The allotted day had arrived. Even worse it was Tuesday. Tuesdays are rubbish for me. Luckily, we are in exam season. So, I left my class in the hands of a bemused admin assistant to invigilate yet another mock exam for them. They took this quite well apart from my manager who still signs off any email I send her about my appointments with, “if you could rearrange this when you are not teaching next time.” Yeah, right.
The ENT department is split into two reception areas. Normally I am in the second reception area around the corner. I approached the first reception area, feeling nervous. The receptionist was on the phone speaking loudly.
“Yes, it’s on the FIFTEENTH.” Pause. “Not SIXTEENTH. ONE FIVE.” Pause “We’ll send you a letter. A LETTER.”
She hung up and rolled her eyes.
I said my name and Dr Q’s name.
“Well it looks like you are here today.” She said sounding quite surprised. “Take a seat.”
I obeyed and got my book out. After about twenty minutes I noticed something. Patients were being called out two at a time, going through some double doors and not returning. Bit worrying that.
After about forty-five minutes mine and another patient’s name were called. We were escorted by a nurse through the double doors into yet another waiting room.
“I’m sorry but it’s another hour wait from this point on.”
I was on my own but the other patient had his wife with him. We all sighed in unison. He reached for his phone and both his wife and I resumed our books. We were lucky. After about twenty minutes, the couple were called through. This took the wife by surprise. She spent a good deal of time faffing about much to the amusement of the nurse and her husband. I smiled and carrying on reading.
After another twenty minutes, I was called through. Where had the couple gone? It was my turn for a bit of awkward faffing. The nurse led me to a room where sat Mr Q looking immaculate as ever. I sat opposite him. The nurse took a seat in the corner of the room, facing me. Mr Q and I exchanged pleasantries. The nurse looked bored. I was the last patient in the clinic so it must have been a long morning.
“So, can you remind me why you are here?” asked Mr Q. I gave him a detailed account of the last six years. It felt quite strange being encouraged in giving such details. I have become so used to giving quite a watered-down version of events. He listened and made notes. After my history, he asked me to do various facial exercises so he could check out how much movement I had in the left side of my face.
“OK. What for you is the most important thing to be done?”
I was flummocked by the question. I’ve never been given a choice before. I remembered our previous appointment. He had said the he didn’t want to tread on the toes of the eye people. So, I said I wanted my mouth sorted and then maybe the eye.
He looked puzzled.
“If you want my opinion, you need to get the eye sorted first. I’ll refer you to Dr S to advise you on that…”
He outlined a possible procedure that involved cuts to my lower eyelid and weights that could be either gold or platinum, inserted in my upper eyelid to ensure my eye closed properly. Crikey. But this was merely the beginning.
Once I had had my eye sorted, then work could start on my mouth. There were three options:
- A hoik up. This was the easiest procedure. He would cut along the smile line on the left side of my face. Hoik it up. Cut behind my ear and use a bit of my thigh to replace any facial tissue he had to get rid of.
- The thigh nerve. He could take a muscle from my thigh that had a nerve in it. He would attach this to my face and attach the nerve to the nerve endings near my temple. I then could have a faint smile. I think he ruled this one out as he felt that I didn’t have enough nerve endings in my left temple. Lovely.
- The nerve graft. The complicated one. A piece of my right facial nerve would be stretched to the left side of my face. Once it had been grafted over, a piece of muscle could be attached to it and over time, I would be able to smile. This would involve two operations. Although he had done the procedure before, he felt I would be better going to a specialist centre for this op. The centres were in Newcastle, Birmingham and…erm… East Grinstead.
It was a hell of a lot to take in. I was used to no options. If there was an option there was only one and I had to have that otherwise I would die. Part of the reason why our house is in a state in disrepair is because my husband and I are rubbish at making choices. We are both ditherers. Now I was being asked what choice I wanted to do with my face.
Mr Q picked up on my anxiety.
“Listen. There is no rush in any of this. We can take our time. Come back and see me in a months’ time and we’ll talk about it further.”
I nodded and looked to the nurse for some reassurance. She looked blankly at me and escorted me out of the building.