The New Mission is Short-Lived
Hospital food began to test my gag reflex and a couple of days after the 2nd op, I was too weak to walk past the doorway of the ward without swooning.
My drip had to be removed when the fluid began leaking outside my vein. I hate needles. When the first attempt at replacement met a collapsing vein, I was in tears. My pain threshold was low and I just wanted to get out. After 4 days with the drain (a +- 5mm diameter tube) hanging out of me, the +-30cm length of it that’d been coiled inside of me was removed but not without much pain, anxiety and some aftershock.
I then endured a few days of a spiking temperature and a high white blood cell count which all pointed to infection. What WAS this rollercoaster ride and how would I get off?! I’d be freezing cold but blankets were taken away and the aircon temp set to Arctic. I started vomiting again which was interesting when I had to be wheeled downstairs for more x-rays. My drip caused blockage hassles again so a less-than-gentle anaesthetist (I guess he’s used to dealing with sleepyheads!) inserted a cable under my clavicle with multiple ends for drips. I had my own multi-plug! I found it traumatic and was so tired of all these procedures. More antibiotics, an ultrasound, a barium enema, and I learned to look for pleasantries like the bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast and to tolerate indignities like bed baths and commodes.
A month after returning to hospital and luxury meant having my hair washed and being able to take a seated shower.
The past weeks had been a case of watch, wait, and see. While externally I’m looking more like myself, internally, a battle has been raging between infection after infection and my body’s fight (shown by high temps). Irradiated weak tissue exacerbates the situation. And so I’m going in for a 3rd op in 2 months to insert a “serious” drain. Unbelievably, my ego is pleased with the news – no more stomach bag as they reverse the ileostomy at the same time!
There’s an Altzheimers patient on this floor. Every morning I hear the screaming of what sounds like a rabid animal. It’s really scary to hear the first few times (and now I think if I was a nurse I’d use a pillow on her). She wakes up and doesn’t know where she is so she starts pulling out her nasal tube, her drip and anything else she can find. Exasperated, the nurses have shouted at her. She has poor veins so they can’t keep reinserting drips. She’s French and so doesn’t understand them and tells her daughter they’re trying to kill her! I think she should be in the hospital next door (St Joseph’s, a psych hospital). The one day they found her in the linen room. Now they take turns sitting with her in case she wakes from a nap and goes nuts!
I’ve had enough ops to know now that a side-effect of anaesthetic for me is an itchy nose! My hair’s been falling out a little – from so much anaesthetic and other drugs, perhaps? My attention span is not even worth mentioning. The drain (a 1cm-or-so diameter pipe inserted into my side) is painful. Although plastic, it’s not very flexible and so my movements are very limited if I want to avoid shooting pain. When nurses march in to take me for a walk, I yelp in pain as I get up. The actual walking is easier but I tire very quickly.
My temperature is stabilising and I can manage to sit up in a chair for 20 minutes before my energy runs out and I have to return to bed. They’d given me iron infusions but subsequent blood results showed very low levels at which I wouldn’t heal and so I had a blood transfusion. It did the trick with the blood count but I didn’t feel the energy effects until a few days later when I could stand up and walk down the passage without keeling over. The drain and stitches have been removed and I can move more freely. Celebrations! I’ve started walking off the retained water which has left me with hidden ankles and for the first time, there’s been talk of going home soon.
The amazing race
On a walk down to the coffee shop and back one day, I felt strong enough to take the stairs back up. Another patient, probably in her 50’s, with a hip replacement was also walking up. In one of those experiences that leave you laughing until it hurts and you cannot do justice recounting, our paces picked up and we began to race up the stairs both holding onto the handrails; she hobbling and listing to one side in her pink velor and I hobbling, holding onto my belly in my dressing gown. I was determined to win this since I hadn’t been winning lately with anything. I did it! To her credit, she managed an extra flight up to her floor while I strolled back to my bed. We didn’t speak of it and I never saw her again but we’d both enjoyed the challenge.
Finally, 8.5 weeks after I’d first been admitted, I went home – 12 kgs lighter and with limited strength.