At this point I feel I should admit something. I am no longer relying on my own memory for this. I can’t, I was unconscious at this point. However, one of the good things about Intensive Care is that the staff advised Mary to keep a diary of my time there so that I could make some sense of what had happened, provided, of course, that I survived. My only recollections of the time are the weird dreams brought on by 2 weeks of sleep and sedatives and a few tiny snippets of the real world which managed to pervade them, some of which were entertainingly surreal, others were plain disturbing.
So, Mary got back to the hospital at about 8 the following morning. By that time I was still no absorbing oxygen, had a dangerously low blood pressure and a dangerously high temperature and pulse. On top of this my kidneys were packing up. Basically, my body was shutting down and I needed another operation to have my “insides thoroughly washed out”. The surgeon explained to Mary that it was extremely risky and that he had never operated on somebody as ill as I was. In other words, without the operation I would die, but I was possibly too ill to survive it as well.
Here lies a cautionary tale for all doctors. When discussing your patient’s extremely low chance of surviving an op, don’t do it in front of the patient, no matter how sedated and unconscious they may be. As I said, some bits of reality fought their way into my brain, and the conversation regarding how to break the news to Mary was one of them. That’s not a conversation anyone should hear, or be aware of. I’m not sure how accurately I heard the conversation, or how accurately my brain interpreted, but I do know that I was determined that dying wasn’t on the agenda.
That determination was one of two things which saved me that morning, the other was the prayers of everyone at my church whose Sunday morning service coincided with the timing of the op. I know that many people, including some people reading this, see Christians, or any adherent to a religion, as irrational nutters who ignore evidence, facts and reason for superstitious nonsense, but I don’t work that way. Sometimes the best evidence you have is that of personal experience; it doesn’t convince anyone else, necessarily, but it’s good enough for the person involved. That is how I approach a belief in God. I always believed before this, but this strengthened it and confirmed it. Without Him and the prayers of friends, family and a lot of people I didn’t even know, not just that morning, but throughout the whole ordeal, I’m not sure I would have got through this.
Anyway, I did survive the operation (obviously, otherwise I’d have a job on my hands writing this blog!) and was back in ITU at about 12.30, just before my Mum and sister arrived at the hospital. It can’t have been easy for any of my family to see me in that condition. I was basically a mess of wires, tubes and machines, as you can see.
Throughout the day the level of oxygen I was on was reduced from 100% to 55% and my blood pressure gradually rose from “dangerously low” to “low”. I was also placed on temporary dialysis, so at my lowest ebb I was having the piss taken out of me (apologies for the poor standard of humour).
I started to improve the following day to the extent that the sedation was withdrawn and I was expected to start coming round in the next 24 hours. Unfortunately, overnight my temperature rocketed again as I had developed a chest infection. I had swabs taken by a microbiologist and it was decided to delay waking me up. There then followed several days of increasing and decreasing temperature and oxygen levels, tubes being changed, physiotherapy (which essentially involved being shaken to loosen any mucus in my chest and keep my circulation going), beeping machines and what must have been a degree of tedium for everyone. On the Tuesday and Wednesday I moved a little, including biting the finger of a doctor who was changing my breathing tubes, and I was trying to breath by myself, but I was still out of it. Then on Thursday the microbiology results came back. On top of everything else I also had MRSA.