War Games, Jump Scares, New Rims and A Battle for the Ages.
I wasn’t aware until several weeks after waking up that during my long nap in the intensive care unit, an epic battle of wills had taken place over my unconscious body.
You see, my cardiologist (heart specialist) who was concerned with my condition in the aftermath of open heart surgery wanted to have me positioned sat upright, I can’t remember the exact reason for that but she was adamant. However, my physiotherapist was concerned with my condition in the aftermath of the amputation. She wanted my body to be lying flat to help maintain joint and muscle symmetry as I slowly recovered and so maximise my chances of achieving as normal as possible a walking gait, thus minimising future hip and back problems. (A common problem amongst lower limb amputees.)
In the end, they reached a compromise and had me lying flat but kept the bed at a raised angle. I often wonder if they strapped me down so I didn’t slide out of the bottom.
That Thing About Books And Covers.
After being moved from intensive care, it didn’t take very long to become comfortable with my new surroundings. “The Pod”, as this ward was known, had a very friendly atmosphere and as it was on a rotation of only fifteen staff members, it didn’t take long to get to know everyone’s face.
The head nurse on the ward was called Greg (he wasn’t really but no real names here) and was a tall, muscular, bald bloke covered in tattoos who I have to admit was a little intimidating the first time he walked into the room. That lasted all of five seconds though as he was in fact one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. He had obviously been dealing with patients going through serious trauma for a long time because he had this way of talking which just calmed a whole room.
It made the transition into a new ward much smoother and as I spoke to more of the staff it was clear that Greg had made sure his team were all on the same page as him. I never once felt like I was bothering any of them, or they didn’t have time to help even if it was just something as simple as my cannula feeling uncomfortable. Of course, they were a very specialist unit and so had the opportunity and time to give that extra bit of attention.
I am aware, from experience, that many other places struggle with the limited resources they are given.
This ability to give extra attention led to some very funny exchanges between us patients and the nurses as we all became more familiar. One of my favourite moments was when a nurse called “Andy” came strolling into my room and asked if he could borrow one of my Playstation 3 controllers.
To give a little context, there was a young lad in the room next to mine who had been in hospital for quite a number of weeks awaiting surgery. I had spoken to him a few times and he’d always been pleasant enough but from things I’d heard the nurses saying, he was apparently quite difficult to deal with. Refusing to do his exercises, arguing about taking medication and being generally upset that he was stuck in hospital. (The nurses obviously wouldn’t tell me this but we were in adjacent rooms and it was hard not to hear what was being said when I pressed my ear to the wall).
So, this day, in walks Andy and asks the above question. I told him that yes, of course but I wondered why.
I will now quote to you what the nurse replied;
“(Patients name here) has got a wrestling game on his PS3 next door and seeing as I’m not allowed to beat the little b*****d up in real life this will have to do”.
I do want to clarify that just like the rest of the staff Andy, (again not his real name and that’s probably a good thing at this point), was a really nice bloke who would go above and beyond to help any of the patients in whatever way he could.
He was just having a laugh when he said that… I think.
It was not very long after arriving in this new ward that I was informed of the argument between my cardiologist and physiotherapists, as well as the (what now seems fairly obvious) solution they came up with.
I was also told that this physiotherapist would be starting to work with me in preparation for me eventually learning to use a prosthesis.
That was exactly the news I wanted to hear.
Finally, I was going to begin the long process of getting back on my fee… foot.
I was also interested to meet the woman who had stood in the ICU and argued with two of the hospitals most senior doctors.
The truth was that I had actually met her a few times already while in the ICU but because of everything that had been going on I hadn’t realised. Of course, when she came into the room I recognised her instantly and to be honest, it was nice to see a familiar face. I had spent the last week getting to know a whole new group of nurses so I appreciated not having to do that again with her.
Sarah, as she will be known from now on, didn’t spend a whole lot of time with me during the first week of my treatment. She gave me some basic exercises to do and helped me with stretching, always being careful not to put any strain on the very newly healed, neck to navel scar, descending my chest.
My doctors came to check on me a few times during this first week as well, just to see how everything was doing inside now that I was moving around a bit. Prior to me starting physiotherapy my daily exercise had been sitting up in the morning and then laying back down at night, and even that was with the help of my fancy electronic bed.
With my chest zipper being as secure as one you might find on a tatty old pair of oil soaked Levi` Jeans, crutches were a no no.
In fact, it seemed to me that even my silently considering any crutches at all would bring one of my doctors to magically appear in my doorway with a very suspicious countenance.
I was getting very tired of sitting in that tiny little room all day waiting for something interesting to happen and was desperate for some way to get out. Most of the other patients could at least walk down to the café or even just to the other end of the corridor, but not old hop-along here (actually, there was not nearly enough strength in my remaining leg to hop around at that time anyway).
Sarah, god bless that woman, came to my room with more good news. She pushed this “good news” ahead of her through the doorway, just managing to not knock over a table of medication in the process.
I remember her being very pleased with herself as she shouted “Ta-da!” and presented me with freedom, also known as a wheelchair.
The word elated might seem over the top but it is the perfect way to describe how I felt when she brought this in. It was a bit of a struggle at first shuffling out of my bed and into the seat but once I was in it I could instantly feel my world expanding beyond that one room. I put my hands on the wheels and was immediately told to stop.
My physiotherapist very apologetically told me that until my chest had healed properly, I was not allowed to “self propel”. Either my parents, one of the nurses or another hospital staff member would have to push me if I wanted to go anywhere. That was the deal she had made with my cardiologists if I was going to have the chair.
Like a respectful and sensible patient, I completely abided by these rules, especially once I was out of sight of the ward…
Okay perhaps I bent them a little but it was very frustrating not being able to control where I went. I didn’t push myself too hard but it was nice to move freely around those white halls. I do think there was one cleaner who ended up disliking me intensely because I always seemed to be going out just after she’d mopped the floors, leaving tire tracks all the way down the ward.
Then, one fateful day, as I moved perhaps slightly faster than recommended, I came to the end of a corridor, skidded (I’m not kidding by the way, I actually skidded) around a corner and felt my heart jump into my mouth as I came face to face with one of my cardiologists.
She stared at me for a moment, shook her head, then leaned down and said, “If it starts to hurt, stop doing it”.
I had never been so scared in my life…
- How do I say this without being cliché?
When somebody, or something appears to you to be a certain thing then… you know what…
- Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
In all honesty though, this nurse “Greg” looked like he had walked straight out of a Tarantino movie and I did feel a bit scared. Obviously not for my safety or anything like that but I was worried how he would treat me, if he would have any sympathy for my plight or would just think I was pathetic.
I do feel ashamed of those thoughts and that really was a big moment in my life made me start to look at people differently and not instantly make judgements based on how they look.
- Listen to your doctors!
The hypocrisy is strong with this one considering what I’ve just written about racing around in a wheelchair but the truth is, I got lucky. I could have really hurt myself in those early days due to my stubbornness and lack of patience.
We are all going through a terrible time right now and it can be so easy to just say, “you know what, I’m sick of staying still, I want to go places, see people, do things”.
Watching others going out and doing whatever they want, and then appearing to be completely fine makes it all the more difficult to follow the rules.
The truth is some people will be lucky and come out of it unscathed, but there is absolutely no guarantee that will happen.
- Videogames are great for working out stress.
Especially recommended for medical professionals with… difficult patients.
Obligatory Blog Quote
I feel the need… The need for speed.Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards (Maverick and Goose)
Stay safe folks and be excellent to each other.