A DIFFERENT BIRTHDAY MESSAGE
I was about to put up a quick post and thank everyone for their birthday wishes but that got me thinking and there are a couple of important things I need to say.
Firstly, thank you. I’m grateful for all of your messages. I mean that more than most and with good reason: it is indeed a very happy birthday.
Having had such a slim chance of surviving my accident, I know how lucky I was to see my 26th birthday. Each year since then I have recognised a change in what my birthday symbolises and 14 years later that significance is stronger than ever.
Speaking to friends and family, there seems to be a point for most when a birthday loses much of its feel-good factor, only to serve as a not so pleasant reminder that they are one year older. That is not a criticism, but I have my own reasons to realise how lucky I am to be alive and every birthday helps to renew my appreciation for surviving through another year. It is another year checked off the bucket list and that’s a reason for celebration. So all of your messages wishing me a happy birthday are important to me and I am grateful for each one. Given my ‘vulnerable’ condition every year is an achievement and I suppose with everything that has come to pass in 2020 this year should be extra special.
Of course it has been a horrific year and I am not alone in finding my birthday to be a strange occasion, many struggling to find much reason to celebrate. Social distancing has been one of the most unnatural adjustments for most people and it has also been a fascinating phenomenon for me to observe. It was way back near the beginning of the year when restrictions were new and social distancing was a strange concept when a very good friend shared something with me, touching on a subject I rarely discuss. She told me how difficult it was to stop herself from instinctively giving her mum a hug when she was upset, remembering the rules just in time. She said that for the very first time she felt like she had some understanding what that aspect of life has been like for myself every single day of the last 14 years.
I do admit, in times of joy or sadness I can be frustrated, upset and even envious when I am watching friends and family celebrate or console with hugs and the physical contact that is such a simple yet important way to show our feelings, without needing to say a word. It’s how we can communicate from birth through to death when even the most beautiful words can’t do our feelings justice. For 14 years I have felt like I am on the outside when I desperately want to get up and make contact, be affectionate and I need more than words to show people what they mean to me.
I don’t get any satisfaction from knowing that you have all experienced that. Without physical contact, the busiest of rooms can be cold and lonely so despite my frustration and envy, I wouldn’t wish anyone else to lose that most basic form of communication. One that breaks down language barriers and can be so much more powerful than spoken words. With everyone having experienced how unnatural life is without physical contact I somehow feel able to move on from my own sense of loss. I’m just glad that I have found one little reason to be extra thankful that I am here to appreciate all of you for sending your birthday messages. So when I say thank you, it is coming from the most sincere and genuine of emotions.
With all my love (and hugs), Steven
The bubble bursting
During my 15 months in hospital I stayed motivated by focusing on the day when I would eventually be discharged and able to get back home. I still had shot term goals while in intensive care like being able to eat, drink and talk again, sitting up in bed and eventually getting into a wheelchair. Next was a move to the Philipshill rehab ward where I concentrated on chest management, strengthening my neck muscles, developing a steady bowel regime and creating a care package for living at home. All this work was designed to help me reach my ultimate goal of getting out of hospital and getting on with my life. I never realised that the greatest challenges were still to come. I would only face them when the bubble of being in hospital was burst and I was challenged with building some sort of meaningful life again.
Over those 15 months I was surrounded by the best medical care available and the reassurance of having fantastic nurses on hand if anything went wrong. I was comfortable living in an environment with so many other wheelchair users that I felt like a ‘normal’ part of society. When I eventually got home, the reality of life in a wheelchair was overwhelming. I was physically ready for life away from the hospital but psychologically, I was not prepared for how difficult life was about to become.
When that support network of the medical team and the other patients was pulled away from underneath me I found myself sitting at home, vulnerable, confused and lacking any motivation. One of the biggest shocks was losing the routine of hospital life. Without any structure in place I found myself lying in bed or sitting in front of the TV all day, wasting one day at a time. It was so easy to fall into a rut of nothingness without the nurses, physios, occupational therapists, other patients and visitors to keep me busy. I do remember feeling like my life had little meaning or purpose. After all, I was on so much heavy medication while struggling to accept my situation that I had forgotten about any ambition to enjoy life.
I have no doubt that I was experiencing extreme depression. Comfort eating quickly led to me gaining around 5st, I had blocked off the majority of my social circle, I had no interest in getting out and about and I was neglecting my health. The latter was becoming a serious problem for me. Being ventilated, it is crucial that I take care of my chest but despite the best efforts of my care team I refused to carry out the essential tasks like nebulisers and cough assists. I was admitted to intensive care on three occasions with life threatening chest infections yet I still failed to recognise the destructive impact of my mental health.
I’m glad to say that in time and with hard work, I found my way through these dark times. I think if I was more prepared for life after leaving hospital then I wouldn’t have suffered as much. That said, I think struggling to adjust to life after an injury is an important and unavoidable part of the recovery process. I don’t feel like I am weak and certainly don’t have anything to be embarrassed about. Everyone has their own journey coming to terms with a new life and for me, the experience of facing the real world after 15 months in hospital was my most challenging time. It played an important role in my recovery and for that I am grateful. I found an inner strength I didn’t know was there and that experience has helped to shape me into the person I am now . What matters most is that I decided life was too important to give up on and I was not going to let my disability change me as a person. My only regret is leaving it so long before asking for help and finding the clarity of mind to get life back on track. I would encourage anyone who identifies with these feelings of helplessness and depression to recognise how important it is that life is still for living and loving and having fun.
I recently posted about how I have reached 10 years of disability and the many reasons why this was an occasion to celebrate.
I struggled with physical and emotional pain for some time before realising that life was still for living and more importantly, that I was in control of how satisfying that life would be. Over the years I have taken massive steps towards happiness and peace of mind with the help of my incredible friends and family. In that last post I told how I wanted to thank those special people for their years of support by taking them out for a celebratory meal (and one or two drinks!) so a large group of us went out for what was a great night and a chance for me to sit and take stock of how lucky I am.
Anyway, my good old dad had asked if I would mind him giving a quick toast before the meal so we could raise a glass (well, those with functioning arms!) to the last 10 years. Of course I said yes, a little relieved that I could relax and avoid doing it myself. I was caught off guard when I saw him stand up with sheets of paper containing a full-blown speech. Not that I have any problem being the centre of attention (no wisecracks) but I was only expecting a few words. By then it was too late to do anything about it, whatever was coming was coming.
I should have known better than to worry. My dad has always been a gifted public speaker and on this special night he found the right balance of emotion, humour and love while managing to take the piss at the same time. There was laughter and tears all round the table.
So I was thinking it would be a nice idea to post his speech, word for word, so I can always look back and remember the few minutes that managed to sum up the 10 years that had gone before. So here you go,
First of all I want to thank everyone for coming tonight and for sharing in this 10 year milestone.
Many people would be surprised at someone wanting to have a celebration to mark 10 years since breaking their neck – in fact some might say it’s not normal and I am sure as you have got to know Steven over these past 10 years you will have realised what Lynda, Fiona and I have known all along. He is not normal.
In fact he is quite extra ordinary and it has taken an extra ordinary resilience and determination to cope with this life changing result of his accident.
While much of that past 10 years has been a bit of a blur there have been some moments which I will always remember. Lynda and I will never forget a phone call one Sunday morning in May to tell us Steven had been in an accident and then the flurry of activity as Andy is arranging flights and within hours Fiona is picking us up and all 3 of us head off to Palma.
Although some of the events over the next couple of days are a bit hazy there are 2 things Steven said to me which I will never forget. The first was “it could be worse” which had me thinking “I am not sure just how much worse this could be” and “it must be the drugs talking” but even in those darkest of days it was a sign of the optimism and positivity which Steven has and would need in abundance to cope with this life changing event.
The second comment which I found remarkable was “ dad no matter what happens I will still do something useful with my life” and while the first comment may have made me think he was talking through the drugs, this time there was a determination in his voice which left me in no doubt that he meant every word of that statement.
One of the important lessons you learn in life is that once you know what the problem is you can start to deal with it and Stevens consultant at the Southern General has always given us complete honesty. I remember him telling us “your old life has gone your new life hasn’t started yet and it will take about 7 years before you reach stability”. During that period Steven has had and continues to have to deal with pain and other issues which no one should have to go through. You all know Steven well enough to know what these issues are so I am not going to go into them tonight but words like brave, determined, courageous and focussed would all be in the story of how he has dealt with this trauma and of course there is also the generosity he has shown to his family and friends.
Don’t get me wrong, he can still be a real pain and stubborn with it but again that character has been needed many times over the past years.
There’s been times of sadness and disappointment. – not getting to Ross and Lynsey’s wedding was one of many tough days.
Times of Worry and I remember Steven being worried about how Matthew and Joshua would react to seeing him for the first time after his accident. An indication of how important his nephews are to him.
Times of Humour as poor Craig found out when as an avid rangers fan, paralysed from the neck down he woke up to find that Steven had got the nurses to cover him with his Celtic blanket and scarves. Or how he responded to someone suggesting that he should enter the para Olympics.
Did I mention stubborn – being determined to spend that first Christmas at home, before the extension was built and when he should never have been out of hospital. No carers but only his mum and me to look after him – and of course I was about as much use as a chocolate teapot which meant Lynda doing most of the caring.
Talking of his mum who will ever forget the magic biscuits which she was talked into baking!!
So Steven we have reached a 10 year milestone and during that time you have touched the lives of everyone around this table and we are all better for having you in our lives.
I would ask everyone to raise a glass with me to toast Steven and wish him all the best for the next 10 years.
Thank you dad. Love you for everything you have always been, everything you are and everything you will mean to me in the future.
Just recently I celebrated (yes, celebrated) the passing of 10 years since the accident that resulted in my broken neck, my complete paralysis from the neck down and transferring onto a ventilator to breathe for me 24hrs a day.
I realise that for most people the idea of ‘celebrating’ this kind of occasion would seem strange. I can only suggest that you would need to have lived through the ups and downs, the successes and failures and the many humbling lessons of the last decade. If you bare with me I want to try and explain a little bit of my journey and in turn, why it is a celebration that I am here and able to tell my story.
To be quite honest, a couple of years after the accident I did not expect to be alive now. I don’t think I really cared and if I continued my self-destructive lifestyle I would have been dead many years before now. I can look back and recognise that severe depression is the most challenging disability I have had to overcome. Something that can still be a daily struggle.
It is interesting that those problems did not begin until after I had spent my 15 months in hospital. You could easily believe those 450+ days would be the most frustrating and morale crunching possible. While it was far from easy, I was in a safe bubble surrounded by highly trained doctors and nurses. I would spend all day surrounded by people in wheelchairs so my disability became ‘normal’. I wish someone had taken the time to prepare me for what was still to come. Leaving the hospital and getting home was always my incentive to keep improving because I thought that would be the final step toward my recovery. The truth is that leaving hospital and facing the harsh reality of everyday life was when my recovery only began. I was not prepared, it hit me like a house collapsing and I did not manage it well.
I was in phenomenal pain every day and I was heavily addicted to morphine and many other heavy duty drugs. I was eating myself to death. After being so fitness conscious before the accident I was comfort eating to the extreme. My diet was disgusting and I put on about 6st. On top of all the heavy medication I was drinking excessively and I still look back on that spell as a time that I lost many friends. I cannot blame them. I was not myself and that life was horrible. If I wanted any lengthy and quality life then something had to change. It came in one moment of clarity when I was looking at pictures of a night out when I saw myself and, for the first time, recognised what a state I was in. To give you some perspective, I don’t even think I would have been able to pull. Honestly, it was THAT bad :-)!!!
I was determined to get my life back and find myself again so I started to change instantly. The biggest impact came from getting rid of the morphine. Being the impatient, irresponsible and stubborn bugger that I am, I decided to come off the morphine cold turkey. Not my brightest decision. The withdrawal symptoms were brutal and I went 27 days without any sleep but I was not going to stop. After the fog of the morphine had lifted I could see that I was merely existing, not living so I began to tackle my problems with focused determination. Bit by bit I changed my diet and have now lost the 6st. I started to get out the house more and explore all the possibilities still available for someone with a severe disability. I stopped drinking as much (slowly!) and started to enjoy the company of my friends and family again. I cut back on my medication, getting rid of everything I could possibly do without. I made an effort to smarten myself up (needed a good Tinder picture!) but most importantly I started looking after my health.
My lungs had done well to survive the two years of neglect but I don’t think they would have been able to fight many more infections. I needed to follow a strict chest management routine every day and I still do. I also had to tackle my depression but I needed some help from the doctor with that. Taking antidepressants is no different to taking antibiotics for a chest infection. I had a medical condition (one that never completely disappears) so I took medication. It’s not something we should be embarrassed by or be afraid to talk about. There is some momentum behind tackling mental health at the moment and it is about time. So that is the short version of what has gone before. It is all in the past and I will never go back there again.
I have been saying “I did this” and “I did that” but in reality it was very much a team effort. My family and my closest friends have been by my side since day one in Spain. There is no way I would be the person I am today without them and their support. When I think back to those first couple of years, I must have been miserable company so I will never stop appreciating those who stuck it out and are still here, still supporting me when I need it and still putting up with my shit banter! You know who you are.
So does celebrating make sense yet? I have been through my own hell but I have fought through it to come out a much stronger person and much happier person!
Last week, on the 10th anniversary of my accident I went out with 17 of the most important people who have blessed me with their support and friendship over the years and we celebrated life. It was a fantastic night and gave me the opportunity to thank them all for the role they have played in shaping my life. Those people and many others have been the source of motivation and encouragement I needed to claw back as much life as I could from the darkness of my trauma and depression. Sitting at the table, last to leave the pub, we laughed at stories from our time together as young teenagers through to now and I could not have been happier as I realised that I have so many happy memories and I still have so much to look forward to.
Sure, I have missed out on many of the milestones I expected between the ages of 25 and 35. Getting married, becoming a father and so much more but I have had the pleasure of watching my friends mature into the kind of people and parents I am proud to know. It really has been my privilege and in many ways has helped fill the gap left in my own life by missing out on what I assumed lay in front of me. Definitely a lesson for all in taking nothing for granted!
Many people would think of the years after developing such complex disabilities as being too difficult to enjoy, full of setbacks and a strain on everyone involved. In many cases they would be right but I am happy to say that I am different. I do love my life. I have a great family, very special friends, I am healthier than anyone could have imagined, I have a great social life, I am going into the 3rd year of my psychology degree, I work as a volunteer offering support to others with spinal cord injuries, I know I am surrounded by support if I need it and I am also surrounded by love.
The last 10 years have been a blessing and most definitely a reason to celebrate!
This has been my 9th Christmas since breaking my neck. In all honesty, I didn’t expect to still be here and I do not know how many years I have left to enjoy. That’s why it is so important for me to look back to that first Christmas in 2007 and appreciate all that life has blessed me with since.
This Christmas was more than I could wish for but 9 years ago was a very different story.
I had been in hospital for 7 months and my rehabilitation was going well however, I was still a long way from being in a stable condition.
Surprisingly, my consultants were going to let me spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home with my family and friends. My parents house was turned into a mini hospital and one of them had to be with me at all times, day and night. I did not realise the responsibility they were accepting as I was still weak and my health was unpredictable .
Mentally and physically, I was a shadow of myself. I had gone from having an athletic, muscular physique to skin and bone. I spent so long ‘nil by mouth’ then lying in bed watching any muscle tone deteriorate that I was almost unrecognisable from the healthy young man going on holiday only a few months previously.
My lungs were still very weak, trying to adapt to the ventilator and needing constant suction to stop my oxygen levels dropping too low.
What I remember most is the pain. I was in an incredible amount of pain. It felt like hundreds of red hot screws were being drilled into the back of my head and no amount of morphine would provide relief. I would spend all night crying and screaming at the torture of my head being in contact with a pillow. There were times I would have given up and chose death over the thought of a life like that.
Mentally, I was also in lots of pain. People would comment on how great my attitude was and how well I was dealing with everything. If only they could have seen beyond the mask. I do remember being scared that my life had nothing positive left to offer. Looking back it’s clear that I was in a bad place, balancing denial and depression all dressed up with a smiley face.
That’s why this Christmas was so fantastic. I have my health and the pain is manageable. I am happy, inside and out. I still struggle at times but I have my amazing family and friends to lean on.
9 years ago I wouldn’t have believed life could be so good but the healing power of time has been very kind to me. I still face challenges every day of life but I tackle them with my past as my strongest weapon.
So I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. If you are in a bad place then I hope time will guide you to brighter days.
Bitterness, grief, disappointment, self-accusation. All easy and strangely comforting but ultimately, destructive. Enjoying the positives is the difficult choice but the only rewarding one.
I wasn’t expecting the response that greeted me when I posted last week. It’s amazing how the support has never disappeared. Thank you all for your messages on here and on twitter. They encouraged me to start reading my old posts again and I’ve just finished The Accident.
I wasn’t expecting to find it emotional but bloody hell, that was heavy.
I’ve never forgotten the details of that day, I suppose you wouldn’t, but reading about it again after all this time has been a wake-up call. Reading it again has challenged me to face some realities, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
The strange thing is, the accident does not seem important now. As much as it was a terrifying experience to be lying face down in the water, essentially waiting to drown, I very rarely think back to that day any more. I don’t spend time wondering how things could have been so different. What’s the point?
I believe that for whatever reason, that day unfolded the only way it was meant to. So the accident is not worth regretting. The life that I lost, not worth mourning. What I need to do is deal with what I still control. The person I am, the way I treat others and the attitude I choose every morning when I wake up.
I believe that for each of those three things, the accident has bettered me.
I am a better person because I have left much of my negativity and my self-destructive life choices behind me, somewhere between that swimming pool and where I am now.
I hope I treat others better now but you would need to ask the people who know me. Hopefully, the realisation that life can change, and even end, in the blink of an eye has made me appreciate the people around me and treat them accordingly. If not then that’s another good thing to come from reading about the accident again because I am going to double my efforts.
As for my daily attitude, I hope my writing in this blog is proof enough that a destructive injury does not need to destroy self worth, confidence and a sense of purpose.
What I am trying to say is that no matter what challenge life has in store for you, there is always a positive. It might not be apparent straight away but if you look for it then I truly believe you will find it.
I am going to keep reading back over my old posts. I am pretty sure there will be experiences that are difficult to relive but the accident and everything that followed has made me the person I am today. I will try my best to be grateful for those experiences and when I can, I will let you know how I get on!
Time to get blogging again. To my old followers, I hope you are well and happy. Hopefully you are still out there and we can reconnect. To all of my friends who have been by my side throughout my journey, thank you for being there. Your support means the world to me. Life would not be the same without the confidence I enjoy knowing you always have my back.
To those reading my blog for the first time , welcome! I broke my neck almost 10 years ago while on holiday in Spain. The accident left me paralysed from the neck down and unable to breathe on my own. I am attached to my ventilator 24 hours a day. Please, feel free to read The Accident if you have if the time and if you have any interest in finding out more about what followed then Nothing but the Memories tells my story, as best as I can.
It has been a long time since I posted regularly (just trying to get the website and my voice recognition to behave together again) but I always left the door open knowing that someday I would come back and I think I am at that place. There have been many changes in my life that have brought me here but right now I find myself writing with a sense of frustration.
I love my life, warts and all. That’s why I get frustrated when I come across people with so much potential left for having a great life but feel trapped by their disability. There is a way to be happy again despite living with a disability, a way to have a purpose and a way to be thankful for all that you still have. That’s not to say it’s easy.
I have been through long spells of depression when waking up in the morning comes with a sense of disappointment. When I simply cannot be bothered with another day going through the motions and smiling because that’s what people want to see. I wish I could share some secret remedy that flicks a switch and makes everything better but I don’t think there is one. Sometimes we just need to accept that life can be shit but I know that does not need to be permanent.
I know now that with the right support and the right attitude life can be great again. My life is different, very different, but I am lucky in so many ways. We all have challenges in life, disabled or not, but for most of us there is an answer. Sometimes that answer is just time and some patience but sometimes we need to have courage and make a conscious decision to change.
That is the situation I found myself in. A couple of years after the accident and I was still using my disability as an excuse to live within myself. I didn’t look after my body, I drank too much, I took too much medication, I was angry at the people who deserved it the least, I wouldn’t talk about my feelings and I was doing just enough to exist. I wasn’t living. Not in the true sense of the word. Looking back now, I’m amazed my friends decided to stay by my side. I must have been a miserable pain in the arse!
I will be forever grateful that they did as their support helped to drag me through the process of turning my life around.
I don’t want to preach, I’m not qualified. What I want to do is encourage people to look at their life and decide if they have the power to improve it. If I can reach one person then it makes all this blogging worthwhile.
Anyway, I am back and I will post as often as I can. I’m not going to go on about what happened to me, those posts are there already. I’m going to be talking about what happens next. Actually, I’m going to be talking about what can happen next if you decide to squeeze the most out of the life you have been gifted with. I made that decision some time ago and thanks to love of my family and friends I am lucky enough to be here talking about it.
I am sorry it has taken me so long to post anything. I realise now that my silence has worried some of you but that was never my intention. Life has kind of taken over is the best excuse I can offer.
I decided to take it easy and post less. That developed into taking a break and that has eventually developed into calling it quits. Not a decision I have taken lightly.
This blog was the perfect tool for me when I needed to explore my feelings and come to terms with my life but I am a different person now. A much happier person.
The new me has moved on. I don’t need to be looking back on the past because I am busy enjoying the now. While I hope I have helped some people through my posts, this will be my last one.
Health is up and down but in general life is great. I am enjoying it more than ever and I have, amongst other things, this blog to thank for that. It has helped me lift the burden of many issues that were weighing heavily on my shoulders. It feels good to shrug them off.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the encouragement and friendship you have offered over the last seven months.
Without it I would have given up on this blog long ago so I owe you more than words for helping me complete the process. All I can offer is a thank you but please know that it is not a flippant one, I mean it sincerely.
I won’t disappear. I will pop by and say hello on your blogs when I can and I hope that you keep writing. You all helped me at some point and if you helped me, you will be helping others.
So this is a line in the sand but I will never say never. The day may come when I need the blog, and you, to help me out again.
Thank you for helping me through this trip. I can say without exaggerating that it has been the most valuable experience of my life and it has set me on the road to a much happier future.
So, after my break from blogging followed by my unplanned and unwelcome hospitalisation I was grateful to be back and grateful to be with you all again.
I should have realised. Things were too good to be true. I really don’t want to post another tough luck story but I can only tell my life as it unfolds.
In the early hours of Friday morning I started feeling slightly nauseous. Just the overproduction of saliva and a feeling of ‘something not right’. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I knew my body was up to something, I assumed it would pass.
A few hours later I started retching into a basin, nothing but saliva to show for my choking and heaving. Or, to use a great Scottish word, boaking. Brilliantly onomatopoeic.
It didn’t take long for the situation to worsen. The next attempt at throwing up felt exactly the same but when I looked down the basin was red, I had brought up blood. Not a huge amount but enough to ring the alarm bells.
I wanted to wait five minutes to see what would happen before calling the doctor but the volume of blood increased. Each retch becoming more violent. I could not wait any longer before reluctantly (if you know how stubborn I am you will understand that) admitting I needed help.
In all honesty, the doctor didn’t do much. He only needed 30 seconds to realise that emergency services were required, he called through a blue light ambulance request. It seemed like only yesterday I was waiting on an ambulance due to my blood pressure problems. Now I had a new concern. Frankly, a terrifying one. Staring into a basin of your own blood tends to do that.
It was round about now that my parents popped in. Timing was a bitch, why did this have to happen this morning? They were packed and due to leave for an 11 day holiday in Greece. I am not a parent but when my mother told me they could not go I understood where she was coming from. Still, I was not accepting it. I tried to sympathise but continually forcing home the message that they were going.
I asked them to put themselves in my shoes. If they could just imagine my guilt if this passed in a couple of days. I would be busy getting on with things while they were stuck here missing out on a holiday. One they had worked so hard for and deserved even more. They could always get back quickly if needed but that point was brushed over as quickly as I could.
Eventually, just in time for their flight, they conceded and left in tears of worry. Not the way I wanted them to start their holiday but in my mind it was simple. This was better than the alternative, them standing at the end of the bed in tears of worry.
I was lying on my side to help the blood flow into the basin rather than back the way into my lungs. The paramedics transferred me from my bed onto the stretcher and yet again the blue light cleared the way to the hospital. I don’t remember much about the short journey other than more and more blood. Every bump in the road rattled my fragile stomach.
This is going to be difficult to explain but the concept of time is irrelevant when I am in hospital.
I get by one minute at a time, concentrating on that moment, not what has already been or what is yet to pass. All my energy is centred on riding out whatever I face there and then. When a new minute begins the previous is forgotten. As the minutes become hours it becomes impossible to count back. Even an educated guess has no basis, all I am focusing on is that minute in time.
I can honestly say that lying in hospital that Friday, on my side watching my own blood spurting out my mouth, I have never felt worse. I cannot remember ever feeling so defenceless and vulnerable. I shouldn’t need to articulate the thoughts that were going through my head, it was one very long afternoon.
As time did pass I was bringing up larger volumes of blood. The IV tube pumped morphine into my system for the stomach pain and anti-emetics (to prevent vomiting). Neither had much impact. They also had to replenish my body with fluids and the blood I was losing.
They eventually managed to manoeuvre my body into a safe position for x-rays which came back showing a dark pool of liquid lying in my stomach. It was vital to get a NG (nasogastric) tube up my nose and down into my stomach. Anybody who has experienced this will testify to the fact that it is a disgusting procedure.
The plastic tube needs to reach the top of the nose before it tries to bend round the top and back down the way. You need to swallow constantly to ease this passing. Eventually, if you are lucky, the tube starts to move down the back of your throat. You need to open your mouth wide (while still swallowing) so the doctor can guide the tubing down the back of your tonsils and then into your oesophagus. From then on it’s a straight journey down to the stomach. As I said, disgusting.
With the NG successfully in place the doctor started to use a syringe and pull the dark, thick blood from the inside of my stomach.
All in all they reckon about ½ litre was removed.
Like last time, I won’t go into the details of the days that followed. Blood tests, x-rays and more blood tests.
No more complications gave rise to the verdict that this was a one off case of gastroenteritis. Apparently it could have been caused by anything. That does not sit well with me. Just like the blood pressure situation, I want to know what caused this. Without a cause I can only wait helplessly on it happening again.
Another knockdown, a painful one. Like those that have came before and those that will come to pass I took it square on the chin, got off the deck and got back on with the fight. It did take a little more fight out of me but not enough, not nearly enough, to keep me down.
Another knockdown but still no knockout.
It has been quite some time since my last post. In part I have been busy but there is much more to it than that. My blogging is going to be somewhat rusty!
Following my little break I was quite looking forward to putting some posts together. I had even saved a couple of very rough drafts, thoughts more than anything.
Then, last Sunday, I found myself being rushed into hospital.
Not many will know that I have been struggling with my blood pressure for the last six months. Sudden and drastic drops have left me teetering on the edge of unconsciousness every week. More alarmingly, no medical experts can explain the drops.
On Sunday morning my carers had no choice but to phone the emergency services for an ambulance. Usually I can bounce back from the drop within 30 minutes or so but that day my body did not have enough fight to handle the bashing it was taking.
Within a couple of minutes of being transferred into my wheelchair I felt the usual symptoms of my blood pressure dropping. Lightheaded, dizzy and faint. No big panic. I have fast acting medication, ephedrine, to boost my blood pressure back up.
After taking these pills my condition continued to deteriorate. I lost all vision, bright white light was all I could see. My speech was slurred and I was dry retching. I remember my carers trying to keep me conscious. They were repeating my name and asking me to talk to them but I wasn’t able to respond. Although I was aware of the voices, they were distant. I felt like I was somewhere else, floating in an empty space but as much as I tried I couldn’t snap out of it.
I don’t mind admitting I was scared.
I was aware that an ambulance had been called so I was concentrating on staying with it. Knowing that help was on its way gave me something to focus on, a reason to stay awake.
It took the paramedics about 15 minutes to arrive and by then I was able to hold down a conversation. If it means anything to you, my blood pressure was 51/27. At that level it was difficult to understand how I could still be conscious. On top of my symptoms, an ECG gave the paramedics cause for concern regarding my heart so I was hastily stretchered into the ambulance with its blue lights flashing.
The first few hours in hospital are a bit of a blur. So many different doctors coming and going, hooked up to countless machines, blood being taken, IV antibiotics and fluids being given, a couple of X rays and an ultrasound.
I like to feel in control of my health so when the tables turn and I need to hand over control I don’t take it too well. I can only imagine I must have been a right grumpy bugger for the doctors to deal with!!
My mood worsened further when I found that the hospital had no WiFi and no signal on the mobile. Perhaps inconsequential in the grand scheme of things but by God, I missed my Internet!
No point getting into detail about all that happened over the next week. Treatment was administered, monitored and then adjusted on three or four occasions. I am now back home with no answers and still feeling lousy.
I just want to know what is wrong. I can handle being unwell, I am more than used to it, but I get worried when I don’t know (and neither do any of the consultants) what is going on.
Regardless, it is good to be back and I still need to keep reminding myself that things could be so much worse. I am thankful for all that I have.