In my mind, I have had quite a lot of back and forth about what does and doesn’t constitute trauma. My recovery has had a lot of ups and downs since my last post about it, and my mental health hasn’t been great as I have been reliving some of the things I went through during my three-month stay. If you follow me on social media, you’ll see that some super kind people have posted and told me medical trauma is valid. I also think writing about stuff like this helps me to process it. One of the reasons I write about my Crohn’s story is because I find it cathartic. Another reason is that I hope I can give some hope to people who may be in a similar situation.
That person who leaves everything to the last minute is me. But it isn’t just insignificant things that I leave to the last minute. I’d been severely anemic for years when I ended up in the hospital for three days last summer having a blood transfusion. They told me then it was Coeliac, and that I should avoid gluten. So for 8 months not one morsel of wheat, barley, and rye passed my lips. But I was still anemic. Then I started getting severe pain when I ate or drank, and then it just never went. I stopped eating, and my weight plummeted to 6.5 stone. When I finally did arrive at A&E I thought they would tell me I had an ulcer and give me tablets.
I was so low in potassium they rushed me into resus.
As it turned out I had a blocked bowel, my body was not making protein albumin and protein was leaking from my cells, I was 6.5 stone and I had SMA syndrome, a condition where your body uses the fat layer around your duodenum and the aorta and SMA artery either side squeeze it. Because of all this, I had to have a PICC Line put in and be fed through a tube into my artery. When the consultant I was under finally managed to come and see me after reading all my notes his exact words were “If you had picked up an infection in this state, you would have died”. My friends and I always joke that I have 9 lives, so I was pleased here that I didn’t get an infection and have to use one.
My first brush with death
I looked up at the toilet ceiling, which seemed to be sparkling with a little bit of “je ne sais quoi” I had never noticed before. I was on the floor of the toilet in my ward. Wait. Why was I on the floor in my toilet ward? The next thing I remember was waking up in my bed with my Mum next to me, looking at me like I was going to die. It was two days later. In their wisdom, because the pain was so bad, they doubled up my oramorph, but still gave it to me at the same frequency. Apparently, according to my Mum, when she came up that evening I was completely out of it. Which made sense because I realized I’d lost about three days. I was in such a state, I found an empty box of a gum thing they use on people that are not conscious to take their temperature. As my Mum left the ward, I believe her words were “If you give her any more morphine tonight I’ll sue the arse off of you”. A morphine overdose sounds like it can be quite fun.
My second brush with death
I’d finally got to sleep. Hospitals can be terrible places to sleep in, and sometimes no amount of amitriptyline in the world will help you to nod off. All of a sudden, I was abruptly woken up and strapped to things. A critical care nurse was next to me, putting those sticky heart monitor pads everywhere but my minge. I looked at the clock and it was about 3 am.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Your potassium is critically low, and we need to transfer you to the acute ward now”.
Just what you want to hear after you’d nodded off in the most peaceful sleep you were having in days. Potassium levels are a weird one because you’d never think it, but they are so important a too low or too high potassium level can kill you. By the point of this incredibly frightening night, I’d been on nil by mouth for over 7 days. Both my Mum and I kept questioning why they didn’t give me a hydration drip, and they kept telling us both I didn’t need one. The critical level for potassium is 2.5, so when the night shift Doctor was browsing through my notes and he saw mine, he must have nearly had a heart attack himself.
The ward had let mine go down to 1.7. A lot of panic ensued. Oddly, not a lot of it was from me. At that point I was so over it all, the main thing I was upset about was leaving my friends on the ward. When I was finally in the acute medical unit, they had to take blood so often that my veins collapsed. Unfortunately, they still needed to take my blood about four times a day to ensure my potassium level was rising, so in the end they were just stabbing my collapsed veins. It wasn’t the best week of my life.
Being shouted at for wanting pain relief
My pain from the SMA syndrome and the blocked bowel was excruciating. I cannot explain how painful this was. Every time my pain meds changed they made a mistake, which often left me lying in so much pain I was screaming. When I eventually got to see the pain management team, they agreed to a mix of morphine and tramadol. After a couple of days, it seemed to work, and I was pleased I could cross the pain off of my list of worries. One Sunday, I was due for tramadol via IV, and the nurse coldly told me “We’ve run out and the pharmacy is shut as it’s Sunday, so you won’t be getting tonight’s dose”. This happened after a month of me being in there, being messed around near on a daily with my pain relief. You can probably imagine how much this upset me. Through crying so much that I couldn’t breathe, I asked the nurse if I could please have my morphine if I wasn’t getting tramadol, as I was in pain. Half an hour passed, and I buzzed again. Another nurse come and told me “It was being done”. After a full hour had passed, I buzzed again, and at this point was pretty upset. This nurse pointed in my face and shouted “You are not my only patient” in front of a full bay of patients. Nice. For the rest of my stay I of course called her Harold Shipman. I don’t understand why people like this become nurses.
Light at the end of the tunnel
When I ate my first solid food for three months without getting pain I cried with relief. I’ve been out of the hospital for a couple of months now. I still am not on the proper treatment for Crohn’s as I am awaiting a further test to get funding for biotherapy. But at least I am getting better with all of my home comforts.
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