Let me just set the scene, time-wise. It's the middle of May in my last year at Manchester University and my finals are just a couple of weeks away. In fact, my German Oral exam is in just a couple of days. At this point I was doing a bit of revision; probably not as much as I should have been doing but, having had a 54.5% average in all the exams to date, I needed either an absolute miracle or a huge disaster to graduate with anything other than 2:2, so it would have made very little difference.
At 12.30 a.m. I got home from L's room in halls, where I'd spent the evening of the 10th. We'd done some work, been for a drink in the hall bar and then chilled out for a while. I had a busy day ahead of me, starting with a nine o'clock lecture and finishing with a party in the department so I went straight to bed. At that moment I felt absolutely fine; a little tipsy, maybe, and tired, certainly, but other than that I felt in perfect health.
Two and a half hours later I woke in agony. I had the most awful pain in my gut and I spent thirty minutes trying to find a comfortable position to lie in, thinking that I must have eaten something bad. No matter how I lay, the pain didn't subside at all. By now, my mind had turned to darker thoughts and at 3.30 I got dressed and called an ambulance, fearing the worst.
Because it was the early hours of the morning, I didn't wake either of my housemates, who each had to go to work in just a few hours, or L, who I didn't want to worry, and got carted off to Manchester Royal Infirmary without anyone else knowing. Looking back now, that was a mistake but my sleep-addled brain thought it was doing the right thing at the time.
From here on the memories start to get hazy. I was initially taken into casualty in a wheelchair (doubled over and clutching my stomach) but was soon transferred to a trolley in a cubicle. I can't remember how long it was before I was seen but by breakfast time I had a tentative diagnosis of appendicitis and a wave of morphine was rolling over the pain and lapping at the edge of consciousness.
I was eventually admitted to the ward and around lunchtime phoned L, who (despite my intention) had indeed worried when I hadn't turned up to the 9.00 lecture we both attended. There's no easy way to say "I'm in hospital but don't worry, I'm fine" without the person on the other end of the phone starting to panic but I managed somehow.
I had more morphine and slept. L was sitting by the side of the bed when I woke. She'd had some trouble convincing the nurses to let her in outside of visiting hours but the fact that, with the exception of my brother, my family was all down south finally won them over. She stayed around for most of the afternoon with me drifting in and out. At some point it was pretty much decided that I had appendicitis and would require surgery but it probably wouldn't happen until the following day. I'd been nil-by-mouth all day, just in case, but they still wouldn't let me eat. With the stomach cramps I had, I'm not sure I'd have wanted to even if they had.
L went back home for dinner and round to my place to let my housemates know what had happened and to pick up a few things for me, which she dropped off on her way to the party. She was reluctant to go but I persuaded her to; visiting was only until early evening and I was likely to be drowsy anyway.
Of course, then they decided that they could squeeze me in for the operation that night. I tried calling L's mobile but she'd left it in her back in the Maths society office so it just rang and rang. I did manage to talk to my parents, though, so at least somebody knew.
I think it was about 8.30 p.m., seventeen hours after admission, when I was taken to theatre. I suppose someone must have explained the procedure somewhere along the line but I don't remember it now. The only thing I can recall is the huge syringe of anesthetic, thick and white, and how cold it felt as it travelled up my arm...
I didn't sleep that well after the operation. A nurse came round every hour to check my blood pressure etc and that woke me up each time, no matter how quietly the nurse tried to do it. Thankfully, the painkillers were muting the pain in my belly down to a dull ache.
The following day I slept more soundly, completely missing one set of friends who came visiting and in the afternoon was moved onto the surgery ward, where the only space available was a side room (nice). My parents came up to see me and so it came to pass that the first time they met L was in a hospital room. Not ideal.
I was in hospital until the Friday morning and spent most of the next week at home, doing very little. I have to say, the university were very good about it. My oral exam was rescheduled without any fuss and I took my first couple of maths exams in a separate room, where I could sit a little more comfortably and take little breaks if I needed to.
I went along to a local clinic a week or so after the operation to have a look at how the wound was healing. I was surprised to learn that, instead of using stitches, my stomach had been stapled together! They were removed with a nifty little gadget and I was left with a scar seven inches long that will stay there for the rest of my life; a permanent reminder of what happened.