Across the hospital ward was an older gentleman. He looked across at me, smiled and nodded. The kind of smile and nod that old folk give youngsters to let them know all would be fine. I smiled back trying hard to ignore the porridge falling out of his mouth and the fact his pyjamas had fallen down so as to show off his catheter connections in all their glory. Funny how it’s those moments that you remember the most!!
The day after my bowel resection (as I think it’s supposed to be called) I was dropped down to a second dependency ward. I was in a small room of four guys, including myself, and I was the youngest by a good few years. Despite being dosed up on morphine I felt that I probably looked the roughest too.
May The Thoughts Be With You
At this point, cancer was still a possibility, so worries and concerns constantly played out in my mind. What comes next? What if it can’t be cured? Where the hell did it come from?
Those kind of thoughts don’t do you any good, so any sense of normality to cling too is good. Thankfully, normality came care of the fella in the bed next to mine. He huffed, puffed, moaned and groaned throughout the day. He complained about everything and treated the nurses like his own personal butlers.
He was meant to be trying to get out of bed and move, but didn’t! Then he’d tell his visiting wife, who pampered him like there was no tomorrow, he’d been busy all day with his exercises. Every time myself or a fellow inmate called for attention, he’d grab the nurse to assist him instead.
Singing Christmas Tree
Although he was annoying, it did help the hours past. The old boy opposite would nod to me and I’d nod back – two strangers drawn together by a common irritation and a mental desire to smother the other bloke with our pillows, had either of us had the strength to do so.
I was in second dependency for a couple of days. I had a decent view out the window and regular visits from Jude. On one occasion she even brought in a “singing christmas tree” to brighten up the ward. The old guy opposite especially liked. He sadly didn’t get many visitors as his wife was also ill at the time. At least the singing tree reminded us it was nearly Christmas. He smiled at Jude each time she pressed the button for the tree to sing and dance – thankfully his pyjama bottoms stayed up.
Last Cup Of Coffee
On 21st December I was released from hospital. I’d been moved down to another ward and could go home provided I’d been to the bathroom. My first enema assisted in that respect and I was able to leave. Hooray! Well at least for a short time. Once home I had what would turn out to be my last cup of coffee, my last ever jelly pot and my last ever ibuprofen. Feeling rough and tired I headed for bed.
In the afternoon, Jude woke me and said she’d made some chicken soup. I couldn’t wait for my first non-hospital food meal! The reputation of hospital food is well merited. I’m sure better and healthier offerings would improve exit rates for patients. I mean, how can anyone managed to screw up sandwiches or ham, chips and beans.
I’m Going To Die – Covered In Jelly
Anyway, after just one mouthful of Jude’s soup and I knew something wasn’t right. The soup tasted great but I just couldn’t swallow. I looked at Jude and gave her what I thought would be the universal signal for “get me a bowl as soon as you can because I’m going to be very sick”. Jude had no idea what I wanted, at least not until I covered the worktop, myself and the floor with coffee, jelly, the morning’s Weetabix and the sole spoonful of soup. Think Little Britain, and then multiply it by 10!
This was the only time I genuinely thought “I’m going to die”.
Of all the ways to go – vomiting up lumps of jelly whilst trying to not fall off a kitchen stool. I headed back to bed for a few more hours and then tried eating again. Nothing stayed down! A little later I had a small amount of porridge and thankfully didn’t see it again. Perhaps the excitement of coming home had got to me and all would be well tomorrow.
The next day I went back into hospital, apparently throwing up after a bowel resection operation is not a good sign. Who knew? The night of the 22nd December was also the worst night I spent in hospital. I was boiling hot, but didn’t for one minute think it was because I was feverish. Instead I swore blind the guy in the bed opposite was on fire and I convinced myself that he had to be heated for whatever condition he had.
One thing I should say at this point was that the nurses were brilliant. One even moved me to a private room for a few hours so that I could get some sleep. She realised I’d not slept well (although I didn’t mention the guy opposite being on fire) and felt that I could do with a bit of space. Given that I was about to become friends with a balloon later that day (more on that another time), the private room was very much welcomed.
It’s Not Cancer
Thankfully by Christmas Eve, I was feeling a lot better, but getting home for Christmas Day looked unlikely. That morning I was told the good news that “it wasn’t cancer”. The team of Doctors and Junior Doctors surrounded my bed, looked at the notes, muttered a few things to each other and then said very quietly “it’s not cancer”. No balloons, no clowns, no cheers, no party poppers, nothing. I put it down to NHS cuts and quietly celebrated in my head.
The Doctor continued with his mutterings and announced that I had Crohn’s Disease. According to The NHS website this is “a long-term condition that causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive system” and there’s no cure. The Doctor explained what would happen next and then gave the nod for me to go home.
As Christmas presents go – an all clear with cancer and being allowed to go home – they’re ones I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. The Crohn’s could wait for another day.
Part 3 to follow.