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Release

The day after having my tube removed I went for some scans. They wheeled me down in the morning and in the afternoon a doctor came to tell me I could go home. I was shocked. It felt like too soon after my operation and having the tube removed. I called my mum and waited about for the day to get released later.

Once I had received my medication to take home with me I was allowed to go. My mum was there to take me home. I walked out of the hospital feeling like a free man. It was March but it felt like July as I was so warm. That’s one thing I noticed after all of this. Where once I would have been freezing, I was now quite toasty. I think it was something to do with stopping smoking and my circulation improving but who knows.

My mum took me home to a fully stocked fridge of my favourite foods and nipped off back to work, then a little while later my brother went out. I was alone for the first time in weeks. It felt strange to be back in my own house and be able to do what I wanted, watch whatever I wanted, use the real Internet, eat what I wanted.

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Post op recovery

For the next day or two I was in a sorry state. They put me on tramadol which definitely helped with the pain but also made me feel quite foggy. They had put a new tube into my chest. The first couple of days I think the tube inside must have been pulling or pressing against a muscle or nerve. It was absolute agony. It was a lot thicker than the one I had previously. This time it was attached to a suction pump on the wall as well. If I unplugged it could only be for a short while and I still had to carry my bucket of water and blood about with me. I kept catching the tube on things, it really nipped when it pulled on the stitches and tube going into my lung.

The pain became unbearable at night. I had asked the nurses to give me more painkillers or anything else they could do but they just kept telling me they’d done all they could and it would come ok. It felt like it would never end and even an hour in that pain was enough.

The pain settled eventually like they said and it was just the pain of the op that I was left with. It was sore to sit up, rolling over was a no no. By this point I was used to sleeping on my back as the front and sides was impossible.

I had to wait a day or two for the doctor to come and see me to check if I was OK. There was a group of students that came past and they asked if I would mind talking to a couple of them. I got to speak to a lovely asian girl for ten minutes. It was OK to have a joke about with somebody of a similar age for a while.

When my doctor finally came to see me he took a quick look at me and said to take my tube out. I couldnt believe it. Mobility. He said if my lung stayed up for the next 24 hours that I could go home. I was in shock I think.

One of the more sinister nurses came to take my tube out. She gave me gas to inhale while she pulled it out. I didn’t want to think too much about it so I just put the gas mask on and inhaled big breaths until my head felt swollen. I just remember zoning out and the only thing I noticed was the feeling of my head. Until I heard the nurse saying “ok you can stop inhaling now”. I think I must have went overboard with it. When I stopped I didn’t want to look so I just stared straight ahead. Out of the corner of my eye though, I could see her pull on something and then her hands moving frantically in a stitching motion. She’d pulled the tube out and had to stitch as fast as possible.

When she had gone I didn’t really notice much pain where she had stitched. Just a dull ache. Not too bad considering it had basically been an open entry wound for nearly 2 weeks.

The feeling of being able to get up and walk down to the cafe in the hospital with my family was weird. I’d been hooked up to a bucket of blood and air for so long that it felt as if I was being let out of a prison. I felt like I had movement back.

Surgery, finally.

After learning that my surgery had been cancelled I was told it would be another few days until the surgeon would be working again. If I remember correctly he only worked Tuesdays and Thursdays. So I had to wait until the next available day.

The next available day for surgery was much and such like the first one that was cancelled. I woke up to have no breakfast, the last thing I ate was at 1 am the night before when I was given toast and jam. Then it was a wash up with the surgical soap stuff they give you to wash the area with. The surgeon came in and marked up where they would be cutting me. This time round I was a bit more panicky, I felt like I was definitely getting surgery that day. By midday I was really nervous and sweaty. They old boy, Archie, came over and spoke to me to calm me down. He just stood at the end of my bed and said everything would be alright. He put his hands on my feet as he stood there and said “you’ll be fine, you have nothing to worry about” and all the other cliché phrases you say to someone worried about something like this.

I think I found out what time my surgery was going to happen at and let my mum and dad know. They said they’d be there for me waking up. The surgeon told me the surgery would only take about 40 mins to 1 hour and that I’d be asleep for probably 2 hours. He said if there were any difficulties during the procedure, such as the need for a blood transfusion, that they would have to give me more anaesthetic and I would be out for a bit longer.

When they came to collect me they wheeled me down to surgery in my bed and then I waited outside a room that seemed almost like a corridor until they took me in. I’m not sure if this corridor type room was the theatre or not but it seemed like a strange room to put me into so I imagine it was. The anaesthetist was a different person to who I’d met before, I think these guys could be taught a thing or two from nurses about bedside etiquette and how to talk to a nervous patient. I know they probably deal with dozens of patients a week but it was all too formal in my case and I was quite nervous. He gave me the needle in the arm with the drip or whatever it was (I hate needles so just looked away) and said to count backwards from 10. I can’t remember hitting 5.

I was taken to the recovery unit but I can’t remember waking up there or being anywhere near alert there. The first thing I remember is the nice Polish nurse speaking to me when I was back in my own ward and my mum being at my bedside. The nurse asked me how I was feeling and I responded, still completely out of it from the anaesthetic, with a joke from The Simpsons. She said “how you feeling?” And I said “good, but will I be able to play the piano after this?” She said “of course”, to which I responded “well I couldn’t before”. I don’t have a clue what made me think of that but it made her laugh so that was nice.
When I started to almost sober up I realised my dad, my mum and my mums partner were next to my bed. This was was a bit weird for me as my mum and dad don’t usually get along when they are together. They’ve been separated since I was 2 years old and divorced a few years later.

A day or so before surgery my mum had mentioned that my dad once owned a Rangers shirt. This was like a cardinal sin in my view since my dad always taught me to hate Rangers. So I took full advantage of the fact that I was completely out of it to ask him and to embarrass him and not get any repercussions. I asked him and he told me it was true. I think he thought I’d forget but I didn’t. It felt like a bit of betrayal, like I’d been lied to all my life. I just thank him for not making me a Rangers fan as a kid.

When I realised what time it was I asked why it was so late if my op was only supposed to be 40 mins. I had been unconscious for about 4 hours. I thought this meant I would have been given a blood transfusion and that there would have been complications. I later found out it was because of the anaesthetist giving me too much anaesthesia.

Immediately after the op they gave me more opiate based pain medication. It didn’t agree with me and for the next 12 hours I was vomiting constantly. They tried to feed me but I couldn’t keep anything down, not even water. They tried a few different anti sickness medications but eventually I told them to just take the drip out and to give me something for the pain that wasn’t opiate based. Lying there in bed felt horrible and constantly vomiting was causing lots of distress. It was the first time in my life I can remember my mum and dad getting on or at least not arguing and I had to tell them to go home and leave me alone. I told them it was weird seeing them together, it was a little but what I should have said was “it’s stressing me out having lots of people around while I’m in this much pain and vomiting so much” but the drugs I was on wouldn’t let me say it for some reason.

I spent the night of my surgery in pain, vomiting and basically just completely out of it.

Surgery….maybe

The night before my surgery  I wasn’t allowed any food from midnight.  When I woke in the morning I was already starving.  It was probably the fact I knew I wasn’t getting any food that made it worse.  At 8am when everyone else was eating their breakfasts I was jealous.  Then when the medication came round I was even more jealous.  I wasn’t allowed any pain meds for some reason.  This hadn’t been explained to me and now I was in pain and needed them. 

I thought it would only be a couple of hours until my operation so I tried to relax and watch some TV but I was so hungry, panicked and in pain that I just sat there sweating.  I kept asking for just a little pain medication and they gave me paracetamol if I remember correctly.  It didn’t help. 

Everyone had their lunch in front of me and I had to sit there watching and smelling.  Hospital food never looked or smelled so good.  I was already annoyed that today for supper the menu had lasagne, my favourite and I would be missing out. 

Around 1 or 2ish I started asking the nurses what was happening and could sense something was up because no one could answer any of my questions.  I was freaking out with the pain by this point.   The pain was like someone reaching in and pulling on a muscle like it was an elastic band.  I can’t think of any other ways to describe it.  Well, maybe like being stabbed from the inside.  The nurse said it could be that the tube from my chest drain might be pressing against a muscle.  It was horrible.

It was about 4 o’clock when I’d made enough noise and had been curled over in weird positions for long enough that they finally sent along one of the pain nurses to ask me how I was doing.  She couldn’t believe I hadn’t been given any pain meds.   She said there was no reason not to give me it as long as the surgery team were made aware.  So I sat there for hours racked in pain when I didn’t need to.  It went from trying to give me a heroin overdose a week before to denying me necessary medication. 

At nearly 5 o’clock I was so anxious and freaking out that I asked a nurse to check what was going on. It was then that she found out for me that the surgery had been cancelled.  They must have had no infrastructure in place to make a patient aware of this which is pretty shocking considering they could be without pain meds and food for a lot of hours, about 17 in my case.   

Getting Ready For Surgery

After a few days of my lung not inflating, the surgeon decided he would need to operate.  He said he would perform keyhole surgery, involving putting a camera inside my chest cavity to find where my lung was leaking air, stapling the hole or holes caused by possible blebs (blisters) and then burning the chest cavity or “scraping it” to make it bleed then using talc to stick my lung to the chest cavity. I’m sure they used nicer, longer more professional sounding words but that was the jist of it.  

While I was waiting for a date, a guy was admitted to the bed beside me who had been in and out of hospital with pneumothorax at least 5 times.  His body looked like someone had been playing x’s and o’s on him with a knife and that the x’s had won, a lot.  He told me not to get my hopes up that it would work because his kept collapsing.  He told me he had continued to smoke and said it wasn’t a big deal to keep doing it.  I thought to myself “if this pain has happened to you 5 times and you’ve kept smoking then I’m definitely never smoking again”.  He was a character though, as soon as he got into his bed and the nurse disappeared out of the room he would crack open one of the beers he’d smuggled in.  

They told me surgery would be on a Tuesday about a week and a couple days after I had been admitted to hospital.   The night before, the anaesthetist came and sized me up for how much I would need to keep me under.  That night I wasn’t so worried, I just wanted to get it over and done with.  I was happy to have the possibility of getting out. 

Passing time

99 per cent of the hospital staff were top notch.  They had to put up with horrible people in a horrible situation.  Some of the patients were a bit nasty to the nurses and there were some difficult patients that were just struggling with pain or maybe had some mental issues.  I don’t know which of them categories I fell into but I can remember the 3 nurses which I wouldn’t like to receive care from again.  The first was a woman who seemed to love waking up the patients at 8am and not even trying to be nice about it.  Bare in mind I had probably been up most of the night in pain and it was quite a struggle for me to move quickly anyway.  She would snap “get up and out of your bed”.  I couldnt understand why they made us all get out of bed at 8am for breakfast when some people would struggle.  Its not like we had anywhere else to go during the rest of the day. 

One morning she was hurrying me out of bed and telling me to get into my chair.  I had a bit of a moan and asked why we needed to, it felt like I imagine a prison to feel.  She said “I have to be here as well, and for 12 hours at a time, and I don’t want to be here”.  The reply I gave got a bit of a chuckle from one or two of the old boys but also some frowns.  I said “aye but you get paid for it, we have to stay here 24 hours a day and I’ve been here a week.  Do you think I’m loving it like I’m at the Hilton?”  She really was in the wrong job.  She was even rude in front of my family and a little bit to my mum. 

Most of the nurses were always keen for a laugh to brighten up there day as well as ours.  There was one who you couldn’t possibly have a laugh with as she took her job far too seriously.  The rule that only 2 people could visit at once would be broken on the regular but when she was on shift she would make people wait in the waiting room down the corridor.  For me being hooked up to a tube which was plugged into the wall this was a problem.  Even the old guy who I got on with the best used to make nazi salutes behind her back or if you were on your phone and he spotted her coming.  That was another thing she hated, using mobile phones.  All the other nurses told me that using that and my e-cig were both fine but she wouldn’t have either.  I used my phone to connect my laptop to the internet so that I could play poker.  It was annoying if you were in the middle of a hand and she would come in and disrupt things. 

There was a 3rd evil nurse but I’ll get to her later.  The nice ones helped make things better.  There was a lovely Polish nurse who I would speak to quite a lot.  When she would be changing my dressing we would be discussing politics, the indy referendum or Russia/Poland relations.  She was a really nice girl and the old boys could see I liked her so they liked to joke about it when she was there.  She would close the curtain to change the dressing around the entry to my chest and they would joke when she pulled back the curtain that she had spent 45 minutes with me and only 5 with them.  They liked a bit of a joke like that.  For example, a day or two after I had been moved to this ward the nazi nurse had told me I needed to get a swab done for MRSA.  It was a swab under the testicles.   She held my testicles up out of the way and swabbed away.  When I asked the old boys about it they told me she had let them do the swab to themselves and that I’d been felt up by a pervert nurse.

One day another nurse was changing my dressing with the curtain closed.  The young Polish cleaner came in and the old guys said “that young cleaner is here for you, she says she’s going to polish something for you”.  I didn’t think she was actually there so I joked back “well she’ll need a bloody big cloth”.  The curtains were pulled back seconds later and she was standing there giggling with a red face.

I was the only patient in my ward that had paid the extortionate amounts for my private telly to work so when it was Manchester United vs Bayern Munich, the old boys came over with their chairs and watched it sat around my bed until nazi nurse came in and told them to get back to their beds like they were children.  All in all it wasn’t as horrible a time as it could have been in there.

Moving To The Cardiovascular Ward

After a few days I began to get really, really anxious about getting out of hospital.  I was desperate to leave.  I didn’t realise how much all of it would change my life.  I think I still thought that I would suddenly make a miraculous recovery and didn’t think my body would feel different for years to come. 

A surgeon finally came to visit me after a few days and told me I would need surgery.  He said that there would come a time when I would barely remember what had happened, that I would struggle to remember how many days I spent in hospital.  He was wrong.  I remember pretty much everything and I remember exactly how many days I spent in there. 

I can’t remember the surgeons name but my mother had met him before, I think he operated on both my dad and my step dad.  He told me I would be moved to the cardiovascular ward and I would get my op within a few days.  I think this was a Saturday he told me this and said it would be a Tuesday or Thursday that I would get the surgery. 

I was told to prepare to be moved to the other ward which was in another part of the hospital.  They allowed me to wait until my mum came in for visiting time to help me move wards.  We packed up all my things and the porter pushed me on a wheelchair to another part of the hospital.  I felt helpless having a woman carry my bags and another woman pushing me about in a wheelchair.  

When I got to the new ward they put me into the corner bed.  My mum told me my step dad had been in the bed next to mine when he was in a few years before (pancreatic cancer), and my dad had been in the room next to my ward which was pretty spooky when you think about it. 

The first thing that happened when I lay in my bed for the first time was that I saw this old man propped up in his chair staring at me from across the room.  I started to wonder if he was blind or had a problem with his eyes.  He kept staring and staring.  I was beginning to get annoyed.  At this point I wanted to burst so any reason to start an argument or cry would have been welcomed.   I stared back at this oldie and spoke to my mum and said “what the fuck is this old boy staring at”.  I was making plenty of expressions at him and getting more and more wound up until just as i was about to burst when my mum put the curtains around me.  And thank god she did, because a couple of hours later a nurse came through and I realised the old boy had just recently came out of heart surgery and had been completely out of it on the meds.  He didn’t even know I was there. 

When I woke up in the morning he spoke to me for a while and I realised he was a really, really nice guy, he helped me a lot in there.  The “pain team” had been organised to come and help me treat my pain.  They sent up a girl to have a chat with me.  She asked how much pain I was in, where it was and how often, all the usual questions.  Then she looked at the chart that had the list and strengths of the meds I was on already.  She was shocked.  The last ward had been giving me way more than double the strengths I should have been getting.  No wonder I had been sick all the time.