So I made it home after 5 weeks and 1 day. Nothing compared to what some people go through, but my goodness, in comparison to my usual admissions which are about a week to 9 days long, even with ITU admissions, then it’s definitely been a long one.
I have mixed feelings about the admission, I definitely don’t look back on it with fondness, but it wasn’t all bad. And then there’s the experiences that fall into neither and both at the same time. I always like to end on a positive so I’ll leave them until last.
Bad points, thankfully there’s nothing too major in my list that I can think of. And believe me, I’ve been thinking for the last 6 weeks!
-I missed out on 5 weeks of my life.
-I have more scars, bruises, lumps, marks, sore bits.
-I came home on anticoagulation injections, for how long I’m not sure.
-I had another ITU admission and 2 further HDU admissions.
-I was unwell again in the first place.
-I had so many set backs that just kept lengthening my stay.
-I missed my family, and the kids sadly missed me too. Oliver and Charlotte keep hugging me and kissing me, and I’ve spent a lot of Jessica’s little life in hospital.
-ITU swabs done by the nurse and not by myself enough said!
-Pressure area checks.
The things that don’t fit into anywhere, things that I didn’t enjoy, that were maybe embarrassing, or could have been, but things that when I think about them, they’ve effected me more than they probably should have and in ways I didn’t think they would. These pretty much involve more patient experiences that I really didn’t want. These experiences definitely stick in my memory, I’ve looked after people in my position and much, much worse and thought nothing of it, until I go through some of the things they experience. Why am I sharing these experiences? Because they made up a huge part of my admission, these moments stand out in my mind when I think back on those 5 weeks. And I know what it’s like to go through these experiences that could be horrible, embarrassing, something people dread. I’ve written about other experiences I’ve been through, they have helped people even when I didn’t think they would, and maybe what I went through won’t help people, but it’s the realisations they make me come to that help. I know how these things could go, and I go through it myself with amazing people looking after me and it’s not the massive deal I think it is, and I realise that nurses have the power to make things so much easier for patients, and I know how privileged we truly are.
HDU is never an easy stay at first, I’ve got to be pretty sick to be taken there, there’s no perks of the job involved, I don’t just get a spot on my ward with my friends for nothing unfortunately! This last HDU admission is up there with my first HDU stay, I wrote a little about it when I was still there. Now the morphine has worn off and I have a clearer head, and after speaking to people who saw me there, I remember more. It is still clouded by the feeling of pain, being completely uncomfortable, and really scared, but there are things that happened that I definitely remember.
On the first day, Sunday, I didn’t get out of bed until the night shift, or at least for most of the day. Unfortunately they didn’t want me to get dehydrated and were filling me full of fluids, so I had the horrible pleasure of finally having to use a bedpan. I’ve dreaded this since the first time I became seriously unwell. I’ve had the horrors of commodes before, and I hate to say, I’ve got used to it. But bedpans?! Seriously, I held on for hours, I just couldn’t admit I needed the loo when I knew I wasn’t going to be let out of the bed. Every horrible thought I’ve ever had about using a bedpan was running through my head…it’s just so undignified, it’s awkward to get on, it’s worse to get off…I’ve looked after those awkward patients who ended up in a soaked bed, and I didn’t want to go there. How would I face my colleagues after this?! I was not having a bedpan. Not on HDU! But I had to. And I have to say, thanks to the staff who had the unfortunate pleasure of sharing these moments with me, they kept it completely dignified, perhaps more so because they knew me, and it wasn’t as horrific as I thought.
Horrible realisation number 2…I could barely move. I had enough strength to pull myself onto my side to try and get comfortable using the bed rails, and then kept myself there by linking my arms through the bars and wedging pillows behind me. I could sit up by using the bed controls, but slipped down the bed all the time. And even when I did move, I was quickly out of breath and in pain. Imagine that for a moment, then add in how horrible I felt from literally fighting for every breath for hours. I was hot and horrible, I felt sick, and far from human. I always just want a good shower to feel a little better. However I hit the same problem as before. There’s no way I’m getting let out of the bed, and no way I’d last if they even tried to let me! Commence my first bed bath. I’d had the same thoughts of dread about the day I may need this too. I’ve been assisted with a wash before, but only helping to get things on or off because of IVs, washing my back, nothing major. This was suddenly a moment were I was almost completely dependant on help again. I’ve washed more people than I can remember, and I don’t remember anything about anyone, it’s just a part of my job. It’s just something you have to get out of the way in the morning before you can get on with the rest of your day. It gets your patient looking fresh and looked after, and it’s an opportunity to do your checks, wounds and sitting patients out if you need to. When you’re the person in the bed needing a wash though, it’s a whole lot more of an obstacle than that…well at least it sure was for me. I’ll give it to the person who helped me though, it was once again completely dignified.
Worst realisation of them all. I was still really breathless days later after my admission. I spent a whole day in the chair and ended up too tired to move the next day. Every time I got out of bed to use the commode (yey I was promoted!) or get in the chair I got really out of breath, my heart rate would suddenly speed up, my oxygen levels would drop, I’d become really tired. It was unsafe, and I was doing more harm than good, I really just needed rest. I was eventually convinced that a catheter would make life a whole lot easier for me, and I stopped being my usual stubborn self, partly because I was just too tired to carry on, and partly because I do trust the staff I work with. No details needed here, if I was embarrassed about needing a bedpan, or help with a wash, mortified probably doesn’t even come close enough to covering how I felt now. My levels of dread soared, but once again, the person who helped me through this made it as dignified as possible.
There are more experiences, I still hate commodes, I still dread that someone I know isn’t joking when they ask to check my pressure areas, I get panicky moving about in a gown (most undignified clothing ever!), I hate that I’m a patient and I can’t just read the reports or notes, I’ll never get used to arterial stabs, no matter what people say, sometimes some of them just hurt, and sometimes a lot, as do cannulas and bloods when you’ve been stabbed too many times to be able to count them all, it’s not always pain free and easy!
But everything was for my benefit. And I can’t thank the people enough who helped me during this admission. I think about the kind words and the encouragement from the people looking after me and the staff around me. I think of the nurse in ITU who held my hand while I got my art line put in. I think of the jokes people made to cheer me up when I looked like I might cry. I think of the fun we were able to have with the ward staff and other patients. I think of all the people who offered hugs and support just to see me through my day. I think of everyone who saw me on Sunday morning and still managed to smile and act normal around me. I think of the people who told me the truth, who admitted how unwell I looked. I think of the times people got help for me, the times I heard someone mutter “I’m getting the doctor” or “I don’t like seeing her like this”.
The positives…after that you may wonder how I’d find anything positive, but you know me, there’s always a silver lining.
-I spent 5 weeks with the consultants constantly wanting to get to the bottom of this, they finally didn’t want me to go home until I had answers.
-I had so many tests that may not have all resulted in anything, but they ruled out some serious health problems, they suggested other issues I may have.
-I had my medication changed.
-I finally saw my consultant in Preston.
-They found out how serious my VCD is, and just how big a role it is playing in all of this.
-I met people who changed my perspective on life, I actually made friends.
-I witnessed a massive outpouring of love and concern for myself and my family. I’ve never been the focus of so many prayers, thoughts, well wishes, concern etc. and I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.
-After this, I’ve hopefully got my life back.
Once again I spent most of my time wondering what I could learn from this experience. I had people message me the nicest things about how I’ve helped them learn patience, how to face trials with a smile, how to stay positive. And this time, for the first time, I realised (other than patience which I had a small problem with at the last hurdle!) that they weren’t my lessons to learn. Somehow I’m just one of those people that can go through something and still come out the other side smiling. I know it’s because of the love and support I have from so many people, it’s because of my amazing friends, both near and far, it’s because of my wonderful family. I’ve always just had an appreciation of still being here, I have some serious health issues but I’m still alive and happy and for the most part healthy! I’m not completely reliant on somebody else for anything. I have wonderful memories and I have things to look forward to. I have great life experiences as well as these horrible ones I go through!
I definitely think that what I’ve been through will help me when I finally get myself thrown back into the working world! I can easily put myself into my patients’ positions when I’ve actually been there before. People may not have the same feelings as I did, but there may be that one person who does, and perhaps I can help them.
What I think I learned a lot more than usual this time is to let go, to let others help me when I need it. To admit when I can’t do something alone or at all. To accept help willingly and to not struggle along unnecessarily because I may be doing more harm than good. I’m a very independent person, I’m strong willed and I can cope with a lot on my own. That doesn’t need to change necessarily, but admitting I need help has always been a struggle. And maybe now I don’t see it as a sign of weakness, but more a sign of strength, then maybe I’ll accept and ask for help more willingly. The times I needed help during my admission when I didn’t accept it or didn’t ask, I dragged out the situation a whole lot longer until I finally accepted help and the problem was solved. I could make myself more unwell struggling on, but getting the help gave me the rest I needed to build up my strength and get better. In life, carrying on as if nothing is wrong and not asking for help can be damaging. Or struggling along when people can clearly see you’re struggling, and not accepting help, is just as bad.
So that’s what has been spinning around in my head during and after my admission. A huge mixture of emotions but most prominently gratitude. Gratitude for the doctors who investigated so many different things and finally found some answers. Gratitude for the love and care shown to me by the nurses, my friends, and for the dignified way they helped me through everything. Gratitude for the encouragement and love from my friends, in person, through messages, gifts, cards, thoughts. Gratitude for people who helped my family, even people I don’t know who offered encouragement to me and my family while they faced their own problems too as they carried on with life whilst mine was on hold. Gratitude for the visits that helped me get through my days and weeks. Gratitude for the prayers and outpouring of love that were most definitely felt.
I hope to never have to go through another long admission, but if I do, I know I can do it. Here’s hoping this is the start of me getting my life back. And here’s to me enjoying every single day I face from here on in!