Wednesday, 24 July 2013

My New Friend

'...Why did you think she'd had a heart attack?' My Mum asked the nurse.
I lay there, silent, waiting for her to answer.
'Well Rebecca's unusual ECG results were similar to that of a person who has had a heart attack.'
'But I've not?' I asked.
'No, your blood tests came back negative which is good news obviously, but we're still unsure why your results were unusual, so we're going to run a few more tests and keep an eye on you for a couple of days. It may just turn out to be one of those freak things with no explanation. For now I think you should have a couple of hours sleep and I'll be back later when we have a heart trace monitor available.'
'OK, thank you.'
'No worries Rebecca, if you need anything just press your buzzer.'
'I don't want you to leave me Mum.'
'I've got to Bec, they seem to be strict about visitors here, and it means I can sleep at home while you're sleeping here.'
'OK then, but make sure you're back dead on two o'clock.' On my last word I let out the hugest of yawns, so big it made my eyes water.
'I will do sweet heart. I best get back and let Dad and Chris know how you are, and see how Anna is doing.'
'OK, see you later then.'
'See you at two.'
Mum kissed me, and waved until she was out of sight. I flopped back on my pillow and grabbed my phone to see multiple missed calls off Chris. I rang him to tell him what the nurse had said and he shared the confused relief that both Mum and I had expressed. After Chris and I exchanged our, 'See you later's' and, 'Love you's,' I put my phone back on the bedside cupboard and attempted to get comfortable for a well needed nap. Since having the stroke tiredness was a feeling I was becoming used to. Not a day had gone by where I hadn't needed to take a long nap, and even with the extra sleep I was having, my body's energy levels were at an all time low.
Pulling the thin hospital covers up to my neck and wrapping my right arm under my pillow I settled down in to my new hospital bed, and in one, short blink I was swept into sleep.
It was just after midday when I was awoken by a nurse who was hovering over me with a blood pressure cuff. As if it was second nature I held out my right arm to her and pointed my finger so she could click on the oxygen monitor, after she'd shoved the thermometer in my ear and the cuff had ceased squeezing my arm, she seemed satisfied enough to leave me in peace once more.
My neck felt stiff from the position in which I'd slept, so I pushed myself into an almost seated position and took a proper look around my new hospital bay. The young woman in the corner had and oxygen mask on, but seemed contented as she watch her little hospital TV and flicked through a magazine in unison. Her hospital table was covered in magazines and an array of fruit juices, there were bunches of flowers on the window ledge next to her, and if I wasn't mistaken a huge box of biscuits perched on the shelf of the cabinet next to her bed. The lady in the bed straight ahead of me appeared to be in her eighties or even nineties. She looked frail and small, and was propped up in her bed a drip tube, leading from a stand to her arm which was covered up by blankets... I hadn't seen her open her eyes since getting to the ward.
Sighing, I looked to my right, to see the old lady in the bed next to me looking right back at me. Slightly startled, I quickly said, 'Hello,' and smiled.
'Did you have a nice sleep love? You were snoring your pretty little head off.' She giggled as she said this, and I could instantly see kindness in her eyes.
'Oh gosh, was I disturbing you?' I asked, embarrassed by my small sinuses betraying me!
'Of course you didn't love, it was nice to see you have a good rest. I do struggle to sleep in this place.'
'Oh no do you? I could probably sleep anywhere. I'm so tired all the time. How long have you been in here?'
'6 days,' The lady replied, 'I only came to get my bad cough checked out, and I've been in here ever since. They say I've got pneumonia, but I'm feeling much better than I did. I just worry about my husband, because he's been in hospital a few weeks, and they've not let me visit him.'
'Is he in this hospital?' I asked.
'Yes, and I visited him every day. He's due to be discharged soon,but he won't be able to go home if I'm not there. He's not well enough to look after himself properly. We have no children you see. I'd have loved to have a baby, but it never happened for us. We have fabulous friends and neighbours though, and I'm sure if needs must, they'll take care of my husband till I can.'
'I'm sure he'll be fine,' I replied to the nice old lady, 'I'm sure he's just as worried about you, as you are about him.'
'Yes I suppose you're right. So what brings you here today?' The lady sat up, slowly shifted her legs off the bed one at a time, and while wrapping her dressing gown around her, timidly took the few steps over to her arm chair, and settled herself down.
'Well I collapsed while I was at the cinema last night and was unconscious for a few minutes. I was really sick afterwards as well, and they didn't seem to be too happy with my ECG results. I also had a stroke last month, that's why my left arm and leg don't work properly, and why I'm so tired all the time, and I think that's why they're being extra cautious about this.'
'A stroke? You poor love! How old are you?'
'Twenty one.'
'Oh love, you're too young to go through all of this. How are you coping? And you're family? Your poor parents.' The lady looked close to tears, and I didn't know where to look.
'Oh you know, I have good days and bad. We all do. My Mum cried for a full 48 hours at the beginning, but since then she's been more than amazing. My whole family have. I'm very lucky. You'll get to meet them at visiting hours.'
My new friend and I chatted for the next couple of hours and being without my Mum wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. Selfishly I hoped the lady wouldn't leave hospital until I did, just so I would have someone to chat to, some company. Hospitals are scary, and even though they're filled with people- staff and patients alike, they can be lonely places. You have a lot of time to think, to wallow, to be scared. The hours drag by, with the same four walls staring in on you day and night... But with someone there, someone just to chat to, it makes it that little bit easier.
As two o'clock arrived I looked up to see Chris coming round the corner followed by my Mum and Dad. I introduced them all to my new friend, just as her friends entered the bay to sit with her for a couple of hours. As we both turned our backs to each other and our attentions to our loved ones, I realised my angst had cleared slightly, as I knew when my family had left me once more, I would have my new companion to turn to...        

Monday, 1 July 2013

The New Ward

'I want to go home.'
'Bec, please don't worry, your Mum is going to stay with you tonight and we'll all be back to see you tomorrow.'
Chris was holding my hand, his face creased with worry, his thumb stroking back and forth along the sensation-less skin.
'Well text me when you get in and let me know how Anna is, she looked so ill.'
After exchanging goodbyes with my Dad and Chris, Mum and I waited in Accident and Emergency while I lay hooked up to monitors that beeped every other second. From our little corner of the manic, emergency ward we watched as patients passed us by; some in chairs, others in beds, many Friday night, drunken casualties, and a few appearing to be critical. Mum rested her head on my thigh, her face tilted to face me. She looked drained and appeared as exasperated as I felt. 
Why was I back in that hospital again? I was just about getting used to my new life at home, and yet I found my self surrounded by medical staff and scary machines once again.
One of the consultants who had been hovering around the ECG machine while I was connected to it, reappeared and explained to Mum and I, that they were going to move me to a temporary ward, while they found a permanent one for me to reside in.
'Why do I have to stay in hospital?' I asked bluntly, completely perturbed by the situation I was once again finding my self in.
'Well Rebecca, your ECG wasn't completely normal, so we're going to run a couple of blood tests, just to make sure everything is OK.'
Too tired to argue with, or question him, I smiled him away from my bedside, and offered out my arm to the nurse and she took multiple samples of my now thinned blood. As if by magic a porter appeared and as the nurse collected my notes, Mum by my side, pushed by the porter we were led along the silent hospital corridors, a shiver escaping me, partly due to the open windows, and partly because I was scared to be back.
We entered a ward that was a lot less modern in comparison to the high tech' A and E department, with old fashioned, insultingly patterned curtains that hung limply, separating each bed. The porter pushed me to the furthest depth of the ward, and positioned me in to a dark, dank corner, where I was only a couple of feet away from the sleeping patient that lay in front of me, and inches away from a coughing woman in the bed next to me.
It was around 1.00am. Mum was sat in that oh-so-familiar hospital arm chair, with a blanket placed over her knees that a kind old nurse had forced upon her. Both of us drifted in and out of sleep, often being woken up by loud complaints, hacking coughs, low groans, and the unconvincing whispers of the night staff. Just as I had been used to the last time, I was purposefully woken at intervals to have my vitals checked, and after a very broken, half sleep, 8am appeared on the clock.
A young, and moody looking doctor came to the end of my uncomfortable bed and briefly introduced himself while making no eye contact with either me, or my mother. He trawled through my extensive notes, while comparing charts, and after telling me I would be being moved to a permanent ward in the next half an hour, off he went with the briefest of goodbyes and a cursory nod.
'Well someone's not happy to be here on a Saturday morning are they!' said Mum as she rolled her eyes.
'Moody bastard!'
'Rebecca, language...'
'Breakfast time.' A nurse whipped open the curtain surround us and handed Mum and I a plate of toast each with butter and jam, and two extremely welcome, strong looking cups of coffee. 
'Got to keep Mum fed and watered as well haven't we.' The nurse smiled as she pushed her trolley onwards, my Mums appreciative comments following her.
By 9 am both Mum and I were nodding off again, our heads lolling and eyes rolling, and just as we were both about to give in to our exhaustion, an overly expressive, young nurse with a sing song voice, who was tailed by a porter collected Mum and me, and we were on the road once more. 
A1...My new ward. A men's ward predominantly, with a bay just feet from the entrance dedicated to women. There were only four beds in the bay,and three of them were occupied by ladies who were finishing the remnants of their breakfasts. Two of the women were very definitely pensioners while the woman in the far corner, who was surrounded by cards, magazines and flowers, seemed to be well in to her thirties. 
I was helped off the small, slippery bed that I had lay in for the last 12 hours, and flopped on to a bigger, freshly made bed, that was enticing me in to a state of unconsciousness and dreams. 
The ward sister sidled over. She had a sleek looking, chocolate brown bob, and her make up was immaculate. With a big smile on her face she welcomed us to the ward and shook my Mums hand, while kindly, yet authoritatively dismissing the girly whirly nurse, who had accompanied me to the new ward, back to her duties. I liked her instantly.
'Hi Rebecca, lovely to meet you. I know you and your Mum must be tired, so I'll let you get your head down asap, and I'm sure your Mum wants to get home and have some shut eye before visiting hours.'
The thought of my Mum having to leave me alone made my heart skip several beats. I was used to having her with me 24/7, I needed her, but I didn't say anything. My poor Mum looked exhausted and beaten. I'm positive she hated the hospital just as much as I did. Neither her or my feet had touched the ground since the 18th October 2011. We were tired. My whole family and I were tired. 
As I was rearranging my covers and Mum was adjusting my pillows, the ward sister flicked through my notes until she found the page she wanted,
'Well I have some good news from your blood tests... You've not had a heart attack like we first thought.'