Organ failure, mysterious bite marks and surprise visitors.
My time in intensive care was, compared to the rest of my hospital stay, relatively brief. However, enough stuff still happened during that period for me to fill up several blog posts. Those first couple of weeks were the most worrying as we waited to find out how my initial recovery would go and just what other damage might have occurred during the procedure.
The Vampire Bite
Originally, my surgery was supposed to last a mere six hours but ended up stretching to almost twenty. Such a long time under the knife can have unpleasant effects, not just around the area that is being operated upon but over the whole body.
There was a lot of concern that losing my leg might not have been the only, nor even the most severe damage.
As it turned out, extended periods on a bypass machine don’t exactly do wonders for your kidneys.
If anyone was, for whatever uncomfortable reason, to find themselves staring at my neck they would notice a pair of red dots that look like Dracula had performed an over enthusiastic love bite. These are in fact the tiny scars left by a pair of tubes that were, up to three times a week, connected to a dialysis machine.
After waking up to find I was missing a leg, you’d think that I’d reached peak worry. Nothing they could tell me now would come close to the trauma of that news.
I remember being informed of my kidney failure. It seemed very matter of fact compared to the cautious way they had approached my ex-leg situation.
Apparently neither one was working and for the time being I would be hooked up to a blood filter machine until they hopefully kicked back in. The doctors did warn me however of the possibility that they might never recover.
As strange as it might seem I found this much more difficult to deal with than the loss my leg.
You see I knew that in time, once my amputation had healed properly, I would be able to start walking again. If I really worked at it I could be up and about on a prosthetic leg, it was just down to how much effort I was willing to put in.
The kidney problem wasn’t like that, there was absolutely nothing I could do except pray and hope. I was kept on a very strict diet, being allowed no more than 500ml of liquid a day and any food or drinks with potassium in them, such as bananas, orange juice, or tuna (that was the most heartbreaking), were also a no go.
And so I had to wait and see if my body was going to give me a break on this one.
For the first week after waking up I was continuously connected to a blood filter machine. I didn’t pee one time for this whole period, which became a lot more upsetting than you would think. It wasn’t even like I wanted to but couldn’t, I just never felt the need. My mental state took a real dive around this time, which is something that I will explore further in another post.
Then one day after about a week or so, I felt like I needed to go. I couldn’t leave my bed so the nurses presented me with a conveniently shaped bottle (not just any bottle, it was one designed for this exact purpose), and I did the business.
The nurses were under orders to measure exactly how much I produced and then send it to the lab for testing. One of them returned to my room with a big smile on his face and exclaimed.
“Seventy Millilitres Man! Looks like they still work after all”.
Apparently, my mum was outside the room with another nurse dancing around the ward after she heard about it and my dad came rushing across from the hotel to see how I was doing. The next day even some of the nurses who weren’t dealing with me came in to my room briefly to congratulate me… It was a very weird time.
None of this is to say my kidneys were back to full power. The tests that came back showed that although they were working, it was only just. They still needed some extra help. It was decided that until a much higher level of function came back, I would be connected to a dialysis machine three times a week.
Still, it was a step towards an outcome that we were all hoping for. They had gone from being pretty much dead to only being very nearly dead, which felt like a miracle at the time.
To be hooked up for a few hours three times a week instead of constantly being attached to a filter machine was an added bonus.
The First Visitor
Given how weak and tired I was most of the time, the only people I wanted to see during those first days were my parents. I was fortunate to have nurses who were bright and interesting, which meant that there was always someone around to make fun of me, in fact it felt just like home.
However, as my strength returned, I found myself becoming more open to the idea of having visitors.
First and foremost would be my little sister.
I had been putting off having Millie come in to see me. She was only twelve years old and I knew that she must have had such a hard time while I was in surgery. Having to watch my parents reaction to what was happening must have been harrowing.
So, the last thing I wanted was to traumatise the poor kid by allowing her to see what a state her brother was in. I wasn’t my usual dreamboat self let’s just say that.
Eventually the day came when I felt the time was right and I told my parents that I would like to see her. The nurses helped me clean up and we also covered my legs with blankets to disguise the otherwise obvious dent where my right one wasn’t. Not that she didn’t know what had happened, it just seemed more pleasant to not show it off at that point.
She came by and was remarkably strong about the whole situation. I have no memory of what we talked about, It was just so good to see her after such a long time and it helped Millie to see that I was, all things considered, doing okay.
There Are Other People?
After a long period in hospital it can become difficult to remember the world outside those white walls. Especially when you try to imagine what it was like seeing people who weren’t family or medical staff.
Thankfully, after my sisters initial visit the gates for more people to come and see me were opened wide. During the following weeks many of my friends and family made the long trip to Glasgow. Some of them more than once.
A particular surprise on one day was when the deputy head of our school, also my physics teacher, turned up. He insisted that it was only to bring me all the work I needed to catch up on but I know it was because he missed my banter in the class.
I attended a small village school so I got to know all my teachers very well, which meant this wasn’t some obscure figure with whom I only interacted in the classroom but someone that I could have a conversation with.
Several of my school friends came along to see me, two of them in particular, Shaun and Ella, who I have known for as long as I can remember. We pretty much grew up together when we were kids. It is hard to remember many days from my childhood when they weren’t at my house. Shaun came along when I was still in intensive care and I met Ella a couple of weeks later, by that time I could leave the ward so we caught up in the foyer of the hotel.
I won’t divulge the nature of our deeply personal conversations but I can confirm that leg jokes were always in the mix.
How Are You Doing?
How are you getting on?
Lockdown here is easing but if you’re not in the UK, how are things where you are?
What are you doing to pass the time? New hobby? Old hobby?
How many times have you imagined “getting rid” of the people with whom you are sharing lockdown?
If you have a few seconds, drop a comment down below. I’m really interested to hear what people have to say.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for the next one.
- Focus on what you can deal with, don’t waste energy on what you can’t.
I am the worst person for this so putting it here is more than a little hypocritical but I think the message is an important one for me to share, even if I personally struggle with it.
There are times when you might be faced with a number of problems. The ones that we view as the biggest are quite often the ones we can do nothing about. This can take our attention away from thinking about the problems that we have the power to fix.
When I was in the hospital, despite having just lost my leg I still spent a lot of time worrying about my kidneys, mainly because there was nothing I could do about it. Eventually though, I had to focus on what I could change, how quickly I would be back on my “feet”.
- Don’t shy away from people, even if you think it’s better for all of you.
I’m not saying that I regret delaying my little sisters first visit. I had been in a terrible state and I’m glad she didn’t see that.
What I am saying is that it would have been easy even then to keep putting it off. I wanted to see her but I was also really nervous. After she came to visit though, I realised what a boost it was to see other people and that gave me the confidence to receive others. The more I saw of my friends and family, the better and more human I began to feel.
- Always take pictures, even when you think you don’t want them.
Otherwise, you might be writing a blog years later and realise that you’re rapidly running out of photos to use on it.
Obligatory Blog Quote
You look pretty tired for someone who slept for five days straight.One of my actual best friends.