There’s a scene in an episode of The Simpson’s where Homer’s boss, Mr Burns, has a medical and it’s discovered that he has every disease known to man plus a few which haven’t been discovered yet. Well, I was starting to look a bit like that, only without the sycophantic assistant, money and megalomaniacal tendencies.
As a result of the MRSA I had to be put into a private room, in isolation from all the other vibrant, active patients in ICU. Mary decided to bring a CD player in as the music would help me and not disturb any other patients. I an apparent effort to make the entire nursing staff question my sexuality she chose CD’s by Queen, Elton John and Will Young (yes, I like them all. No, I’m not!)
The following day it was decided to give me a tracheotomy due to the length of time I would still need to be ventilated. So, tube out of the mouth and now directly into my neck. Even more attractive!
After a fairly uneventful couple of days, on the Sunday, after 9 days of total unconsciousness, I actually opened my eyes. A bit. For a split second. There was no real consciousness during this time, mostly hallucinations of being somewhere else; I had no concept of where I was or what was happening to me. On occasion I would imagine being in hospital, but not really in the circumstances I was actually in (once, whilst having my sheets changed, I imagined being thrown down a laundry chute. Fun). This started to be accompanied by some almost inhuman, but agonised facial expression. I may not have known what I was going through, but I was still was going through it. The eye opening was very fleeting and rare, though, not really waking in any sense of the word.
My blood pressure and temperature were still fluctuating between high and dangerously high. I ended up in a loincloth with several fans on me trying to regulate my temperature and occasionally blowing the loincloth out of its desired position. The fact that I had a catheter in just meant that even this, not usually exposed, part of my body wasn’t really looking its best.
On the Tuesday, 11 days after I was admitted, I had a CT scan which found…… you guessed it! Another hole! Yes, my stomach had all the fluid retention ability of a colander, which at least went some way to explaining the fact that my condition didn’t seem to be improving. I was taken back down to theatre for this new hole to be fixed and an abscess, which had developed at the site of the first hole, to be drained.
What it appears happened was this – During the original op a surgical implement called a diathermy was used to cauterise some veins, I believe between my stomach and liver. The hat from the diathermy caused damage to my stomach resulting in 2 holes, one appearing very quickly, the other taking a bit longer. The doctors were now confident that no more holes would appear. Fingers crossed!
For the next few days I still had a high temperature and would occasionally open my eyes and even respond a little to some things. The high spot was probably on the Wednesday night when, due to heavy sedation, I slept through England getting beaten at football. By Australia! So I didn’t have to endure that rubbish. Every cloud, eh?
Then things started happening again. Ridiculously high blood pressure, high potassium levels (which caused concern for my kidneys again) and a drop in haemoglobin levels meant another operation, really to clean me out more than anything. My blood pressure dropped again, but the potassium levels stayed high, suggesting kidney failure. All the other signs , however, pointed to my kidneys improving. One doctor described me as a “confusing kind of guy”.
Eventually the potassium levels started to drop. I was becoming more and more responsive and conscious of my surroundings, although still prone to sedative induced hallucinations. The strangest to these came whilst some tests were being done and “Countdown” was on the telly. I imagined that I needed to go to a hospital in Sydney for these tests. To get there we just needed the hospital to be turned upside down. Obviously! Getting back involved , well, the reverse. All this was done whilst trying to solve numbers and letters games. On the whole, though, I was becoming more aware, but this just meant an awareness of the difficulties I faced.