(2) The hospital (early days)

I find it a bit weird how easily I accepted the idea that my life was over. I wasn’t scared. It didn’t make me sad. What DID make me sad was after the brain drilling operation, when I came around again and had hardly any energy, and they told me they didn’t know if I would ever recover 100%. THEN I got sad, and that is when I SHOULD have been rejoicing, because I had my precious life back! But my precious life felt rubbish – I was tired all the time, I didn’t have the energy to even stand up, I was constipated, and needed help with washing and going to the toilet. I didn’t have an appetite and I was drinking my water out of a little tommy tippee plastic cup. I felt soooo sorry for myself. It was no gnome party, I can tell you that.

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I searched for ‘sad gnome’. Imagine he is a female gnome, and lying down. That was me.

It had felt easy to say goodbye to life after I’d had a great day, but now here was life: it was back, and I was GUTTED! Then I felt sad about that, and gave myself a hard time for being so ungrateful, and I think for a while there, I wished I had died.

You know, when you say goodbye to someone, and then you bump into them again and just want to pretend you haven’t seen them, because you’ve already said goodbye, and even though you love them, saying hello again after a goodbye feels awkward? It felt like that. But with life.

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There we go, a sleeping gnome. That was me. But imagine him female, and sad. And often awake all night with insomnia. That was me.
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A female gnome, at last! THAT was me, but lying down. Hang on!!! That’s not a female gnome – he has a beard. I SPECIFICALLY searched female gnome, and this image was called female gnome. I can’t believe it has taken me over an hour to spot that beard. Or am I being judgemental? Women can, and do, have beards – I, for one, pluck most evenings. OK, so fine, that was me, just imagine her lying down though, and with a trimmed beard.

Ah who am I kidding, I wasn’t a gnome any more, I was just a miserable person with no prospects, with a drain coming out of a hole in my skull where it had been stapled in place, and on the end of the drain was a bag full of pink brain fluid that followed me wherever I went. Not that I went anywhere. I cried a lot.

I remember some of the nurses being a bit concerned because I seemed depressed, but looking back now, I had gone from my ace job, bringing magic to the people every day, whether as a gnome or a superhero, to lying in a bed is ALL day. Here is an extract of a post my lovely sister in law posted on facebook, keeping people updated about my progress:

Her brain will permanently be impaired to some extent which could mean it takes a moment longer to find her keys or more serious memory issues but she is very much Ruth; she helped at the crossword and told Mum off for reading the clues and answering them at the same time, “Thanks mum, give me a chance, I have just had a brain injury you know”. As a rule of thumb you get 80% of the recovery over the 1st year. Given her work he though it is unlikely she’d be able to go back before Oct. Basically it is to early to say much but think marathon not sprint.

I was devastated about the idea of not going back to work. As Kevin the teenager would have said: ‘IT’S SO UNFAIR!!!!’ So, yes, I cried a lot. And the whole thing to me looked like a bad thing – I could see no silver lining.

It’s weird, some of the most difficult things from my time in hospital were the things they don’t tell you about; the insomnia because the ward never slept, the constipation because I wasn’t moving; the agony of accidentally drinking too much water and the catheter tube not being big enough to cope, and the excruciating pain of starting to use my muscles again after over a week in bed.

Aaaah, my hospital bed, the only silver lining I could find in hospital; I LOVED my hospital bed. I loved it so much! I could make it go up, or down, or slant me, it was comfortable, and it was on WHEELS so I could travel places, but remain in bed. I’m sorry, but dreams don’t come much better than that!

I stayed pretty much exclusively in dream bed for just over a week, too tired and dizzy to stand up, or even sit in my chair to eat. When I felt a bit better, and because the nurses were encouraging me, I started experimenting with walking a few steps. What had happened to my muscles??? They had seized up or shrivelled up or atrophied or whatever the correct word is. I don’t know what had happened, but I do know that walking was SO painful I would cry out. I was scared something really bad had happened to me, but over the phone, my physio friend assured my mum that it was alright, and just to keep at it.

And then, I discovered the world of painkillers. It is bigger than just paracetamol. You probably already knew that, but I didn’t. I worked my way through them, finding out which one worked the best. I definitely didn’t like morphine. Tramadol was pretty similar, and immediately made me sick, codeine kept me constipated, the basic painkillers (were they paracetamol? I’ve forgotten) weren’t doing anything, and I eventually found some other painkiller, whose name I have now forgotten, which saved me. Hooray! Long live the painkiller whose name I have forgotten. Spread the word far and wide, it is the best one!

Although, my memory of my time in hospital is somewhat shady, I definitely do remember my EVD being removed. The External – ventricular drain, or as I preferred to call it the ‘brain drain’ stayed in for 8 days, then out it came, and I was sewn back up using a single stitch.

One little stitch? No. Big. Deal.

The tricky thing about the single stitch was that it had to be done without anaesthetic, because it was so close to the brain. But hey, I’m strong – I was fine with that! The cute doctor came and talked me through it and I was having some quality banter with him. At least, it was the closest I had come to quality banter since being in the hospital. The extreme tiredness had had a negative impact on my ability for quality banter. For some reason, making people laugh had just stopped feeling quite as important as usual. The ‘quality banter’ quickly dried up as he started doing the stitch though. I went very very quiet. Ow it hurt. But then it was done, and it took me weeks to realise where the actual hole in my skull was, because it wasn’t at all where the stitch was. Nowadays, I find it quite reassuring to stroke the dent in my head – it is subtle, but it’s still there.

The brain drain being removed was cause for celebration. Here is the celebratory photo we took:

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‘Don’t have me smiling’, I said. ‘I don’t want people to think I’m OK’.

8 thoughts on “(2) The hospital (early days)

  1. Phew!!!!!!!! and more phew!!!!!!! I realised your sadness, but I couldn’t have appreciated how sad. We got into a routine of me reading out all the cards and messages from friends far, wide and near: I became your Secretary! Ending up in Nottingham was a blessing, a handful of Leeds’ friends were now living there, and we made contact. There some magical moments, the main one was Nikolai and Maeve bringing Yonatan into the ward one day! As ever, he enthralled everyone. But, your recovery has been wonderful, it’s been the greatest joy to realise. I shall never stop celebrating!! xxx

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  2. Gnomes, now there’s a memory jogger, I clearly remember being a Gnome in the school Brownie Pack; and, dancing round, holding hands with other Gnomes, chanting “Here you see the laughing gnomes, helping others in their homes”!

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  3. ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. This is Ruth’s blog, and I have absolutely no intention/s to talk about me; but, it wasn’t easy, being beside Ruth and witnessing the results after her admission and surgery. However, there is no way I would not have been alongside her, it was very humbling at times, concerning and, of course, the unknown! One small African prayer has guided me over the years, and I should like to share it with you all.
    ‘Let us behave gently, that we may die peacefully, that our children may stretch out their hands on us in burial’. This is a Yoruba prayer, and speaks gently and quietly to me. We had wonderful, skilled attention, diagnosis and treatment from the team at QMC, Nottingham. And, gradually, we could begin to see Ruth’s steady recovery. I don’t ever think I can say ‘thank you’ to everyone quite enough. And, when at times, I was tired, Ruth’s spirit lit the way: Ruth, you are amazing. It is wonderful to see and know how you are faring now, two years on!! xx

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  4. I can relate to that all 100%. I feel “GUTTED”. This battle will be the toughest one to face.

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