Beginning to Feel Human

I was a patient on Crownhill ward for 10 weeks. It became my second home. My Saturday nights consisted of writing my name on my bedpans for the week and chewing ice chips and spitting them out! So many milestones were reached along with lots of memories made, most of which are too small to even talk about….for most people 😉

Physio was a big part of my days in the first few weeks. My physios Hannah and a lovely man who’s name I can’t remember (sorry!) really got me through some tough times. There would be times when I just didn’t want to do anything. I would walk 10ft and be so breathless, struggling to continue and getting so disheartened, wanting to give up. Hannah would tell me that it was completely normal to have good days and bad days but I didn’t believe her. She would always to tell me to keep going. In the run up to Christmas, they could both see that I was struggling and that I needed something to boost my spirit. One afternoon they walked onto my bay like superhero’s and asked me if I’d got a coat. I explained that I hadn’t but I had got a jumper. Suddenly blankets appeared and I was told that we were off for a walk…..OUTSIDE!! With drip stand in tow, we went in the lift. It was my first time walking away from the ward and I was scared! I began to see other humans, doing normal human things – drinking coffee, driving! As we walked through the hospital, people looked at me with pity – my NG tube, drains and drip probably did make me look unique! I was getting more and more anxious and I held Hannahs arm so tightly! As we stepped through the doors, the cold December air hit my face. It…..felt….fantastic! I felt alive. This was the world that I was still part of. No longer did I feel imprisoned and no longer did I feel like I would never go home. Walking on tarmac was hard and exhausting but I refused to give up. We walked what felt like miles and with it being late afternoon it began to get dark and lights lit up all around. Christmas lights, car lights, the hospital lights. Derriford lit up like an angel, shining upon everyone. When we returned to the ward, I felt alive. I knew that I had such a long way to go in my recovery but this re-focused my energy. 

As my physio progressed and I became stronger, I was given new challenges. Hannah decided it was time to tackle the stairs. Stairs!! I had to learn how to walk up and down stairs! I thought it would be quite easy…..but I was wrong, very wrong!! Hannah showed me how to use my weight to push up or down on my leg but my goodness, it was the hardest thing ever!! Nothing worked, my legs had stopped working and now I had to find a whole new set of muscles. But one step at a time, literally, I did it. Never before had I realised how determined I could be. I learnt a lot about myself during my time in hospital. One day my parents were just about to leave after a visit and Hannah arrived to do some physio. It was surreal for all of us to walk to the stairs together and for my parents to watch me walk up and down them. It was another huge milestone in my recovery. 

The run up to Christmas was a busy time for me – it was a time for realisation of what had happened, a time for learning to do things again, a time for tests and scans, a time for endless daily bloodtests and a time for contemplation. I was very lucky to have a bed by the window with a view across Dartmoor. Every morning, when it was clear, I would watch the sunrise. It was beautiful. But it wasn’t until months later after I was discharged that I realised how lucky I was. From my house I can see Dartmoor in the distance and one morning I saw the sunrise. It was a ‘Crownhill Sunrise’. There is something about a sunrise that now fills me with hope. Perhaps it’s a deep connection to my time in hospital – the start of a new day, a step nearer to becoming well enough to going home. Who knows.

This photo was taken exactly 2 years ago today! 

Christmas day was a good day and it was lovely to be home but my health took a slight dip in the evening and in the days that followed. A couple of days before Christmas, paracetamol was accidentally administered into my TPN line. Infection set in (infection is not uncommon with TPN and PICC lines so I’ve been told). By Christmas night my right arm had doubled in size and was full of fluid; cellulitis. My PICC line was removed and a cannula fitted allowing me to have pain relief and fluids. As I was unable to have TPN I actually slept really well that night! I was scheduled for another PICC line to be inserted the day after boxing day, this time in the opposite arm. I was not looking forward to it but it was urgent as I was unable to have my nutritional feed. On the 27th I was chauffeured to down to the basement (I don’t think it was the basement but it felt like it!) and I was introduced to ‘Nick the PICC’!! I don’t actually know if he was a nurse or a Dr but his humour and personality was just what I needed. Apparently he was known as ‘Nick the PICC’ because he was a genius at inserting PICC lines…..and he was! No discomfort or pain and he even visited me a few days later to make sure I was ok. Another great NHS person in my journey.

My swallow test on Christmas eve had shown the hole in my Oesophagus had almost healed. All that was remaining was a hole the width of a cotton thread, literally! I was in a really good place mentally. Yes, I was sad about being in hospital at Christmas but the staff helped me so much. One of the many things I have taken from my experience are the friendships I made. I became part of the furniture, I was the one that was still there after staff had taken time off and returned to find me still on the ward! There were conversations at midnight; at 6 in the morning when my bags were being drained; when I was helped to wash my hair; when I needed my hand holding or when I needed a shoulder to cry on. Perhaps I am biased but the staff on Crownhill ward are the loveliest, friendliest people and without them my experience and journey would’ve been very different. On the afternoon of 29th December my ‘nurse of the day’ came to do my obs and found me snuggled under my blanket. I was quite happy as my family had brought me a TV card and I was watching a film that my daughter was watching at the same time at home. I was quite content and comfortable. My nurse found it highly amusing and offered to take photo of me – she thought I looked cute (despite that NG tube and tissue obviously!!) Before I knew it, more staff popped in to see me, complimenting me on how well I was looking. It was a good afternoon.

But things were about to go down hill………fast.

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