Monday, 28 October 2019
Psychosis and post-surgery trauma
When my husband first showed signs of post-surgery trauma he sat bolt upright in bed for three nights and had to ‘sleep’ in the guest room. Not only had he had the shock of being told to use a catheter on himself - something he wasn’t expecting and which hadn’t been discussed pre-surgery - he was also not told he had no cancer cells lurking in the prostate. (That was why he’d been in surgery in the first place. A fifteen minute investigation to be 100% there was no prostate cancer. )He had been assured surgeons would be able to tell if the area was clear of cancer during the procedure. Not to be told that meant Richard had the triple anxiety of
a) recovering from anaesthetic
b) having to shove a catheter up his willy
c) not knowing if there was any prostate cancer
On the third day after being wide awake ( ie in a state of shock) he dialled 111 and had an appointment at Outpatients. The medieval-looking catheter ( to be used straight after surgery until he could self-dilate ie put a catheter up his willy by himself) was leaking and the fourth stage of Richard’s trauma came about at midnight on the Sunday night
d) the post-surgery catheter was wrenched out from his penis without depressing the balloon first ( which should have been done) and without anaesthetic - he hit the roof in pain.
I will, of course, be filing a complaint about that dreadful weekend in late July. However worse was to come:
In August, after weeks of being told by three GPs that he had a hernia, Richard had to ring round three hospitals to see which one would operate on it. For the weeks of mid-August to mid-September Richard was frightened to move or lift anything. That gave me a trapped nerve in my neck as I was having to do things which irritated my sciatica.
August bank holiday was dreadful for both of us. In mid-September Richard was very stressed about another surgical procedure but went to see a consultant in a neighbouring town. He did perform ops on hernias - unlike surgeons at our hospital in Bath - but the kindly consultant examined Richard and quickly told him he had no hernia at all. That should have come as a relief but it left an anxious Richard in a state of bewilderment.
By September the medical dramas, pain, uncertainty, concerns about his bladder ie using a catheter on himself, overloaded his over-taxed brain. On the weekend of 20th September he had a psychotic episode. Thank goodness we were due to see his GP first thing that Monday morning. Richard was talking nonsense and his GP referred him to our local mental health team immediately. They came out to see him two days later and have been in touch every few days since.
I have looked into post-surgery trauma and it is more common than one would imagine. It is, of course, especially prevalent in cancer patients. But the sadness in Richard’s case is that he neither has cancer nor a hernia but believed, through the worst ravages of the psychosis, that he was dying.
His body is in a good state but his shattered mind is only now being rebuilt. And for a 15 minute procedure the cost to his mental health has been far too great.