Nancy Goes Under the Knife


We plan, God laughs; this saying has never felt as true as it did this week. My intention was to thoroughly enjoy my birthday week complete with what we, the young ones in the society, call turning up. But God had a totally different plan. The week started out well; for the first time I got a real cake for my birthday and I took it as a sign of good things to come. After my birthday, my left knee started to pain and it kept getting worse. A colleague referred me to an orthopedic surgeon who after looking at my leg and previous reviews told me that he will have to admit me the following day for Hydroscopy.

I am not a curious person and I rarely bother with details.  I did not ask the doctor what Hydroscopy entails. To me it sounded like a detailed series of tests that would need me to take a lot of water or inserting my leg in a pool of medicated water, hence the need for my admission. The following day, I packed a dress, underwear, a book, toothbrush and a bra in the most beautiful handbag I could find and left for Aga Khan. As I waited to be admitted, I told myself that I should probably use that time to read a book but I noticed that the lady next to me was praying the rosary. The book I had in my bag was not a Bible neither was it a motivational book. The title was Seduce me at Sunrise. A rosary and Seduce me at Sunrise cannot see eye to eye, so I asked for the WiFi’s password and started to catch up with the Kilimani mums. It is after I got admitted and served dinner that I got to know what was to actually happen to me.

I was trying to eat my food as slowly as I could despite the fact that I was very hungry, so as not to clear the food in my plate an hour before the rest of the patients. The nurse came to my bed, took my pressure and other things that my lack of curiosity did not bother to question, and dropped then bombshell.

“Nancy, after you finish eating, I will give you a tablet to swallow. You are not supposed to eat or drink anything after midnight. The anesthetist will confirm the time of your surgery tomorrow morning.”

“Surgery?” I asked trying to hide my shock.

“Yes, it will take around 2-3 hours. You will be fine, do not worry”

My appetite disappeared without any effort. I was in so much shock to the point that the nurse left before I asked why I was not going to be allowed to eat, yet it was my knee that was being operated on. I tried to remain as calm as I could but my head was all over the place, trying to understand how I was going to survive without food for that long. Then there was the dilemma of whether I should let my parents know of the surgery before or after it had been performed. I have been through surgery when I was young and I almost died. My mother hates the word surgery and I totally understand why. Anyway, I decided to sleep and shock the rest of the word the following day.

I was woken up by 5 am the following day by one of the cooks to serve me tea. It was after I was awake that he noticed the Nil by Mouth sign and moved on. I was left to listen to the sounds made by the spoons as tea was being stirred and the smell of fried eggs while my stomach endlessly rumbled. I could not go back to sleep and my headphones refused to help too. I stepped into the shower and took a long bath to the point the nurses came to check if I was okay. The anesthetist came in at around 8 am and confirmed that indeed I was going to have my left knee operated on, and that the hydro in Hydroscopy has nothing to do with water, so I was going to stay without water until the surgery was done.

“Do you take alcohol?”

“Yes, why?” I asked hoping that the hydro stood for alcohol and I was going to be drowned in some.

“How much alcohol do you take? People who consume a lot of alcohol tend to come out of anesthesia faster than the normal time so we need to know.”

“Ah, okay, I am a social drinker and no, I do not smoke.”

He seemed satisfied with the answer and the additional information provided. I was amazed that he told me I was going to undergo surgery later that afternoon without batting an eyelid. I really want to know how food intake affects surgery. I was left with the task of informing my parents of my current situation. I could not bring myself to call them so I texted them then switched off my phone. I almost immediately realized that switching off my phone was a bad idea so I switched on my phone and I immediately got a text from my mother “Nancy wacha mchezo, do you want to kill me?” and she called me before I could reply her text. I tried to explain to her that it was just a minor surgery but she could have none of it. I had to disconnect the call after I realized that she was crying. My father was surprisingly calm and helped to make my mum equally calm.

After 19 hours of staying without food, I was finally wheeled into the theatre at exactly 7 pm. There is nothing as scary as not knowing if you will wake up from the anesthesia or not. For a moment, I thought about changing my mind. The surgeon and everyone else in the theatre seemed calm and composed. I even noticed that two of them were on their phones. I wanted to scream and tell them to concentrate. How can they be on their phones when Hydroscopy was about to happen? Were they on Instagram adding a hashtag and manenos to the word Hydroscopy? Were they declaring their love to their better halves? My thoughts were interrupted by a sharp pain on my wrist. Searching for veins on my hand has never been easy. My veins are safely protected under a heavy layer of fat and it always takes a very keen doctor to locate them. You could easily hear the sigh of relief once it was found. Then came my best part of the surgery; going to sleep. I do not indulge in any illegal substances but going to sleep under anesthesia is the best feeling ever. It can get addictive. The surgery took two hours and it went well.

My mother understandably took the next vehicle to the city and I thank God that she found me in a pretty good shape. Staying on that hospital bed made me realize that being a nurse is a calling. For two days, I could not move from my bed and they provided me with a bed pan and cleaned me up while smiling and encouraging me. They kept shutting me up every time I tried to apologize by saying that they had seen worse and all they wanted was for me to get better. The doctor discharged me earlier than expected because the gentleman who was taking me through the physio was impressed by my progress. What they do not know is that as I was learning to use the crutches, I met a gentleman who promised me a bottle of whiskey to celebrate once we get better. That was all the encouragement I needed.

It will be another two weeks of minimum movement but the good news is that the pain will be a thing of the past. I laugh every time I receive a message from my friends because I know I will be asked “Daktari amesema unaweza enda out lini?” The have refused to let me think like a sick person and I love them for that. Others decided that Ribena is too mainstream for them and they brought me ice cream and chocolates. One of my boys managed to sneak in a bottle of wine to the ward although I chased him away with it.

The love, the prayers and Mpesa messages are all helping me get better. The doctor said that I will need to get very serious with exercises once I get well and I totally agree with him although for now I will concentrate on getting better and thanking God for the successful surgery. I will also try and finish reading Seduce me at Sunrise which I never got to read at the hospital.


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  1. Get well soon Nancy. And your writing is as good as your zeal to loose weight ;). Let us (whiskey lovers) know when the Mr buys that bottle!

  2. The love, the prayers and Mpesa messages are all helping me get better. Amazing piece as we look forward to the World Osteoporosis Day!

  3. get well soonest chero you’ll be back on your feet before you know it
    and your writing awesome it just captivates my attention

  4. As funny as always. Get well fast pretty and the whisky has to happen. I promise a tot will go along way in making you feel better.

  5. Great piece Nancy. Get well soon. I think for consistence, records and discipline you need to register to a gym. I understand you have defamed gym several times but I still feel it is important for you. Forget about moves.

  6. Haha to ….”Searching for veins on my hand has never been easy. My veins are safely protected under a heavy layer of fat and it always takes a very keen doctor to locate them.” Get well soon Nancy.

    1. I also think it’s Arthroscopy
      Good article however Nancy
      And yes Anaesthesia meds are extremely addictive ! Get well soon

  7. the doctor that did my c-section was on phone half the time 😮 i was so scared that he would put the phone back in my stomach instead of his pocket

  8. May be food when undergoing digestion in the stomach releases certain chemicals into blood stream that could be the reason why one is always starved before facing surgeon’s scalpel. Anyway get well soon, my evil mind tells me you failed to ask your doctor when you can resume having small dozes of ……………… boom! Yes when you can resume love making. Next time you go for reviews please ask before you injure delicate healing blood vessels on your knee.

    1. I understand it’s in case you have to be intubated – if you have food in your stomach when the tube goes down your throat, your gag reflex might cause regurgitation and the food particles would block your airway.

  9. Good piece. Been there before. After going to sleep, high on anaesthesia, time comes to a standstill. Mine lasted from seven in the morning till 5.30 pm.
    When I came to, it looked like after about 20 minutes. As I was being wheeled out, I thought the doctors had changed their mind about the spinal surgery till my brother, who was waiting in the waiting room, told me what time it was. There was also this sharp pain in my lower back. My face was so swollen that it looked like that of a heavyweight boxer who had badly lost a boxing bout; I guess due to sleeping facing down on the operating table for that long.

    Given that it took place in a foreign country,looking back I can now only imagine the amount of anxiety my brother- the only sibling with me at the time – had to go through waiting for that long without any updates! Thank God it was very successful and I could walk around the hospital corridors, using a walker for support, in a matter of days.
    Over one year down the line,the disappearing scar on my back is the only reminder of my spinal surgery.
    Just wanted to let you know that you will be ok. That others have gone through worse, major surgeries. Of course the first few days can be demeaning, especially the bed pan and catheter thing, but a positive mind keeps you going.
    Get well soon.

  10. Having been to the theatre twice, I can understand the anxiety of seeing doctors calm and corrected. I guess that’s how the train them in Med school. Get well soon Nancy.

  11. Woi telling mum you’re going for surgery and then switching off your phone???Ata kama ni panic mode, that was a bit reckless.But thank God you’re fine!

    Anyway, get well soon Chero!

  12. Such an amazing piece.I love how you’ve described your predicament that befell you.It’s too unfortunate that it had to choose you.May you heal quickly with every passing second.We still need you!!

  13. Hallo Nancy,
    Get well soon. I had knee surgery last year, for something different, you will be well.
    Food is avoided before surgery because of the risk of inhalation of stomach contects. As all muscles are relaxed/suppressed (read paralyzed briefly), there is great danger of vomiting and the contents going to the lungs. One cannot cough while under anaesthesia, despite it being an easy and naturalprocess while one is not sedated.
    To avoid the risk of chest infection due to Inhalation, the stomach is best left empty. I hope that helps explain the ‘Nil By Mouth’

  14. i am happy there is enough of you left to be seduced by by rosary.i empathise with you.i have never understood hospitals.they place a nil by mouth notice by your bed and then moved you to the corner where the breeze from the kitchen invites you.take cover when they move nearest to the morgue.they never weigh them after dewatering?

  15. Nancy, I am glad you are well, I better get my knee checked too now that I know exactly what I will experience…such a joy to read from you!

  16. You are getting better and better Nancy(your writing that is)get well soon.never ever switch off the phone on your mum again.usiwahi!!quick recovery gal.

  17. Next time get a bit curious. Hydroscopy. You should have googled ati you went there expecting to be given alot of water. Nice read and get well soon

  18. Two things we learn from this story:
    1. Both Nancy & Biko have face cards at Agh Khan.
    2.Good ol’ Chero has a great sense of humour

  19. ‘“Do you take alcohol?”
    “Yes, why?” I asked hoping that the hydro stood for alcohol and I was going to be drowned in some.’ This one is funny. Hope she gets well.

  20. you are brave. How you did not WebMD and mayo clinic hydroscopy be searching the net for hours. Nobody trusts doctors anymore.heh heh. Hope you are getting better…xo