Freezing Winds, Changing Living Arrangements, Speaking In
Tongues and Meeting “Another One”.
Moving out of intensive care was more that just being taken to a different part of the hospital, it was a wordless statement that despite the trauma I had gone through during the surgery, my general condition was improving.
This did mean however that from now on I would be dealt with by a whole new team and given how much time I had spent with the intensive care staff and how well they had taken care of me, I was a tad nervous about moving.
A Breath Of Fresh Air
My sense of time during the stay in intensive care was not quite as reliable as I would have liked and given the years that have passed since then, my memories of what happened during that period have a continuity similar to the X-Men movies (all over the place).
So, while I believe that what I’m about to talk about happened the evening before I was moved from intensive care, it is entirely possible that it was a week earlier.
I remember the new snow I saw falling outside my hospital room window, it was actually the first thing I posted about on Facebook after the amputation, much to the surprise and amusement of some of my friends.
However, beautiful as those glittering flakes were to my tired eyes, they also served to highlight the fact that on my side of the glass I was trapped in a tiny, stuffy room which was about at comfortable as a sauna in the Mediterranean . I had asked for an open window but my nurses insisted that letting icy winds into the ICU was not a good idea.
Slowly but surely I became almost unreasonably upset that I hadn’t been outside for over two weeks.
Now, building up a strong, positive relationship with your nurses can come in very handy. A couple of them had realised that I was suffering very badly from cabin fever and, unknown to me, hatched A PLAN.
One evening (possibly the one before I was moved to a new ward) these two nurses came into my room with grins that did very little to hide the fact they were about to act out their plot.
During my time in ICU my parents had refused to leave me alone, with one or the other of them constantly being at my bedside. Seeing as they were staying even through the nights the nurses decided to get them a rather fancy chair that converted into a bed (a full bed, not just a slightly reclined chair).
They asked me to move across to this chair and wrapped me up in all of the free blankets they could find.
Then they wheeled me out out of my room, one pushing and the other moving the trolley holding all the machines that were attached to my neck and arms.
Down the corridor I flew, past surprised and slightly suspicious medical staff. We took the lift down to the ground floor and then through the foyer of the hotel to which the hospital is attached.
Some of the hotel staff came along to help open a pair of fire doors (the regular entrance was a revolving door which would have made for a sketch that could have been written by the Monty Python team).
We made it outside and I got my first ever breath of fresh air as an amputee.
It was icy and sharp and quite possibly the most extraordinary respiratory experience of my life.
Never before, nor since, has oxygen filling my lungs felt that good.
(This feels like a good time to mention that there are very few photos from these first few weeks. I don’t know why, I mean it’s not like my parents had anything else to think about at the time, did they?)
Where there is not a photo available, I shall be providing hyper realistic sketches to represent specific moments from my time in hospital.
Of course, as a patient recovering from heart surgery, minus fifteen degrees wasn’t the ideal temperature to be subjected to for any considerable period of time but just a few minutes was enough to remind me that there was life outside the world of stale, filtered, room temperature hospital air.
You have to remember, I was raised in the bracing Scottish Highlands.
I have noticed and been absolutely thrilled that I’ve been receiving views from many countries around the world.
So, not wanting to patronise anybody but rather simply being aware that some reading this may not know the slang I’ll give you a definition.
Digs – Slang for home/lodgings/place of residence. Short form of the word “diggings”, referring to the land where a farmer works (digs) and by extension, lives.
So, early one morning two very serious looking men came into the ICU and after a brief discussion with my nurses, I was handed over.
They slowly and carefully navigated my bed, along with me and the bits and pieces attached to me, along the hallway and into a lift to the floor below.
I recall only one exchange of words during that trip between the wards and that was me querying if my parents would be able to stay in the room with me overnight. A very doubtful answer from one of them made me wish that I was staying in ICU.
Eventually we entered a large ward where I was expecting to take up residence but instead they turned and took me through a side door, one which required someone to open it from the inside.
We passed through and it was like I was suddenly in a whole different building.
In this area there were only eight rooms, entered by their own private airlocks and far posher than any I had occupied previously.
Once in my new accommodations I waited for one of my new nurses to come in and have a chat.
I didn`t have to wait too long and soon one of the men who had brought me along to the ward entered my room, looking far more cheerful than previously..
He asked how I was doing and introduced himself (I’m going to use names now to avoid confusion but they aren’t their real names) as “Kevin”.
We discussed all that had gone on with me and when I again asked about my parents being allowed to stay in the room he was far more positive about the idea but stressed that it was important for me to get proper sleep so that if they did stay over, they must let me rest.
Over that evening and the next couple of days the rest of the staff came in to introduce themselves and talk about how I was doing and what had happened over the last few weeks.
Expanding My Vocabulary
This little ward which was set aside from pretty much everything else in the hospital was know as The Heart Transplant Pod (or just “The Pod” for short). As the name suggests, it was generally reserved for people waiting for or recovering from a heart transplant and at the stage where they needed constant medical care.
I was here because the complexity of my situation dictated extra attention (some things never change) to that required by most post heart surgery patients but not so much that I should be kept in intensive care.
There was a very small and tight team working this unit, twelve hour shifts on rotation of eight per shift, one nurse to each room. Plus visiting doctors and auxiliaries.
This meant that very quickly I met and became friendly with all of the people working there.
One of the members of staff, an auxiliary nurse called, let’s say “Mary”, made herself memorable from the very first meeting.
I actually didn’t see her first but instead heard her from the next room, hurling a torrent of the most colourful and explicit language at the poor lad staying there.
Once she was finished up next door I heard the squeak of a trolley leaving that room and slowly making its way towards my own door. It did cross my mind to press the emergency button and fake having chest pains just to avoid her but it was too late.
Into my room she shuffled, a five foot three, hard as nails, pure bread Glaswegian collection of swear words and insults in the shape of an elderly human woman.
She pulled her trolley alongside my bed and with her eyes burning deep into my soul uttered the phrase that would light the spark of my ever growing respect…
“Get a wash and I’ll change yer sheets, ya smelly fellow”.
Except she didn’t call me “fellow” and to keep this blog PC I’ve had to miss out about half of the actual sentence.
After a first couple of encounters with Mary, during which I kept my mouth shut and if possible pretended to be asleep, I started to improve my sparring skills and although I could never ever hope to mimic her vocabulary and phrase weaving abilities (not that I’m sure I’d want to), I like to think that the respect became a mutual one.
Not Quite Up To Date
So, if you have read my last post you’ll know why I took some time away from the blog. If you haven’t, then go catch yourself up and then come back here.
That post broadly covers what has happened over the last few months but didn’t really go into detail. So instead of talking about what has happened over the last week (because to be honest it’s not much) I’m going to pick up where the last post before my break left off and talk about what happened from there.
Eventually after a few posts I should catch up with myself and hopefully by then I’ll have some new stuff for you all.
We Are Legion
Okay, so not long after my last post Amelia, a friend of mine from the British Heart Foundation came to the Highlands for a holiday. She contacted us and asked if Bipa and I would like to meet with her and her girlfriend while they were up here.
Obviously we couldn’t pass up the opportunity and now that lockdown was starting to relax a little it was going to be really nice to see some people again.
That two of us had heart conditions was actually a bit of a bonus as it meant we were already well versed and practised in staying extra safe.
So, we headed across to Nairn and met up with them, I introduced her to Bipa, she introduced me to Indi and we all had a good laugh about how completely weird the situation was.
I, personally, am quite a hugger so meeting a friend after years and being introduced to their other half without that form of greeting was unusual, although I imagine a lot of people are grateful for that small mercy.
On our wanderings along the edge of the beach, catching up and learning that they shared my love of theatre, I came face to face with the one thing that can possibly interrupt me while talking musicals.
We spotted each other from a distance, both wearing shorts in the freezing north sea winds.
It was quite a walk and as I approached the man, a smile formed on my face which he matched and once we were only a few meters apart, we came to a stop.
His wife, Bipa, Amelia and Indi were probably all quite taken aback by just how quickly we the two of us became immersed deeply in conversation on leg loss, that we were both dealt with by the same prosthetist and the differences in our experiences, as he still had his knee.
I think they were probably waiting for quite a while before we realised we should stop talking and get on with the rest of our day.
Eventually, we said goodbye to them and then sat down for an ice cream, after finding some protection from the winds it was just about warm enough.
Several jokes were made about the fact that I had run into another amputee and I told them not to worry but just remember, “we are everywhere”.
After the ice cream we showed our friends a nice little place called Rosemarkie, where there is a beautiful walk into a little fairy glen.
Unfortunately, by this point in the day I was starting to struggle on my leg, I hadn’t been able to use it very often for a few months.
We thanked them for a lovely day, they thanked us for showing them around and gave us a rewards card for a restaurant they had visited in Inverness with one mark already ticked off and then we said goodbye, once again without my preferred hug.
A Break Can Do Wonders
Bipa and I had a really good time meeting up with Amelia and Indi and I actually felt a little guilty not writing about it but it was just around the time things started to get very stressful.
I didn’t intentionally take a break, if it had been a plan I would have written something about it on my social media or the last post but the weeks just pulled us along so quickly that even though I kept meaning to sit down and write it just never happened.
That said, I’m glad that I didn’t try to force myself to post during that time because there is no way I would have been able to give it enough attention.
I actually like to spend a lot of time reviewing and chopping these things up before I post them so it would have been sad to put something out half baked.
Anyhoo, I’m back now and after how my post was received last week I’m full of enthusiasm and energy to dive right back into writing.
Thanks, as always, for all the support.
Stay safe and be excellent to each other.
- Enjoy the fresh air as much as you can.
I am trying to be symbolic with the term “fresh air” but also take it literally if it applies to you, it did to me after all.
I think it’s easy to look at what we have around us and even if we do appreciate it, we can still find it hard to understand just how much it means to us.
Without having something taken away it’s almost impossible to know how much you’ll miss it and consequently, how much joy you’ll get from having it back again.
I’ve been brought up in a place where the air is very fresh and cool and in the winter time I often open the back door and take a lung full of the icy winds blowing down from the hills.
Not having it in that hospital room made me miss it but getting it back, even just for a moment outside, made me realise how much I love it.
- If you need time then take it, please, nobody is going to be mad at you.
This has never been more clear to me than over the last week. Of course my family and close friends have always been very supportive of me if I’ve ever had a bad few days and needed to just relax for a while but when I shared the post last week about why I hadn’t posted in so long I fully expected nobody to read it.
Instead, what has happened is that in just a few days that post has become the most viewed on here since I launched the blog and I have received many comments sending support and good wishes to me and my wife.
I am honestly so grateful and it really does show that if you have a genuine reason for disappearing for a while, most people will not only understand but make sure you know that they are there for you if you need them to be.
- You don’t need to enter your email to comment.
I’ve had a few people say to me that they wanted to comment but weren’t too sure about entering their details.
I know there is a box for name and email but you don’t actually have to fill these out to leave a comment.
- That being said, If you sign up for email updates I won’t send you spam every two days.
I promise, It’s just to get quicker notifications about new posts.
Obligatory Blog Quote
The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.Charles Dickens, (Nicholas Nickleby)