Wednesday, 6 April 2011
I never expected that to happen
You know when a film begins and you see the intro for the studio, then some of the other notable companies involved. The movie (if it's that kind of movie) kicks in with some audio narrative and the voice says: "This is the story of the time I nearly died." - Hasn't that become quite a cliché? Yet I could actually use it for the beginning of this blog because without the hard work from the surgeons working on me a few Mondays ago, I may not have had the chance to write this right now.
So ... This is the blog about the time something simple turned into something unexpected.
I'm sure I've blogged about my impending hernia surgery and commented enough on how much pain I've been in because of my condition. I also thought that I'd be in and out and continue with my brother's funeral arrangements. He passed away on the 14th March and his funeral was scheduled for April 1st, my surgery, the afternoon of March 28th.
Pretty much business as usual at Lewisham Hospital's pre-surgical waiting area. They had me sat with other patients who were awaiting various surgeries other than hernias. I remember thinking that out of all the guys present, I was the only one who looked and moved like there was absolutely nothing wrong with him. Apparently (and I'll convey later), I can take A LOT of pain.
Before surgery you meet with your anaesthesiologist, he/she talks you through their role during the op and gives you everything on a plate in the nicest possible way. Our conversation was a little different, Jay (which is not my anaesthesiologists real name which I'll keep to myself for reasons of confidentiality) let me know that she met my brother in the ICU before he passed and knew how 'cool' a guy he was. We talked a bit about him and she assured me I'd be okay when I asked if there was any possibility I might die. Up until I do anything dangerous I'm not scared until my feet are dangling thousands of feet over the countryside with a crazy guy called Phil strapped to my back (er, I'll explain another time. Another blog). All my fears slightly subdued I went back to the waiting room where my dad was sat and we read together until I was called.
I love my dad.
I'd already stripped and changed into a hospital gown with my own robe over it to cover the flattering opening at the back. In the room with the anaesthesiologists (two at that time) they talked to me, cracking a few jokes that I can't remember but I know I laughed before I drifted off to a sedated sleep.
The next thing that happened I have no recollection of, so you can read this next sentence and play a bit of elevator music in your head, If you're struggling for a tune, try and remember the one from Mr & Mrs Smith (Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie), you know, the scene where they're in the department store.
Can you hear it yet?
I was supposed to wake up around an hour after surgery; instead I woke up disorientated and unable to breathe on Monday night. I didn't know it was Monday night at the time.
I'm writing this and most of it is contained in fragments of memory that I'm not entirely sure are real or even reliable. In order to piece it together my brain used anything my eyes took in.
When I was around 10 years old I ended up in a similar position after play-fighting with my brother and hitting my head. My heart stopped en-route to hospital and I made it back. The first two people I saw when I woke up were my mum and our next door neighbour. When I woke up on Tuesday, they were the two people at my bedside, like they were when I was 10. I couldn't talk because fluid had entered my lungs during surgery and a ventilator was needed as I couldn't breathe on my own. When it was removed a feeling I refuse to reflect on hit me head-on. My throat was ripped to shreds and the words that I love so much reached my ears as complete gibberish. It took a range of hand signals and sign language from Mars to get what I was trying to say understood. Mum had broken down already and couldn't bring herself to watch her son struggle to talk. She'd been through so much already and this, me being here, was pushing it. I wasn't awake for long and I lost some more time.
I got worse.
After being ferried to the High Dependency Unit I took a turn for the worst and my lungs started to give out. I ended up in the Intensive Care Unit being fed through a tube as well as being plugged into tons of machinery monitoring and pushing me back to health. The volume of pain medication I was under was so intense I remember seeing various people I knew, but was unsure how long they were with me. My girlfriend was there, another neighbour, my oldest brother, a few friends; though not all together or in that order. I was muddling through consciousness trying to find a point of reference to anchor to and failing miserably.
I recall deciding that I was going to get better and get the hell out of here. The funeral was on the Friday of that week and it was Wednesday, my body was still mending in the HDU.
Since Monday I had access to a morphine drip which didn't feel like it was doing any 'pain-killing'. By Wednesday I'd fragmented my way through nights of bad dreams and little-to-no sleep which culminated in a night of cat and mouse with my nurses in order to get a higher dosage of morphine. The problem was the machine was saying it was delivering the medication but I certainly couldn't feel it coming through. I spent that night and the next in pain.
On Thursday afternoon the doctors (with some prompting from yours truly) decided to let me out of the HDU and onto a recovery ward. My master plan was to endure all the meds and get the hell outta there in time for my brother’s funeral on Friday morning.
Being on the ward meant I had other patients with me. ICU & HDU life is just you and the nurse caring for you. In a strange twist, I missed that. I remained focused on getting better and began urging the nurses on the ward to detach me from the catheter and drips coming out of me. I was obliged early Friday morning, showered and got dressed. My shower felt great, I was able to stand almost upright although the pain of the surgery wasn't allowing me to straighten fully. I coughed up some blood that morning and watched it go down the drain. Was that symbolic? Possibly. That last bit of coughed up blood and bile knocking my system for six. Best shower I've ever had.
A team of surgeons came to by bedside as I was getting dressed. A doctor had told me the day before I could go to the funeral and Friday at 9.10am the surgeon said I was discharged after he checked me over. I didn't halt getting dressed and let him do his thing while I rubbed on a deodorant stick.
My cousin was already downstairs waiting for me in the car.
I'd walked into the hospital on the Monday, and now on the Friday I was walking out ... That last line sounded defiant and after what I’d been through who could blame me for a moment of arrogance but truth-be-told, I was just happy to be alive.