Aug 15, 2014

Embedded, I Reflect on Health and Friendship

The blur of one thing after another and the feeling of being a pawn in a game in which I was the focus but ultimately had no claim, although everything was at stake, went on for a time whose length was indeterminate but punctuated by certain events, some of which I'm probably repeating

X-rays, slings being fitted, neck braces removed, information given, information received, information forgotten, the tracking of one ceiling to another, the desire to know everybody's name, to establish human contact with these people who presided over this production line of care, names and faces, Nicole on the phone, Nicole arriving, a doctor here, a doctor there, an orthopaediatrician, if that's the right word, telling me that collarbones don't do well when they're operated on and me responding that I didn't want an operation and that we should let nature take its course, and that ribs can't be influenced, so nature should take its course there as well, so let's take nature and let it take its course.

Arriving at my ultimate destination, received onto the ward by a softly spoken, finely trimmed male nurse, surrendering myself to it, in my little bay of four beds, curtains drawn, the psycho across the way who is supervised 24-7, the lady next to him who keeps herself to herself but is clearly in pain, the empty bed next door.

Teams change, Nicole returns, Eloise is here, the poor thing looks like a rabbit in the headlights, and Lyra is back on her feet with them. They can't stay long - it's late - and they need some normality and so I am left to my own devices: the pain button, the mp3 player, the electric bed.

I am attached to a Christmas Tree with a tube that disappears into my arm. There are machines on it that drip stuff through the tubes. My pain button lets me order on-demand morphine to try to get things under control. The pain when I move or when I am out of position, especially in my chest, is intense.

I learn to get used to asking for help, to reciting the litany of dispensation: full name, date of birth, patient number, pain level out of ten lying normally, pain level out of ten moving. I find at first I want to be stoic about pain and report sixes and sevens and reflect on whether ten really means what I can imagine might be possible or what I can remember as a lay there on my back in the pathway.

The morphine doesn't agree with me and night has fallen when I start to vomit. I vomit three or four times, developing quite the graceful chundering technique that minimises pain and also disturbance for my neighbours. The ward at night is a quiet place. Pressing the button for a nurse. Waiting with a bag full of sick for them to show their faces is a long and lonely stretch of time.

The nurses are attentive though and soon my bag is swapped for another drug and the nausea subsides. I am able to manage a little fitful sleep.

The next day is a routine of drug dispensation, metaphorical and thinking of England.

Nicole returns with shopping, clothes that I'll be able to put on in my new movement reality, again she can't stay for long as little Lyra is kicking up a storm and not going down well with the locals.

I've had to cancel our planned trip to the Ekka this week, but it's a public holiday and my friend Claire visits for an hour, to commiserate and help me with a picture of my purple bruise to match my purple prose. She makes light of my predicament, and I am immensely grateful and feel really quite lucky.

This is the only bruise that I am aware of at this point in time. As the days pass and various garments come on and off many other bruises come to light. They shift and change like wind blowing over a wheatfield.

The visits come and go, some professional: the Trauma Team, the Round, the Physiotherapistas, and as the days pass they, like the time, blur. Patients come and go.

I re-discover Facebook and the pale validation of posting a picture of yourself looking really shitty and sorry for yourself and having people respond with pithy drunken comments that they later regret and apologise for (you know who you are). I discover Facebook Messenger, chat with various people and discover just how high I am on pain killers by expressing in writing my love (platonic) and eternal gratitude, which I would normally never dream of doing. But I was sincere, and here I expand my list: my Family, my brother, my visitors (Claire and Paul especially), you who looked after my children when you were needed (Debra and Tony, Claire again). Those who really helped out. Those who visited, even if just being there on a different end of the internet.

On Day Three I give up my pain button; I'm pushing to get out, to get home. To make progress. When they take the tube out it's a bit scary, like having a crutch taken away, but the reality of it isn't as bad as I thought.

I find myself in the dark as to what is going on with my prognosis. I'm going for walks now my Christmas Tree is gone and I don't have to push the damn thing with its sticky wheel around wherever I go. But moving around gives me the shits - my fractured collarbone keeps grinding - when's it supposed to heal? My ribs - just how broken are they? When will they heal? What's the plan? I know I've probably been told this stuff but I was up to my eyeballs in morphine and probably, I don't know, checking out the Doctor's assets when she was talking to me or inspecting his parting if he was a bloke - and if I can't remember even if it was a man or a woman, then seriously: medical advice is not going to have registered.

And the information level doesn't really improve in any formal way. Oh I complain, and people tell me stuff, but the different teams tell me different stuff and none of it's written down. I mean you'd think they'd have a pre-prepared sheet of A4 on what to expect from broken ribs or a broken collarbone, wouldn't you? But no such luck.

I find that I've ended up in a gastro-intestinal ward by a quirk of fate and bed allocation, and that the consequence of this is that their discharge policy is more concerned with my bowel movements, considering that my pain relief is a constipational hazard, than anything else. I negotiate with the doctors that my bottom needn't be an impediment to my going home, considering I live ten minutes up the road and much prefer the comfort of my own throne room.

The evening before my discharge I have some visitors: Sam and Claire McD and Elise and Julie and Nicole and Eloise come after school time and we chat and play Monopoly. It's all very jolly and I feel good, really good and ready to go. Really ready. So ready some of those people might not have even been there. I suppose I must have wanted them to be.

Day Four: In the morning I really hurt. The mornings are the worst, before the day's dosage starts. It hurts and I am anxious about going home. I still have no formal information about what's going on. A new nurse goes through the "Discharge Checklist" - do I have any follow-up appointments booked - Well I don't know, do you? - Well how would I know - Well why don't you do your job and check? And can I take this taped-together towel the physio Guy gave to me to brace my chest for the breathing exercised? - No, you can't it's hospital property - So I can't take this two-dollar towel home - No you can't.

And by the time Nicole comes and picks me up I am thoroughly pissed off and just want to be out of there and it's a real pity because they've taken pretty good care of me, and we've been friendly and constructive and it's all just gone tits up at the last minute.

But still, it's time to go, and go I must, so go we do.

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