A favourite quote and a way by which to approach life.

Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.

Friday, 8 August 2008

In the nick of time

I'm a few days out of hospital now after going in on Monday last week. I phoned the ward to ask for advice, and was so fed up by then that I actually ended up in tears when talking to the Charge Nurse, so he said to go in since they had a bed. My friend K took me in very shortly after that, and it's a good thing she did, because although I hadn't been horrendously awful when I first arrived, I went downhill fairly rapidly, and within hours was struggling considerably. In fact, it was in the first examination that the doc said she'd get ITU to come up to see me, so even though I wasn't feeling desperately ill at this stage, I was was clearly bad enough to cause concern. It's a bit of a worry that really - the fact that my perception of how ill I am has deteriorated even more, as a result of being so used to feeling poorly. So ITU came to see me, and you know it's not a good sign when they listen closely to your lungs and then tap the stethoscope to check that it's working - an indicator that they can't hear air moving in or out of my lungs. I really hate ITU (I've written a bit about that before), and the ITU team know this too, so they try to keep me on the ward if at all possible, because they think that the stress of going 'downstairs' may make the attack worse. It's a bit of a gamble to take, I suppose, but I know that they'd take me if they absolutely had to, and despite the trauma and upset of it I'd go.

I struggled on all through Monday and Monday night, and then Tuesday and Tuesday night. No sleep. No rest. No relief. Sometime in the middle of the night on the Tuesday I got really scared and ran out of energy to fight on. You may remember that I'd been struggling at home for quite some time and was already tired before I went in, so by the early hours of Wednesday I was beyond tired and felt as though I just couldn't go on any more. I prayed with all my heart, and despite the late hour I texted some friends, including an old friend who's a vicar. He usually turns his mobile off at night, but that night he had it on and was awake. He picked up my message quickly and prayed fervently for me, and I'm sure it's because of his prayers that I'm alive today. I got beyond fear and reached a point of calm acceptance of the situation - that I had no fight left and was about to die. It was a very tranquil peace, and although disappointed that I'd reached the end of my life, I wasn't scared any more ... and then I started to slowly improve. I could feel the drugs that'd been continually pumped into me for over 36 hours begin to take effect, and that gave me just enough of a boost to push through the last few hours. The nursing staff were concerned, and could see how exhausted I was, and they'd requested ITU come up and assess me again, but everywhere was busy, ITU were taking their time, and the staff on the ward were having a heavy night with a lot of 'poorlies' to take care of and only two qualified nurses and one health care assistant (the usual nursing staff level during a night shift on that ward - and 30 patients). The nurses would come and sit with me, hold my hand, talk to me, just be with me whenever they could, but they couldn't be there all the time, which is part of the point of ITU/HDU. Anyway, by the time ITU came up again my lungs had at last settled a fair bit, even enough to sleep! ITU didn't take me off their list though until Friday.

After the fight comes the Big Sleep, and I did my usual of two days sleep, with a maximum of five minutes wakefulness at any time, before being plunged back into an exhausted, collapsed unconsciousness. I emerged from this strange sleep sometime on the Friday, and although still very tired, I could then stay awake for longer than five minutes if I wanted to, and then on Saturday I got out of bed and sat in the chair for the first time. It's amazing how exhausting it is just to sit in a chair when you've spent days in bed (and of course fighting for breath and life), but it truly is hard work, so it takes some pushing to make myself stay sitting in the chair, but I know that's the only way to begin to regain some strength. I managed to get myself 'good' enough for discharge by Tuesday, and I made it home around 5pm on Tuesday evening. It's fantastic being home, and even better that I can breathe more easily than I could for quite some time before I was admitted, but it also very tiring. When you're in hospital you don't have to do anything except concentrate on getting better, but as soon as you get home, particularly if you live alone, then you suddenly have to do everything for yourself. For over a week I'd had to do no more than make my way to the toilet, or before that the few steps to the commode, but come Tuesday night I had to think about going to the shops and then making something for dinner. Going to the shop soon after I get home from hospital is actually part of my post-discharge routine, because I get a bit stir-crazy being cooped up in a small cubicle for a week or more, so I always insist on doing the trip, despite offers from friends to go for me, but it's still hard work. It's not surprising, given the change in pace of things, that I'm now so tired again, but it does frustrate me a little, because I'd so much like to be out and about and making the most of life. Oh well, it'll come.

At the beginning of August each year brand new doctors are let loose on the wards. This year it was 6th (I think it's always the first Wednesday of August). I'm always extremely wary of finding myself in need of hospital care when the new F1s start on the wards. It's not just that they're brand new and, although qualified, still have a lot to learn, but also that they don't know the staff they're working with, they don't know the ward they're working on, and they don't have experience to fall back on. My asthma doesn't quite fit the text book description of it, because of it's severity, and then there are all my strange allergies on top of it, so I need my docs to be really on the ball and not only have text book knowledge of conditions. I know that they have superiors to call upon, but that all takes time. Anyway, the upshot of this is that it makes me a little nervous to be in need of hospital medical attention on the date of the new-starters. Now I know that as the 6th approached I was so much better than I had been upon admission, but I didn't want to hang around for the change over if I could help it, so I made sure I got myself out of hospital on 5th. Just in the nick of time, and not for the first time on this admission.

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