The Blog

Chlorohexidine Gluconate: Because You're Worth It

There's an old stereotype that surgeons tend to view patients like a machines that need fixing. It helps them focus on the job. And so it feels when I walk into the lab with my arse hanging out of my robe to hop onto the slab. You expect to see a Ford Cortina up on jacks having it's brakes serviced in the corner.

Boredom can be very self fulfilling. I've been out for 3 or 4 weeks now. I should have written acres of stuff. I can't tell if it's recuperation, the body adjusting to the drugs or the inertia brought on by daytime TV but it's taken a lot of cajoling to start applying my mind to something useful again.

Did you know that for the price of cup of coffee a day you can ensure that your loved ones don't get surprised by the cost of your funeral?

I'm fortunate that I don't come from the generation that thinks Michael Parkinson is a re-assuring and trusted figure (if brusque in that Yorkshire way). To me, and in the way we are reactionary to anything our parents like, he was by turns cantankerous, smug, and fawning. Fortunately this means I can see him for what he seems to be now - a life insurance sales man. If he's sold out to that extent, he can dangle as many Parker pens as he likes; I'm not buying.

There must be some strong statistical evidence that if you are at home during the day, then you're not long for this world. And you are definitely, statistically speaking, incapable of solving neighbourhood disputes without that guy from Erasure giving you a hand.

So, I'm out. I've been tested to the fullest extent.

Echogram: the same as the exploratory exam they do with pregnant women with the gel on the belly. Only for this, the gel is on the chest. Result? Bicuspid valve. Relevance? Heart valves are supposed to look like a Mercedes badge (good analogy stolen from a good friend). Bicuspid valves have just the one slit down the middle. And it's congenital. Unfortunately, all the people I could legitimately berate for passing this on to me are no longer with us so I'll just have to let that lie.

Angiogram: Postponed in favour of a CT Scan to see what this valve is doing.

CT Scan: "We're going to inject you with a dye that will give you the sensation of having soiled yourself; but you won't have done." Reassuring. The CT Scanner is the big doughnut shaped machine. There's something slightly fascinating about lying inside the doughnut while some sort of camera spins inside it at a dizzying rate. While the camera's doing this, a robot is squirting dye into an artery in your arm, your finger tips give you the sensation that you're becoming the Human Torch and you get the misleading feeling that you should have worn some incontinence pants this morning. Result: Bicuspid valve is a-okay. But because they are prone to getting a bit sticky I'll be back every couple of years to get it checked out. Hopefully to an age when that feeling of incontinence is more habitual.

Angiogram: The Main Event. This is where they look for blockages. More tubes. More dye - a different one this time. You need to scrub up before hand. The shower room on the ward has a bottle of Chlorohexidine Gluconate. I need to nick one of these. Antiseptic and Antibacterial; if they just sold it with a Lynx label on it, my teenage son might look at least like he'd had a wash every now and again.

There's an old stereotype that surgeons tend to view patients like a machines that need fixing. It helps them focus on the job. And so it feels when I walk into the lab with my arse hanging out of my robe to hop onto the slab. You expect to see a Ford Cortina up on jacks having it's brakes serviced in the corner.

Several years ago, I was asked by our then MP if I wanted to help set up a local group to focus on local issues. At the time it was a local planning issue that was the impetus. Anyway, a few of us started meeting in the back room of a pub on Tuesday night to talk about what we'd do. I was the youngest in the room by about 20 years. I live in an area where people generally come to retire. There are more charity shops than anything else, and motorised wheelchair shops outnumber car showrooms by a fair margin. It's also one of the least ethnically diverse places you'll find. But for some reason, all this one old fella in the corner wanted to do was talk about what we're going to do about all the "foreigners". Although this has been a thick and juicy seam that has been used to exploit the fears of Daily Mail readers for years, the rest of the group were left perplexed for the duration of most meetings for the simple fact that we didn't know that there were any around to worry about. But either way, this old guy had the fear, even in a sleepy white bread town like this one.

During an Angiogram, you're being x-rayed all the time. So the team conducting the procedure are all wearing protective tabards. Pink for the girls. Camouflage for the boys. The lead surgeon, Dr Patel, appears in front of my face and helpfully explaining everything that's going to happen over the next hour and all I can imagine is the reaction of the old guy from the back room of the pub clutching his chest as he sees the long-bearded, foreign chap wearing camouflage fatigues who's hand he's about to put his life. It's a lovely way to take your mind off a vaguely unpleasant procedure.

The great thing about it is you're awake and you watch it on the telly, "live".

Result? They find a blockage; the answer is a stent. They keep referring to it a balloon which doesn't make sense to me as a something to clear a blockage. In my mind, it something like a chicken wire cage they slide in there to hold everything open.

"You can go home now".

"Er...ok then".

"Pack in the fags".

"Thank you. Can I get dressed first?"

I've brought a book home. It explains to me how to do nothing. In detail. Doing nothing is actually more stressful than doing something a lot of time. Especially if that time is taken up by payday loans, Parky, thinking about my funeral. The trick is finding things to do that nobody will realise you've done throughout the day and tell you off for. But after a while you run out of those and just start realising that if you're being left alone all day; just do them anyway and own up later.