Eight days after entering ITU I was recovered enough and stable enough to be moved to a ward, my usual ward at Freeman Hospital. I'd managed to wean down the BiPAP a fair bit, although I did still need it at night and for some periods in the day. I still had some abdominal pain, despite the appendicitis having been treated, and the surgeons were still wanting to do an investigative laparoscopy because scans had come back clear. They were still 'discussing' this option as I left the unit and their hospital, but I'm thankful to say that the medical doctors weren't going to risk putting me under an anaesthetic for anything at that time.
The ambulance trip between the hospitals was very uncomfortable, mostly because by this time I was terribly water-logged due to the right-sided heart failure. I'd been on a fluid balance chart (measuring how much fluid I take in and how much I pee out), so we knew that during each day of my admission I'd retained between 500 - 750 ml fluid. That's a lot! After 8 days that's somewhere around 6 litres! It felt like it. My torso, thighs, hips, and waste were incredibly swollen, even my arms were pudding-like. In fact the only part of my that wasn't blown up like a baloon was the lower half of my legs that had surgical stockings squeezing the fluid upwards. My skin was stretched to splitting point, and it felt as though it would tear if I moved and caught it on the bed sheet, so bumping around in the back if an ambulance was truly excrutiating, let alone with the additional mystery abdominal pain.
We arrived on the ward at long last, and I shuffled my pained, exhausted, and weary self into the bed. Not quite as delectably comfortable as the moving airbed mattress I'd had in ITU, but comfy enough, and more importantly I was with my usual care team - almost my friends; almost my second family.
I couldn't sleep. I've had a huge amount of stress recently, and the trauma of all that had immediately prior to, and during, the admission so far was filling my mind. But eventually I dozed, though only for three-quarters of an hour, when I woke once again unable to breathe. I had nebs, and more nebs, and the doctor was called. She did blood gases, which weren't utterly dreadful, but they were far from good, so the BiPAP pressures were increased again, having only just begun to drop them a smidgeon earlier in the day. I wasn't quite back to square one, but I wasn't that far from it either, with my potassium levels destabilising again and my infection markers rising. I was back on BiPAP full time, unsure again if I was going to survive. I didn't know if I had the physical energy or mental strength to get through, to live, and part of me was questioning the futility of it - why fight to survive this when it will only strike again in the future if I do. Part of me did give up, maybe even died. My only option was to ask my friends to pray, and leave It for God to decide. I don't know why God makes the decisions He does, or how He got me through it, be He did in the end, and I'm still in the world. It's more than I expected.
Nearly four weeks since I was admitted and I'm still in hospital. Although the Freeman ITU Outreach Team were assessing me several times a day, everyday, for about a week after my transfer, I've managed to stay on my usual ward, the only change being that soon after I arrived I was moved to a room right next to the nurses' station where they could more easily keep a very close eye on me. I've been off BiPAP now, after a slow wean, for a week I think, but then there was the reduction in aminophylline to get through, and with the fluid retention and heart failure, this was becoming a pressing concern. We know from experience that I have to do a very slow wean off the aminophylline or my lungs go off again and I'm back at the beginning. We had to take a risk this time, and although it was still slow in comparison to most, we had to go more quickly than we usually would. The sooner they could stop any extra fluids the better for my heart, which still isn't it great shape. I'm told it could take some months for my heart to recover, even if/when the fluid reduces, and that this time is somewhat dependent on how well behaved or otherwise my lungs are during that period. Certainly this time I've been knocked well of course, though that's not surprising given the complexity of the admission and the many complications along the way. I am incredibly weak, can barely walk at all, although last night I did begin to insist that I have help to walk through to the en suite toilet instead of using a commode. Regaining toilet rights is always a big step along the road to recovery, physically and emotionally. Everyday I have a short session with the physios, with one of them supporting me and the other following behind with a chair for when I'm about to pass out with the effort. I don't feel like I'm making much progress, if I'm honest, and I get really frustrated, but the physio tries to be encouraging and she keeps reminding me how poorly I've been. Part of my reclaiming of toilet rights is self-imposed physio, because I know that while it's really hard work and I'm pushing myself hard, it's only by doing the work that I'm going to get stronger.
The mystery of the abdominal pain in addition to that from the appendicitis still hasn't been solved. It's still very much there, being painful at a score of 5 or 6 out of 10, despite copious pain killers. There was a snuffle of excitement when I contracted another UTI because they thought that could be the cause, but the antibiotics did their thing, the infection was cleared, and the pain has remained. At the end of last week the consult suddenly decided that I should have an xray of my spine to check that I haven't developed a crushed vertebrae from the long-term high-dose steroids. He thought the pain could be referred to my abdomen by nerves, but the xray has shown that this is unlikely, because while it does show some wear and tear of my spine, they've decided it's not yet signigicant or something to worry about (though personally, it doesn't fill me with joy to know my spine is worn and torn). Next up, I'm told, is the gynaecologist, not that they have any specific concerns they want investigating, but rather just to cover all bases. I've almost given up on finding an answer, and I'm very much feeling like a lab rat undergoing test after test after test. The consultant says he tries to he reassured by the clear scans and xrays, etc, but actually he is a bit concerned. He wants, if possible, and for as long as possible, to 'keep things non-invasive', but says that it might in end up with investigative surgery. Maybe I'll see if it settles itself. Maybe I've had enough of being prodded and poked and tested and scanned. Yes, I most definitely want to be pain-free, but there aren't any guarantees that investigative surgery would find anything or fix anything, so then what?
Now I'm tired - physically drained and emotionally exhausted. I have a lot of pressing on-going matters and situations to deal with, and then there's the fall-out from having been so poorly for so long and with so many aspects to it. I was struggling with depression before this admission began, as you know, and the unexpected and atypical nature of it has compounded that. What I really want now is to get well enough to go home; cuddle the cat who I'm missing dreadfully; perhaps take the cat with me for a few days at my mum's; and go on holiday as planned at the end of the month. I want to recuperate, regenerate, spend time with friends and family. I said to my psychologist on the phone the other day that I feel like I've lost myself somewhere - with all that's happened and still happening, I've left myself behind and I don't know where. I'd like to find where I am, go meet myself, and bring myself back to somewhere familiar. Good familiar. I can't do that while I'm still on hospital, so I need to get home as soon as is realistically possible, but as yet I still don't have a date for discharge.