Highly Dependant

To be honest, at first HDU felt no different to Intensive Care. I still had a room of my own thanks to MRSA, I still couldn’t do anything for myself, including roll onto my side in bed, and communication was still really difficult. I had a telly in the room, still, and that really helped to alleviate the crushing boredom and total frustration of being totally helpless.
The night time was the worst part, as it had been since I started to become more aware of my surroundings. I couldn’t sleep (after all, I’d just had a 2 week long kip), but had absolutely nothing to occupy myself. I couldn’t have the telly on because it would disturb other patients, I couldn’t get up and go due a wander. I couldn’t even move myself, I had to press a button to summon a nurse who then had to guess what I wanted, much like when a baby cries.
One night, about 3-4 days after I had moved over, there was a power cut. Normally this wouldn’t worry me, but I was hooked up to a ventilator. Those 5-10 seconds of forcing my own breath in and out felt like an hour, finally relieved by the emergency generator kicking in. At least I knew I could breathe by myself, but I’m not sure I could have managed for too long.
I started to spend longer periods of time sitting in a chair, preceded by what felt like hours of moving tubes and wires into position to get me into the ‘hoist of no dignity’. Sitting was still really tough and I hated it, but it felt a little easier each time and was obviously helping my recovery.
I also lost a lot of bulk. I had major water retention which caused my while body to puff up like a contestant on The Biggest Loser. This went in less than a day and really highlighted how much weight I’d lost in such a short time. In about 4 weeks I lost at least 3 stones, and I was not looking better for it. The pictures of me at that time (which I will post later) are startling. I looked as frail and weak as I felt.
Whilst I still had a tube in my neck I couldn’t talk. Unfortunately, no one could lip read me very accurately either. This changed when Mary took my daughter, Kirstin, to see me. Mary had really done a great job if sheltering our 3 children from what was going on and I hadn’t seen any of them since I went in for the original op. Eventually it was decided that Kirstin, as the oldest, could visit. She seemed totally unphased by all the wires and machines. More than that, though, she seemed to understand what I was trying to say. It was the first time in over 4 weeks that had happened to that extent and it felt amazing.
I had 2 regular, non family, visitors now. One was a phlebotomist (Latin for – Nasty lady with needles who wants your blood) and the other was a physiotherapist. Physio, at this stage, was just trying to lift an arm or leg, squeeze a ball or move my head. Simple, but it always left me feeling like I’d spent 3 hours in a gym. It was definitely working, though, as my movement became easier (in so much as scratching my nose was possible) and I was obviously stronger.
I was eventually strong enough for two of my least favourite tubes to be removed. First was the catheter (as the Soup Dragons would have sung “I pee, whenever I want, any old time”). Not fun to have it come out, but great once it was done. The other, finally, was the tracheotomy. It felt strange coming out, especially when I was left with just a hole, but the nurse put a plaster on the hole and, suddenly, I could speak. I had spoken already using a valve on the CPAP, but it was too difficult to breathe and I sounded like a Speak and Spell. This was my voice, for the first time in weeks!
Within a couple of days I had no machines attached to me at all and felt more human. This meant that the physiotherapist could wield her biggest torture device. Teaching me to walk again.


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