This blog is Part 2 of my hospital experience during my fight with cellulitis. If you’d like to read Part 1, you can do so here.
June of 2017 was unbelievably hot, or so I was told. I didn’t get to experience the Mediterranean weather, but I did get to experience the mugginess that came with it.
As I was wheeled into the new ward, I couldn’t help but notice it looked more tired than I was. The lights were blinding, the walls peeling and where the curtain didn’t quite cover the window, a small blade of light stretched across the room. This was to be home for the next few days, and although it was somewhat lacking, it was infinitely more equipped than the last ward.
My new bed had a TV. It didn’t really work properly, but it was a familiar sight and comfort. This bed had a remote that enabled me to move the backrest up and down, a fresh pillow and a light blue blanket. What a treat. I was wheeled across the ward and helped onto the bed by the porter. Once I had settled a nurse headed in my direction and introduced herself.
Nurses are some of the toughest people alive. They are the workhorses of the ward. They help you to eat and wash, they take blood and attach drips as well as humouring your poor conversational skills post morphine. My nurse was a Spanish woman, maybe sixty or so. She had a sort of motherly kindness that was counterbalanced with a dogged professionalism. She would tuck you in at night but if you didn’t drink your water before bed she’d stand there until you did.
My temperature and blood pressure were sky high. The skin on my leg was stretched, shiny and red. It hurt to touch, even in my pyjamas, so I lay in my underwear most of the time which, let’s just say, had a habit of revealing a bit too much (Charlotte had to buy me a size up as my leg didn’t fit!). I lay in bed, my eyes dotting around the room and before long drifted to sleep.
I was awoken up by the arrival of a new roommate. He seemed a friendly soul, grey haired and in his late seventies I would say. His tenure didn’t last long at all however as he was there for the night and gone the next morning. This happened repeatedly: elderly folk in for the short-haul. There wasn’t much point in getting to know them as each time I fell asleep they had disappeared by the time I had awoken. So it was just Charlotte, my Spanish companion and me.
It took me a while to clock that I had been put in the ward designated for the elderly. I thought it was our aging population and incredible health care that increased the odds of these old timers being my roomies, but it wasn’t. I later learnt that I wasn’t expected to be in the ward for much longer than a couple of days, so I didn’t quite qualify for the shiny new wards upstairs. Instead I had to make do with my current company. “Can you help me pee, nurse?” I was asked numerous times. I was half naked and also in a bed, but I guess because my skin wasn’t prune-like they must have thought I was a scantily clad nurse.
I kept my head clear of negativity for as long as I could. When you feel like death the last thing you want to do is a crossword, or watch a film. The glare was too much on the screen and I could barely string a sentence together, never mind find the answer to 4 down: “a putty like substance”. Nevertheless that’s what I did, and the answer is MASTIC by the way.
Charlotte kept me engaged. She also bought me food from the M&S downstairs so I could avoid the hospital food. The rumours are true – it’s disgusting. I had one cold curry and decided if I wanted to live it would be best to stop eating it. Sometimes I would even go with Charlotte (it was quite the adventure).
In hospital you eat where you urinate. You also sleep there, drink there and well, live there. Naps were short which was largely due to the shrill of the ward alarm that would always go off just as you began to sleep; it was unforgiving and rarely gave you a moments rest.
I had never seen so many needles in my life. The nurses would just smile, pull out a needle and tap you on the arm. I would usually sit up, smile and ask the nurses how their days were going. In a bizarre sort of way I took comfort from them taking my blood, as I knew where ever it was going, it was going to contribute to my recovery. Take it! Take all of the blood!
The days were going very slowly and my bed was becoming somewhat of an island. When I stood up my leg would turn a reddish-blue where the cellulitis had disrupted my circulation. Over time blisters began to appear down the back of my leg, the ones behind the knee were particularly painful. Walking five metres felt like a marathon (not that I’ve ever ran one) so shower time took me a while. For the first time in my life I enjoyed a cold wash, which felt unbelievably soothing on my swollen, sensitive leg.
Amongst all of the trauma, there were two people that made my experience of it all infinitely better, and infinitely worse. One was a doctor and the other a fellow patient. One was kind, sweet and caring. The other was racist, sexist and nasty.
In my next blog I’ll tell you all about Dr Sophie and what a difference a good doctor can make to your whole outlook. But I’ll also talk about Patient X (I never caught his name) and the damage a negative person can do too.