So in March 2018, the award of ‘Angel’ went to Rose. She found me in me darkest days: lost, confused, in pain, basically an absolute mess. She showed me kindness and compassion like I hadn’t yet been shown, and she saved your little Jen. She really did. I don’t know how I would have got through that time without her.
But come November 2020, Rose unfortunately is no longer at UCLH, though she assured me she would be there with me in spirit this time around. Yes, we are still in contact.
This time it was Glenda. She looked after me on that second day.
So I couldn’t tell you much about that first night, the Monday. I either didn’t sleep or I was in and out of consciousness, I am not sure of which. But my memories start again on Tuesday morning.
They start first with my Angel Glenda, the nurse. And then Gabby, the Trainee Nurse Associate.
Sometimes you just get a vibe from people. And the vibe on that Tuesday was exactly what I needed. So I wasn’t in ICU this time (Or ITU as they seem to call it more often here), I was in a new place called PACU, which I mentioned briefly in the last post. That stands for Post Anaesthetic Critical Unit. It only opened a week and a half before I was in there. Everyone was interested in hearing how it was. I think the idea is that it’s more relaxed than ICU and I did sort of feel that. But whether or not it can feel relaxed is based heavily on the nurses you have. I would say overall, I think I enjoyed it more than ICU. On that first day it felt like the light was shining on us all, which was entirely due to the lovely people who were looking after me that day. The following day felt a bit more overcast and drizzly, but I’ll get into that later.
My dear friend Emilie came to visit me too, which was amazing. At the moment you can’t have visitors and I am so lucky that I have so many friends who already spend their time within the walls of UCLH. So I still get visitors.
They pulled up a chair and Emilie and I sat across from each other. Unfortunately, I had just been told I wasn’t allowed to speak so I was a bit useless, but we still managed to chat and just having her there was amazing. She’s an anaesthetist you see, and I remember my nurse saying something about her following up after being my anaesthetist for the surgery and I wrote on my little whiteboard ‘no, she’s my friend’.
How lucky am I.
I wanted a mirror so I could properly look at myself and potentially also clean my face up. Looking at my phone was difficult after the anaesthetic so although I could sort of use it as a mirror, it wasn’t ideal. It’s always impossible to use my phone for a few days after such a long surgery. I struggle for like at least 4-5 days. I would be interested in knowing if anyone can tell me if that’s just the anaesthetic or if it’s related to sedation? Or the length of the surgery? I didn’t have this issue after I asked for no ketamine 2 years ago (10 hrs), but I did get it this time (12 hrs), and the first time (16 hrs). Anyway, there were no mirrors in the building (except for one in the covid ward and … no thanks.) I found out later that there were some but someone took them… Great, thanks. Glenda did her best to hunt one down for me, but alas. To no avail.
It was that day I was told I could start on clear liquids. Meaning tea, but no milk. Tea is my salvation and if I couldn’t have a proper cup of tea I at least wanted a peppermint tea, but they didn’t have it. Lovely Glenda pulled some out of her bag and gave them to me. I could have cried, I was so grateful. In fact, she came to visit me days later after I’d even left PACU and brought me a box of it. These helped me get to sleep every night and I can not thank her enough. Unfortunately she popped in while I was with my surgical team and they were fiddling with my head and I was in a lot of acute pain (details to come), so I was a bit distracted. She left them, and popped back later to say hi. What an absolute ANGEL! She came to visit me a couple of times and once, she stopped to help out one of my ward friends who was struggling. You see it occasionally, these nurses who really, really care about what they’re doing. It’s not just a job, they need their patients to be comfortable. I’m grateful for all (most) of my nurses but some really shine through. These are the people for whom nursing is a calling, not just a job or a wage.
Also that day, I ended up in a pool of blood. One of the many things connected to my femoral line (in my groin) disconnected and my blood made a leap for the outside world. Unfortunately, its plight only got it as far as my sheet, which ended up in the wash. But I appreciate it for its initiative.
That’s one narrative. The other narrative is that I had already had 3 blood transfusions, was low on haemoglobin, and the last thing I needed was a line being incorrectly connected so that I lost loads of blood.
But where’s the fun in that narrative? I choose the former. I was mostly just glad that I wasn’t bleeding from my rectum or something. Gosh. We write out own narratives, you see.
Anyway, my friend Erika decided to visit just as I was sitting there in a pool of blood wondering what on earth my life had come to. She jumped into action and she and Gabby changed my sheets, my gown, and got me dry and back into bed. Days later when Erika came to visit I spilled a glass of water over my whole table and she cleaned that up for me too. She’ll stop visiting me soon when she realises I keep finding ways to put her to work! It’s not personal or intended, I swear! Her timing just works out that she ends up being my saviour on each visit.
Anyway, I was sad to say goodbye to that day, to those glorious people. But it was inevitable, as was the impending night. And that night was the worst one I had. More to come on that in due course, but I think for now we will just keep to my Angels.