“We’re flushing his body with the antibiotic equivalent of strong bleach” My body was fighting high temperatures and possible infection, they needed to keep the temperature down and safegaurd against possible septicaemia. At times i’d become very hot, then very cold. My room in the Surgical High Dependancy Unit was air conditioned and I had two fans. It’s odd that at this point I was my most aware but yet my memories are foggy. I was still hooked up to the Oxycodone and able to administer my own doseage by pressing a button. I was offered a meal but it all tasted funny and I really wasn’t hungry anyway… even though I’d not eaten for over a week… I was still confused.
I think it was (what seemed like) the huge bank of monitors behind my bed that made me believe I was in a sleep deprivation study. That and the pain from trying to find a comfortable sleeping position. There was a possibility that my bed was damaged and so the very expensive state of the art bed was swapped for another. The nurses soon set me straight and I began to ask what was going on… what had happened? Explanations by my doctors and wife at this point we’re protective of my mental and emotional state. A specialist nurse from Intensive Care was visiting SHDU on training purposes and I was lucky enough to have her look after me for a day or two. She had a soothing Scottish dialect and set about helping me wash, the act of moving was hard and I couldn’t understand why. She joked conspiratorially with me that I ought to try moving before the Physiotherapists arrived… A nurse friend of mine calls them Physio-terrorists! and I now know why: they push all patients to overcome the pain, to get moving. My task was to sit, to simply sit long enough to eat… even if I couldn’t eat that meal. They push hard and the pain just makes you want to stay still. It felt like the hardest thing i’d ever done. Things would get harder!
It wasn’t long before I was able to walk to the bathroom. Once I got there however nothing was happening. Strange stomach sensations and pain, the desire and need to go: but nothing. I was on tablets to help me go, they were strong but still nothing!
I was very aware of my catheter it was now causing me pain. I didn’t really recall it going in which I found odd because i’d heard they hurt. My Grandfather had a catheter insertion go so badly wrong that the loss of blood it caused led him to pneumonia and eventually death. I was keen to get the catheter out and was a glad a day or two later when it eventually went.
I’d been in SHDU two or three days now and could just about swallow a spoon full of a hot meal and eat a pot of jelly. It was time to move to a ward. Being “moved” is emotionally strange when you are so dependant, it’s scary. My high temperatures we’re still causing me psychological problems and the move to the Heptalogy ward went badly. I needed a new cannula needle for my drip and it’s insertion on the new ward did not go very well: it had been getting increasingly harder to get these small needles into my veins and after the sixth attempt by the Foundation Year Doctor in the new ward I was becoming distressed and confused as my temperatures started to soar again. I needed the drip for liquids, pain relief, temperature control and the antibiotics. A senior doctor came and also failed to get the needle into me and the decision was made to take me back to SHDU. My wife was furious i’d been taken from the specialised ward in the first place especially as my own consultant had suggested I wasn’t yet ready for the move. However limited resources had seen me bumped down as a priority and moved to Heptaology. Attempts to get the needle into me on SHDU also failed and so the clinical lead consultant, a brilliant but often intimidating doctor arrived with his typical great flourish to take over and told me I was going to have a central line inserted.
“Well that’s it. All done, they’ll want to come x-ray you and make sure i’ve hit the right spot but if you need me, me and my ‘dawgs’ will be kicking around for a while”
A central line is a big tube that they stick into your neck and runs all the way down into your chest. It’s useful because it has a number of “taps” that they can run multiple medications into and they can also take blood samples from you. As the pain relief was no longer running into my arm I was in quite some pain by now, but I was also rather delusional from the high temperatures. However I do remember being tilted backward on my bed as they inserted the tube into my neck and I very clearly remember the consultant saying “Well that’s it. All done, they’ll want to come x-ray you and make sure i’ve hit the right spot but if you need me, me and my ‘dawgs’ will be kicking around for a while”
“Did he really just say that?” I asked my wife “yes!” she replied.
He was a younger, slimmer Sir Lancelott Spratt. Dynamic, Terrifying but brilliant.
The plan was to wait for my body to come out of shock and once better bring me back into hospital for keyhole surgery… it all sounded very rosy. Everyone was pleased that I’d made it through intensive care, actually they we’re very pleased… I suppose it was around this time that I started to notice just how relieved everyone was, yet my own memories were so vague and confused I still didn’t know how bad it had been!
A day or two later and my temperature was behaving, so too were the oxygen levels in my blood and a move from SHDU was back on the cards, I was still marginally delusional and confused, I was still not eating and losing weight and the sisters from both wards got together to plan a move with my wife going ahead to the new ward to help too. That they have time for this attention to detail is a real credit to the NHS.