And so I'm in this new hospital where at least the staff seem to actually care about their patients but I'm wondering whether this nightmare is going to end or is this the place where my body finally gives out and it's ta ta .....
So I left you all last time with me arriving at the Emergency department at the John Hunter hospital in Newcastle. It's Day 6 of this freaking nightmare and I'm honestly in such despair at this point. I am despondent and in such extreme pain, I really don't care what happens to me now, I just want the misery to end.
O.K so I arrive, I have been vomiting all night and I look a real fright, almost a greenish tinge to my skin. I really do resemble a walking zombie, very sexy! I was seen to pretty quickly considering how busy the waiting area was.
Immediately I sense that I am in a much better hospital and a tiny flicker of hope sparks up. I was shown to the back of the reception area where there was a makeshift bed; there are no available beds in the emergency ward.
The lovely nurse organises a shot of morphine immediately after checking all my vitals. A doctor comes to chat with me and both hubby and I fill him in on the past week's shit show of my life. An x-ray is organised quick smart and lo and behold the bowel obstruction is in plain view in all it's glory!
What was giving me comfort is that their main priority was to make me as comfortable as possible and to get me to the first available bed. I felt like I mattered which was a nice change compared to the asylum I had just escaped from the day before!
So a bed was found in the emergency ward within the next hour and I spend the next ten hours there. Yes I am still vomiting but the pain is being kept under control and for that I was so so grateful.
I'm finally rolled into the Gastrointestinal ward much later that afternoon and I'm surprised to be met with real concern about my predicament. The nurses here were caring and this time I'm in a room with three other women, wider spaces, cleaner areas and I'm thankful for that.
The night passed with regular pain management and I was happy to live through it. Yep, I was taking each moment with a sense of trepidation.
Morning comes and it's Thursday February 13th. Day 7.
Hubby comes in early and helps me shower, I am attached to a drip, tummy is painfully swollen still. There has been no change in this.
Now on a side note there is something I wanted to share and that is in both these hospitals, the toilet and shower facilities are not in the respective rooms. They are in their own area in the wards, off the corridor. I had never encountered that in any Sydney hospitals and I've had my fair share of overnight hospital visits over the last couple of decades. I found that really unusual...
Anyways, moving on...... I have no idea what my fate is for the day and unusually for me I'm not trying to connect with my inner power, I'm not praying, I'm not seeking angelic assistance, I am simply existing in those moments - a shell of who I usually am. It's frightening.
It's now midday and suddenly I have what felt like an army of medical staff come in to see me. They are a mixture of specialists from the gastro department and more surprisingly, they have my file with all my history! Liverpool hospital had sent through my file back in December and I was to have my initial appointment with a specialist from this hospital for my Crohn's disease. The cancer took precedence over the continued medical care I needed for Crohn's, so an appointment had not been set yet.
I was asked so many questions about my twenty five year history with this disease, the cancer and of course up until this horrid latest development. A surgeon then joined the group discussion and he is absolutely up to date with my condition.
He was the angel that showed up to save me, I just didn't know it yet.
Within fifteen minutes of continued discussion, Dr P (surgeon) says 'We will need to operate'....... However, I am told how risky it is and that I have a high chance of major complications occurring: let me list a few for you....
* I may not survive the surgery.......(What the actual F@*k!!!)
* I may have another bowel obstruction within days/weeks of this surgery and will not be able to have another surgery to correct it as it would be too dangerous to operate again so close to this last operation....(Again...WTAF!!)
* The risks are very high for further complications given that it is only four weeks exactly since the January operation... (I'm screwed......)
I am sitting in my hospital bed absorbing this demonic list of horrors that Dr P has just stated, I am so numb, in so much agony, so desperate for this nightmare to end that I honestly wanted to die anyway. The ball is in my court and I respond with...'I feel like I'm going to die so I'll take the risk and have this operation'....
Immediately, the atmosphere charges up and I'm told that I will be operated on this afternoon. Finally, finally something is happening. I'm scared but ready.
Within ten minutes another nurse comes in and explains that she works with Dr P and that my operation is going to happen within the hour. Dr P wants to kick off the allotted afternoon surgeries with me. This just became real!
What felt like a click of the fingers, I am being taken to the surgical theatres. Can I just say how freaking enormous this hospital is!! It is mammoth! It took a fair while to get to the theatres. Hubby and my daughter accompany me and as I wave goodbye to them I now start to pray and hope that I will see them again.
The anaesthetist is a really nice woman and she explains that as I already have the cannula in my arm for the drip, she will administer the anaesthetic through there. Yasss! Big relief from me, I still am terrified of injections, nothing changed in that last 4 weeks. Dr P comes in and also requests that a port is implanted into my arm as they most probably will commence TPN treatment. To clarify, TPN is 'Total parenteral nutrition' and it's a method of feeding that bypasses the gastrointestinal tract. It's administered through the port which is placed in a vein. The port with the TPN was explained to me a number of times and I was quite glad that this was going to be implanted whilst I was under. Another huge relief!! This shit is downright torture if you are lucid whilst they implant it!!
This is the last thing I remember, she took my arm and starts to inject the anaesthetic.......I'm out!
I wake up, groggy, falling in and out of sleep.....I'm in recovery and I feel my blood pressure being taken...I hear mutterings of 'Her blood pressure is so low', 'Do we give her the blah blah..(some medical drug I don't know, I heard 'blah blah'). I can dimly ascertain that I have quite a few gadgets attached to me and that there is something down my throat that burns. I have a catheter, the drip, the port in my arm, the J tube down my nose and throat, a drain, heart monitors, blood pressure thingy......Geezus!!! I'm a damn mess!!
Hubby is allowed in and the only reason he is, is because I am not leaving recovery...It's after 7pm. The operation lasted over five hours, they kicked off with me at 1pm'ish. I was out of it for a few hours after waking from surgery and that of course is due to the extremely low blood pressure I always have for a few days following any type of operation. This hospital did not have this info about me and I sent everyone into a full fledged panic. It was extremely low, even for me.
I was left in Recovery all night. No bed for me in the ICU and none of the wards would take me.
My poor body couldn't move, my stomach was gurgling, hissing, internally my guts were twisting and untwisting all night. The pain relief was not effective in tampering down the internal mayhem that was occuring. I was hooked up to a PCA and was pressing that button as much as I could. It did send me off to sleep but My God, I had no idea what was happening inside. I was terrified!
I again felt like I was a goner. The absolute terror that had taken over me that night in the recovery area, took absolute control of my mind. All that was on repeat were the warnings the doc had said to me...'I was going to have another obstruction, and I am going to die'.....All night on repeat..
The next morning, Dr P comes into the Recovery area and he is livid! I hear him ask for the nurses in charge and he is not happy! No-one had bothered to contact him the previous evening to explain that there was no bed in the ICU and that in fact I was left here all night. He was furious! He then opens my curtain and explains that he is organising to move me to the ICU in the private hospital next door. There was one bed available and the plan was to move me there during the day. Dr P had an urgent case in Sydney and was travelling there over the weekend so had asked his colleague in the Private hospital to check in with me and look after me until he was back on the Monday. This was the plan.
I spent another full day in Recovery and it took until Saturday 15th February, late afternoon to be transferred to the ICU in the Private hospital. My blood pressure was still alarmingly very low, even for me.
I stayed in the ICU for another two days, still no food and nil by mouth, crushed ice the only allowance. It has now been ten days with no food or drink......I look a real treat!
The blood pressure started to rise and I keep explaining to everyone that would listen that this is the norm for me, I'm finally transferred to my private room in the ward on the Monday and I am looking forward to starting to feel better. This was not the case.
I have been lying on my back since the previous Thursday, the extreme anguish and suffering I am feeling is tormenting me. I do not want to move, I am scared that I will cause another obstruction. The psychological effects of this past week and a half have destroyed any hope I was hanging onto. I cannot stop crying and my heart has moments where it begins to race so fast, I feel I'm about to have a heart attack. Dr P is concerned with my mental state and the poor nurses who were so wonderful are also reporting on my anguish. I cannot control the dark thoughts, fear has absolutely taken residence within me and I can't see the light. I am so, so terrified of going through all this again. I don't want to move!
It's Wednesday morning, Dr P comes in and asks the nurse to remove all the apparatus that is attached to me. This means the catheter, the drain tube, the J tube from my nose and the drip! He is forcing me to rise up and fight for myself.
The catheter is removed first, no problem! I am an expert on removing the J tube so I conquer that.....remember my description of the slithering coming up my throat and then through my nose.... multiply that sensation by 100 due to the hyper sensitivity I am feeling and bang! Done! O.K, I'm starting to brighten up.!
Drain tube is next. The last time, when I had this removed in January (1st surgery) I had no issues, it was uncomfortable but not painful. Well, this time it hurt like a bitch!! The drain was placed in my groin, not sure why but o.k. When the nurse started to pull it out, there was tissue that had started to form around it and that was being pulled apart internally!!!! OUCH!!!! OMG, the pain!!! Anyway, Done!
Last thing was the drip being removed. Piece of cake!
Progress in sight
This was the real start to my recovery. I tentatively began to trust myself, at least to take each moment step by step. I finally had the courage to look down at my tummy and although it was a war zone, I was O.K with the cut from belly button to bikini line. More battle scars to admire! I looked and felt like I had been run over by a semi trailer, I'm telling you it was frightful!
I was able to start eating slowly and only soft foods like jelly, custard and broths. I did not throw them up! Progress!
I was able to hobble to the bathroom and wee. Progress!
I started walking to the end of the corridor and back to my room once a day. Hunched over. I was not up to do it more than that! Progress!
This is the hardest, one of the most painful experiences I have ever been through. My fighting spirit took a while to spark up but the support around me was the only thing that was holding me up at that point.
I will leave this story here for today and next time I will share what the following weeks of recovery looked like. The cancer diagnosis for treatment, the results from this last surgery and what it means moving forward...
Until then beautiful people, stay safe and keep searching and finding that sparkly silver lining. It lives in everything, you just need to find it!