I feel like I owe you a massive apology for my absence from my blog for so long.
It is no exaggeration for me to say that there were times when I honestly wondered if I was ever going to be able to blog again.
If you follow me on Facebook I will let you skip this blog post if you want to – you know what I am going to talk about in this blog post.
The short version of the story is that I ended up in hospital. Yes – as in my second least favourite establishment in existence. I have been out for a couple of weeks now and have finally managed to get my head together enough to get back to blogging.
So – what happened??? How did I end up in hospital???
The short answer to that is – extreme shortness of breath. To the point where I was walking from lamp post to lamp post. Not being able to get down my driveway without getting out of puff is what actually convinced me that I should go to a Dr. What convinced me that I might be poorly was missing a gig by my favourite female singer and not actually caring (put it this way – if I had been even 50% fit I would have tried my hardest to get there and been really upset if I didn't make it).
Anyway – I ended up getting a taxi to Leicester Royal Infirmary Accident & Emergency Dept. There was no way I was going to ring for an ambulance – Ambulances are for emergencies and (to me at least) that means you either have to be flat on the floor unable to move or unconscious. Being able to walk – no matter how slowly – doesn't qualify you for an Ambulance journey.
In fact, I was absolutely convinced I was going to be sent home after being told off for wasting precious NHS resources. Shortness of breath didn't feature anywhere on my list of “reasons to annoy a Medical Professional” - no matter how extreme. This is because I knew there is one thing I have never suffered from and that is asthma.
So – I get to A & E – report at the desk – get paperwork and get told to sit and wait for my number to come up on a screen. That was the first thing which I found slightly aggravating. You would have thought that a hospital would have designed the “foot passenger” bit of their new A & E Dept to cater for everybody who walked in???
Sorry – they fell into the usual trap of “people with sight problems don't exist in our world”.
It was OK when the number came up in the “holding screen” because that was white text on an black background. When my number came up it turned into white text on a light green background – and nobody was calling the numbers out. (They can be very thankful that I was too poorly too really complain about that – or they would never have heard the end of it.)
I was seen by a very nice ACP (Advanced Care Practitioner) who ran some tests on me and decided that I warranted further investigation. So I was told to lay on a comfortable looking trolley bed and wheeled off into what turned out to be the “High Dependency” bit of A & E.
You would have thought that seeing a poster from the corner of my eye which said words to the effect of “if you find yourself in here you are being assessed for potentially life-threatening conditions” would have given me some clue as to exactly how serious my situation was. Good job it was extremely late and I wasn't firing on all cylinders as far as my mental processes are concerned – or I would probably have started to seriously panic at this point. As it turned out even one of the Drs who examined me said there was only a 50/50 chance of me being admitted..
I woke up to exactly how serious things were when I found myself in an ambulance on my way to Glenfield Hospital. If you don't know anything about Glenfield Hospital it is a Heart hospital (in fact – it is one of the few centres in the UK which has an ECMO machine).
So – I find myself being admitted into Glenfield Hospital. (Did I ever tell you exactly how much I hate hospitals???)
Some more tests are run on me – and they seem to wake up to something else I told the ACP at Leicester Royal Infirmary (which I later end up wishing I had kept silent about – the reason for that will be explained as we get a bit further on).
One of the tests they ran on me is the one I call the “Jumpleat Test” because it always makes me feel like a car which won't start (take car that won't start - attach wires to battery and attach other end of wires to the battery of a car which has got it's engine running – and your car should eventually start) – I think the official name is an ECG.
Eventually I get the first diagnosis. I have fluid in my chest. First things first – that need to be tested to find out what has caused it. “We need to put a drain in to get some of it out. A Drain??? Now – if you ask me to describe a drain to you you will be informed that it is very big – definitely too big to fit between someone's ribs. Certainly not the diameter of the ink containing bit of a biro (which the drain turns out to be). After some confusion involving me mishearing “Cytology” as “Psychology” (only one of them can be performed on liquids) – the temporary drain goes in and some of the fluid is drained out of me. This improves my breathing slightly for the grand total of approximately 12 hours before it gets drastically worse again (and when I say “drastically worse” I mean it is a good job I am in a place with oxygen on tap because I cannot breathe very much at all).
So I end up on oxygen (“Oh Joy – Oh Rapture Unforeseen”). I also end up getting a permanent drain put in (this involves three injections of Local anaesthetic – each one deeper that the last) to drain the rest of the fluid out. Then I am informed that the drain will not be coming out until the results of the Psychology – sorry – Cytology test come back.
Remember I said I had mentioned something to the ACP in A & E that I ended up wishing I had kept silent about??? Little did I know but this was going to be the cause of the next two bombshells and one puzzle to hit me. I had mentioned a lump in my left breast and a lump under my left armpit. The lump in my breast was going to be the focus of the next lot of investigations. (Could have been worse – one of the Drs did threaten me with a biopsy of the lining of one of my lungs.) I had expected it to be Cancer – all the signs were there before I went into hospital (in fact – had it not been for the extreme shortness of breath which got me into hospital – I was quite happy to let nature take its course and let the Cancer kill me on its own).
The first bombshell to detonate itself was being told one night that – yes - it was Cancer and an Xray and a CT scan had shown up traces of it on my bones and lungs. (the next thing to do was put me through an MRI scan to find out for definite how far it had spread). The next bombshell was more like a clusterbomb. One minute you hear the words “Palliative Care” mentioned in relation to your condition – then you find yourself faced with a visit by two groups of people who you wish you never see again – one lot is the Oncology guys from the Infirmary and the other lot is the Palliative Care nurses. By this point I am wishing Euthanasia was a legal option (if only to escape the visitations from the Palliative Care nurses – their appearance just served to depress me and make me wonder if there was any point in trying to carry on living).
So -let's see how far we have got so far.
I am in a Respiratory ward – due to fluid in the chest. I have been viewed by Oncology and Palliative Care nurses. However, I have yet to have had the one test which I will definitely believe when it tells me one way or the other whether or not I actually have Cancer – the famous Biopsy.
The next two groups of people who decide they would like a piece of me are the two groups who – if I was a betting person – I would have given you very good odds on actually being the first in the queue to run tests on me – Cardiology closely followed by Heart Failure.
Why would I say that???
Simple really – remember I had a hole in my heart when I was born??? Remember it was mended when I was a baby??? Nobody was ever going to convince me that that operation would be a lifelong success. And when I say “lifelong success” I mean I never had any great expectation of hitting that Biblical “Three Score Years And Ten”.
So now I still have the drain in me – and we have two definite possible causes for the fluid in my chest. It is either Cancer or Heart Failure. (Me??? I am actually hoping for the former. The latter is not something I even want to consider.)
By this point I have already been put on water tablets (intravenously) to further help with the drainage. I later get switched to tabet form for these.
Then I start to get really annoyed with one group of Drs. (This is the time when I start to realise I am getting better – until this point the Drs could have said absolutely anything to me and I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. Me getting annoyed by what I see as disorganisation and people not talking to each other whilst seemingly expecting me to quietly go along with anything they say is most definitely a sign that Inky is on her way back up.)
What happened is that one Dr had told me that they were planning on putting me on two different types of tablet (ACE Inhibitor and Beta blocker) but they were not going to do anything with them until the drain came out. Fair enough – this was simple enough for me to file in my brain – no heart tablets until chest drain comes out.
The next Dr to speak to me on this subject tries to inform me that I am going to be put on those tablets straightaway. He gets politely informed of how I understand events are due to occur – he goes away to check and comes back around ten minutes later with yet another version. I am going to be put on the ACE Inhibitor (Ramipril) even though I have still got the drain in. However, if it plays havoc with my blood pressure they will have a rethink.
Ah – yes – my blood pressure. Let's just say that that is a source of constant worry to the nurses who measure it anyway. Apparently the top figure is supposed to be at least 110 for a live functioning human at rest – the highest I managed was 109. The “Official” lowest was 92 (the unofficial lowest was 93 in my right arm and 76 in my left arm – taken at the same time – put it this way – a top figure of 80 iz enough to land you in hospital on its own). “Do you feel dizzy? Do you have a headache?”, Nope – I feel perfectly OK thanks.
So it is a bit stop/start with the Ramipril. I don't like this one bit. I hate taking tablets as it is but if you tell me I have to take them I prefer to follow your instructions to the letter.
The next thing they dose me up on is Iron tablets. (The irony of me being in what I classify as the “Vitamin Bay” of Ward 29 isn't lost on me – the beds are all numbered B1 through to B10, which even I know are vitamins.)
Then I am informed I have been put down for an MRI scan. “Do you get claustrophobia?”. This turns out to be the most fun experience of my entire stay in hospital. (Yes – I know - I am strange.)
There are two reasons for this – the first of which will be blazingly obvious to anybody who has read this blog before (or seen me in real life) – the lyrics “my eyes are dim – I cannot see – I have not brought my specs with me” from that old campfire song are extremely applicable here. Even more applicable is the Dutch translation of “Dat wist ik niet en bovendien dat kan ik zonder bril niet zien” (or - “I didn't know that and above all I cannot see without my glasses”). Ear Defenders on – glasses off – eyes closed – and away we go for what turns out to feel like a microwaving session with a round of “Name That Tune” thrown in for good measure (the Scanner itself played bits of tunes I recognised as it worked).
Eventually the results of the Cytology test came back and I was released from the drain – but not before the most frightening experience of my time in hospital.
I bet you thought that being told you have Cancer and Heart Failure would be the most frightening things that could happen to someone??? Nope – they were not exactly the easiest things to deal with I admit but at least they didn't involve someone approaching me with a bladed weapon with me not having much of a clue as to why. The only three words I understood of the explanation were “Freehand Core Biopsy” (finally). Now – I am used to listening to people with strong accents. My Dutch friends and family have got pretty strong accents when they attempt to speak in English – my Czech friends are the same. However, at no point (unless of course my Czech friends use a Czech word when speaking to me) do I need subtitles in order to understand them, The Dr who did the Biopsy might as well have delivered the explanation of what they were about to do (and why) in Gujarati - or whatever their native language was – their accent was so strong I needed subtitles in order to understand them.
When you realise I hate hospitals and Drs to start with – and the two quickest ways to make me feel very uncomfortable are to give me any kind of medication without first telling me what it is, and, approaching me with any kind of sharp or bladed instrument (to the point where I hate making appointments to get my hair cut – never mind actually getting it cut) you will realise exactly how frightened I was. In fact, the only thing which actually kept me in that room long enough to have the Biopsy done was the fact that – at that point – I was still attached to my tank via the chest drain – meaning I couldn't move as fast as I would have liked to.
I actually found out what the Dr had been talking about when I got home two days after the Biopsy to find a copy of a letter they had sent to my Dr explaining what they had done and why.
So – where are we now?? I have been released back into the wild. I have also been discharged from the one Department who I really wanted to be kept an eye on by – Respiratory. Have managed to (finally) get the Palliative Care nurses off my back for the time being. Had my first appointment with the Heart Failure Nurse outside a hospital setting (I really wish I could have stayed with the nurses at Glenfield because I had come to trust them and feel comfortable with them). Have got my first appointment at the Oncology Department at the Infirmary on Wednesday.
I will leave you with the one thing which told me I was ready to be released from captivity. On the last morning I was in hospital the Tea Trolley came round – closely followed by the Blood Test nurse. The Tea Trolley lady got a chirpy “Hello Jenny”. The Blood Test nurse got a resigned sounding “Hello Vampire”. Blood Test nurse replied “Hello Victim – sorry – I mean patient”. Put it this way – when my sense of humour comes back like that I definitely need to be at home (so I don't have to worry about offending anybody),
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