Happy New Year everyone!
It’s been a wee while now since I posted a blog and I’m determined that I’m going to post more this year but between being tired due to Narcolepsy, COVID still being here and Trump trying to cause World (or civil) War 3 I have been feeling extra drained. My story was published in The Metro on Christmas Day which was definitely a highlight of 2020.
Things were starting to get on top of me so I decided to take a week off work and have been purposely doing very little. As someone whose brain never stops this is no easy feat. I have a To-Do list for my week off and I actually felt a bit stressed this evening because I felt behind. If you, like me, find it hard to switch your brain off, I highly recommend getting back into reading. That way you are doing something but also transporting your brain to a different storyline. Escapism. But a healthy form of it. That being said…BRIDGERTON. OMG. Loved it. I hope we make up for the lack of socializing with Grand Balls when all this is over. Alsooooo…there are 8 books so we are going to have at least 8 seasons…how EXCITING!! Yes, caps required. Am I tempted to purchase the books? Absolutely.
Self-doubt really cripples my progress in writing the remainder of this saga. How long should it be? Am I skipping over important parts? Or am I including too much info on uninteresting, normal events. I am reading a book by Margaret Atwood at the moment and it took being 200 pages in for me to be interested in it simply because absolutely everything is described. But at the same time I love it because she could write a novel about a leaf and make it sound interesting. So here goes nothing…
Previously on this average story telling blog….I was just told the news that I would be having my right ovary removed. But before we dive into my anatomy, let’s talk about my ward neighbours first (all names have been changed or omitted just incase this gets popular – unlikely but just incase haha).
First up we have angry diabetic lady. She featured previously when she walked in her with her family and eyed me suspiciously before pulling the curtain around. She looked to be in her twenties and from what I could gather, she had been admitted because she wouldn’t take her insulin. Her family were always visiting but she was rarely in her actual bed and was outside smoking apparently instead. The nurse would come to take her OBs or administer her medication and her bed would be empty. You might think I was seriously nosy for knowing all this but as she was directly opposite me I couldn’t not see it and there always seemed to be a drama. I watched the same events unfold for a few days, she would disappear, nurses would arrive with meds, they started looking for her and then at some point in the evening she would appear when her family would visit. One night her mum started getting really annoyed with the nurses because she had asked her when she got her meds last and obviously because she wasn’t there she didn’t get them. So the poor nurses got hauled over the coals but then they had to tell the mum politely (but loud enough so I could hear) that her daughter was out the back smoking and was never in her bed to get her meds. DRAMA. One particular night sticks in my memory. She was constantly on the phone but during a phone call she got reaaaaaaaaaallly angry. Like well above her baseline of angst that she usually carried. From what I could gather, her daughter was at home and being minded by someone she didn’t want her to be minded by. Ok…standard enough….her voice starts to get louder and eventually she shouts ‘you cannot leave my daughter with that C U Next Tuesday she slept with my boyfriend….’ Cameron and I weren’t sure if we needed to either scoop our jaws up from the floor or get some popcorn. She then proceeded to ring either the sister/boyfriend (not sure which) and give them serious abuse over the phone. To be fair like, if you were hospital and you found out your sister was at your boyfriend you would be RAGING. She was throwing C U Next Tuesdays all round the place and I was just like damn girl, that is ROUGH. Did I mention I have satellite ears (I earned this nickname as a child) and I’m super nosy?? Like I might not verbally be getting involved in your conversation but here I am Lady Whistletown style absorbing that gossip like there’s no tomorrow. The poor girl, she continued the disappearing smoking acts and then actually discharged herself because she thought that she wasn’t getting enough attention treatment wise…I know, go figure.
Next, and to be honest, the main character of the ward for all the wrong reasons, Shitty Susan. Before you judge me for giving her such a nickname, hear me out.
She was not meant to be eating. She was waiting on surgery but somehow, SOMEHOW she was. This was a royal nightmare both for the surgeons who needed to do her surgery and potentially save her life and the poor nurses and auxiliaries that had to change her daily. I saw many a poor soul tap out and run away from her bed, tears in their eyes. I’m not even exaggerating; the smell was like nothing I have ever smelled in my life and I don’t have a sensitive nose having grew up on a farm. It was so bad that I couldn’t tell if I felt nauseous from my own sickness or because the smell was so bad it was making me physically sick. I remember one night I woke up and the smell hit me in the face, I ran to the bathroom to be sick but I was literally just gagging from it. IT WAS BAD.
Sorry if you are eating reading this, it was an absolute stinker of a situation (waheyyy). Into the bargain, my boyfriend had went home because he had to go back to work and my two sisters had arrived. What a bullet he had dodged. There’s visiting someone and sitting in the uncomfortable hospital chairs and then there was bracing yourself for chemical warfare every visit. I don’t know how they did it. I remember one day I had fell asleep (how I don’t know but Narcolepsy life) and they were sitting with their scarves covering their faces. We had got hold of an air freshener somehow and it was so bad they often walked me out with my drip outside of the ward and outside if it was dry. It was such a bizarre situation and as I was an outlyer on the ward, there was nowhere else for me to go. Everyone on the ward was complaining about the smell. In a hospital you don’t expect it to smell like roses but this was relentless and when you already feel sick, it was a grim situation.
The consultant visited her every day and every day it was the same story, if you continue to eat then we cannot proceed with your surgery. One day the ward fed her by accident and she was all bizz but we all knew we were in for it. My sister seen her shove Maltesers in her mouth as quick as lightning when she thought no one was looking. She called all day and sometimes night long ‘Nurseeeeeeeee’ in the same tone as Roz from Monsters Inc. She was often grumpy and short with them which again couldn’t have been helping their mood. It was a shit storm, literally. I sat for one week on that ward and I think maybe the day before my surgery she was moved to her own room. Somewhere, to be honest, she should have been since day 1.
As much as she annoyed me, I felt sorry for her. This was the consequence of the pressures on the NHS. A woman put on an open ward that should have been in a private room keeping whatever shred of dignity she had left. So then why are you including this part in your story you may ask on a website anyone can access? I think because to be honest, people do not realise the grim realities of hospital life and I can guarantee this isn’t the worst story an NHS staff member has witnessed or heard. This was pre-Covid and the pressure was already apparent, staff were stretched thin and beds were scarce on the wards. As grim as it was, I know that this was not an isolated incident but it was my eye-opener, our healthcare system was on its knees and had been for some time.
My surgery, whilst on the emergency list was postponed a lot and this meant a lot of fasting and missing the food only to be told it was cancelled. Anyone that knows me knows that I LOVE MY FOOD!! One day I was so hungry I told one of my sisters she needed to leave the ward to eat her lunchtime muffin. I felt so guilty after. You definitely aren’t yourself when you’re hungry!!
The last ward neighbour would be the character you would associate with the theme loneliness if this were an English Literature novel to be critiqued. I noticed that she had a visitor everyday who would stay for long periods of time. I would often see them laughing together and we met them outside the ward lots of times, taking a break from the smell, just like us. If you have read Mrs Hinch’s book you will know that she had a Gastric band fitted that gave her a lot of trouble afterwards and made her really unwell(sorry for the spoiler if not). The same thing had happened this lady. Something had went wrong and it slipped meaning it was making her ill. She explained this to me as she pottered over on one of her many visits to my bedside. When my parents were there or my sisters I noticed that she loved coming over to have a wee chat and I suppose I didn’t really think anything of it until on one of our many trips outside of the ward we got chatting to her and her friend. She introduced her as her ‘personal assistant’ and explained that she was paid by her parents to help look after her. Her personal assistant explained when the lady was at the toilet that the ladys parents were very wealthy but lived far away and didn’t visit her. She explained that she spent hours every day with her and was her only company and friend. I felt sad to hear this, there I was complaining about the smell but at least I had family around me. One day I heard her on the phone. I could hear her saying ‘her parents came from Ireland to see her and you live one hour away and I have been in hospital for weeks and you haven’t come to see me’. It just struck me that no matter what money you had, you couldn’t pay for your family to act the way you wanted them to, you couldn’t pay money for real affection and love. When I was moved out of the ward for surgery she was away somewhere and after my surgery my mammy and daddy said that they had bumped into her and she was asking for me. I think she may have wanted to visit me but my memory of that time is so blurry. It also showed me that by showing someone basic kindness can really have an impact on them, I sincerely hope her parents visited at some point but I didn’t hear anything about her after that.
I was lucky enough to have another visitor, one of my best friends and long-term colleagues. She was one of the first people I told that I was in hospital and told me that the flights didn’t matter, that I should tell work that I was in hospital. As she was going over to London for a course, work offered for her to stay an extra night so she could come see me. This was so nice of them and she arrived bearing gifts, a company-coloured Care Bear which she had aptly named Ernie (which I still have), a card and a book to read to pass the time. It was so thoughtful and her coming round the corner was honestly such a lift as my boyfriend had just left. I can still picture her spinning round the corner and the relief in seeing her and the comfort of a familiar face. My memory is awful but I think she was able to visit me two nights and on the second night my sisters had arrived and joined her. I was so hyped up on Morphine that I’m convinced she probably wondered what the fuss was all about because as I had a captive audience, I talked AT LENGTH. No idea what I said but I can only describe it as sort of manic.
Meanwhile, the mental part of waiting was beginning to grate on me, I was pysching myself up only for it not to happen. Eventually, the day my parents arrived and my sisters left, I was scheduled to have surgery and it seemed to be going forward. I was woke up at around 6 in the morning by one of the assisting surgeons to fill out the questionnaire thing and basically sign off that it was TOTALLY FINE if they had to remove part of my bowel too if the cyst was sitting on it. Ross from Friends TOTALLY FINE VIBES. I prayed the cyst wouldn’t be on my bowel. But they didn’t know what kind of monster they were going to be dealing with, it was either going to pop like a bubble then cling to the rest of my organs or it was going to be solid and be able to be separated easily. I WAS SO FINE WITH THIS like omg where do I sign?
My parents and sisters arrived on the ward as my surgery was meant to be early morning and they wanted to say their goodbyes. My sisters were flying home that day and after a long week there was an end in sight. Or so we thought.
I was meant to go for surgery at around 9 or 10am. The checks were all done and ready to go when one of the assisting surgeons, ran into my cubicle.
‘I must ask you a very important question…’
We all held our breath.
‘What is your name?’
Now, if you recall from my previous blog, a student nurse had changed my name and I said to make sure there wasn’t two of me on their system.
The surgeon then near dropped to his knees and was like ‘Oh my goodness I am so sorry this blood is invalid then’
Eh sorry what.
‘They have your blood labelled as Christina and even if it is you, we cannot take that chance’
‘So what does that mean?’
‘It means we have to get your bloodwork done again…I will do my best to get it through as fast as possible but your surgery will not take place this morning’
I breathed…another day of fecking starvation (this was the 3rd time now) and it might not even go ahead. NOOOOOO.
I didn’t say a word. Also…for context this surgeon was absolutely GORGEOUS. Like. That shouldn’t be allowed when you’re in hospital looking pale as a ghost and casually sweating.
Minutes passed, hours passed. Then it was time for my sisters to leave for the airport. One thing that I feel incredibly lucky about looking back is how generous the visiting hours were. They basically didn’t mind as long as they weren’t there when the consultants were doing rounds and food time. My sisters had sat for days and it seemed that we still weren’t moving anywhere. I remember one day one of my sisters asked the consultant:
‘how urgent is this? Could we fly her home?’
The consultant wasn’t for it though as he explained that if the cyst contorted in the air or worse, burst, we would be starting back at the start in Northern Ireland as the waiting times were completely different. So we knew it was serious enough when he didn’t want me to fly. I am sincerely glad that he didn’t because if I had went home GOD KNOWS when I would have been seen, never mind been operated on.
So it was time to leave and emotions were high, they were worried and didn’t want to leave. They thought that they would have been there for after my surgery and it was one week later and I still wasn’t in surgery, never mind recovering from it. It was frustrating.
When I look back I feel grateful that even though it was undoubtedly a shitty situation, I had so many people come to my bedside. My boyfriend booked a flight to be there the next day without hesitation and was there for the scary unknown of what I was dealing with. My friends who had visited and went out of their way. My sisters who arrived in the days while I waited for surgery, stayed on pain meds and sat through the most insane smells. They didn’t hesitate to travel to my bedside despite one having a 4-month-old baby at home and the other having to leave work. My parents, who despite not being overly familiar with airline travel and the busyness of London, were there for the post-surgery recovery. I will be forever thankful to them. I am reminded of a little quote which I don’t have the author of but I think it is very appropriate:
“people who are with you during your darkest hours are the only ones who deserve to be with you during your brightest hours” – anon.
It was around 5pm in the evening and I saw the blue hats come around the corner. It was time. My brain when writing this can’t help but say ‘It is time’ Lion King style haha. I said my goodbyes to my parents and I was wheeled to Surgery. It’s odd when I think back on this memory because I honestly wasn’t nervous, I just wanted it over with. I think if I had known what was on the other side I would have been a lot more nervous. They explained that I would be wheeled into a section where a group of anaesthetists would adminster an Epidural. Oh yeah that’s right… I had to get an Epidural. It was meant to help with the pain after the surgery. There were so many anaesthetics it seemed, now I understand some of them were probably there to learn. I won’t get into the Epidural, it was actually not too bad to get but I equally don’t like to remember it.
One of them asked me what I worked as (which was probably a distraction tool) and I explained that I worked in Tax and he started telling me a long boring story about his tax code and how they always get it wrong and I was explaining something about how he should contact HMRC when I started getting super sleepy. Each blink was slower than the last until it all faded to Black.