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

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.