Having showered, both the evening previously as well as on the morning of the operation, with some cleansing liquid designed to kill off everything except the human recipient of this non-lathering fluid, I received a series of drops of various function from my resident nurse, Lucy. Now apparently, this showering medium was necessary because this part of France is big in pig production, and there was a subsequent risk of taking something rather offensive into the operating theatre. No, not a dirty, squealing pig tucked under one arm, but a bug that said porcine entity might carry. The final set of eye drops was designed to dilate the pupil of my right eye, thus rendering the world with an even further blurred view than has become usual.
On arrival at 'la polyclinique' at around 10.00 am, and my having had no breakfast except a glass of water, we quickly went through the paper formalities which included, of course, the identification of the next of kin.....just in case! How that brief ceremony does fill one with confidence. We were then conducted to a room where I was asked to remove all my clothing and dress up in a rather fancy set of theatre gear. Now on my only previous visit to a French hospital, I had been gowned in one of those back-to-front items which leaves everything rearwards on view to everyone except the wearer. A mite breezy perhaps, but nothing too draughty. On this occasion the dress was slightly different.
There was again the back-to-front item, but made in a semi-transparent material, in a delicate shade of pale blue, rather than shroud-like, white cotton. I have to say it was most becoming. In addition, I had to don a normal front-to-back version of the same material, thus giving me all-round protection from any passing 'courant d'air' (embarrassing updraft). But that wasn't all. To my eternal satisfaction, if not joy, I was required to wear a rather saucy pair of knickers, made from the same semi-transparent (see through), blue material which kept all my vitals from going a-wandering, peeping out, and embarrassing me, if not the other patients and nurses. Well, I'm a sensitive soul. Finally, I donned some transparent footwear which I can only describe as having a palindromic form. Thus I felt equally ridiculous whichever way round the "shoes" (I can hardly bring myself to grace the objects with such a word) were placed on my feet. Having thus geared myself up for the coming fray, I was sort of placed/shovelled onto a freshly-cleaned and disinfected trolley, and wheeled off into the goodness-knows-where to await my fate.
At various times, in the dim waiting area, a nurse would come by and either give me a quick scrub with disinfectant or plop a load of drops in my eye, the final one being a local anaesthetic. At one stage, the surgeon came out of the theatre and peered into my eye, grunted in that satisfied way, as when one sits down to the prospect of enjoying a delicious meal. Moments later I was transferred to a theatre trolley and wheeled into 'the place', the theatre of operations, where I underwent various indignities. First of all, a theatre nurse stripped away my clothing from my left shoulder, stuck little patches all over my chest, presumably because plain old me needed to have my decor spruced up a bit. Well they seemed to serve no other purpose, except to provide amusement when they were pulled off again. She then stuck something needle-like in my left wrist, strapped it up with metres of sticky tape, and connected me to a nearby machine. It was like being assimilated by the Borg.
Then I had a hood of some description thrust over my face. Thankfully, I am a trusting sort of person, and did not take this treatment as an attack on my being. Just when I thought that, for all my trust, suffocation might be on the cards, I heard a slight tearing sound and a squarish orifice opened in the hood over my eye. Yet more anaesthetic, presumably, to supplement the relaxing fluid passing inwards via the wrist needle, and the periodic, automatic blood pressure measurements.
From that moment onwards I was entertained by a wondrous experience of psychodelia, interspersed with darkened images of potential, sharpened implements of evil. But what the hell? All I had to do was try to look straight ahead, so that the surgeon didn't need to chase my eye around its orbit. Finally, there was a quick padding up and plaster job, the offering of my thanks to the surgeon - the next of kin form then being redundant - and it was all over. I was wheeled away, transferred from the theatre trolley to another trolley by the simple expedient of having the sheet under me grabbed and deftly tugged, and parked in a waiting hall.
Now I thought that the best way to conduct myself was to give all the appearance that I was 'compos mentis', and ready to be released immediately. Some hopes! From time to time I was pushed flat and told to wait. Clearly, release was not imminent. Not only that, it was clear that there were other post-surgery individuals there who had been subjected to other, and indescribable procedures. I did notice a strange and nasty smell emanating from a trolley not too distant from me, and a nurse lifting the bottom end of the aluminium-style covering on one patient. Had someone managed to smuggle in a pig after all? No. Even pigs don't smell that badly. It was time to go, fortunately.
I was wheeled back to a waiting room, where I was assisted from my trolley onto a chair, whilst attempting to keep my legs together. Well there were females in the room. Well you never know, and I was feeling vulnerable. After a few moments, after everyone else had been taken away, Lucy appeared. Oh joy, and the possibility of food and drink! Well it was approaching 3 of-the-clock in the afternoon! But no! After being relieved of my saucy theatre gear, I dressed and indulged in the free refreshment being provided! There was coffee, wonderful, and fruit juice; there was cake (Madeleine) and muffin; finally there was apple compote. The last-mentioned item wasn't too bad, but I can never help slipping a letter 's' into the word thus reducing it to a garden product, useful but inedible.
Then came the part I had dreaded. The final visit by a nurse awaited me, to remove the endless amount of very sticky tape from my wrist.
"....'Ow do you Ingleesh say eet? Oooh! Ouch! Oui?...." Too b-----y right, ouch! Oh the pain! Oh the agony! Oh the loss of fur!
It was all over, at last. In a state of pleasant dozy joyousness, I was driven home, knowing that not far into the future, six weeks in fact, more of the same awaited me.
Well the six weeks is now almost over, and I cannot say I am looking forward to the next phase. The surgery's no problem (I hope) now that I know what to expect. It will be the post-surgery period of being unable to read or write, a period of almost unbearable penance, that will be such a trial. But maybe it won't be too long to wait; I'll just have to wait and see!