Monday, 26 March 2012

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Well, it is now just over three weeks since a blood vessel in my head went pop and laid me low. Progress has been non-linear but in the right direction. Concensus is that I am still the Same Old Pete, just a bit more subdued and tired. Indeed, sleeping is something I do a lot of lately. I eat breakfast, I go back to bed exhausted for an hour. I entertain a visitor for forty minutes, I sleep an hour. I walk to the shops, I sleep for two hours. It becomes evident that I need to pace myself very carefully if I am to maintain recovery without setting myself back with each exertion.
And tramadol is a very welcome companion several times a day for the headaches.

When I think back to the High Dependency Neurology Unit in Frenchay Hospital, my first memories are of a week of shades of consciousness and a long tunnel of pain and confusion alleviated by regular, merciful morphine. Wonderful stuff, morphine.

But also, I am reminded of some of the other chaps in the ward and very grateful that my own decisive but oblique graze with fate was not as serious as some of theirs. Many of the other patients had horrendous conditions to live with. There were people afflicted with serious, debilitating depression, alzheimers and epilepsy. Some of the crosses these guys had to bear seem beyond human endurance to suffer. It is very apparent just how easily this organ can malfunction.

Also, the amount of compassion I witnessed is humbling. The nurses, bless 'em, were a little variable in their levels of empathy and I suppose this is understandable when one considers they deal with ill people and their unpredictable humours on a daily basis.
But there were some patients who had attendants 24 hours a day for various reasons that were never quite apparent. To see a hulk of a man, all cauliflower ears and broken nose, speaking softly and kindly to his charge as the poor confused fellow attempts to get out of bed every ten minutes due to confusion and frustration is quite humbling. There are some lovely, caring people in this world and they don't always look like you would expect them to.

My memories of that week are somewhat incomplete and jumbled. It was not a time of coherent thought for me. I remember not being able to speak, only to squeeze a hand; once for yes, two for no. I remember not being able to move my head, or even my eyes, due to the agonies of whatever was in my cranium being far too big for the skull that was trying to contain it. I remember drinking from a baby beaker for several days and my first glorious cup of tea after my several days of nil-by-mouth.

And I remember that there was a place full of incredible people with astonishing knowledge, equipment that was the pinnacle of human medical and scientific endeavour and poor souls with various chances of recovery.

And I am very grateful to be both still alive and on my way back to my old self, with whatever improvements I can make with lessons extracted from the whole experience.
It is a grand thing to live in the 21st century and to benefit from several centuries of cumulative medical knowledge and progress.


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Pete:
What a terrible ordeal you have experienced and what a long road you must face to get back to your usual self. And yet, through it all, you write with such tenderness of those who have fared worse than you and of those who have shown such kindness and expertise in your care.

How right you are that it is through such amazing advances in medical science that many of us are here to tell the story of our illnesses. And, all of this makes one so well aware of the fine line that we all walk each day between life and death. Seize the day, dear Pete, we know you will!!

PerlNumquist said...

Well, there was a chap there who had regular epileptic seizures, one after another with no warning. How do you live with that? But he does, and courageously too.
If I learn nothing from this, it is indeed to seize the day. I feel an imperative to get on and do things now and to no longer find excuses to procrastinate.

Kay G. said...

Although you have been through a lot, you can look around and see that others are worse off than you and can be grateful for those who cared for you. Nothing wrong with your heart then!
Take care.

Librarian said...

Compared to the short space of time that has passed between the blood vessel going pop (as you describe it) and now, with you already walking to the shops and doing all sorts of things, your progress is remarkable, but of course you know that yourself.
And what you say about how you feel about your stay in hospital echoes so well what I wrote here in 2010 (although what brought me to hospital was nowhere near what happened to you):

For those poor fellows who face such dreadful outcomes as epilepsy etc., I can only hope that their friends and family will be there for them and not retreat because they don't know how to deal with them.