The Longest Day

31stDecember 2018 – Swallow test number……..who knows!

It was a Monday and today was an exciting day. My swallow test on Christmas eve had shown that the hole in my oesophagus was the width of a cotton thread so the expectations of todays test were high! I was in a positive festive mood as I was wheeled down to the x-ray department. The staff, who I was now on first name terms with, were equally as excited to see me.  The test began and the team gathered around the video screen in anticipation. As the atmosphere in the room changed, I knew……….The hole was still there. It hadn’t gotten any smaller at all….and I was still leaking fluid. Everyone was in shock and I began to hit my lowest point during my stay. It was only a cotton thread’s width – how much smaller would the hole need to be before it closed?!!

I returned to the ward where I had to disappoint the excited staff who were all certain the hole would be closed. Nobody could believe it. I became inconsolable and it was at this point that I couldn’t see me ever getting better. Hospital would become my home and I would never return to normal life. 

A healthcare assistant came to do my obs and I was not in the mood. I could feel that my blood pressure was through the roof and I didn’t need more unnecessary fuss made over something else wrong with me! The gentleman was someone I’d come to know through bits of conversations. He was a caring man, very thorough in his work but also very abrupt at times. I disliked him being on an early shift as he would switch the lights on in the bay early in the morning and tell us all to ‘wakey wakey’! I later found out that he was ex military and that explained a lot!  He could see how upset I was and he then did something wonderful. He stopped what he was doing and sat on my bed. He took my hand and told me that everything would be ok. He told me that I would go home and that I would get better. He told me I was a lovely person, how it had been a pleasure to care for me and how sorry he was that I was going through this. He took 2 minutes to spend with me, when he really didn’t have the time to do so. He left me to calm down before returning to do my blood pressure and gave me another friendly squeeze of my hand. His compassion and time meant so much.

The rest of the day was depressing at best. My NG tube was irritating me and my nose and throat were becoming sore. The tube felt a lot looser than it had previously. The hospital was quiet due to the holidays and my fellow patients had been discharged. I was in a 4 bed bay on my own. In the previous days I’d had to endure patients who were rude, unfriendly and ate their body weight in snacks and fast food whilst watching TV in the their bed space. The friendly environment that I’d come to love was a distant memory.

As early evening descended I decided to treat myself to ice chips (without swallowing obvsiouly) and decorating my bedpans whilst watching New Years eve TV. By late evening I’d pulled myself together a little and told myself that I couldn’t do anything about the hole in my oesophagus, but I had to remain positive. I told myself that I would go home soon and that I would get through this. A healthcare assistant spent time with me, suggesting that I should pray and ask for God’s help. It was kind of her but in no disrespect to her or her faith, all it did was remind me of being in the Irish convent and I actually became quite anxious. As midnight approached, myself and a couple of nurses watched the numerous fireworks over Plymouth from the window and I watched the annual display in London on the TV.

I was on my own, at midnight, on New Years eve……and I couldn’t even bury myself in bloody chocolate. 

I woke around 4am as a new patient arrived in the space opposite me. I suddenly became aware that my throat was really sore, something was stuck in it. I went to the loo, for the 6thtime that night and looked in the mirror but I couldn’t see anything. Whatever it was, was making me gag so I made my way to the nurses station. It was quiet and they could see I was worried so they sat me on a chair whilst they called for a doctor. I described that it felt like something was sticking in my throat, it was very sharp and I couldn’t move or talk without it making me gag. It felt as though my body was rejecting the NG tube.

 It was awful. I was escorted back to my bed space and I sat in the chair, cold and tired. The on call doctor came to look at me but she couldn’t see anything. The tube was fine and I was told that I’d have to wait until the consultant visited in the morning. That was 4hrs away. I tried to keep myself calm but I was scared – what on earth was happening now!

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