I was thinking about how surgery is shown on TV and in films versus the realities and how that perception can mean you’re in for a huge shock when you have an operation in real life.
It’s all blue lights flashing, being seen immediately and running down corridors with a patient on a bed. There’s the tense music and drama of the overhead scene in an operating theatre whilst sexy, brooding doctors heroically slice and dice.
Recovery is a brief montage that flips from patients laid covered in tubes to them bravely walking through physio, brows furrowed and swiftly back to normal.
This isn’t what it’s like in real life.
I mean, I get it! Of course things are dramatised and only the most exciting or entertaining parts are shown and have to fit within time limits, but it’s interesting just how far from the truth the scenes we see are. From movies to medical dramas to the fly on the wall real life medical shows, the thing I think that is the most lacking is the waiting, the boredom, the time it all takes.
I’ve had 8 surgeries for things related to Ulcerative Colitis and so from my experiences, it’s hard to relate to what you see on TV. And it’s not something we really talk about so it’s important to think about what expectations people have when they go into hospital for surgery.
Firstly the waiting times, in the medical dramas patients seem to go from diagnosis to surgery in a matter of hours. Most ops are planned in and you are waiting weeks or months for a surgery date and even when it’s an emergency, it still takes a lot of time!
But the one that I think gives the most false expectations is about recovering from surgery. I actually remember a couple of days after surgery saying to Timm whilst I was crying and off my face of pain killers that I just wanted a montage of recovery and to be all better!
It takes time, so much time to recover from an operation. Just having a general anaesthetic is a huge amount of pressure on your body and takes months to be out of your system properly. My hair always falls out by the handful in the weeks after surgery and I was told that was to do with the GA.
All the medication can really effect you, not just physically but mentally too. Confusion is really common after surgery and something that isn’t really discussed. Doctors and nurses tell me how common it is for patients to be extremely confused and even be delusional after surgery especially if they get infections. This is a big subject and I’ll be doing a separate blog post on it.
It’s so boring. I get that TV shows don’t want to show the boring parts and as viewers we don’t want to see the boring parts! But man, it’s dull! Being unable to do all the things you’d usually be doing and having to spend most of your time in bed or sat down is dull. I found that it’s really hard to concentrate too, so reading a book or watching films is really hard so the usual ways you relax can be out of reach in the early days.
And then the weeks that follow are a balancing act of moving about enough to keep your body ticking over, your muscles happy and lungs and breathing a-ok and not doing too much that you will harm your recovery. After abdominal surgery I’ve been told to lift nothing heavier than a kettle… it’s amazing how much in life is heavier than a kettle! It can be so frustrating to not be able to do all the things you usually would.
And the tiredness!!!! No one tells you just how tired you will be, how your body is using so much energy in healing that a 10 minute conversation results in a 20 minute nap! I am unbelievably exhausted at the minute, and I have to listen to my body and go with it. Your body is hard at work even when you are just sat still, so tiredness is to be expected.
Obviously I have no medical training and I can only go on my own experiences but I just got thinking about how we can better prepare people for surgery to combat all the things we’ve seen in the media? And I suppose for me it is speaking about it honestly and openly here on my blog.
Tell me about your experiences of surgery and how they compare with TV and film, you story might just help someone else struggling right now.