowed to myself…so be it. Let me wear. But it was not as easy as I thought especially in this Chennai heat. So I went back to the doctor in July and I fixed the surgery for Aug 16th. By then the pain and swelling had become worse. Especially after sitting for a long time both my legs felt very heavy. A limp also crept in.

16th morning dawned. Since it was an elective surgery I had filled my fridge with food and Dosa batter for the days after discharge. After 8 am I was not supposed to eat or even drink a sip of water. So made pongal thinking I can tuck in heartily like a camel. But I could hardly eat. Agitated. Nervous. Anxious.

After settling in the room, the nurses and junior doctors started making their visits. The Chief’s assistant Dr Rahul came to measure and mark the errant veins. A nurse came in to start an IV. She was unable to find a vein in both hands and after poking around for 15 minutes she went away saying her nursing supervisor will come and start the IV. She blamed my dehydrated status! An attender came in to prepare me for the surgery. She gave me an antiseptic liquid and told me to have a bath using that liquid and also wear the gown backwards! The opening should come at the back! I did all that and waited wondering what next! A dietician came in asking about my food habits and what I like to eat and all my preferences. I told her I am not supposed to eat today, but still she asked all her customary questions perhaps for the diet for tomorrow!

It was 1.30 PM. My BP was at that time 160 by 92. I thought I would be made to walk to the theatre or moved by wheel chair. But the crew came in and said that the bed itself will be wheeled into the theatre. The OT was on the same 6th floor. I looked at the rapidly moving ceiling as I lay down, thinking…This is it! The moment has arrived. Said a quick prayer to make this whole episode bearable and incident free. The Operation theatre’s outside lobby was filled with huge ominous looking instruments. I believe they had a robotic surgery earlier and they were clearing it away. I lay there watching them handle those machines and wheel them to another floor in the hospital. The atmosphere was friendly and the team kept asking each other, “Lunch Saaptaacha?”

The main OT was frigid. The nurses who were there covered me with a thin pink cotton sheet but I still started shivering. They told me to get down and hop on to the narrower metallic Operation Table and place my head on a round contraption with two long notebooks below! Wondered what those books were doing there. Reminded me of my childhood when I thought if I kept books as pillows all the lessons would go automatically to my brain without having to slog. In spite of the situation and the cold, this brought a smile. In came two men, then Dr Rahul also arrived. There was no sign of the chief anesthetist or the chief vascular surgeon. The two men meanwhile removed the sleeves from my hospital gown and told me to extend both my arms. While I was doing that Dr Rahul told me to bend one leg and he started taking measurements and adjusting a machine to my thigh and started looking at squiggly lines on a monitor. The little cover I had on my body now gone, I started shivering and quaking so much, I wondered how come none commented about it. Dr Rahul just remarked, “You seem calm, but why is your BP so high?”

“Its soo cold!”

He laughed and said the AC is not even ON yet! You are fit to live only in Hot Chennai! The Chief Anesthetist entered. “Ma’am, you will be made to sleep. You will not remember anything. We will put a tube into your throat. And after the surgery we will ask you before we remove the tube”

I just nodded.

Then she put a mask which covered all my face and told me to take a deep breath. I took. Things started fading away. “Ma’am, you will feel dizzy. Take deep breaths anyway”

That’s all I remember before they knocked me out.

I woke up to a voice, “Ma’am I am going to remove the tube now” She removed it and in its place an oxygen mask came. I felt a strange feeling in my chest which soon turned into pain. Filled with terror, I was convinced I was suffering a heart attack. I took deep breaths and shouted, “Vali Vali” A nurse came close and said, “Where” I pointed to my chest.

The nurse looked at the monitor behind my head and then spoke to someone. I started massaging my chest and continued the deep breaths. The chest pain waned away eventually after probably 5 to 8 minutes.

I started looking around. It was a recovery ward. There were curtains shielding me from other patients. There was a particularly talkative patient close by who kept shouting that he was hungry. He did not eat anything all day…

An ECG machine was brought in and I realized that it was for me! Finally, after a struggle the Nurse, Nithya took the ECG. My feet were bandaged tight and so the leads could not be placed properly on my feet. A doctor came in and saw the ECG and declared its normal, but only after checking the old ECG taken a week earlier.

I just lay there and tried to sleep, but felt wide awake now. Shweta and Senthil came and saw me for a short while. I was finally wheeled back to the room at 8 PM. I was able to walk to the bathroom with some help thankfully. Did not feel any pain as I was drugged. After some coconut water and one piece idiyappam, I broke the fast. Grateful to God for no vomiting episodes or any other untoward incidents.

The team had performed a Radio frequency Ablation guided by laser beams and “burnt” the veins on either ends so that they don’t bulge. A simple and effective procedure. Compression stockings need to be worn for 6 months after the procedure and cease thereafter.

Got back home the following day advised rest for 10 days and to resume normal life afterward.
My thanks to well meaning friends who were constantly enquiring and praying. Great hospital, excellent team and professional care.

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