Hollywood has shown us time and time again how the story is supposed to be, even to the point that we’ve become accustomed to it, and somewhat this is what we expect for ourselves. But you know, fairytale, fable, whatever, all I knew was that my life was going in the opposite direction. Ir was more like a horror movie.
As I finally woke, all I could hear was the rhythmic bellow of a machine. Phfft, phfft, phfft. This drowned out almost everything, fear included. It almost sounded like bursts of air gushing, actually, this noise felt really soothing and peaceful. Also, oddly, every breath that I was taking seemed to be in perfect conjunction with this noise. I tried to look around a little (you know, I still had no real idea where I was). But because of my paralysis I could only see a few things. About now I twigged that I was still in hospital.
Directly in front of me was a room that had these massive windows, so with those I could see all these people dressed in blue. Quickly I surveyed the area only there was no familiar faces. My attention then strayed for a second, I could see the tip of a thin yellow tube that appeared to be attached to my nose, what the bloody hell! It was annoying the shit out of me too. And I could also see these thick plastic pipes laying all over my chest. Man this wasn’t good.
It was then that I noticed the strange circular array of hospital beds surrounding me and beyond the pffft, I now began to hear what seemed like a bazillion bells and whistles going off. It was what I imagined being kidnapped by aliens might be like. Out of the corner of my eye, I then noticed a machine that seemed to be following my breath rate; how was this so? That phfft again, I was utterly confused. And what made matters worse I couldn’t move to investigate the situation further.
Now what would you do if you woke up one morning in a strange place like this? Well next, and thankfully so, a nurse then approached me. Again I tried to speak but there was nothing there. It was only now that I realised where I was, I was in the intensive care ward.
I finally managed for my eyes to focus, I could now clearly see people laying in the beds around me, some unconscious, others with all these ghastly tubes hanging out of them… shit… then realised that I too was one of these people too. Only I had tubes and cords coming out of freaking everywhere!! This was definitely not part of the plan!
The nurse spoke to me a little more and tried to calm me down, and tried to explain a little of the situation. She told me that I’d been asleep for four days and things of that nature but I couldn’t really comprehend. I was just exhausted. Still, her soothing voice persisted, actually I think a doctor joined her, and I tried to retort but again there was not a sound. So, I simply smiled. Maybe I was trying to be polite or maybe I was still wasted out of my brain on drugs, but all I could think of to do was smile. I guess I was also happy just to be alive.
Being alive was one thing though, and to stay this way wasn’t guaranteed, you see the reality of the situation was that I was suffering from aspiration pneumonia – as in I had food in my chest – probably that chick pea curry. Also, both my lungs had a consolidated infection in the bases, and my left lung had partially collapsed. And as my muscles were already weakened from this bizarre disease process, my chest muscles just weren’t strong enough to deal with such a crisis. In fact, I could have very easily died.
So, to give me the best chance at survival, doctors took the drastic measure of inserting a tracheostomy tube (for the record this was my first one). Simply put, this is a tube that is surgically inserted into the trachea (wind pipe) to create an artificial airway. Most commonly this is then used (via a respirator and a connecting hose) so that a machine could literally pump air into my lungs. Yep, all the pipes laying all over me. What’s more, I was completely unable to talk (and told that I never would again), which made the whole thing much, much worse.
I couldn’t even express my needs and wants.
I was also told I would need the tracheostomy for life.
It was all very surreal.
And on top of this, I had a naso-gastric tube inserted in my nose for feeding, a catheter in my cock so I could piss (which there was a lot of blood for some reason), an IV cannula and I weird well thing in my wrist which by simply opening a cap there was direct access to my blood stream. Then the typical ECG leads covering my chest and an oxygen monitor on my finger, Still, it was all pretty frightening and overwhelming.
Yep I know a bad day.
My physical circumstance wasn’t the only change though, the whole environment was nothing like I’d ever had to endure before. You see, by contrast the last time I was in hospital, I was still quite independent, and I also had my girlfriend to help me a little. Yet this time I wasn’t only entirely dependent on the nurses for my brand new breathing apparatus but literally every little thing and movement that you can imagine. Also, I had no way to tell them anything, all I had was my eyes and my smile.
So, all day I would just lay there like a stale bottle of piss, no television, no real way to communicate, no certainty, all I could do was watch the nurses going about their daily routines. But being in ICU, it was one on one care, so whatever nurse was on duty they basically couldn’t avoid me.
So, I started to try and communicate with them. And apart from the nurses trying to teach me ways to communicate (letter boards, etc); all I could really do was make this rather faint sucking noise with my lips. Pucker up… so annoying for everyone. It was crazy hard, no hand gestures, many failed attempts at lip reading; I mean I remember one time trying to communicate the two simple words “thank you” for about ten minutes. Seriously. But that’s what this was about – persistence. And realising that it sort of gave me a focus, and a challenge if you will.
Persist and smile.