Philippa Thomas Online

Life and leadership coaching

Making conversation with the man drilling into my head.


Two hours ago I was lying on the operating table while a surgeon chiselled a big lump of bone off the back of my head. And now I’m home with a nice cup of tea.

Earlier this year, I went in to see UCH consultant Colin Hopper with a strange pointed bump of bone on the back of my skull, that definitely wasn’t there five years ago. It’s a funny growth called an osteoma and now that he’s held up a chunk of it in his fingers in the operating theatre, he’s pretty certain it’s benign. But we agreed it had to come off. 

I was given the option of general anaesthetic, local anaesthetic with sedation, or just the local — and went for the local injection, which was in fact the most painful bit of it.

For 45 minutes afterwards, I lay on my side on the operating table, while Mr Hopper variously sliced open my head, sealed off a few blood vessels (nonchalant remark about the healthy blood supply to the scalp), chiselled away at the offending layer of bone, and finished off the fine work with a drill. 

It was a surprisingly chatty experience, interspersed with the chip, chip, BANG, BANG! BANG! of the chisel shaking my eyeballs in their sockets, and the cheery staff swabbing away what I knew but couldn’t see to be large amounts of the red stuff. 

Let’s see, as I’d said I was a reporter, we talked about David Frost, Jeremy Paxman’s interviewing style (“is he like that off screen?”), what a fan he was of Kate Adie, and how much less his stitching up of my scalp hurt than the experience I’d had after childbirth. The fantastic nurses even gave my hair a bit of a wash afterwards in an improvised basin made of plastic sacking over the operating table. Which probably made me look a bit less of a fright to my lovely husband waiting anxiously in reception.

From pre-op to surgery to recovery to leaving the hospital, everyone without exception was warm and helpful and efficient. I would say that wouldn’t I, as the local anaesthetic is still wearing off? But really, three cheers for the NHS! 

I am always singing the praises of the NHS to American friends more used to dire warnings about the dangers of “socialised medicine”. And after today’s experience at UCH London, I’m reminded just how brilliant it is that here, we get medical interventions when we need them, not if we can afford them.

I am going to have a few bad hair days though. Luckily I’ll be doing radio when I get back this Thursday, but I apologise to Radio Four’s World Tonight team in advance for the lack of grooming – and possibly oversized bandage – I’ll be sporting.

Author: philippathomas

I've been a BBC newswoman for 30 years: reporting from around the world. Currently to be seen anchoring BBC World News TV. Main interests - politics, psychology, reading, trekking, and all things American. I began this personal blog as a 2011 Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard. You can also find me talking daily news on Twitter at @PhilippaBBC, coaching @positivecoachi3, and life & travel on Instagram at @philippanews. Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Making conversation with the man drilling into my head.

  1. I hope all is well now. I really enjoy your reports and your unstinting professional approach. Long may they continue!

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