My Week: A knife was held at my throat, but I could start to enjoy this

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The Independent Online
Wednesday: A call from Taunton hospital informs me that I can have my tonsils out this week. A year on the NHS waiting list has pushed the operation into a 'never-

never' section of my brain from where I have to drag it out to re-examine its merits.

Tonsillectomies, I am told, are easy knife jobs that hundreds of children undergo every day. But people in their 20s tend to find them more painful. Suddenly my throat - normally raging and lumpy - doesn't feel the least bit sore.

Thursday: And then, of course, there is work. I could be off for three weeks and I've only just started here. In the end I don't contradict my boss's unsure go-ahead. 'Well OK,' he says, 'It's just a quick in-and-out operation, isn't it?'

Friday: No food this morning. I check in at the hospital wearing a bright pink jumper as a sign of bravado. A nurse greets me on Ward II to whizz me through the paperwork. Halfway through, I notice we are filling out another patients' forms. I may end up with a nose job.

The house officer looks in my mouth. He knows I'm in here for my tonsils, which is reassuring. What's more, when I tell him I'd rather not have antibiotics unnecessarily he doesn't react as if I am some barmy alternative health freak.

I change into my white, operating gown; a charming number with nappy knickers. The pre-medical relaxant pills arrive and I hover pleasantly for an hour or so, somewhere between waking and sleep.

I am woken outside the operating room and grilled about why I refused antibiotics. Drugged to the eyeballs, I can only mumble incoherently while the anaesthetic needle goes in. Silence.

A nurse tugs my arm to welcome me back to the world. I run through the first line of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - just to make sure I'm not brain damaged.

Back in the ward, I am surprised to find a sticking plaster on my bottom. How did that get there? The puzzle is solved by a nurse carrying pain-killers for injection. The day passes in a daze of pulse checks, jabs and messages from home.

Saturday: After a night of half-hourly pulse checks, brisk nurses and harsh lights wake us for breakfast. Tonsillectomy patients are encouraged to jump out of bed and start eating as soon as possible. So, despite feeling like someone has taken a machete to my throat, I try. Rice Krispies stick in the new holes at the back of my mouth. Feeling a bit sick anyway, I go back to bed.

I recommend a tonsillectomy to anyone who wants to lose weight.

Sunday: My throat is sore, but the agonising pain has been taken away by the glorious pink pills prescribed this morning. A bunch of flowers is delivered and a nurse asks if I want a drink and calls me 'dear'. I could get used to this hospital lark.

Monday: Should be going home today. But just before lunch I develop a fierce stomach ache. Visions of more needles, scalpels and pills. The most attractive doctor on the ward turns up to examine me so I put on a good show - wincing at each of his painful prods.

He puts a stethoscope to my stomach and makes a diagnosis. I am mortified: I have constipation. Anaesthetics, drugs and hospital food don't produce healthy bowel movements. He advises me to stay another day. My evening is cheered up by the arrival of two new victims. I reassure them about the operation with the tones of a real old-timer.

Tuesday: Tragedy: my mother arrives to pick me up just as I am tucking into dinner. I abandon my fellow diners (gloomy nose jobs stuffed up with cotton-wool) to collect my things. I am surprised to find I miss the ward. Hospital routines are comforting in the same way as school was. Kindly matrons bring you cocoa at bedtime and take your temperature. And in the NHS, like all the best schools, you put your name down at least a year in advance.

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