No, I Didn’t Keep My Rib For A Keepsake

If you’re reading this right now then I commend you for your dedication to my melodramatic tale of veins, ribs and blue arms. Ten points for Gryffindor! However, if you ask me whether I got to keep my rib, I will be deducting 50 points from Gryffindor for unoriginality and making me feel a bit queasy. (For real though, it’s been incinerated and is most likely to be in heaven with my other rib and Elvis Presley.)

A week ago today,  I was back in St Thomas’ Hospital, this time to have my top left rib removed. Once more I was back on the ward of old ladies, this time with Doreen, Brenda and Caroline, all aged between 60 and 85ish. Things we had in common included a distaste for hospital food and blood thinning injections administered 8am and 7pm.

The whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable and one that I loved so much the first time round that I just couldn’t wait to do it all again. I would seriously recommend it. I’m lying. And if anyone is thinking about getting a rib removed for cosmetic reasons (or reasons regarding sexy time) then don’t. It really hurts.

THE UGLIEST PHOTOS EVER TO EXIST SO I’M PUTTING IT ON THE INTERNET FOR SOME BONKERS REASON.

Recovery

Don’t judge me but something really uncool happened when I came round from the op. In Recovery (the bit where they bring you round from the anaesthetic) the first thing I heard when I drifted in an out of consciousness was Heart on the radio. Yep, so the first thing I said when I came round from my op was ‘Is this Toby Anstis?’ CRINGE. The nurses were like ‘er… what?’ I tried to tell them I meant on the radio and that I work there, at the radio station – which thank God they understood because otherwise I would’ve come across as a weird Toby stalker. Then they continued to ask me if they could win the 50K May competition… Not my coolest moment.

Doctors, nurses, friends and family keep asking me how I’m feeling and I don’t really know how to answer. Honestly, I’m feeling really positive and I’m laughing at how long it takes me to do things, even if it does feel like I’ve been beaten up on the inside and I can’t tie my hair up. I think I’m a bit draining on everyone else though. Sorry, lads.

The area around my left collarbone, shoulder and boob doesn’t really feel bruised on the outside, just a bit numb and hypersensitive at the same time. My nerve endings are all over the place and I have to kind of retrain them to get used to feeling again – like training my skin to not mind wearing a t-shirt. The incision site is right in my armpit again and that feels like I’ve got something uncomfortable wedged in there, like a scrunched up t-shirt and it’s quite sore.

Inside, I feel like I have a sticky out bone at the top of my spine that keeps scratching on my muscles when I move. This just needs a little adjusting to. My left lung keeps giving me a sharp pain when I breath deeply, or change position. Coughing is a nightmare. Everything hurts but you can’t stop a coughing fit – trust me I’ve tried. So, upon the recommendation of the physio, I’ve taken to clutching a rolled up towel to the centre of my chest which I push down on if I need to cough. I’m not sure how it helps but it does a bit. But, as Oli lovingly points out, it does make me look like I’m substituting a baby with an NHS towel (which I stole from the ward. But that’s what I pay my taxes for, right?)

I can’t lift my left arm any higher than a 90 degree angle yet, which makes doing absolutely anything take forever and is seriously funny. Getting dressed on my own is something else. I’d show you if it weren’t for my horrendously flabby bod.

The only thing that worries me a bit is that I have a tingling sensation in my smallest finger and my ring finger on my left hand. It hurts to touch and grip anything. It was fairly traumatic when I spent 10 minutes buttoning up my pj top only to discover I’d done them up wrong… This could be caused by the swelling pushing down on a nerve or it could be because the surgeon might’ve nicked the nerve. I’m hoping it’ll go away of it’s own accord so I’m trying to use it as much as possible, to get the strength back. Even typing kind of hurts.

One of a kind

Remember that I told you that it was a really rare thing for the problem to happen in my left arm as well as my right? Well, having the operation twice is almost unheard of – so I’m one of the lucky ones. A rare gem. I’m a vascular student’s dream.

If you need me this week, this is where my arse will be.

This meant that, as Tommy’s is a training hospital, there was always a student around eager to learn something new from my diagnosis. When I had the drain removed from my arm (it’s as horrendous as it sounds. Post op, I had a long ass tube coming out of my armpit which was connected to a bottle that filled up with all the gunk from my insides. When I went to the loo, I would carry this gross bottle in my left hand in front of me, like a really harrowing Florence Nightingale) the nurse told the student that ‘upper limb drains are really uncommon, you don’t see them often.’ I was like ‘Mate, I’ve had two in my lifetime’ to which he kindly informed me that in all his years working on the ward, he’d never seen someone go through this op more than once. Cheers Jesus for choosing me to do it all twice.

When I told my consultant about the pain I was in, he told me that it was likely to last three weeks because it’s like having a broken rib. Weirdly, I can’t tell you what that feels like but I recognise this pain as I’ve had it before.

Ps. In the pre op phase, my consultant began the preparation process by filling me in on the risks of the op, you know the normal bleeding/paralysis/winged shoulder blade/death blah blah blah. And then he casually added that with one patient, post operation they realised that they’d removed the wrong rib and had to do it all again. He’d not told me of this risk before, so it must have happened since my last op… I laughed – because what can you do? You’re about to be butchered! – and once again put my trust, and my body dressed in the most hideous pair of polyester knickers and a gown, in his hands.

The NHS ain’t perfect

Now, don’t get me wrong; I am grateful in every way for all of the help I’ve received from the NHS and it should 100 percent be protected from privatisation. Maybe it’s because I know what I’m doing now, but I’ve not had a nice time dealing with the NHS this time round.

After developing another clot in January, I’ve known that I would need the op, it’s just been a case of when. Through past experience – and advice from consultants – I knew that I couldn’t really be left more than a few months . Working on the same timescale as before, I was looking at a date in March. March came and went and I was told I could expect to have the op at the end of April. The end of April came and went with no word. I became a nuisance and chased every week but you’ve got to do it. I didn’t want to be forgotten about and it wasn’t fair to keep me waiting. I’d not even had a pre op assessment (you can’t have an operation without one) so I knew it wouldn’t be a case of just getting a last minute slot. I was in pain and miserable to be around because I was whinging all the time, because without plans, I had nothing to look forward to, nothing to work towards.

Not knowing a date was seriously frustrating for me. Working at a desk was painful to say the least and all the while I was injecting myself twice a day with blood thinner – something the haematologists told me they really shouldn’t do for very long. I ended up taking a big dose of them for much longer than had been anticipated. As a result, the bottom of my belly is bruised green and purple from the needles, and often, if I was out, I’d hit up in public loos, like a true junkie, only I wasn’t getting any joy out of it.

Convalescing at Hever Castle because I can’t face two weeks of doing nothing…

And then there was the aftercare. For the first time since all of this started, I didn’t feel entirely safe in the hands of some of the nurses. There were a lot of bank staff and nurses who had serious attitude problems and no one really told me what was going on or what medicines I was taking and why. And to top it all off, the morphine was making me so sick I couldn’t even argue or ask the nurses anything without throwing up.

The radiators were stuck on full for the entire 72 hours of my time in hospital, providing perfect breeding conditions for germs and bacteria, not to mention the uncomfortable sweatiness. It was vile. I couldn’t wait to get home. As predicted, on the day I was told I could go home at 10am, my blood tests showed that there was too much thinner in my blood (they’d bloody told me that back in February but said it was temporary) and then spent the entire day getting my new dose of thinners changed. I didn’t leave the hospital until 7pm.

The only saving grace is that by process of elimination, I don’t ever have to go through a rib resection ever again. I physically can’t. Whoop!

Change of Lifestyle

I’ve got some changes to make ahead of me. I’ve had a year now to come to terms with the fact that I’m never going to get rid of this problem completely and I’m totally okay with that. I’m not done with hospitals yet but I don’t have to go through any more major surgery, which means I can now focus on all of the good stuff.

I can’t wait to get back into the gym. I’ve not been since January because my clotty arm didn’t really let me but I can’t wait to get rid of my flabby belly and return to my cardio, which is good for the lungs and great for circulation.

Yoga. I need to stretch all the time. I’ve spent over a year now, hunching one arm or the other up to my ears in a bid to create better circulation and now it’s become habit. Its not good and I’m scared I’ll become the Hunchback of Notre Dame if I’m not careful. Anyone know of any good online courses? I’d love to go in for classes but they’re super expensive in London.

Massages. I’m going to need a whole load of massages to help my Hunchback of Notre Dame not to develop any more. They’re good for circulation too. Also they’re just lush aren’t they?

Nails. This isn’t a medical thing, I just really need them done. I deserve it, right?

 

Released into the wild on medical parole

Alright geezers, what’s occurring? I’ve been meaning to write a post for days but if I’m honest, I’ve enjoyed just avoiding real life and doing sweet FA. I’ll try and keep this short and sweet for you but you know what I’m like; I luuuuurve to talk.

From farters to moaners

You all know about the serial farter who was in the bed opposite me (if not, you can read all about it here), well when I was put on to HDU I was moved into a different bay where there were only two beds. Whilst the first night I enjoyed having the room all to myself, the following a day a rather delightful elderly lady became my roommate. She was 79, very sweet, but what I can only describe as a moaner. This is someone who moans with every exhale. Whilst she was definitely in pain, she also had a very nervous disposition (her own words, I’m not being mean) and – no word of a lie – a cough like Gollum. So peace was disturbed with ‘oohs’ at every breath and copious amounts of phlegm. Remember, I was bed bound and couldn’t run away. It was nasty. Whenever the nurses came around with her medicine, she would say: ‘ooooh nooooo. Too many pills. I don’t want them all. There are too many’ and it would be a battle to reason with her. Whereas when the nurses came to me I was like ‘what have you got?’ When they offered me paracetamol or morphine, I know which one I’d rather choose. I opted for both. I’m not stupid…

I called the surgeon a mother f***er

Look at that golfball on the back of my hand! So attractive…

I didn’t mean to, it just came out. Whilst on thrombolysis I had to go down to theatre every day where they would take out the wire and tubes, run some radioactive tests and then put it all back in. I had no painkiller because technically there aren’t any nerves in your vein so ‘it doesn’t hurt’. But the pulling and fannying around at the point of incision in my arm (where the catheter went in) was so painful. And don’t forget I was lying down with my arm out, like half of Jesus on the cross, with the radiologist leaning over it. And after one particular yank of the catheter, I accidentally let out an audible ‘You mother f***er’ just as he/she (it happened twice on two different days) made eye contact with me. I know, it was unfortunate. I apologised but they found it funny, thank God.

Just because I’ve done it before doesn’t mean it hurt any less

16559079_10154743907521001_1737980801_nIt. Sucked. I’m not going to lie, the whole treatment was horrible. It hurt, I felt crap and it made me cry. Because I had to go to theatre every day, I was woken at 5:30am every day to try and eat some breakfast and have a drink because after 6am I was nil by mouth for pretty much four days in a row. I was so dehydrated I got a bit emotional. And you don’t know how long you’ll be on the treatment for – it’s decided on a day-to-day basis – so every 24 hours you get your hopes up that it will be taken out when you go for the check.

Because of the great progress over the first 24 hours, I was convinced I would be taken off it after 48 hours. And indeed when I was in theatre, the radiologists were impressed with the progress and decided to try and angioplast (balloon) the last bit of clot away. So they stretched my vein with three different sizes and the pain was unreal. It felt like my collarbone was going to explode. But it didn’t quite do what they wanted so I had to go back on thrombolysis for another 24 hours.

Although it doesn’t sound like that long, I was gutted. I had mum with me afterwards so I wasn’t on my own but when she left (after sorting out my hair for me – by spraying the dry shampoo directly into my right earhole) I broke down in tears. Which was sad because it made me look like a baby because my mum was leaving. Awkward… But you’re entitled to a bad day, right? Thursday was my bad day.

Bed blocking

I was taken off the treatment mid afternoon on Friday. I was so happy, you have no idea. I also knew what was coming: I would be discharged the following day and tasked with administering the blood thinning injections at home. Mum and myself were also aware that I was going to be discharged on a Saturday, when it’s skeleton staff and just a nightmare. So, anticipating the problem, we highlighted these forthcoming issues to the staff and asked them to sign everything off tonight so it would be ready for the following morning. Of course they didn’t do it. So I was showered and packed by 10am on Saturday, ahead of the ward rounds at around 10:30. Of course there was an emergency at 10:30 so the only team on on a Saturday were called to theatre – which really can’t be helped. I understand that, I’m not totally heartless! But it meant that they couldn’t get anything signed off until they were back. And that’s just the signature, they hadn’t even got the drugs from the pharmacy, which closes early on a Saturday. Anytime after it closes would require the on call pharmacist and the drama continues. Nightmare.

Anyway, after a full day of bed blocking on the High Dependency Unit, I was released into the wild. However great the NHS are, they have some serious issues. It’s not like I was holding up an ordinary bed either. And it was a paperwork problem that had been anticipated the day before. It’s ridiculous. I’m not saying I agree with Jezza Hunt but there does need to be a bit of an NHS shake up because bed blocking really doesn’t make sense, especially when it can be avoided.

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Breathing fresh air for the first time in six days. I had to have a sit down afterwards.

My health

As it stands, I’m in exactly the same position as I was this time last year. I still have a little bit of clot left in my left arm (the original clot was 4cm longish) so my hand still goes a bit blue when it’s in certain positions. I’m bruised everywhere but I’ve finally managed the art of injecting myself. Wahoo! I told Mum and Oli to back off, take the pressure off and then I just got on with it. I really am such a woos. But it means now that my belly is speckled with needle bruises, making me look like a proper crack head. I guess it’s no all bad because I’ve always wanted a bit of street credit.

I don’t know what’s around the corner, although I have a really strong sense of dejá vu. I’ll keep you updated when I start going to my outpatient’s appointments.

I’ve been given the medical go ahead for flying and, after a full day of chasing around (and being rejected by) travel insurance companies, I’ve finally found someone who will insure me so I’ll be heading off to New York next Thursday. Wahoo! And the cost? Well, put it this way, insurance for four days in NY with a history of blood clots, pulmonary embolisms and thoracic outlet syndromes accompanied by the latest drama, is dearer than when I spent 10 days in Occupied Territory of Palestine… Sorry, no holiday presents for you lot.

This is so not short and sweet is it? Oh well. As always, thank you for all of your support.

Love, Hollie xxx

I did the biggest wee of my life and I went into shock. For real!

I’m hooked up to all of the machines again now complete with metal wire up my vein. I’ve been on the treatment now for about 32 hours. The good news is that this time I can move a little bit which means I don’t have to use a bed pan! Instead, the lovely nurse can bring me a commode and I can sit down and wee. I feel like it’s too good to be true. The bad news is that this morning I peed so much that I went into shock. Yep, you heard that correctly. I did such a big wee that I passed out and threw up whilst drenched in my own sweat. What a beautiful vision for you. 

I’d been holding in a wee overnight because I couldn’t be bothered to move – I’d just got comfy. I totally forgot that I was attached to a load of fluid and whilst the normal amount of wee to pass is about 300ml, I went and did the biggest wee of my life, releasing a whopping 1300ml of pee from my body. That’s well over a litre of piss. As a result I went into shock. Good one Hols! 

Me pre thrombolysis. How I think I look


I’ll keep things short and sweet today. I went down to theatre again to check the treatment is working and it is. Judging by how easy the wire went into the clot, they reckon it’s a ‘young’ one – maybe a couple of weeks old? In the first 24 hours the thrombolysis has broken down the clot enough to break through it a bit but there’s still a lot around the edges in my vein. Hopefully just another 24 hours on the treatment will be enough but the longest you can be on the treatment for is 72hours so I’m not celebrating just yet. I know the drill. 

Gonna be honest, I don’t really want to be here today! I feel pants and look even worse! I have these weird vibrating cuff things on my legs to keep the circulation going while I am bed bound, but they’re so hot! Especially over my horrible TED socks. I’m just a bit uncomfortable and it hurts! The only way to describe it is like I have a metal wire up my vein from halfway up my upper arm, under my armpit and up to my collarbone. Which I do, so I should probably get over that! 

Me right now on thrombolysis. The ugliest sight ever and it’s got a filter on it. Photo courtesy of Oliver J Hill


I’ve had some ace visitors – even Max has been to see me, sans dog poop on his shoe. Mum’s temporarily sorted out my vile, unwashed hair (until tomorrow) and I’ve had some great food from M&S downstairs. This year I’ve ventured away from the chilli prawns a bit… 

Alright the geezers, I’ve had enough of this writing malarkey – I’ve got a cup of tea to drink and a ginger nut to dunk. S’laters xxxx 

Ps. I’ve just heard the old lady fart again from down the ward. I’m not even in her bay! Poor woman… (I’m still grossed out/laughing though. I’m going to hell!)

Guess who’s back? Back again. 

I wasn’t going to write a post today, but something just happened that made me gag and wet myself laughing so much that I just have to share it. 

There I am, minding my own business and just chilling in my bed when the legless, elderly woman opposite me asked for the commode. I knew what was coming so as the nurse pulled her curtains around her, I plugged my headphones in and blasted a bit of Ed Sheeran so I wouldn’t hear her pee. 

After what I thought was a decent enough time to relieve one’s bladder, I took my headphones out. Big mistake. Just as I did, she let out the biggest, wettest fart I have ever heard in my entire life. And by biggest I mean it was seriously loud AND IT DIDN’T STOP. Well, it did stop but only for a split second before it started again. I think she was pooping. 

I was gagging and laughing so much I had to put my headphones in and blast my music in my ears so loud I couldn’t hear myself think. That was half an hour ago and I’m scared to check if the coast is clear. I’m scarred. And scared. 

Anyway, just to keep you in the loop, today I didn’t end up being put on thrombosis – that’s been postponed until tomorrow now. So I had a small procedure just to take some photos to confirm the clot was there (duh). I’m not going to go into it too much because it winds me up. There was a bit of a mix up and I didn’t find out that I wasn’t going on the treatment today until I was on the freakin’ table… 

We don’t know for sure what the plan is yet after the treatment but when it’s over and I’m home, I’ll be back to injecting myself (I have to be an adult about it this time and not get mum or Oli to do it!) with blood thinning treatment and then in the long term they’ll look into changing my anticoagulant that I take every day. Oh and there was talk of me having my left top rib removed at a later date. Déjà vu.

This time around, I’m just not thinking about the things I’m going to be missing out on. Hopefully I’ll still be able to go on my trip to New York with ma sis and ma mam and some pals in a couple of weeks. Nope. Not thinking about it at all. 

Any ways, I’m back on the ward I was on last time where some of the nurses recognise me (Oli says it’s like I’m a celebrity…) and judging by my roommates, I’m reminded that I should be thankful that I’m under 25 and in possession of all four of my limbs!

Clot Wars Episode II: The Clot Strikes Back

Friends, family, esteemed colleagues and devoted followers. I have gathered you here today to inform you that my body seems to have welcomed Clot the Second into One’s system. Yep, that’s right; I have another blood clot, this time in my left arm. Dejá sodding blue.

On Thursday I went to see my consultant for what we both anticipated to be the final instalment. I was due to be signed off. A clot free woman. Heaven forbid, a normal, healthy human being. Whoopeeee! However, I’ve had a niggling feeling since Monday that something wasn’t right. I waited until my prearranged appointment to address the problem (rather than go through A&E again) where my suspicions were confirmed.

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Look at my beautiful Christmas pjs from Shirley. Oh, and my purple left arm.

Although being in possession of a DVT isn’t the healthiest of scenarios, I’m not as upset as you might think. I’m in such a strong position compared to last time. I recognised the signs, listened to my body and caught it sooner rather than later. It’s small, it’s just under my left collar bone – maybe an inch long? (I don’t actually know how long an inch is to be honest.) Anyways, because it’s not an immediate life or death emergency, I was sent home and have been booked in for treatment on Monday. And I know what to expect so I’m not feeling horrendous, just a bit off – which is to be expected when one’s arm is swollen and blue.

Come Monday, I’ll be back up to HDU, or similar, to undergo thrombolisis (the one where I am bed bound and attached to a drip for a few days). I’ll be nill-by-mouth for most of it so I’ll come out dead skinny. I’m thinking of it as a bit like that new celeb craze where they pay loads of money to go to a ‘vitamin farm’ to be put on a detox and are attached to a vitamin enriched drip to make them feel vibrant and healthy again. It’ll be like that only I’ll be doing it for free on the NHS. Sort of…

Of course it frustratingly had to happen at a time when I was due to start a pretty cool and exciting work related thing next week. A thing that was going to set my career soaring off to great heights – but as mum says, it doesn’t look like I’m not destined to make my millions easily! That’s what I’m most bummed about, not the clot. Needless to say I’ve lost a bit of perspective here. Oh well, everything happens for a reason!

So, one year and one day since I was first diagnosed with a blood clot, I’ve only gone and done it again. My body has let the team down. It would seem that I have been tempting fate and rather than coming off the blood thinners as I had hoped, I’ll be increasing the dosage.

The reason I’m clotting isn’t clear yet but one step at a time. Let’s get rid of Clot the Second first before we start preventing Clot the Turd – I mean Third.

(Oh and by the way I have Raynauds Syndrome which is why my right hand was still turning blue. But that doesn’t cause clots so that’s a total relief.)

I guess you’ll be hearing a bit more from me as the hospital diaries continue next week. And rest safe in the knowledge that come Monday evening I’ll be back peeing in a bed pan. Great. 👍🏼

Happy Blue Year! Here’s what I’ve learnt one year on

Exactly one year ago today, I wandered through the doors of A&E, thus beginning what I like to call my ‘hospital dramz’, otherwise known to many as the ‘clot saga’. Now, I’m not going to bore you with the whole sorry tale again (because Mum keeps telling me that it was ‘so last year’) but I will enlighten you with the nuggets of wisdom I have acquired over the past year.

Following two stints in hospital and the removal of one rib, I feel I have gained enough experience to teach you how to deal with certain situations, for example, should you ever find yourself on a ward being  accidentally flashed by an old lady’s bum from the bed opposite.

Okay, so here’s what I’ve learned:

Listen to your body

giphy-1Seriously because I didn’t for a long time. I did that really British thing of not wanting to be a nuisance and instead I waited until my arm went permanently blue and I couldn’t stand up without getting breathless. I even had to sit down to brush my teeth and I still chose to overlook the signs. I increased the time I spent at the gym too, just to make sure that the reason I couldn’t breathe wasn’t down to being unfit. In hindsight, I should have just accepted that I wasn’t well and taken an ambulance to hospital. But hey ho! You live and learn, right?

You need your wits about you

giphyWhy is it that when you’re at your absolute lowest, you need to pay attention the most? Just when you find yourself off your tits on drugs, that’s when the consultant will come around and tell you what’s the matter with you. And they’ll say it in the longest words they know, sometimes surrounded by a bunch of students too. And you’ll say that you understand but really, you’ve not taken anything in and are instead contemplating how long you’ll be constipated for. Because of the meds, okay? And, whilst the NHS is truly fantastic, it really needs to work on its communication skills. For example, the letters. The many, many letters; letting you know about your next appointment, your current appointment, your previous appointments. Here’s some advice for you: read them, keep them and put them in a labelled folder. Over the past year, I have been seeing two consultants, each from a different department in the same hospital, both of whom have been feeding back to my GP. Sometimes there’s new information in them, sometimes they clear things up and sometimes they’ll call you Olive (genuinely happened to me). So, yeah, keep your wits about you and make sure your are crystal clear about what is going on with you. It is your body after all.

You will run out of sick days

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I know, right? Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t matter how ill you are or how many doctor’s notes you give to your work, it will get to the point where work will pay you no longer. Unfortunately for the sick, your employers are not legally obliged to keep you on full pay whilst you’re ill. Once you’ve reached the limit of fully paid sick days, you will be put on Statutory Sick Pay which is paid for by your employer. This is a weekly sum of £88.45 for up to 28 weeks. That’s around £353 a month. Whilst I’m not being ungrateful for the help, the realisation of the drastic drop in pay did send me into a spiral of panic. There were a few dodgy days when I realised that I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent and my small pot of ‘savings’ wouldn’t cover it either. I felt that my only option was to brave the London commute and return to work earlier than I had anticipated. Looking back, I wish I had listened to my body and thought eff it to the money. But we’re not all that lucky so just bear this in mind if you ever find yourself needing long periods of time off work due to illness. And always keep HR in the loop.

I have a lot of friends

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And I mean A LOT. Yep that is a brag. Sometimes I feel like I don’t think I know enough people to fill a car but it turns out that I have some pretty fabulous friends and family. I had friends that sent me care packages; family members who passed out on my hospital bed; a dad who cleared out M&S at St Thomas for me; a boyfriend who, along the journey, discovered that the thought of veins made him faint; family who came up from Somerset for the day; friends who nearly killed me with laughter; a best friend who’s a nurse who called me up to tell me I ‘could’ve died’, even though everyone else was skirting around the issue; and of course those ‘second’ mums who reassured me that I ‘didn’t look that bad’ and the second mums who told me I’ve got an oil slick in my hair. And just because I’d left hospital, the love didn’t stop there. So if you’re ever feeling like no one cares, you’re wrong.

It’s okay to want your mum

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It turns out that just because you’ve moved out, you earn your own money, do your own washing (most of it) and cook your own meals (cheers boyfriend), it doesn’t mean that you don’t need your mum any more. In hospital, I tried so hard to be a grown up but I just wanted mum. And it’s okay because Oli also needed Ki’s dry sense of humour. Whilst the two of us were panicking a bit, Ki liked to point out when the old lady opposite’s gown split wide open revealing her arse when she bent over. Yeah, thanks Ki. But also in the aftermath, it’s okay to call your mum just to say: ‘Holy shit, mum.’ And she gets it.

Big knickers will save your life

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Literally. I’m not even being dramatic (I cross my heart and hope to die (actually no death here please)). I mean anyone who wears a thong or a cheeky lace number in hospital is either not ill enough to be there, or they’re there for a cosmetic boob job. Wear the comfiest, ugliest knickers to your heart’s content. I’m talking about the ones that come up to under your boobs. In fact, ditch the bra and your pants can double up as an over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder. Yeah, those. Hell, even after you’ve left hospital insist on wearing them because if you don’t you’ll get more blood clots (researchers have found that there’s a direct correlation between wearing big knickers and your recovery time*). Enjoy it because there will come a time when you’re off the meds and you’ll be forced to accept that big knickers are not welcome in society, even under layers of clothing.

*researchers have found nothing of the sort but your average Joe doesn’t know that…

When life gives you lemons… stick a wedge in your G&T

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Yeah, okay being in and out of hospital sucked and the fact that it’s still ongoing ain’t great but I’m still alive and I can still do everything that I could do before. Now, I just know by body a bit better and I know that I have limits. But I’m not going to let those limits stop me. This year, I still got to go to Palestine, to Calais, to Barcelona, to Iceland and do so many more cool things. Besides it’s a great story and gave me some great writing material. And I love the look on people’s faces when I tell them that I’ve had a rib out and it didn’t make me any skinner. Can you believe it? I’ve been mugged off man.

Once in a blue MoonWalk

We did it! We actually did it. Sam, mum and myself walked 26.2 miles around London starting just before midnight.

Before! Full of such optimism...

Before! Full of such optimism…

I’d not exactly been training as much as I had hope to when I signed up but had managed to squeeze in a few longer walks with mum and Oli but nothing prepared me for how long a marathon is! I thought it would be the sleep deprivation that would do me in but it was definitely the distance. My feet are now dead.

Also, I don’t know if this little confession will get us arrested, but we did a wee in St. James’ Park. The toilet queue was SO LONG and we were literally on the verge of wetting ourselves and well…

We weren’t the only ones, okay? If you’d walked past St. James’ Park in the really early hours of Sunday morning, you

After. Feeling like champions!

After. Feeling like champions!

would have seen many a moons. Better than having it trickling down your legs, right?

Anyway, I’ll keep things short and sweet as Chloë and myself are off to Palestine tomorrow on a women’s cultural exchange (as you do). We’re off to the Holy Land. And in similar fashion to when Mary and Joseph were summoned to Bethlehem, I also haven’t got my s**t together. In fact, I’m hobbling still from the big walk so I’m not ruling out that I too may arrive on a donkey.

I’m not going to write too much about it because I’ve still got to get through Israeli border control! I’m not sure I’ll be able to blog much whilst we’re out there but we’ll let you know how we get on afterwards, when we return from our Bible Crawl (like a pub crawl but you go to places mentioned in the Bible, like Bethlehem, Jericho, Jerusalem etc.)

Thank you to everyone who donated to the MoonWalk and to this trip to Palestine. I promise I’ll stop begging for your hard earned cash. For now… xxx

Nay! My veins doth protest

Being inside my head right now is like when we used to travel down to the South of France in a five seater SAAB, but when we were slightly older. Clo, Max and myself would squish in the back seats (Max forced in the middle because we still tried the ‘your legs are shorter’. Even when he was 14, we knew it was Clo who had the shorter legs), trying to ignore bits of the three weeks worth of holiday packing digging into the back of our heads, and at our feet. It was a logistical nightmare and mega uncomfortable but you got through the 12 hour overnight journey because at the end of it was a holiday.

All of the crap we insisted on packing in the car is how much space this hospital dramz is taking up inside my head. Us five represents the rest of my life. I’m trying to look forward, make plans and crack on with life but if you scratch the surface you’ll probably watch me melt.

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When your sister takes the pee out of your hospital selfie…

Sorry, that was a rubbish analogy! And I really don’t want to sound moany and mopey because I’m not, I’m just in a bit of a weird place right now. I’m all fine and dandy and then I get an appointment letter through the post, or have another hospital trip, or my hand turns blue and I worry. Because it is still blue. The procedure hasn’t worked. But don’t worry it’s not all hopeless!

I’m not going to beat around the bush, last Friday’s procedure was horrible. I forgot that just because I’ve had it done before doesn’t mean I am immune to the pain. And where I should have been on the table for around 45minutes, I was there for 2hours. My veins on my left arm just don’t want to play ball any more and after five attempts to get a cannula in they ended up putting another one of those operation sheets you see on Holby City on my left arm too and using an ultrasound, local anaesthetic and a micro plunger (it’s not called that at all but me and dad couldn’t remember for shit what they told us it was called so we renamed it and say it with confidence in the hope people believe us) to get access. This was so they could give me a sedative for the angioplasty.

Last time I had one of these, it hurt but I kinda kept slipping in and out of consciousness because I hadn’t eaten for four days so the sedative worked like a treat. This time the sedative hit me AFTER the procedure. Typical.

Also it was lol because after the X-ray bit, the Interventional Radiology team (who remembered me from before) brought down my consultant to look at the results. I could see him over my feet behind the glass, both of my arms were pinned down so I couldn’t wave or call out so I did this really lame thing of laying flat on my back but rolling my eyes all the way down so I could see my feet and then I kind of raised my eyebrows in acknowledgement. I’m surprised they didn’t think I was having a fit. (It’s hard to describe so if you would like a demonstration of what I looked like, just ask when you next see me and I’ll be more than happy to oblige.)

Being a patient on the table isn’t very sociable. In fact you’re just a specimen aren’t you? Thank god for the nurses who remember that you’re a person. Needless to say, my consultant didn’t acknowledge me. So I was rejected too. Awkward.

Anyways, I’m all fine now. I went back to work on Monday. My arms are speckled with all of the green bruises from the needles but I’ve heard polka dot is totally in this season.

My last moan I promise: this whole hospital dramz is exhausting. Like I said before, I’m ALWAYS thinking about it. I’m obsessed with checking the colour of my hand, I’m knackered of trying to plan things but also with the knowledge that I might have another hospital trip. Im trying to balance work with hospital life, making sure I’m still getting paid. I’m constantly yo-yoing with my emotions at every hospital trip – there’s a long wait between each appointment before we can decide what the next step is. It’s time consuming! And I’m super excited to get rid of the blueness but also a bit sad at the thought of not having it any more. It’s my party trick.

Also it’s sinking in what the ‘rest of your life’ really means. I’ve started to look at it like diabetes or something. Like I know it’s there, I have to be aware of it, I have to take important meds for it, but it won’t stop me from doing much. Except the bloods consultant told me I won’t be able to skydive and I genuinely got a bit tearful. Not that I skydive everyday but I’m suddenly one of those people who have limits and that sucks.

Now I really don’t mean to cause offence because this really isn’t a bad thing, it’s an observation: it’s exhausting reassuring everyone else that I’m fine. Sometimes I just want to say ‘nope, I’m not okay. I’m actually really nervous about going to hospital and I hurt like a mother, it really effing sucks and I CAN’T SKYDIVE.’ But I don’t want to worry all of you lovely people, or for you to be upset for me, or worry about me, because I’m doing superduper okay. It’s just that sometimes I can’t help but think it’s all just so crappy.

HOWEVER, a mega benefit of said blue situation is that I have my own theme tune. I’ve taken to walking up to people and annoyingly shoving my purpley index in people’s faces singing ‘blue finger’ to the tune of Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger. I like to see their alarm on their faces as I saunter off humming the rest of the song. They think I’m leaving because I’m an allusive woman. It’s actually because I haven’t come up with the next line to the song…

If you fancy sponsoring Mum, Sam and myself for the Moonwalk on Saturday night, you can do HERE. Thanks if you already have done!

One other thing: PALESTINE NEXT WEEK. To be continued…

BLUE ARM-Y!

Hi friends!! Long time no speak. I’m really sorry that this post is so poorly written but I’m just busy catching up on a social life at the moment! I’m making up for lost time you see.

I have some bon news: the rib resection worked and up by my collarbone my vein is all clear and dandy and so everything is just great. Super great.

Minor dramz: My hand still goes very blue. I thought this was because the operation hadn’t worked but it’s actually because of scaring on the vein further down my arm. This is from the treatment I had when I first went in to hospital – remember the one that gave me a fliddy arm? Yeah, that one. So there is a restriction on the blood flow further down my arm and yes it could cause a clot BUT it won’t because I’m on blood thinners and they can treat it before it is even given a chance to cause a clot.

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My hand still goes blue… but hopefully not for much longer!

So next Friday I have to go through (hopefully) one last procedure. It’s an invasive X-Ray which I had four times before when I had the thrombolisis treatment, so I’m totes not scared. It’s under local anaesthetic and they have to go into my vein and inject some dye and see where exactly the blood is being restricted. And then if they find anything, they can treat it there and then which means no going home, waiting for results and then waiting for treatment! YAY!

This is great news because I was totally gearing myself up for having to have a stent (a plastic tube put in the vein to keep it open wide) but the consultant reeeeeeeeally doesn’t want to do that.

How long I will need to remain on blood thinners for is dependent on the X-Ray next week and what other treatment I may need is also dependent on next week. So I can’t really tell you more, just that I might never have a blue hand again or I’ll have to have physio to deal with it in future etc.

Also the consultant said that he’s really impressed with how I’ve coped with the pain and no biggie but I feel like a total teachers pet. So yeah, I’m amazing.

I took mum with me to the appointment and she came out buzzing and said that I didn’t need her there because I handled it all so well. I beg to differ because I called her twice after to explain to me why it was good news again. Also she came out of the appointment so pleased and told me ‘you need to move on and get over it now. It’s not all about you you know.’ I’m so happy that I have my mum to ground me. But really I did nearly DIE.

Speaking of ‘other people’, my not-so-little sister turned 21 last weekend and we celebrated it with her friends Lydia and Tessa in BARCELONA. And I totally made the flight. Although it crippled me to pay £14.99 on a pair of ugly flight socks. I splashed out for an extra pound and got an odourless pair. Anyways… Barca was siiiiiiick! I think one of my favourite cities ever. We didn’t really sleep, we drank a lot and I’ve downloaded a Spanish app and I’m going to live there when I’m 25.

Other things I have to look forward to in the next month (that I can totally do now that I’m pretty much all fixed)  is walking the Moon Walk with mum on 14th May. Just to reiterate, that’s 26 miles, throughout the night, wearing my bra on the outside and in my mother’s company. It’s karma because I haven’t been to the gym in ages and couldn’t wear a bra for a few months. If you would like to donate some of your hard earned cash to our fundraising page (in aid of Breast Cancer Research) then you can do so by clicking HERE.

Donate!

Representing ‘Hopscotch Montessori Nursery’ at the Moonwalk.

The other thing I’m super looking forward to is a trip to Palestine avec ma soeur. That’s right, Chloë and myself are heading on over to the Middle East on a cultural exchange with a Twinning-in-Action Project by CADFA. We’ll spend ten days hanging out with Palestinian women our own age on their home turf. I’ll let you know more about this project nearer the time (we’re heading off 19th May-30th May) but again, if you’re feeling charitable we are more than willing to accept your money which will go towards the twining project… (sorry I’m aware that I’m getting beggy!) If you would like to donate you can do it HERE.

Anyway, I must dash. I’m just off to Scotland with Oli to climb Ben Nevis. As always, I’ll keep you updated! (Particularly when I have to wear one of those gowns with my arse out next week…!)

Love to you all and thanks for all of your support xxxxx

The Ultimate Feminist

“The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.” – Genesis 2:22

The Bible story goes that God took one of Adam’s ribs and from it, he made Eve. As it turns out, that rib hasn’t really worked out for me so I’ve become the ultimate feminist and chucked it right back at God. Take that Man!

[Of course I jest. I’ve tried this joke on a few people before but I’ve always ended up having to explain it. However, the Sunday before the op I went to church for the christening of a friend’s daughter. Of course this meant that the whole Catholic gang gathered, plus parents. I told them this joke and they CRACKED up. Like genuinely laughed first time. I can always rely on a Catholic crowd to get a good old religious joke. Amen.]

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Post-op selfie!

So, I underwent operation-top-right-rib-removal (I’m sure that’s the medical name for it) a week ago today (Tuesday March 15th) and it all went well and dandy. At least I think it did. I’m not overly sure because I was off my face on morphine when the registrar came round to talk to me post op… In fact, I can’t wait for my follow up appointment so I can actually find out exactly what went on. I was in no fit state to care when I was in hospital!

I have a scar about three inches long right in my armpit. Lush. It’s really bruised at the moment but healing well. There is absolutely no way under the sun that I can put a razor to my right armpit so I’ve embraced the traditional feminist under arm hair-do. Oh what freedom!

I also think I suffered from a collapsed lung during the operation so it really hurt to breath at first. Coughing, burping, laughing and yawning still hurts quite a bit but when you’ve got Mum, Dad and Oli round, none of the above are avoidable!

Oli’s been great throughout the whole sordid business. He took me into hospital for the 7am admission and kept me laughing whilst I went through the pre-op process. Particularly when I had to put the disposable knickers on. They were tragic…

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Oli couldn’t understand why I asked him to not read this article in the pre-op waiting room…

Being a grown-up going for a planned op is weird. Firstly, I signed the consent form that said that some of the risks of having the operation is that it might cause me DVT and PEs and I was like, er, excuse me but I’m having this operation so that I don’t get any more DVTs and PEs… Secondly, I had to walk myself to the anaesthetic table! The nurses who came around to get me were around the same age as me and said: “I thought they had your age wrong when I saw what op you were having. But the paperwork is right – you are 23!” What can I say? I’m a rare case, you’re luck to have me 😉

After coming round from the anaesthetic, I had to stay on the resuscitation ward for six and half hours! This isn’t the best situation to be in but St Thomas’ was in a desperate bed situation and there was no room for me on any wards. In the end I managed to use the phone to call Mum and Oli to let them know I was okay and then I just lay back and enjoyed being attached to a morphine pump. I honestly can’t remember a lot about the next 48 hours…

Oh, don’t worry about Mum and Oli by the way. They weren’t too worried as they’d spent the day in cafes, pubs and going for lunch!

Big shout out to second mama Clare by the way, who came to get me dressed and ready for Dad to take me home. She changed my knickers when I was three-years-old and she’s still doing it when I’m 23. Cheers Clare! xxx

So, what happens next? Well, I’m gonna be honest, I’m still experiencing blueness. The same as it was before I had the operation – no way as bad as when I had a big old clot though which is good. The blueness is probably still happening because there is still a bit of residual clot in my arm, which they couldn’t get rid of before. The blueness might be something that just happens and I’ll have to learn to live with it, adapting my lifestyle to make sure it never gets too bad, or it might mean that I need to have a stent (a tube of metal) put into the vein to make sure it’s as open as possible for the blood to flow through.

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Me in my NHS get up.

None of this is a surprise to me so please don’t worry about it – I’m not! I needed the rib out because that was the original clot causer and that’s gone but the residual clot could still be a problem. Either way, it’s going to take a few more months of monitoring by the bloods team and the vascular team at St Thomas’ before they can be sure of what needs to happen next. I’ll probably be on the blood-thinners for at least another 3-6 months.

The reason I’m needing so much attention is because by the time I arrived in A&E nearly two months ago, the situation was pretty bad. Had I not gone in on that day, the next tell-tale sign that I had anything wrong with me would have been when I had a stroke or heart attack. I was that close. But we can’t dwell on what might have happened because it didn’t. I’m okay.  As ever though, I’ll keep you updated.

For now, I’m just concentrating on getting better – and I’m having a right proper laugh whilst doing it! I can’t raise my arm above my head, or get the wound wet yet so I’m having to be bathed. And getting dressed is proving to be a bit of a pain and generally doing stuff takes me ages. But when you have a family like mine, it’s something to laugh at, not something to be pitied for. Even Oli has bathed me, dressed me and washed, blowdried and attempted to tie up my hair. I feel this goes above and beyond the duties of a 22-year-old boyfriend. Although he did moan a bit: “Why do girls have their hair so long? Washing it takes forever! And then there’s brushing it and blowdrying it…” So very funny.

I’m also not wearing a bra again and enjoying it. Again, on the feminist theme, I might just  burn them all…

I’m just looking forward to getting my life back to normal asap! In the words of Peter Pan: “I can fly!” (on a plane) and I can drink (in moderation) and once the bruising has gone down, I should be able to do all of the normal things a normal person can do.

Like shave my right armpit for one…

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The dreaded DVT socks. Sexy.