You Would Expect a Hospital to Get It

I few months ago I had to plan a minor surgical procedure. The idea of general anesthesia made me a little nervous. For the rest, I knew it was going to be a simple operation and I was pretty relaxed about it.

The night before the surgery I manage to fall asleep easily and I wake up calm and refreshed. My stomach feels a little empty but all the rest is fine.

The Dreaded Air Freshener

My partner is coming with me to the hospital. We don’t have a car here so we call an Uber.

Unfortunately, the car has one of these tree air “fresheners” that smell like mango and artificial sweet stuff. I find it terrible and as soon as we hop in I start feeling a little tension around the neck.

But soon enough we arrive. A smiling nurse is greeting us. She points at my bed and I sit down. I am still a bit nauseous from the smelly car ride, but I try to read my book and relax.

We wait. Half an hour goes by, then one hour, then two. They tell us that there is an emergency so every other surgery is delayed. The department also seems quite understaffed.

At this point I am trying to ignore the muscle tension in the neck that started a few hours before in the car. The pain started creeping up from the neck and now it’s spreading to the rest of the head. I know it is turning into a (don’t say it! don’t jinx it!) — migraine. After all, I have already encountered a few of my most common triggers: skipping meals and dehydration because of the fasting, odd smells and anxiety.

Also, the air conditioning is on (it’s September) and it’s freezing cold.

And there it is. Migraine arrives.

The telephone of the nurses has a loud annoying ringtone and it won’t stop ringing. The room is bright in a way that makes my eyes hurt but there are no curtains.

Questions I Should Have Considered

At this point I start wondering. Will general anesthesia calm down the migraine, or will I wake up even more in pain and maybe vomiting? Is it even safe to go under general anesthesia while having a migraine attack? Can I take medication? Does anyone know?? All of a sudden I have many questions. I ask the smiling nurse. She replies that I shouldn’t look at the screen of my phone if I have a headache. Cutting-edge advice. Also, she gives me paracetamol… In my personal experience with migraine, paracetamol has the efficacy of a glass of water. Still, I want to believe in a miracle. I want to believe that this time, a nurse is giving me a special paracetamol pill and it is going to work.

But yeah. The paracetamol of course doesn’t work and the throbbing pain increases.

However, a different miracle seems to be happening. Following our request, the nurse offers us a spot in a single room. Thank you, we take it! The new room is an improvement for sure. I am by myself and we don’t hear the loud telephone so much. And finally I can pull the curtains for some shade...but wait. Again no curtains! Hospital rooms with no shading system. Such a basic feature. The air conditioning is still crazy strong (we ask again whether it can be lowered) and I toss and turn in bed. I cover my face with the blanket, trying to find relief to my throbbing pain. Now I am also nauseous.

After a while, I start feeling desperate and sad. I come out of the blanket and I look at my partner.

- Can we go home? -

Maybe I was a Bit Naive

In the last half hour I have weighed my options and the potential implications of leaving. Rescheduling, being put again on a waiting list for the operation, my general health conditions worsening, and the possibility of having to go through this unpleasant adventure all over again. I take the risk, I want relief.

My boyfriend doesn’t have migraines but he has come to know my condition quite well. He supports my choice.

We collect our stuff, we communicate our decision and we leave.

What struck me was that of all places, I would have expected a hospital to be prepared.

[I managed to reschedule my appointment after a couple of months. I realized afterwards that probably I had been a bit naive not asking migraine-related questions to specialists prior to my first appointment. But this was still the beginning of my migraine journey. Anyway, this second time I was luckier. I was in the operating room in no time and everything went fine.]

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