As I mentioned in my last post I thought that I was going to head back to the ward and start to move further forward with the last couple of plasma treatments and the road to recovery and yes I was taken back to the ward and placed into a 4 bed room and started to settle in when a team of surgeons and gastro doctors came in to see me about my every increasing stomach as my bowel was still refusing to work.
They were discussing a couple of options for moving forward as they were getting concerned that nothing was working and that something needed to be done before it got out of hand and surgery might have to be considered and that was the last thing I really wanted. The other 2 options was an endoscopy and to try and suck the waste all out or a return trip to ICU for a treatment that at the time sounded not to bad but turned out to be much worse that I had thought It was the injection of a drug that would make my stomach imitate getting my bowel to work and start to force cramps into there and force the release of air and anything else that wanted to come out.
I thought that was not too bad as I had dealt with all the other laxative options and even though they did not work were not too bad. They told me I would need to go back to ICU as there were side effects associated with this and they needed to monitor my heart, breathing etc to make sure all was okay…mmm I should have then realised that this was not going to be a nice gentle option but back to ICU I went and was transferred onto a larger bed in a more acute area and then the fun began.
I had also been warned that I would possibly get hallucinations, sweats, crying and extreme waves of heat whilst this was all happening but as I had usually dealt with drugs quite well I thought all would be good…mmmmm
So they injected the drug into the line in my arm and then 45 minutes of hell began. The only way I can explain it is to think about the worse stomach cramps you have ever had and then multiply them by 100 % and add to that expelling liquid that you never knew you could possibly have been holding onto and the extreme pain, sweat and hallucinations and you get the idea. This went on for 45 minutes and was probably the worst night of my time in hospital..
I suppose the one upside was that the nurse that was with me was one of the wonderful nurses that I had in ICU previously and she sat with me through the whole thing holding my hand and then graciously told me that I had set an ICU record for the most waste expelled after this type of treatment…oh how thrilled was I!
So after another night in ICU the next day at lunchtime I was transferred back to the ward and this time into my own room. But before then I asked them if I could possibly have a shower as I had just had washes in bed for the previous 2 weeks and the option of a shower was one I was hanging out for and they obliged and let me tell you it was a sheer delight to sit on a chair and have water running over me for the first time in a couple of weeks…pure bliss and by this time I was used to always having a nurse in with me for showers as I was still not able to move much they had to wash and dry me.
So it was time to bid farewell to ICU and get back into life on ward 51 at Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital and the recovery could begin. The last 2 treatments then happened over the next 3 days and then it was full steam ahead as there was movement coming back into my legs and arms and I was starting to feel like perhaps I head turned a corner finally.
The one thing that did not change however was the last night treatment in ICU had not really worked and my bowel was refusing to work properly and I was once again blowing up and so it was more laxatives and more enemas to try and sort it out and a couple of times there was a glimmer of hope but no real relief…I tried to ignore it as much as possible but when it looks like you are 8 months pregnant it is a bit hard to ignore.
Back on the ward it was then meetings with the physio team to look at starting me on regular physio, meeting with the occupational therapy staff, the dietician (because in 3 weeks I had lost 18 kilos), the speech therapist to see how my speaking with the tracheostomy was going and to look at when it might be able to come out and also the doctors every day to mainly talk about my bowel, they did not have to worry about my urine output as I still had the catheter in so that was handled for the time being.
So physio began and it was all about stretching and trying to get a response from all of the nerves and muscles that had deteriorated and working me hard but also recognising that I would get exhausted really easily. To start with it was 2 thirty minute sessions a day and it increased from there.
My first attempt at standing!
One of the great things about having my own room was that I could have a shower every day as my room had an ensuite even though I had to be hoisted in a sling each time I needed to get out of bed the first weeks back on the ward, however as the physio increased and more movement returned they started using a slide board to get me into my wheel chair to take me down to physio except the gorgeous physio girls forgot that I was a man who had a pair of testicles and so when they dragged me over the slide board they did not take them into account and dragged them and in the process bruised them quite badly and even though I still did not have lots of feeling down there, there was enough to be in quite a bit of agony, goodness knows what it would have been like if I had full feeling back.
I let them know and they were duly apologetic and we moved on from there…it was the same with the slings that are used to get you in and out of bed…padding is needed so the sling does not but into places that do not need cutting but hey in the scheme of things these were just additional parts of the journey that made up yet another aspect of my life in hospital to this point.
I was making great progress in physio and they had in fact stood me up for the first time in 4 weeks in a machine that supports your body and allows for you to stand tall and then try to use what muscles you have to properly stretch out your legs and get your back straight and this was the first sign that I was moving in the right direction but I really did think that with the lack of control it would be a long time before I would be able to walk again…another thing I would get wrong!
Then it was time to have the tracheostomy removed in yet another step towards being able to get to rehab and the next chapter. The day it was removed I think the whole ward of nurses was in my room as it is a teaching hospital they all wanted to see how to remove it and even though it only took a minute I am sure it was instructional for them and for me it was pure joy to not have it in and to talk in my own voice and also consider being able to finally eat again in the coming days.
The one thing that was stopping me from heading to rehab was my delightful bowel that was still refusing to get back to normal. By this stage it was 4 weeks between real movements and it was starting to get unbearable but they decided that the best thing was to keep going down the road we were going as it would all start up again as I got more movement back but more laxatives daily still happened and I was ever hopeful. It did amaze me how focussed on bowel movements you get in this situation with doctors, nurses and just about everyone else asking about it and all listening to my bowel to see that it was moving and making the noises it should make…which it was apparently doing.
Then it was time to start eating some food and drink some liquids but as my throat had stopped working properly I had to be very careful as we were not sure how much of it was working again properly or not and so it was with some hesitation that we started with the more formed liquids that have a solidifying agent in them to make then more like a half set jelly as it is easier to swallow. I handled this with ease and was put on a diet of pureed food for meals…oh god hospital food is just awful but more on that another time. The second visit from my speech therapist was then to see if I could take normal liquids or not and she knew that when I was in ICU all I really wanted was a glass of soda water with orange cordial in it and as my beloved had brought some into the hospital she sorted it out that the first drink I had was soda and orange and it was like the nectar of the gods for me and went down with ease and there was another thing ticked off the list and I could now start eating a normal diet.
Well that would end up being a cheeseburger and fries from McDonalds and even though I had not had fast food for about 4 years it was amazing and I loved every mouthful.
And then the news came through that I was progressing so well, even with the bowel issues that I would be going that afternoon to rehab to start on the next leg of the journey which it turns out would be the shortest one so far.
Next time – rehab begins and the improvements come in leaps and bounds!!!