Stuff Gets Personal: The Operation

Thursday 30 July 2020 marked a few milestones. The state of Victoria, Australia recorded a record number of COVID-19 cases in a 24 hour period, more than ALL of Australia had ever reached. (And then promptly broke THAT record the next day.)

For me, a milestone of another kind was unfolding . . .

Ten weeks earlier towards the end of May, I’d passed a sudden flood of dark, bloody urine. (TMI, I know, I know…) In the next few weeks, the new telemedicine / telehealth system that we’ve begun to see used more and more swung into action.

In the space of those weeks my little patch bladder growth (immediately nicknamed “Peter The Patch” aka The Sessile Mass) was found, scanned, identified as a TCC (Transitional Cell Carcinoma), and removed.

All that medical technology swung into action and within ten weeks from first flush (see what I did there?) I was in hospital for an operation called a TURBT (Trans Urethral Resection of Bladder Tumor) to remove Peter.

My GP in a telehealth phone consultation had me booked for an ultrasound in the space of about ten. The visit to the imaging centre was quick and following the report, a second phone consult had me go to the local pathology centre for only the second physical interaction of the whole process, which was to be processed for a three day urine analysis.

At that consult he also booked me an appointment with my urologist. She has a practice at one of the major hospitals in Melbourne however she also visits our town and performs some surgeries at our local hospital.

Returning my three samples was contact-free as there was a drop-off point at the pathology centre, and on the 28th June I had my third physical interaction, a consultation with the urologist, at the local consulting rooms.

Alert readers will have noted that by that time, there were the very early stirrings of the start of a tsunami of infections in Melbourne, and rightly conclude that I was apprehensive . . .

In fact, I was shitting myself. Wouldn’t you be? To go into Ground Zero for the biggest outbreak Australia has ever had including the Ruby Princess outbreak, have an unknown number of people breathe and shed who knows what kinds of infection loads, and stick needles (and worse…) in you?

Luckily our local hospital had the necessary facilities and expertise to anaesthetise me with consideration for my CODP. And my urologist performs surgeries here regularly. The 30th of July became The Day.

That Thursday morning I was dropped off at the hospital (no accompanying persons unless medically necessary, no visitors, no supporters, no exceptions) and led around to the day surgery waiting area where I was outfitted with the flattering hospital vict. . . – patient – haute couture, and processed through a slightly longer intake process. All went well until:

“You say you had a coffee two hours ago – was it black or white?” and since I’d forgotten that milk is regarded as a food, my surgery was shuffled along the queue. Damn. 

But one nerve block and one twilight later, I woke up in theatre recovery, was whisked to the overnight ward, and THAT was when I became aware of a weird tangle of tubing that was taped to my leg . . . 

While I was digesting that, my surgeon came to check on me and let me know that she’d had a very simple time of the surgery and there had been no noteworthy features. All good, but I wonder how many of THEM have ever had to try and retain memory of someone’s words while your brain is still all wrapped in cotton wool from the twilight. 

Food was of usual hospital quality, luckily I’d had the foresight to bring dried fruit, nuts, crackers, and other goodies, so I kept the calories up and survived the famine . . .

The following morning it seems that pandemonium ruled, I wasn’t sure what was going on but my night nurse came by and explained as he shut the door that due to new distancing rules they had to use the corridor in the ward for the shift handover meeting and they didn’t want to share patient details nor any possibility of a virus transmission with we patients. 

So my entire procedure was handled with only three physical interactions to date, five overall:

One, to have an ultrasound.

Two, to pick up sample vessels for urine samples. (I was able to drop them at a collection point without any interaction once I’d supplied the samples.)

Three, surgery and hospitalisation. 

There’s been one in-person consult with a GP and will be one with my urologist when she’s next on her rounds here. And that is what telehealth and telemedicine has come to in such a short time. 

Anyone that’s still doubting the use of masks, sanitisation, and distancing should take note – if it wasn’t for appropriate use of these, my experience could have been much riskier and more like a third world country. Masks up, hands clean, distance!