That night my world turned upside down, again. Having become comfortable with my surroundings, I was moved to the opposite side of my bay late in the evening. In my previous space went someone who was fresh out of surgery and with me being so wide awake, I was quite nosey to watch the recovery team and nursing staff settle the patient. It was fascinating! A little time went by and his relatives arrived, with bottles of Marks and Spencer Fizzy Orange drink. Now – I was nil by mouth and despite being on fluids and TPN, I was desperate to drink something, to taste flavours and feel somewhat normal. And, M & S fizzy orange is my favourite! It wouldn’t be the last time I watched a patient opposite me eat or drink their bodyweight in ‘stuff’ but it made me grumpy! My nurse was very understanding and did her best to settle me for the night. They encouraged the patient to drink only sips of water as he’d just had major surgery and carbonated drinks were not a sensible idea. However, he knew best and lo and behold, sometime later he was in pain and discomfort from the gas. It also wouldn’t be that last time that I saw patients thinking they knew better than healthcare professionals!
4am and I was woken by clunking and shuffling …….and my bed moving. I went into blind panic, thinking the Delirium has returned but I was told that I needed to be moved to a different bay. It was all a blur…..and dark. I was put into the corner bedspace of a 4 bed bay. I didn’t want be there and felt instantly unsafe, with no reassurance. I slept for a couple of hours and when I woke up, I realised I was next to a window, a huge window. I could see across a large car park, a building site and Dartmoor in the distance. My belongings had been brought in and someone had kindly put all of my cards on the wall behind me. There were 3 other ladies with me and they would soon become good friends for a short while. The lady opposite me woke and said good morning. I probably wasn’t in the best of moods and certainly not in the mood for ‘good mornings’!
After the usual morning routine, I sat in my new chair looking at my new view. The ladies in the bay all wanted to know why I was there and I told the story as much as I could. They were full of ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’! My mum visited, as she was now doing every day. She had taken time off work and spent 6 weeks living in my house, visiting every day. How my family managed during this time I’ll never know. I couldn’t do anything, except get better and I found that really hard. I felt guilty on a daily basis for putting my family through this. Our daily amusement was watching workmen on the building site outside my window. They were building a new ‘CathLab’ and every day we would excitedly watch to see what new things would appear that day. It sounds silly now but at the time it kept us going.
The lady opposite had been in for a few days and after my mum left, we started talking about not being able to wash properly or do our hair. I had completely forgotten about my hair, I couldn’t even raise my arm to brush it. I knew that whilst in ICU, my hair was washed and placed in a mermaid plait but I think that had long gone. The lady mentioned that the hospital had it’s own hairdresser and suggested we get our hair done! So we spoke to the nurse and we were booked in for a pamper the next day. Getting my hair done in hospital? Whatever next!
As I was stil relatively new to the ward, it was all still ‘exciting’, if that’s the right word. My new bay was friendly and quite relaxed. I was told that I was regarded as a lower risk which was why I was moved and I took that as a positive because I assumed it meant I was getting better. I was still unable to support my own weight; I still had drains, tubes, a catheter and I was still in hospital gowns and sitting on giant nappies!
The hairdresser arrived and we agreed to have a little wash, trim and an ‘up do’. She asked when I’d last had my hair cut and I told her it was a few years (it was only a couple of months)! I hadn’t really thought about the ‘washing of the hair’ part – I was helped into the washroom and had to put my head over the sink. When you’re quite able and flexible, this is a fairly easy manoeuvre, but when you have tubes up your nose, in your chest and bags everywhere – it’s really uncomfortable! But, I powered through the discomfort because the warm water and the shampoo felt AMAZING! I felt clean and normal. I felt human. As I wobbled back to my bed space, my hair was given some much needed TLC. It was placed into a French plait and I was told I looked beautiful. Someone took a photo of me and the hairdresser started work on the lady opposite.
I felt good and as I was helped back into the chair I decided to look at the photo. I was horrified. I’d not seen myself since before I went into hospital but I looked hideous. My eyes were sunken, I had a tube coming from my nose, a hole in my nose and my face was puffy. A moment of joy quickly turned into a moment of despair. I was inconsolable. What the hell had happened to me. Thankfully, I was surrounded by lovely people, kind people who made me feel better. I went for a walk with Hannah and we put the world to rights. She also told me that I was getting stronger. I still struggled to breathe and still needed oxygen but I was able to walk a little further each day AND get myself out of the chair on my own. This meant that with support from equipment I could get myself to and from the bathroom. And this wasn’t the only positive of the day. Later in the afternoon, it was decided that my abdominal drains would be shortened and I would be given stoma bags. After a short procedure, I made friends with my new bags and I felt lighter and slightly less awkward. My catheter was also removed! But now I had to learn how to go to the toilet (something else I never thought I’d have to do). When you do something so naturally without even thinking, it’s really difficult to tell you brain to open your bladder!! However, my friend TPN provided excellent practice for this. Previously, my TPN had gone up during the day but my physio’s found that this was hindering my rehab and asked for it to be administered overnight, freeing me up during the day to exercised and live a relatively ‘normal’ day. However, TPN made me wee……. A LOT!! Between 8pm and 6am I would be on the loo every hour, sometimes I very nearly didn’t make it. Sometimes it was really touch and go and sometimes the drip stand nearly had me over! I sounded like ET shuffling across the floor! TPN was not my friend any more!