Agony. No exaggeration, drama or typical male overdoing things. It was the worst kind of pain. The type that leaves you unable to move, talk, even think properly. It went from my abdomen, all the way up my left hand side and down my arm. I honestly believed I was having a heart attack. I knew that I needed to get to hospital.
My breathing pattern and moaning (at least, I think I made some sort of noise) thankfully woke Mary, my wife, up. She called the ambulance, which didn’t have too far to come, and gave me some Oramorph (A morphine based painkiller which I’d been given to take home after the operation) which seemed to at least take the edge of things. The ambulance arrived and the paramedics were left with the quandry of how to get a 15 stone man down the stairs when he can’t move himself. Arguably, being carried down the stairs in a chair whilst in this state was one of the scariest parts of the whole night.
The ambulance ride did not live up to my childhood expectations. When I was a kid I imagined excitement at the speed, sirens and flashing lights. All I got was difficulty breathing and screaming pain, especially when we hit a bump in the road. It was thankfully short and I found myself in Poole A&E. On a Friday night. With all the injured drunk people. It was a long night.
Not so long for me, though, as I slept for much of it after the painkillers kicked in. I do have a hazy memory of a girl who was three sheets to the wind and in need of a tetanus shot after coming off worse in a fight with a pavement, screaming at a doctor about not liking needles. Although in a few more words than that. Mostly beginning with the letter F. And really loudly.
After some really close care and attention (please note: the last statement may contain ridiculous amounts of sarcasm) I was taken up to a general ward and hooked up to some oxygen. Again, my memories are a little hazy here. I remember needing the loo, having a commode brought to me and taking what felt like half an hour getting from the bed to it only to find that I didn’t have the strength to, well, push. I also remember watching the football results coming in on teletext, paying particular attention to Liverpool (my team) and Wimbledon (Gary Lineker once said they were best watched on teletext, so I thought I’d try it. He was right).
Mary came back that afternoon, having gone home when I was taken up on to the ward. She had stayed up all night in A&E with me so really needed the rest. By that time it was clear that I needed some sort of internal investigation. My oxygen saturation levels were really low and dropping and I was really weak, so I was, after a heated discussion between a doctor on the ward (who said I needed to be opened up) and the surgeon who had operated on me (Who, ridiculously, said I didn’t), taken up to Intensive Care once more to prepare me for exploratory surgery. My clearest memory of this time does not do much for my, already non-existent, macho image. I remember looking at Mary and saying “I’m scared”. I was, I really was. I was right to be.
When I was put to sleep I expected to wake up later that day with whatever caused the problems fixed. Only the second part of that was right. In the exploratory op they discovered a hole in my stomach, which had leaked gastric juices and bacteria. Oh, and fish pie. I was opened up fully, the hole stitched up and I was taken back to ICU hooked up to enough machines to fill the underground lair of a Bond villain. I also had Peritonitis and Sepsis and was about as sick as I could possibly be. Mary had been sent home at about 8 after being told that I would be sedated for the night, but my condition deteriorated rapidly and at half ten the doctors called her to let her know how bad things were.