Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Good Foot First

Thursday 20th October 2011:
My very first physio session was a team effort.
As I'd been given the schedule for when I would be seeing the physiotherapists, I was up and dressed in the new comfy sweatpants and jumper that my mum and dad had bought me, and I was ready and waiting to see what was in store for me.
It was before lunch time, but due to my new, broken body, and the struggle and effort it now took to just get out of bed and go to the toilet, I was already exhausted, and not in the mood to do anything. It was all too much, everything was too hard. Please let me just sleep...
Soon enough the physio's were knocking on the door (there was two of them, a senior physiotherapist, and a student, shadowing.) I painted on my most confident smile, and greeted them as if I was pleased to see them.
As I was sat on a chair, the physio's entered the room and sunk to a crouching position so that they were at my eye level. I appreciated that they cared to do that, but a part of me also felt like I was back in primary school being spoken to as if I was a five year old. I kept my smile though, I didn't want to make them feel uncomfortable. Just deal with it Bec...
The plan of action was to allow my family to practise walking with me. As I couldn't walk on my own, I needed two people assisting me, holding on to me on either side. As I hadn't yet walked any where since being in hospital I was nervous as I anticipated whether or not my left leg would hold out on me. The two physio's came at either side of my chair and with one hand grasped under the tops of my arms, and the other held on to my hands, after placing my feet correctly on the floor, they hoisted me in to a standing position while holding me very firmly.
I was scared... How can a person be scared to stand on their own two feet  (literally)? I don't know... I'd gone from taking everything my body did for granted, from just expecting my body to work, to now not even being able to stand up still on my own.
The senior physio asked if I was ready to take a step. I was ready, but I didn't know how, 'What foot do I use first?' I asked. Why wasn't this coming naturally?
'Good foot first,' she told me. So I tried it. Clinging on to the physio with my good hand, I took my first step. I felt so unstable. I quickly ground my heel in to the floor, feeling almost safe once again. Then with all my might, strength and will, I pleaded with my left leg, for it to follow my right... and it did. I couldn't feel it move, and if I'd have had my eyes closed I wouldn't have known whether it had or not, but I stared hard at my left leg, not blinking, watching it slowly move and settle along side its well behaved companion.
I took a few more Bambi inspired steps before I needed to sit down. The sheer concentration of mind over matter was exhausting, and mentally and physically I was about ready to give up for the day, but the physio's had not finished with me yet.  They wanted me to do the same thing again, but this time with my family members assisting me. They had to learn how to support me correctly for the physio's to feel confident to let them help me walk without a nurse or one of their team watching over us.
After what felt like half a day had passed (really it had only been about 45 minutes) I was about ready to drop to the floor. The physio and her student were happy with my first days work, but told me this was only the beginning. A small, frustrated part of me just wanted to scream, but I couldn't let this beat me...Just deal with it Bec...
When the physio's had departed I was told that the MRI scan I had been booked for would be happening later that day. Until then I lay in my bed. I watched my Dad reading the paper, Chris attempting to complete some coursework for university, Anna playing on her phone and reading magazines, and my Mum begin to get back to all the texts and phone calls she had been avoiding, due to not being able to talk about the incident with out breaking down.
I hazily drifted in and out of sleep, occasionally opening my eyes to check that they were all still there... They never left my side.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Brown Bread Roll

I had survived my first night in ward E1.
After my 6am blood pressure check I lay their and witnessed the ward outside my lonely side room slowly become alive once again. The darkened corridors were lit with overly bright, unflattering, florescent lights. The attempt at whispers of the night staff were now forgotten and a normal (if not slightly heightened) volume of speaking was reinstated.
The nurses station was situated directly outside my room. I watched them gather for their scheduled morning meeting. I couldn't help but over hear them discussing the different patients.  They talked about patients who had had problems in the night, patients who were booked in for X-rays and scans, patients who were going to be discharged later that day, and patients who had been newly admitted...Me. I heard my name being mentioned, and then my age, and some of the nurses couldn't contain their shock or sympathy. I had my eyes closed so if they looked in to my room, they would think I was sleeping. This allowed them to freely discuss me, without thinking I was eavesdropping... Little did they know.
The time was creeping on to around 8am, and I was still wide awake with my eyes closed wishing for my family to arrive and be by my side. I was still clueless as to what was going on, what was going to happen, how long I was going to be in hospital, what the next step was.
There was a knock on the door and my eyes were open in a heartbeat... Breakfast time.
The nurse helped me in to a sitting position, prepared all of my food so it was easily accessible for my right hand to feed myself, and made sure I was comfortable before she left me alone to eat.  I stared at the tray in  front of me. I wasn't particularly hungry. I didn't want the cornflakes; there's nothing worse than soggy cereal.  I stared at the brown, bread roll.  The nurse had buttered it for me on one side, and put jam on the other. I took a bite, not expecting much of a reaction from it... but it was nice. I enjoyed it. I lay my head back and chewed at the bread slowly. I then took a gulp out of the small carton of apple juice, not realising how thirsty I was... it was gone in about 2 seconds.
After breakfast it was time for medication. It was becoming clear that this place was very regimented, and I was sure it wouldn't be long before I became familiar with the routine.
Mum and Dad had bought me a telly card before they left the hospital the previous night, so I turned my attention to the small screen and switched on ITV to watch Lorraine, I knew that the following programme was Jeremy Kyle, and I remember thinking that watching that would maybe make me feel slightly better about the situation I was currently in!
Finally, I heard familiar voices greeting the nurses. My family had arrived. Mum, Dad, Anna and my lovely Chris walked in to my room, they were all smiles, but their eyes couldn't hide their worry and sadness. Mum's face was still red and blotchy, and, like me, I don't think any of them had gotten much sleep. But we were reunited... I wasn't alone any more.
Mum and Dad went off to talk to one of the nurses (I'm guessing to ask what the next step would be,) and Anna and Chris kept me company, asking me how well I'd slept, and telling me how they'd got a Chinese takeaway on their way home from the hospital the night before.
My parents came back with the news that I would be seeing the consultant on his rounds, an MRI scan had been booked for me and I would be seeing the physio team, asap. Mum and Dad had brought with them some home comforts; clean pyjamas, a new dressing gown and slippers, and toiletries.
I was desperate for the toilet to the point where my bladder was hurting. I had been too embarrassed to tell the nurse that I needed to go, so I waited for my mum. It took the help of a nurse and my dad to assist me off the bed and on to a wheel chair, and my mum wheeled me in to the nearest bathroom.
Before this I had always been quite conservative when it came to showing off my body. I never allowed my mum or sister in to the bathroom when I was showering, and they never saw me getting changed. But now I had no choice other than to be liberal. My independence had been snatched away and I could no longer do anything on my own. I had to deal with this situation in the best way I knew how, and that was to laugh. I joked that this was the first time mum had had to shower me, help me go to the toilet and see me naked since I was a baby, and mum said that I would always be her baby, and when it's all girls together, who cares! After my 'sit down' shower she wrapped me up in a towel and cuddled me tight. I felt like I was a baby again, and I felt safe in her arms. I didn't want her to let me go.
When I was dry and in my fresh pyjamas, I was wheeled back to the room, and not long after that I was greeted by part of the physio team. From the off they were lovely, and they made it clear that I would be seeing them a hell of a lot throughout the duration of my stay on ward E1. They made a few visual assessments, and then performed most of the physical tests that I had already taken part in the day before, and when they were finished they said they would devise a schedule of when they were going to work with me and deliver it back to my room later in the day.
I was in their hands. I was now relying on them to help make my body work again.
I could only hope that whatever they had planned for me would work...

Friday, 11 May 2012

Night time good byes

18th October 2011:
It was around 10pm when my family thought it best to go home, get some dinner, and try and sleep.  The look of exhaustion was oozing from each of their heavy eyes. I didn't want them to leave me. I didn't want to be alone. I was embarrassed at the thought of having to ask the nurses help me go to the toilet, 'Maybe I could just hold it in till the morning,' I thought. I didn't want strangers looking after me, I wanted to go home.
I was completely dependant on everybody, I physically couldn't do anything on my own.  Not even 24 hours previous, I was driving my car, I'd done a shift at work, I was having a good time with my friends at a pub quiz... In one day, everything had changed.
As my Mum and Dad, Chris and Anna were leaving the ward, all four of them kept looking back at me, waving  and mouthing 'Love you,' as I looked on back at them, lying in my hospital bed, in my lonely little side room. Empty smiles and tired good byes were directed at the night nurses, and within seconds my family were out of sight.
A kind nurse came in to my little room, dragging a long with her, the blood pressure/oxygen monitor. She was all smiles and filled with light hearted chit chat as she checked my temperature and attached me to the machine. I attempted to reciprocate and answer all of her questions in the most casual manner I could muster. It took all of my might not to burst in to tears and whimper, 'I want my mum.'  The upbeat nurse helped me have a drink of water, passed me the buzzer that was plugged in at the wall behind my bed, and told me if I needed anything at all, then not to hesitate to ring the buzzer and ask for help. She left...
Then I was alone.
As I lay there I could hear the attempted whispers of the nurses who were hovering around the nurses station that was situated just steps away from the door of my room.  I could hear the monotonous sound of multiple buzzers being pressed by patients from all angles of the ward. I could hear the faint, exasperated moaning of the poorly woman who was lying in the room next to mine.  Yet no matter how many noises I was surrounded by, or many hospital staff were walking past my room and checking in on me, I still felt lonely.
There was nothing else for me to do other than lie there, and wait for the night time to pass by.
My broken body drifted in to an unsettled sleep, and finally morning came. A different nurse bustled in to my room dragging with her that same familiar monitor...
My first proper day on the Stroke ward had begun.

Friday, 4 May 2012

A ward for the elderly.

It was like something out of a film.
As I was lifted out of the ambulance there was a team of people waiting for me at the doors of A & E.  I was rushed in to the assessment room while people were introducing themselves to me as doctors and nurses.  I kept my eyes on my mum the whole time, but soon enough a curtain was drawn around where I lay and my mum was ushered out of sight.
I was on my own, and terrified.
Two student nurses quickly changed me from my pyjamas in to a hospital gown, and then I was spoken to by three separate consultants asking my symptoms; had I been in an accident, had I taken any drugs, was I pregnant, was I in any pain, had I bumped my head. The answer was, 'No,' to all of the questions.
Before I knew it I was being rushed down the quiet, hospital corridors, (it could have been no later than 7.00am.)  I was taken in to a room with a scary looking machine, and told this is where I would be having my CT scan. I was too scared to ask any questions, so I allowed the nurse and technician to lift me on to the bed, and watched them leave the room.
I lay there in silence as I was entered in to the tunnel like machine. All I could do was close my eyes.
When the CT scan was finished I was taken back to the assessment room, where the same team of people that I was greeted with when I first entered the hospital, were waiting for me. I was attached to around four separate monitors, and a nurse began to take numerous amounts of blood samples from my arm.
Around 20 minutes or so after having the scan on my brain, a doctor came to my bed side to reassure me that they found no tumours on my brain... No tumours? No body had suggested to me that a brain tumour was even a possibility... Thank goodness they couldn't find one.
For the first hour or so of me being in the assessment room doctors came in and out of my cubicle checking the sensation, movement and reflexes of my left side. All the while repeating themselves, asking me the questions I'd already answered.  There was no hiding their confusion.  Then, eventually one of the consultants arrived by my side and and the words simply spilled out of his mouth, 'We believe you have had a stroke Rebecca.'
I already knew. I don't know how I knew, but I did. I didn't react to his words how I thought I would. I simply, nodded and said, 'OK.'
Finally I was reunited with my family. My dad and sister appeared from around the curtain, and not long after my mums blotchy, tear stained face was next to mine. I was told that Chris had been phoned and explained the news, and was on his way to the hospital.
My dad is the best person to be around in a horrible situation. He can so easily lighten the mood, and within minutes of his arrival he had everyone laughing including the nurses and other hospital staff. Dad even managed to get a smile out of mum, which before he got to the hospital seemed near impossible.
Finally, Chris arrived, white as a sheet, a mask of worry on his face. He ran to my side, kissed me and then didn't let go of my hand.
I felt so drained and exhausted, and kept I dropping off in to small spurts of sleep. Every time I opened my eyes the same four worried faces of my family were staring at me. Every so often I could hear the nurses talking about me, mentioning how the droop in my face was correcting itself, and every so often dropping again... Hopefully this was a good sign.  Maybe my face would be OK.
It was about mid day, when a lovely nurse introduced herself to my family and I, as being from the stroke unit.  She had come to test my swallowing, (which was fine,) and accompany me to the place which would be my home for the next couple of weeks; Ward E1, A ward for the elderly, The Stroke Ward.
Followed by my family, I was taken to the ward and put in my own little room.
For the rest of that day I drifted in and out of sleep.
I'd had a stroke.