I couldn’t stop sleeping. I felt sick. I was dizzy. I felt like death. My eyes wouldn’t stay open. My head felt weird. It ached, but not in a normal way. I just about made it upstairs, dropped my stuff onto my bed, and fell down on top of it all. I was dizzy but not dizzy – on the verge of unconsciousness. And I passed out as any level of consciousness I had been managing to cling to slipped away.
Inject. Pass out. Wake up. Inject. Pass out. Eventually I was delirious. And I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t move. My heart rate was HIGH. My muscles felt weird. Acidosis. Crap. Acidosis. No. Pass out. Wake up. Inject. Pass out. Consider options. Pass out before being able to form a full thought.
On went the cycle. Lose consciousness. Wake up delirious. Lose consciousness. Wake up. Drink. Lose consciousness. Wake up. Try to move one leg under the covers. Lose consciousness. Over and over and over.
Until I regained consciousness and knew I was on the edge of something disastrous. The level of acidic bodies in my blood was over 10 times the upper limit of normal. It had doubled.
I phoned my mum at 3am. She woke up. At first she was angry – angry that I was ill. She doesn’t understand the complexity of what I’m dealing with or the way I juggle my medication, so she criticised it. She told me what I’d been doing wasn’t good enough. She decided she could manage it, and pretty much demanded that she took control. And then I started vomiting, and the room was spinning, and I was laying in the bed as she packed stuff ready to drive me to London (she was going to grab some rest in my flat while I was at the hospital) when I lost the ability to move a muscle. She’d been telling me I couldn’t possibly be as unwell as I was saying I was, because my breathing was too slow. In that moment, breathing was way too much effort. I apparently became hysterical at the thought of going to hospital, sobbing and getting into a (mild for me) panic (I am not fully feeling, this was a subdued response from me, with not a lot of feeling behind it, but it was enough to induce tears). But I relented. At 5am, for the second time in two weeks, an ambulance was called for me.
The first responder paramedic that showed up was from a different NHS trust. He was really friendly, and he was just finishing his shift. He told me I was the first genuinely sick person he’d been called to throughout the entire night. He was kind and fatherly and he sat on the bed and did all he could. It didn’t take him long to call for backup. He stated the category of the call and then added, “Urgently please. This patient is… Very sick.”
There were no free crews. He didn’t want to wait and tried to find a way to get me into the back of his ambulance car and take me to the slightly further away hospital in Kent where my share is sort of cared with my main consultant for this hiccup in London. But my blood pressure was dropping, as was my level consciousness. I was drifting away before his eyes. He kept rubbing my foot and saying my name and I had less and less free energy to use to respond to him. My dog had enough energy for me and him, and wandered around the bedroom saying hello. He got many hugs from various paramedics, and seemed very pleased with himself.
My mum was stress vomiting every few minutes. She got angry at me. She shouted about my management of everything and then she acknowledged that it was not the right time and calmed before occasionally not being able to hold back her thoughts any more. She did however tell the paramedics that I have PTSD due to stuff that happened in hospitals, which was a first. Usually she’s very dismissive of it and doesn’t understand what a big deal it is, and says that in giving it a label I started to make so much more of a deal about it. So this… Mattered.
We ended up with four paramedics in total. The first responder and an older lady lifted me into a chair thing, and a male paramedic wrapped a blanket around me and sort of hugged me in the process. They wheeled me through my parents’ house and carried me down the stairs and out to the ambulance. My GCS (glasgow coma score/scale) dropped in front of them from 15 (fully conscious) to 10 (kinda not able to function), as did my blood pressure, which plateaued at 80/55. My heart rate was 130 laying there out of it, I was shutting down, I was cold. My kidneys gave up functioning.
By 7am, my morning had already involved a blue light ambulance ride, a battle to cannulate me, a paramedic lady holding my hand while I lay in resus with a reduced level of consciousness that rendered me unable to talk or communicate, but apparently still able to cry my eyes out. My mum had annoyed the paramedics, and they made it known. They spoke to her like they were disciplining a child.
They hooked me up to IVs and I began to improve. I quite quickly came around. And the crying intensified then. The crying was joined by shaking. I was in the scene from my nightmares. I was in the hospital that triggered my PTSD. It was in that building, under the care of my paediatrician (whose face I still see in my nightmares), that the very first events I ever had flashbacks to occurred. If he were anyone other than a doctor it would be emotional abuse, neglect. For a doctor it is malpractice, it was cruel. It killed me. He killed me. And I sat in front of him and told him that I see his face in my nightmares, and one time he told me he’d laid awake thinking of me too. He’d written a note pinned to my A&E file that he is to be notified if ever I am admitted. He instructed people not to treat me unless I was essentially… Dead. I was his personal challenge, a puzzle to solve. And he was far too emotionally involved. So I was freaking out as people found that bit of paper. I was freaking out because of where I was. Not fully able to freak out, because I wasn’t fully able to feel. It was more a superficial panic, it didn’t spread right to my core, it sat on the surface. It was mild. But I shook and I cried and I lost the ability to talk. And over and over I asked to leave.
My mum slept on the rail of the trolley in resus, using my big purple butterfly blanket as a pillow. I put my arm around her as she slept and played with her hair fondly, gently, afraid to do so when she was awake. I felt this urge to protect her in her vulnerable state. And she woke, momentarily exasperated at it all, at me… And then just exhausted. That’s what I do to her. I break her.
Then they moved me round to majors. For the first time in years I was well enough to be stepped down from the resuscitation unit to majors. And they put me in a corner by the window in what used to be the clinical decision’s unit. And I woke up, looked out of the window. And there he was. In his office. The monster in my head. Out in the real world.
I watched him sit there. I watched him, and I shook. And I prayed that he wouldn’t turn around, but I wasn’t fully feeling. I wasn’t able to freak out, and so I stared. And I got angry. Because how is it fair that after everything he did to me, everything he put me through – all the cruelty and the mistakes that he made that almost killed me and occasionally made me long for death unlike anything else ever had… How is it fair that after all that, he gets to sit in this building like normal and carry on like nothing ever happened? How is it fair that he can sit in that same old chair and casually eat a sandwich when I have spent hours shaking and crying in that building because of the things he did to me there. How is it fair? I concluded that I wanted him to hurt as much as he hurt me. I wanted his soul to die as he had killed mine. And I wanted to talk to him at the same time; I wanted to email him and arrange to meet so I might get some closure. He played god with my life and had no idea the damage he was doing.
He cared. Far too much. He crossed a line, but he was the boss. He’d sit and talk with me for an hour or so every day he was there. He treated me like a puzzle, a personal challenge, but he let me in. I learnt a lot about him. He told me about his childhood and stuff, and loads of anecdotes, until I trusted him. Until I told him about my own childhood. Until I reeled off my own anecdotes. And he supported me. He was there. And then he almost killed me. He threw the trust away. He saved my life a few times. He was so caring when I was found unconscious that the crash team thought he was my dad… But he did horrific, unspeakable things. He put me through hell. He wasn’t good at showing he cared, and so when I saw those pictures, it made me stop. Did he care? Why did he put them right where he had to look at them every day? To remember me? Because every time he saw those pictures he had to remember me. This is the closest I had been to him in years. We weren’t face to face, but we were face to… window?
I messaged My Fellow Third Wheel and my hospital friend and Uni Babe. My Fellow Third Wheel was not impressed with my old paediatrician. He called him a four letter word beginning with a c. My hospital friend said she couldn’t imagine how stressed I was. Uni Babe responded with a series of swear words, a statement that it was awful for my mental health and I had to get moved away from that area where I could see him, and shortly after I got a couple of messages from WR Uni Friend and Uni Pal.
“Hope you’re doing ok petal. Just letting you know I’m still around for ya. Don’t feel the need to reply, just letting you know I think of you regularly.” – Uni Pal
“Hey superhero just wanted to let you know we’re all missing you and hope things aren’t too sh**y right now. There’s definitely a sense of something missing without you here, but focus on feeling better xx”
“Also don’t feel any pressure to respond if you’re not feeling up to it, we know you’re not feeling great right now but we just want you to know we’re still here for you x” – WR Uni Friend
“You were in resus this morning, are you sure that’s a good idea? Is there a different hospital you can go to? This is your life in the balance. You may not care now but you will later, and we all care too xx” – Uni Babe
I mean… They’re trying so hard bless them. They don’t understand me at all, and yet they’ve figured out how to say… The right thing, I guess? When I was incapable of all feeling, this was useless, but now that I’m starting to feel very suppressed, fractional proportions of my former emotions, words like this mean something.
And then suddenly I was like a caged animal. I was far too close to him. I kept asking for a self discharge form but they freaked. They wanted me to complete the IVs. They wanted me to keep the line in. They wanted to send me up to a ward. But I felt better. I explained to my nurse that I was in the hospital that first triggered my PTSD, staring at the office of the man who had almost abused me in a way. He immediately shut the curtains beside me so I couldn’t see. He stood next to me, this freakishly attractive human being with hypnotising, piercing brown eyes, and he said, “Look, I’m here. We’re here. I’m here. You’re safe.”
And then he tried to make me comfortable and talk me down. He told me I had to stay for the IV to finish, and then I needed to go up to a ward. I asked him for a self discharge form. It was the millionth time I had asked. Nobody would give me the form.
I said you guys need the bed.
And he was all, Don’t think about that. You’re a patient. You’re here for a reason. You’re very sick. but when I looked at my blood results, they were at that stage normal for me. In fact, they were good for me, hovering just outside of normal parameters.
After I’d been laid there for 7 hours without seeing a doctor (other than the one who admitted me), which was quite frankly A JOKE, a doctor appeared (this is another reason why I avoid this hospital at all costs and hadn’t been here for two years. The negligence that has nearly killed me so many times. It’s old. It’s a stagnant swamp of nightmares. Unfortunately, it’s closest to my family’s house, so it’s where ambulances take me). He didn’t want me to leave. He admitted there had been multiple screw ups in my care and I’d been meant to be seen much much sooner. I’d had enough. My third IV was finished and I’d basically unhooked myself from it. I needed out. I was going crazy, but not fully feeling. It’s weird. It was rippling away inside of me but the tidal wave never broke. It was never a fully fledged emotion – more a deadened, half-hearted version of what should have been. But anyway, I demanded a self discharge form, which meant I signed a disclaimer stating that I was leaving against medical advice.
I thought this would make everyone cross, but the lovely male nurse understood. He tried to talk me into staying, he really did. But he was so kind and calm about it. He said if I got worse again I had to go straight back without hesitation. He wasn’t annoyed at all.
As I walked out, my specialist community nurse from London called me. I told her where I was, and what had happened.
I arranged to call my nurse back later. We ended up arranging to meet on Thursday. Yes, after months of cancelling all appointments, I’ve finally made one (I cancelled most of them for the next few months in advance). We spoke about stuff and I had a few moments of saying I couldn’t do it any more, and she told me that we’ll get there. She said it was a shame that this admission had broken me but it was also a good thing because I was finally letting them work with me. She said she was proud of me, because six months ago I would not have made that phone call. I pointed out that six weeks ago I wouldn’t have made that phone call. She laughed. We talked about serious medical junk. We talked about a letter for uni (if I decide to carry on). And then she said she’s spoken to Dr GiveUp (y’know, the guy who just gave up on me in February, I’ve probably referred to him as something else but hey) and he’s really pleased that I opened up to her, and is keen to arrange a meeting between the three of us so that I can talk to him too. I didn’t open up. I broke down. And I kept my cards very close to my chest. I don’t talk. I don’t know how. But I’ve not let these guys have any input since they basically gave up on me, so I think the occasion was rather momentous.
Anyway, my little brother went and collected a parcel that was delivered to me, and it contained additional copies of two of my favourite books,