Surgery at 66 can be traumatic


WHEN we are pushed to our limits or faced with our own mortality is when we realise how truly blessed we are.

About six weeks ago, I was hospitalised to undergo surgery on my right shoulder at a private hospital.

Following a number of falls during my regular hikes at Bukit Kiara, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination showed that there were a number of problems with my right shoulder, including two tears and the growth of a bone spur that needed attention. The doctor recommended keyhole surgery.

I have a strong dislike for surgery unless it is absolutely necessary. Given my age, surgery now involves a longer recovery time.

As such, I decided to get a second and third opinion. Both doctors agreed I should go ahead with the surgery provided I had confidence in the ability of the surgeon, which I did.

The surgery was scheduled to take place in two weeks after the MRI was done. Needless to say, this was a stressful two weeks.

Not only had I to endure the pain in my shoulder, but I was also nervous, stressed, anxious, jittery, agitated and even fearful. I lost my appetite and also lost a bit of weight. Nothing could cheer me up nor increase my desire for food.

Finally, the day arrived. I had to be admitted to the hospital a day before my surgery.

Pre-admission preparations took three agonising hours as I had to undergo three tests including a blood test and an X-ray of my chest to ensure my heart and lungs were in good shape for the operation.

The doctor also used a pen to mark which shoulder he needed to operate on.

The Ministry of Health has made it a requirement for doctors to mark clearly the arm or leg that is to be operated on to avoid any mistakes being made.

When I was brought to the operation theatre the next morning, I was a bundle of nerves. It was extremely cold. The anaesthetist calmed my nerves by saying, “Mr Pola, in a minute you will go off to sleep”.

When I woke up, I realised that the operation was over. I was relieved. My surgeon appeared and he informed me that he was very pleased with the operation (meaning the surgery went as expected and there were no complications). So confident was he that he directed that I start doing physio exercises that very day!

I had to wear an arm sling to remind me and relevant others of my condition.

I was very fortunate and feel blessed that my other half stayed with me throughout the three-night stay at the hospital (thank god there was an empty bed in my two-bedded room).

I was put under her loving and tender care. I was fed well and underwent physio under her supervision. She also provided the important personal care such as assisting me in going to the toilet, taking my bath and changing my clothes, just to name a few.

The support and care shown by my family members was also overwhelming. They offered messages and prayers. They even visited me before and after the surgery.

My close family members and relatives dropped by to bring fruits and home-cooked chapatti after the operation. They were all curious to know the outcome of the surgery and how I felt. I’m so glad they were considerate enough not to overstay as I needed a lot of rest.

I’m glad they came as I received reassurance and moral support. The care, concern and support from family members has been important in my healing and recuperating process. Undoubtedly, it is during such times that family bonds become stronger.

As for the amount I had to pay, I was fortunate to have taken a medical insurance policy and I only had to pay 10% of the total cost.

My friendly insurance agent even paid me a visit on the night before my discharge to tell me how I could expedite the process of being discharged.

I am recovering well with minimal pain and discomfort. I am slowly regaining use of my right arm. I visit my physiotherapist twice a week and I do a lot of exercises at home under the supervision of my strong-willed wife.

I have come to realise that I cannot hasten the healing process. Our respective bodies have their own rate of restoration. What the body needs most is plenty of rest and a good night’s sleep.

While I went through a traumatic time, it was comforting to know that I was not only in the good hands of an experienced and reputable doctor but also that my family members were there when I needed them most.

The support, care and prayers shown by my loved ones have been crucial to my healing process.

I am very indebted to them and especially count myself lucky to have such a patient, caring and loving wife. On my part, I have been very mindful that my dedicated caregiver, in the process of taking care of me, does not get “burnt out” due to stress, fatigue and lack of sleep.

I am on the road to recovery. I feel very blessed.

Photo: Family members visiting the writer in the hospital.

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