Alison Napier

Slowly, reluctantly, I battled my way out of the unnaturally deep and glorious sleep that is a general anaesthetic.

I became aware of voices saying my name and urging me to stay awake, but every time I allowed my eyes to close I sank once again into velvety depths of gorgeous unconsciousness so deep and merciful that I never wanted to leave. Who were these heartless females who would deny me this respite, insisting that I re-join their world of reality and responsibility?

'Welcome back, Alison,' said someone. 'Let's get some caffeine into you. Is it tea or coffee?'

I closed my eyes again but they kept talking and raising the bed so that I was almost sitting up. 'Tea,' I muttered. It came with milk and what tasted like five sugars and I feebly stretched out my left hand to the table. The table was pushed nearer and I could see my turkey sandwich in a sealed triangular package, and a carton of mandarin oranges. At one point the clock on the wall showed half past five, minutes later it was half past six, someone said Suz had phoned and was coming in at seven, and I watched the clock for a while but lost interest, and occupied myself with waking up and sipping tepid sugary tea.

Suddenly hunger came upon me and I reached for the sandwich. My right arm was still safe and immobile under the covers. I had not engaged with it and did not know if there was a fluid drain attached or not (there wasn't). I still had tubes and small plasters on the back of my left hand and was curiously incurious about the entire proceedings. But I was definitely ravenously in need of food. I pulled the sandwich package onto the bed and tugged ineffectually at the cellophane cover without success.

I wedged it under my chin to no avail. I shook it like a dog with a rag-doll and the plastic dislodged a few inches.

Finally I was able to remove a misshapen sandwich from the pack and then the meat from the butterless bread and nibbled round the edges of my first ever turkey slice like a caterpillar at a leaf. It was divine. I convinced myself that it was a previously unknown healing nutritious protein.

Suz came and was astonished that I was awake and speaking comparative sense. I grinned like an imbecile. Together we guffawed at my elastic socks and with much wrestling she got them off. I was urged to use the toilet so somehow I stood up and walked with great care the ten metres to the bathroom and succeeded in passing urine although using toilet paper with my left hand was awkward and certainly ineffective. Back at my bed there was an air of after hours. My fellow patient was gone, lights seemed dimmed and staff were heading home.

We eased me into an ancient oversized men's Gap lumberjack checked shirt I had brought for just this moment (over-the-head clothes being currently out of the question) and Suz manoeuvred me into socks, climbing trousers and the brown lacing shoes. My mother had a similar operation over twenty five years ago and was in hospital for almost a week. I was leaving twelve hours after admission, five hours after surgery.

The walk up the corridor and into fresh air was slow and spacey but the cool breeze outside was beautiful.

I breathed deeply. I sat on a bench, Suz got the car, positioned me in the passenger seat with a pillow between the seatbelt and my shirt and drove me home. I do not know how I got up the two flights of stairs, nodding at my bike as I climbed, but there I was now in an ikea leather reclining seat with my feet up on a footstool, with Suz away again to find a legal parking spot in the surrounding streets.

I know now that I was drugged to my shiny eyeballs with anaesthetics and painkillers but I felt great. I decided to phone my sister in Aberdeen and was vexed when it rang out and clicked to answering machine. She had urged Suz to contact her the minute I was home so where was she? I rang again. Sister answered and I called 'Hellooo!' manically into the receiver. 'Hello! It's Me!' All I could hear was my sister exclaiming, 'No! No!' This went on for some time. I sounded like I'd just stepped off the Happy Plane from Shangri La. 'I'm Home!' ''Home!' she echoed.

Now we were reproducing the 1980's transatlantic phone call echo effect.

Fortunately Suz returned and order was restored. Sister was reassured and I sat perkily swivelling wondering what the next excitement would be. It turned out to be a lovely plate of tapas, miniature wedges of camembert, rolls of wind-dried ham, quartered cherry tomatoes, mini buttered oatcakes, and some apple juice and grapes. I nibbled and sipped and was back in the heat-drenched early evening terrace in Girona watching the tanned beautiful people walking arm in arm across the square, grinning at my beloved as she poured another glass of vino tinto de la casa. 'Hola,' I whispered and she eased me from the chair, gave me two more hospital painkillers and guided me to bed.

Still in my Gap checked shirt I lay down on my back, propped up with three pillows, and tumbled into the depths of a pain-free, cancer-free, fear-free drugged and innocent sleep. I did not want to ever wake up.



Episode 1 here,

Episode 2 here 

Episode 3 here.

Episode 5 here.

Episode 6 here.

Episode 7 here.

Episode 8 here.

Episode 9 here.

Episode 10 here.

Episode 11 here.

Episode 12 here.

Episode 13 here.

Episode 14 here.

Episode 15 here.

Episode 16 here.

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