Saturday, 19 December 2015

NHS Varicose Vein Surgery - my journey

Its been a bit of a whirlwind the past 10 days. If you follow my blog you will know I have had a varicose vein on my left leg which has been there for as long as I can remember. Well over 12 years. This week it has gone (hopefully) so thought I would document what has happened as when I tried to search recovery I was only being directed to forums which were hard to follow any one persons journey.

I was given the all clear for surgery on the NHS back in 2010 but the funding was then pulled and I just had to "put up" with the aches and pains that came with it. Then in 2014 Lorraine Kelly TV show was after people with varicose veins to appear on the live show, I went along with it in the hope they would treat me. On air Lorraine Kelly said " we will get you sorted and you will be in a dress by the end of summer!". That never materialised into anything apart from a contact, with a £3k bill and a young family living off Daddy M's wage, it would just have to wait.
I then mentioned something in passing to a Dr earlier this year about the funding and it turned out it had come back in, but unsure for how long. I was referred to a specialist to have a look at the vein with no promises being made due to my young age. (Not even 30 yet!)
The specialist appointment came and I had no idea what to expect. He had a look at the vein then pulled out a Doppler, (I can only describe it like a heartbeat monitor when you are pregnant). He fumbled behind my knee listening to the Doppler then asked if he could place it on my groin. Erm... ok. This is where the problem is. A valve in my groin isn't working correctly and that is why the blood is pooling in my vein. Surgery is the only option, he asked if I had any questions but I was a little grossed out by all the details so left being told I will get a letter through the post with an operation date. I was thrilled, but very nervous at the same time.
I was sent for a pre-op meeting with a nurse at the start of November. Here they took my bloods, measured my leg, weighed me and asked me to fill out a health questionnaire. I was hoping I would get an operation date then too, but was told I still had to wait for that to come.
We then went to Florida and enjoyed our holiday. On returning I received a phone call asking to come in the following week for my surgery.  I had to decline. 1 week notice was not enough to sort childcare out. With Daddy M being an airline pilot he could not just take annual leave at the drop of a hat and the grandparents already had plans.
The following Friday I received another call. Could I come in on Monday. 66 hours notice. Wow. Scared of saying no again in case I was put to the back of the list again I said yes.
Monday morning arrived. I had fasted and hadn't touched a drop of water, I was ready for business. Daddy M was on a day off was so was able to drop me at the hospital for 7am, an hour away before taking the girls to school. I was alone walking the corridors of the hospital trying to find the day ward I needed. The anxiety kicked in... what if I didn't wake up? What if they nick the leg and I cant walk again? Do I really need to do this? I was nervous and it showed. When I found the ward, it was me and another lady having surgery today this meant our bay was quiet and we could chat freely over the bays. This was the other lady's third operation which put me at ease.
The nurses came over and monitored our oxygen, blood pressure and re did our health questionnaires. I asked if I could be weighed again as I fully enjoyed all the food on offer in America and a few bevy's the week leading up to the operation, I did not want the general anaesthetic wearing off too soon and me waking up! Silly really!
After the nurse had done his business the anaesthetist came over and asked me some more questions. He realised I was nervous and asked for a little more background history on my veins. I have deep veins and as a result nurses usually struggle finding them to get bloods. He put me at ease and said if they had issues finding a vein they would give me the gas and then find the vein once I was asleep. Brilliant.
I was then asked to pop my gown on ready for the surgeon.
He appeared almost immediately after doing my gown up. He was concerned that I didn't have any scans in my notes, nor that I had ever had any, but after looking at the vein he was put at ease. Its a very simple straight up and down vein from valve and no scan should be needed. Phew!
He marked my leg up for the correct one and then drew around all the veins. He also mentioned a blood thinner as I was still on my contraception  pill and my Dad had suffered with DVTs. I would need to administer these myself at home with an injection as well as them give me one in theatre. He then moved onto the other lady. Whilst he talked her through her operation I was then guided down to theatre. I hadn't even been in the hospital an hour. Wow, this was moving quick.
At theatre I was given  a bed and my glasses were labelled up. I had to sign the consent form and go through the questionnaire again and wait for the anaesthetist to come and get me, (around 9am). I was wheeled into a small room with double doors to two sides of it. I was given some pads to put on my chest to monitor my heart and a student found my vein for the cannula all whilst the anaesthetist spoke to me giving me air. I remember the general anaesthetic being cold and feeling it go into my wrist and being asked if they could have the mask back then that's it.....
I woke up in the recovery room with my right leg feeling funny. Slight panic as that was my ok leg. Turns out I had a vibrating stocking on keeping my leg circulating. The pain then picked in around the groin area. I was given some morphine through the cannula which then started an allergic reaction bringing up hives around my hand. It soon went down and I was sent back to the ward to recover around 10.30am.
I was hooked up to a drip but was able to eat and drink immediately. My leg wasn't in pain, but the groin area still was so I was given some ibuprofen. (This is where there is an incision of about 3-5cm) I had four jugs of water to quench my thirst which then led to the inevitable. I needed the loo. I had to get up and walk. The nurse was called and the drip was removed. The bed was lowered slightly and I had to walk unaided across the bay to use the loo.
The feeling was strange. Slight tingling sensation and tightness but nothing painful as such. The bruising could be felt when I sat down though and I was relieved there was assistant bars in the loo to help me up and down without bending my knee.
As the hours passed the feeling of wanting to get up and about kicked in with small little walks around the bays to open curtains or to the nurses desk to ask about discharge. I was ready to go home. I was officially discharged at 4pm with medication to take. Daddy and the girls collected me from the ward and they were surprised to see me up and walking, even it was like John Wayne.
Armed with the blood thinning injections, ibuprofen, paracetamol and Codeine and a few extra bandages I was set free to recover at home.
It felt good to have my home comforts around me and Daddy M doting on me.

That night I did have a few bleeds come through the bandages. This could happen and was talked about before being discharged. I had to put extra bandages over the bleeds and raise my leg above heart height for at least 20 minutes. If it continued I had to go back to hospital. Thankfully it stopped.

Two days later the bandages were removed. Due to the bleed I wanted to get it double checked so popped down to minor ailments who assisted in removing the bandages. They also looked at my groin dressing which had bled too and re did some of the stitches. As the bandage came off I could look at my leg for the first time.
I didn't get the wow reaction I was hoping for. Maybe because of all the incisions are still raised. Maybe the bruising is taking away from it? I have since had to pop anti embolism stockings on o I still cant see the leg properly.
The hospital gave me the wrong size and they hurt like crazy digging into the bruises on my thigh. After a night of tears I ended up at the nurse again who prescribed me a different pair which are so much better. They are also black so look more like tights which are better suited for this festive season.
I'm hobbling around, still on medication for the pain, but I am only 5-6days post op. The operation is not as bad as people say as long as you rest up well, and move around little and often.


  1. Oh my goodness....So glad it didn't seem as bad as people say.
    I hope you are not in too much pain now & you're up and about soon x

  2. Oh wow, you poor thing, I really do hope this works for you and that you are soon walking and not hobbling x

  3. Oh my, I have them on my left leg, don't think i will undergo an operation though. x

  4. A good friend of mine has varicose veins too. He would not even hear of the operation. He wears special compression socks. I even bought a pair of such socks on as a Christmas present for him.


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