This the 5th post in a series of posts about my accident and subsequent surgery and recovery. You can read the other posts at these links, days 1 & 2, day 3, day 4 and day 5. This post covers day 6, Saturday 27th August and day 7, Sunday 28th August. It’s been much harder to write than the previous set of posts.
Edit: So hard in fact, that it’s almost a year since my accident, and eight months since my last blog post (which was day 5 of this series). Half of this post was written in October 2016, the other half, written today, July 2017.
When I was discharged from hospital I had the story in the last post burning inside me. I was angry about how Alan and I had been treated, and was amazed at the behaviour of the staff, and so as I lay on the sofa at home, not able to sit at a computer or type, I knew I wanted to write something about that experience. I thought about it, thought about what I’d write and waited for the moment I could actually physically do it. I had intended to just write a single post about the night but realised early into the writing that I needed to tell the whole story of why I was there as well.
Telling the story of day 5 kept me writing, kept me putting down the words of the other days because I knew I wanted to tell that story – and once it was done, almost the instant I put the words down, it was a huge relief. Unfortunately, it was also so cathartic that I stopped having any drive to talk about the remaining days. Also, the remaining days don’t seem very interesting to me, where-as I knew there would be interest in day 5. However, I’m going to try and finish this up, and write at least three more posts. This one, one covering my discharge and one covering my recuperation at home. Wish me luck, and if you’re still reading these, thanks for going on this journey with me!
So, on to day 6, where I talk about opening my bowels …
I’d survived the Night of the Zombie Healthcare Assistant but I wasn’t exactly well rested. It had been a night of morphine and pain and Alan’s singing. There was good news to come though – the Saturday morning shift were excellent nurses and healthcare assistants. I kept my mouth shut while they did a handover with the evening crew, but I gave the overnight folk a Paddington Bear Hard Stare.
Really early in the morning Alan got a visit from a doctor, and he was immediately on intravenous antibiotics. He was still restless early on during the day, but by the end of Saturday he was in much better spirits (he went through three bags of antibiotic liquid). During the day, the nurses also got Alan out of bed and into a chair, the first time he’d been out of bed since his accident. They were firm with him, because it was painful, but he felt the benefit in the end.
It required the use of a rotunda and several nurses because Alan couldn’t walk. It was an example of good nurses, doing something hard for both them and the patient, with the right level of engagement. Alan is 6 foot 2, moving him was no easy task. I think about twice a day while turning him, or moving him, or giving him his morning bath one of the nurses would comment on his height, and he would tell them he was 6 foot 2.
It was good being able to chat to Alan face to face across the ward with him sitting in a chair, instead of over my feet and over his feet. It was even better seeing him on the mend thanks to the antibiotics. I don’t think he remembered much of the previous day and night because he was essentially delirious during it, which is a blessing. He had a few stories and I was more than happy to listen to them, hopefully even just that little bit of engagement from someone made his days more bearable. He only had one visit while I was there, I think from grand-kids but I’m not entirely certain (I wasn’t trying not to pry) and he was much happier for it.
Edit: Everything from here is written in July 2017, and my already hazy memory is even worse, I’ll summarise everything except the main reason for writing this day, and it’s going to be all out of sequence.
I had a visit from occupational therapy. They were great. I think they were expecting me to be reluctant about living in a single room at home for my recovery. I was ecstatic at the prospect of getting out of hospital. We talked about being in a single room, being able to move from the sofa to a commode, I proved I could stand on one leg. They brought a wheelchair, with both directions controlled via rails on one wheel (because I could only use my right hand), but we agreed while it was doable, there wasn’t room in the house to actually go anywhere with it. In the end, Greté got me a loan chair from the Red Cross for use outside, hospital visits and the like. We didn’t use it much, but it was a life saver. The OT’s told me they would do a home visit, and that all happened in a bit of a whirlwind, I can’t thank them enough, that part of the whole process went really well. Essentially, I have them to thank for being discharged so quickly. Speaking of which, I had decided almost straight away that there was no chance I’d be discharged over the weekend, you can never find consultants, and Monday was a bank holiday. I had become resigned to not getting out of the place until Tuesday at the earliest. Given the events below, that was a pretty distressing thought for me. And then on Sunday morning they told me I was going home. I couldn’t believe it. The OT’s had got everything lined up in amazing time, a commode had been delivered, and they’d confirmed with the consultants that I could be discharged. I honestly didn’t really believe it for a while. Greté and an amazing bunch of friends rushed around to sort the house, moving furniture (a sofa out of the lounge to make room, stuff out of the dining room to make room for the new sofa, tables moved upstairs, and a load of other stuff). I’m eternally grateful to those people for pitching in when we most needed it. I was going home, and even now I’m emotional about it.
The rest of the good? I got home, I got better, I got back on my feet, I can walk almost as far as I used to be able to, and there are precious few things impacted by my arm mobility. It’s not 100%, but it’s enough to do what I need to do and it’s still slowly improving.
Saturday and Sunday weren’t all fun and games, sadly. Alan went downhill as the day wore on, and by evening he was in a lot of discomfort again. So little sleep the night before had left him extremely tired, and he basically nodded off into his food, and was ignored by the nursing staff. He was on limited liquid intake, but the tea lady didn’t know that so kept giving him full cups of tea even though he tried, and I tried, to tell her not to. The nursing staff then blamed Alan for the tea. He was too tired to understand, with the lack of sleep affecting his already bad hearing. It was a truly shocking display of a lack of care, and I’m appalled how little time experienced, qualified and motivated staff had.
My whole medication situation had been frustrating during my stay – including my regular drugs. I got so frustrated that I basically argued with a nurse when she tried to give me twice my regular Ramipril dose on Saturday evening. By Sunday morning, after a confirmation text with Greté, I realised she’d been right, because my dose had been increased only a few weeks prior, and my stress had resulted in me forgetting. I apologised to her the next morning. I don’t think she even remembered.
If you have a weak stomach, turn away now.
One of the side effects of any general anaesthetic is constipation. Some people suffer worse than others, and it can be serious if not properly handled. A regular question from the nurses for both myself and Alan is whether we’d had a bowel movement. It was, in fact, a great topic of conversation between myself and Alan. As an aside, a few days after I got out, I rang the hospital to find out how Alan was. I couldn’t talk to him, and the nurse wouldn’t tell me without checking – since I wasn’t family. I said I just wanted to know how he was, she went and checked, and came back, and said, “Alan tells me, to tell you he’s fine, and he’s finally had a bowel movement”. I was so happy for him, because he was on the road to getting out and he still had his sense of humour.
Anyway, late on Saturday I thought I finally felt as if I needed a bowel movement. I wasn’t able to put any weight on one leg, I had my arm in a sling, and while close to the loo, there was no way I could get in there unaided. So, I asked the male nurse what my options were – he brought a commode on wheels. He wheeled me in to the bathroom, checked I was okay, and closed the door. I lifted my down, sat down and gave it my best shot.
Eventually, I noticed that my good foot was warm.
Because I was pissing straight onto the floor.
The commode didn’t fit over the loo properly, there was about a 3 inch gap between the hole in the commode and the front of the loo itself. As luck was have it, I wasn’t able to have a bowel movement anyway.
But let me tell you – that was a fucking embarrassing and humiliating experience, and conversation, when I called the nurse back in. He didn’t even really seem to register, he just wheeled me back to the bed, and then cleaned it up. I’m not sure if he was embarrassed, or just didn’t care. It certainly didn’t give me any confidence about going home and using the commode (as it happens, while I fucking hated using the commode at home, it worked, and I didn’t have to use it for long). I never did have a bowel movement in the hospital, which is probably good, because I dread to think where it would have ended up.
I got out on the Sunday. I spent a couple of months sleeping on the sofa, living in a single room, with Greté looking after me. I had a number of hospital visits, first to have the half cast taken off my leg, and replaced with a full cast, and then that was replaced again, as well as having my shoulder bandages removed. It was a long couple of months. Getting back to work wasn’t much fun either, due to a number of issues, but that’s all behind me. I won’t talk about the hospital transport experience for the first appointment – that was humiliating. We used the car after that with the wheel chair Greté had borrowed.
Physiotherapy has been worse than useless, and caused me some mental anguish, I’m not doing the exercises on my arm I should be, and I’ve got another checkup in a few days, since the year is nearly up, where the shoulder surgeon will review progress.
My foot is painful sometimes, but my walking gate is almost normal now – and they told me it can take a couple of years for the foot injury to fully recover, so I’m not too worried.
I started getting back out with the camera as soon as my foot could stand it, and I’ve done as much as possible as the months have gone on to keep my mobility up. My diabetes has suffered, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get back the control I had before the accident, but that could just be age and laziness as well.
I wanted this post to be more amusing, more passionate, and include a lot more about Alan. I lost touch with him after that phone call, wrote him a card but when we tried to take it in he’d been discharged and they had no forward address. I hope he’s doing well and recovered from his hip fracture. But the passion for writing this has gone. Writing about that night on Day 5 was just so cathartic, that the rest seemed trivial, even pissing all over my own foot in a claustrophobic hospital toilet doesn’t seem bad when you compare it to the night of Day 5.
I want to thank again everyone who was there for me, and more importantly to me personally, everyone who was there for Greté during the whole time. Who’d think me breaking two parts of my body would have such long lasting effects, but it triggered further ill health for Greté mentally, and we’re probably still not really out of the period of adjustment after it.
Thanks for reading these – this unfinished post has been hanging over me for 8 or 9 months, and I hope that now it’s done I can get back to writing some more posts about happier times.