Tuesday, 7 November 2017

A Review with the Surgeon

Almost six weeks since the surgery and I was on my way to Belfast to see the surgeon for a review. It was the first time I had travelled that far since leaving hospital. Indeed, I was retracing my steps. I never really paid attention to it before, but a car journey is full of low level vibration, presumably from the road surface. Then you get jolts from potholes and braking and cornering. All of this irritates the wound. I placed a pillow at my side, between my torso and the edge of the seat, and this helped a little. It seemed a long way.

After five weeks at home, I feel I’ve definitely turned a corner. My recent improvement feels secure. I am now fully independent in the house, being able to manage my own washing, dressing and feeding. I make my own breakfast and lunch. T always makes tea. My morphine prescription has been reduced again to 20mg a day, in two 12 hour long-release tablets. This together with the Lidocaine patch and Paracetamol is managing the pain. I am walking for over an hour each day. But I am still unable to lie flat for any length of time.

When I was discharged from the Royal I was given a form for an X-ray. This was to be taken half an hour before my review appointment. We did as requested and then went to wait in Outpatients. As usual there was a delay. When I went in to see him, the surgeon had my X-rays up on his screen. He showed me the difference between today’s and the one taken pre-op. My left diaphragm was now fully down (the X-ray is taken on full inspiration) and my entire left lung appeared to be inflated. Previously my left lung was squashed up, as half of its space was taken up by my stomach. Now there was no visible difference between my left and right lungs.

Today’s X-ray looks very good, he told me. I asked him how much of the functioning of my left lung I would get back. He said that I would get a lot more than I had before but not 100%, as the mesh patch would not work as well as my native tissue. The exact change would be measured by the breathing tests I did annually with my Respiratory Consultant. He advised me not to do these for at least three months as they would be putting stress on the repair. He also told me that the main stressors on the repair to the diaphragm were coughing and straining on the toilet in constipation.

I took off my top and he inspected the wound. He pointed out the four large surgical scars on my torso to a junior colleague and said I looked like a surgical model. I didn’t ask if he wanted to book me in for any lectures. He told me that the wound was healing well but that I needed to be careful for six months as this is how long it would take for the intercostal muscles, which join the ribs together, to fully repair. He told me that my regular walking was very good and I could slowly increase the exercise I was doing. He also said that I could now start to drive again.

We drove back from Belfast around 4pm, the rush hour traffic was building up, my wound was sore and I was tired. I wouldn’t be rushing to start driving again. And even then I would begin with just some local trips. But this was another good step forward on my return to normality.


  1. That’s fab, Paul. Glad to read about your progress.

  2. Thank you Anne, all the very best to you.