The Circle Line

Surgery: Part 3

"I recall saying “have I had the surgery yet”, apparently I’d asked this about 20 times!"


It was 14th August 2015, the doorbell went and standing there was my uncle, ready to drive me to Harley Street for my surgery. Like most people the first reaction from my Uncle when hearing of my diagnosis was “Is there anything I can do to help?”, which for most people is an easy way to say something in a situation when they have no words! But also feeling useful helps others to cope. For my uncle it was different, having seen me grow up from the day I was born, and being extremely close to my father, he needed to be doing something to support us, and driving me to the hospital was it.

Following a car journey with some laughs, tears, and discussions about what I was facing we arrived at the hospital and checked in, I was taken to have another MRI scan (number 4 since diagnosis). The rooms at Harley Street Hospital are all on different levels, where they have knocked through all of the different townhouses to create this mass medical centre! The result is you end up taking 3 or 4 lifts to get to the necessary department, that in reality is probably on a similar level to the one you started on……..

The MRI was taken and Discussions turned to the next day’s surgery. There were to be two of us that day that Mr Bhangoo would be operating on, and as the lady before me was diabetic she went first as nil by mouth is more critical for her than I. I was also to be given a drink a few hours prior to surgery, this fluid was a concoction that fluoresces under a certain light, which makes the tumour easier to identify during surgery. The drawback with this, is that after I have consumed it, I am not to be in UV light, otherwise the fluid will fluoresce and effectively give me sunburn inside my brain! The solution to this was to have the blackout blinds closed and to be taken down to surgery on the  gurney with the sheets pulled up over my head, like a corpse! In my head thinking “So I’d be heading into surgery, in the same way I’ll be coming out!”. Whilst processing all of this along with the thoughts that this was my final day on this earth, we were joined by another neurosurgeon Mr Richard Gullan Bsc MB BS FRCP FRCS. he was an older surgeon, and was a more seasoned professional, he strolled into my room and looked at me, scruffed my hair and told me; “so we’ve had a look at the scans and we are just going to open you up, and get out as much as we can”. He spoke with the confidence of years of knowledge that it was met with an “OK” from me and anyone else in the room!

Surgery Today

The next day saw a young nurse coming into my room in the morning, asking if I was alright, ready to start getting me checked for surgery. I responded with my usual jovial response “Yes I’m ok thanks, for someone about to go into have brain surgery”, she laughed politely and remarked that usually people in my position don’t have a sense of humour, I replied to say “why should I make everyone else miserable because i’m going through a tough time?”, we joked about her work for a bit and chatted about the patients she deals with (probably to take my mind off what was about to happen).

Then just as the nurse left, in came Mr Bhangoo, this was our third meeting and again a new version of this Neurosurgeon stood in front of me, in a pair of cargo trousers and a polo shirt (casual dress), he had a real spring in his step, I could see he was excited at what lay ahead of him, this is what made it all worthwhile, this is the part of the job he loves! He said “hello”, asked if I had any further questions, explained that there had been a slight change in plan and the scar might be a little bigger!

Me with a “hairband” as they are affectionately known, due to the fact they go from ear to ear!

Down to Surgery

Both neurosurgeons visited me, and then the porter came to take me down to the operating theatre, I had the sheets put over my head and that was the last time I waved goodbye to my parents (in my mind) as an arm from under the sheets of my hospital bed (spoiler alert: I survived, but you probably realised that give the fact I am writing about it).

Darwin was the name of the porter, and I remember in a vain attempt for sympathy, I asked how many people had the operation I was having. He responded by saying “you’re one of the easy ones, the really scary ones are the little children they work on, it heartbreaking to see sometimes”, well that put me in my place, and with that Darwin left; and I was left laying on the gurney, with just a glimpse out from under the sheets at the various medical instruments lined up on the side. It’s fair to say at that point I was verging on scared!

Then came the Anesthetist, another one of the previous visitors to me prior to being brought down to surgery, and we exchanged pleasantries and then the lights were dimmed (because of my flouressing drink earlier that morning), and we headed into surgery.

The Biggest Worry

My biggest concern had been brain damage, and surviving, but not fully. I am an active person, and I found the prospect of being aware of everything around me without being able to participate terrifying. As I was given the general anesthetic, all I could think of was “will I still be me if I get through this? Or will I be brain damaged?”. Interestingly I was brain damaged, because the act of the surgery itself is regarded as brain damage.

Waking Up

I was bleary eyed and trying to make sense of what was going on around me, and by the first time I recall saying “have I had the surgery yet”, apparently I’d asked this about 20 times! then followed a few hours of me drifting back to sleep, then waking to ask if I’d had surgery, only to drift off again, and then repeat the cycle!

Slowly as the faces came into focus I could see my parents, at the end of the bed, and they saw I was coming to…… “have I had the surgery yet” was my first comment, followed by them reassuring me that I had! Then with the doctors appearing and disappearing we slowly discovered that the surgery went very well and they felt good about what they managed to get out.

Food was eaten, then reappeared all over the nurse, tears flowed when they wouldn’t call my mother at 02:00 because I wanted to see her, and I spent the following two days in intensive care, watching the other poor patients come and go through the department, some howling in pain and others fast asleep in either a coma or through exhaustion.


Over another two days I was back in my room at the hospital, friends came to visit, who brought me cycling magazines and talked about what we would be doing when I was better, or rather which mountains we would cycle up!

Then so as to complete the circle, My Uncle came to pick me up and we all drove to my parents house, where I would be recovering over the next 4 weeks……..

Part 3 of a 4 part series to raise awareness for Brain Tumour Awareness Month, written by Neil Ladgen

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