Failing Organs, Soaring Heat, Last Minute Extractions and a Slight Spillage.
You may think the most unpleasant thing I experienced during my hospital recovery was the pain of a cracked open chest, or perhaps the discomfort of the phantom menace. Maybe it wasn’t something physical, the trauma of waking to find yourself short a limb can be fairly unpleasant.
However, while all these issues posed difficulties, some of which continue to haunt me to this day, the single most unpleasant thing I endured during my stay in hospital was a fleeting but wholly horrifying experience.
I have mentioned in previous posts that after waking up from my heart surgery, not only had I been given a surprise amputation but I had also gone into kidney failure. This meant that I required dialysis to keep me going while my kidneys (hopefully) repaired themselves. There was no way of knowing how long this would take and if I ever asked, my doctors wouldn’t even try to venture an opinion on the timeline. They just told me “It is different for everyone”.
It is very strange to think back on now but at that point in time, the kidney problems were upsetting me more than the amputation.
I knew that after my wounds had healed I would be able to begin my rehabilitation and eventually would be walking again on a prosthesis. It would be a lot of work but it was something that I could work towards and do something about.
There was absolutely nothing I could do about my kidneys except wait and see how long it would take them to kick back in. The whole time I was kept on a strict diet, which included only being allowed to drink 500ml of fluid every day.
Think about that, it is one small bottle of cola a day, half of which I needed to use while taking the various pills I was on.
When on dialysis, the nurses would connect the machine up to a pair of lines in the left side of my neck (Dirty Blood Out/Cleaned Blood In).
Perhaps in an effort to maintain a semblance of symmetry there was a central line inserted into the right side of my neck to feed my hospital acquired drug habit……
Hot and Bothered
As Christmas approached and it became clear that there was no chance I would be out for the holiday (despite what literally everyone was telling me, I was still holding out hope).
The fact that I was still needing dialysis was beginning to cause some frustration. Things were improving but not at the rate I was hoping they might.
You can imagine then, how incredulous I was when after one of my blood cleaning sessions, the woman who had been dealing with my dialysis turned to me and, seemingly out of nowhere, said “You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last time I need to see you for this”.
Considering how there had been no mention from any of my doctors that I might be coming off dialysis any time soon, I took this with a pinch of salt.
A few days later, while the nurses were doing my regular observations, they noticed that my temperature had dramatically increased.
So, as the reason for my open heart surgery had been to deal with a life threatening infection, this set of alarm bells. The first thing they needed to do to prevent any new infections taking hold was to remove all foreign objects from my body.
That meant that the cannulas, PICC lines, the central line and of course, the dialysis tube were all whipped out in a gentle yet urgent manner.
The urgency with which my nurses and doctors reacted paid off as over the following day my temperature dropped and the many blood tests they had carried out all came back clear.
Now, all the various tubes that had been removed needed to put back in. Not the same ones they had removed of course, as that would be considered… unhygienic.
The cannulas went back in easily enough (as easy as getting stabbed with a needle can be anyway), the central line too. It was a bit more tricky reinserting the PICC line but nothing too unpleasant. They did it in much the same way as my first one had been done.
Then it came to reinserting my dialysis lines, which I had previously noticed were a lot larger than any of the other tubes.
I want to warn anyone reading that the following few paragraphs contain a detailed description of the procedure I underwent to reinsert the tubes. If you wish to skip this part, scroll down until you see “The Wisdom”.
For tubes the size of these, they would need to use a scalpel to open up a small hole in the side of my neck. I was informed of all this and before going into the small side room where the procedure would take place, they gave me some medication to help me relax.
Unfortunately, it took a while for the procedure to take place. I’m not entirely sure why this happened but it meant that by the time they were ready, the medication was starting to wear off and I was becoming more aware of what was going on.
My mum had been allowed to come into the room with me and they had her all done up in her theatre scrubs. She sat down next to me and I remember her holding my hand the whole way though the procedure.
The first thing they did was cover me in a very light green sheet with a small hole around where they would be cutting and piece of transparent plastic for me to look through. Some anaesthetic was administered into the area and after a few moments, the procedure began.
I was facing my mum and couldn’t see what was going on but the doctor was talking to me the whole time, explaining that he was about to cut and that I wouldn’t feel any pain, but would experience some pressure.
The first thing I felt was the blade, which didn’t feel like a blade but rather like someone pressing their finger on my neck.
Then I remember there being a weird sensation, like the skin around my neck was being pulled forwards. It only lasted a very few moments and after it was over I felt something warm running down the back of my neck and along my chest.
“That’s the cut done, now I’m going to insert the tubes”.
I felt more pressure on my neck, not uncomfortable, but noticeable. Then there was a bit more pressure, then more, and more, and more. At that point the doctor was muttering something to the nurses and I heard hurried footsteps.
“I’m just going to pull the tube back out David. We are having a little bit of an issue”.
The moment he finished saying those words and removed the tube, I felt an unsettling warmth as far more blood than I had expected started to pour down my neck and along my chest…
- Try to focus on what you can change, not what you can’t.
I spent a long time worrying about what was going to happen with my kidneys, so much so that I barely thought about my amputation or what would happen when I was learning to walk again.
What I should have done was put my attention towards that, because it was something I could work on. The problems with my kidneys were completely out of my control and if I had spent less time thinking about them, I would probably have saved myself a lot of stress.
- There is nothing better than a good cliff-hanger.
When writing, especially when writing a short piece for something such as, let’s say, a blog, you don’t always have enough space to finish off the story you might be telling.
In cases like this, I truly believe that instead of rushing to the end it makes much more sense to split it in to two separate posts. Ending the first of these on a bit of a cliff-hanger, along with painting myself a King of Drama, also gives people a reason to return for the next chapter.
I assure you, nobody ever finds it even slightly frustrating.
Obligatory Blog Quote
I see you shiver with antici…DR. FRANK-N-FURTER
Thanks for reading folks and also for coming back even when I’ve been a bit of an absent poster myself.
Stay safe and be excellent to each other.