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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Day 4 - Second Rude Awakening!

Woken this morning by a man shouting a tirade of abuse at a member (or members) of staff, to repeat much of it would mean using the C word again and I don't mean Cancer. After last nights musical beds I can only presume that the ward had been even more short staffed that normal. This particular man it seemed was wheelchair bound and had needed to use the toilet but no one had answered his buzzer - he was absolutely furious and was determined everyone was going to hear why. We couldn't see him or any of the staff but every word was audible and he did not mince those words...! When he finally stopped it all went very quiet until an elderly lady opposite said, 'I really enjoyed that!' I think maybe he spoke for many people on the ward, although probably in more colourful language.
When the breakfast was brought around I was told that despite having my embolisation procedure that morning I was now able to eat and would not be nil by mouth.
Soon after I was taken down on my bed into a theatre like room with lots of equipment where the interventional radiologist introduced himself and explained what he was going to do. I was then prepared by 2 of his team who then discovered I'd had a coffee and rice crispies...and had supposed to have been nil by mouth! They were not happy with the ward staff who had also taken out my canular so another had to be put in. 
I was made to feel very comfortable and the team were all very reassuring but I was still a little scared as the procedure is carried out while you are under local anesthetic. I had forms to sign to say I understood the risks involved - I'm glad I'd not looked this up before I went in! A tube was fed up through a small hole made near my groin and up into the artery which was feeding the blood to the tumor, this was then blocked with small beads. I felt very little and although the screens were above me I chose not to watch what was going on. I did however note the music playing which was quite surreal as I was a well know Irish piece called Farewell to Erin which I have played myself many times.
When the embolisation was complete the radiologist himself took me back to the ward which was really nice, the whole team had been extremely kind and reassuring. In fact they said that it was not usual for them to be brought in on a Saturday but I had been on an emergency list and so I am very grateful for their care.
The rest of the day I spent mostly sleeping, although not particularly invasive the embolisation had tired me out, maybe the worry, I was however confident it had gone well and hopeful the bleeding had now stopped.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Day 3 - On the Move

My second night had not been good. I won't get too graphic here but problems occurred when the tubes that were draining out of me got blocked with blood clots. This wasn't immediately spotted when I had called for a nurse, fortunately another nurse later on realised there was a problem and by simply manipulating the tubes, freed the clots and the pain got easier. My observations the next morning showed a considerable drop in blood pressure and I was told the procedure to stop the blood flow - embolisation, would be carried out that day. For this reason I was 'nil by mouth' until this was done.
At lunch time another doctor came to see me and said my embolisation was booked for 8.30am the following morning and then went to question staff who'd put me on nil by mouth?
I managed to get out  of bed that day for the first time and walk to the bathroom for a wash, not easy pushing my morphine drip and catheter with irrigation system (not to mention wearing a hospital nightie that opened at the back!) Not surprisingly though by now what I was wearing and how I looked were the furthest things from my mind.
Later that evening there was a flurry of activity when we were told that the bay we were in was needed for a mens bay. There were 6 bays to a ward, some of which were all male and some all female. Although I'd only been there for a couple of days I had become accustomed to my surroundings and who I shared the bay with, others had been there days longer. Therefore when we were suddenly told we were on the move to different bays/ward it was quite upsetting. A couple of the elderly ladies were particularly upset as they had got used to speaking to each other and this sudden change frightened them. I was only moved along the same ward into another bay along with one of the elderly ladies, my new bed was next to the window so I got a view of East Birmingham!
Probably due to the move the staff were quite on edge and obviously under a lot of pressure as beds had to be found for patients that had to be moved. More than likely this is the reason my painkillers were forgotten that evening and I was left for 6 hours before I received them. As I was already feeling sorry for myself this seemed like an eternity.
I also had a lot of pain from the catheter which I was told was quite normal as my body was 'probably rejecting it'. Too bloody right it was! In fact it turned out to be more clots which were freed by another nurse on duty. I knew by now that when you have to use the buzzer to call for help, if at first you don't succeed - buzz again!
At this point in my diary I need to make a very important point. I am truly and sincerely grateful for the care I received whilst in hospital and have no complaints about the NHS, it has saved my life. I do however recognise that the staff are human and as such there are good and bad, those that cope well under pressure and others that don't. It was not the level of care that was lacking although sometimes it took longer to get than others. The bigger problem was the lack of empathy - and you can't teach that in medical school.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Day 2 - The C Word

I can't say I had a lot of sleep that first night and it was a bit of a shocker to realise I was hooked up to a morphine drip, catheter and an irrigation system - not how I normally wake up! The biggest shock was yet to come. When the ward rounds began that day I was greeted by a doctor, he was alone and closed the curtain around me and said that the consultant radiologist would be performing an embolisation on my kidney to stop the bleeding. Having had little sleep and being in obvious pain I probably looked rather vacant and asked what this was to which the reply was 'you do know you have a cancer in your kidney?' That was it, right there!
Now I may be a little naive but I'm sure this isn't how Monroe delivers bad news to his patients and I swear on Holby City I've seen them take relatives into a side room and explain the seriousness of a condition. I really wasn't expecting to hear the C word like that, I mean no introduction and no bloody fanfare just 'you have cancer'. To be fair he was very gentle and he did hold my hand but it seemed wrong. I didn't cry because it wasn't the right time and I don't suppose it sunk in - that came later when I told my husband.
As the doctor left a nurse came in and asked what I'd been told, she was not happy and chased after the doctor presumably for a 'few words' of her own. She came back to apologise and said it that news should not have been broken in that way.
I had a visit later that day from another doctor - I don't remember who or why but that maybe because I was on morphine and not completely 'with it'. I do recall though being told the 'lump' was 7cm diameter and they were looking at removing my whole kidney. In the meantime they would have to stop the bleed with this embolisation procedure. I was also told that unfortunately the surgeon was away and so the surgery to remove my 'lump' and/or kidney would have to wait but this would not have an adverse effect. I was fine with this, I had by this time grown quite attached to my left kidney and was in no hurry to have it removed. The other matter of the cancer hadn't quite sunk in...
As the day went on so the pain increased again and I was given more pain killers. I hadn't left the bed now since I had been admitted and wouldn't have been able to if I'd tried. This was slowly dawning on me as was the fact I had a catheter which I was going to learn a lot more about...

Monday, 22 April 2013

Hospital Gowns and other 'Accessories'

Unsurprisingly I hadn't had time to pack an overnight bag...a stay in hospital wasn't on my agenda for the day when I'd woken up that morning. Once I was admitted to the ward at Heartlands I was put in a hospital gown, kind of a back to front outsized wrap dress in washed out green and blue - didn't do a lot for me.
The pain was getting no easier and I was re-canulated (apparently the one the paramedic put in had to be changed) and a morphine drip set up. My other first for the day was to be fitted with a catheter, again not an accessory I had anticipated wearing 'ever'! As accessories go let me tell you a catheter is no Luis Vuitton, its is uncomfortable to wear, unattractive to look at and unpleasant to carry around! However, this said it did solve the problem of the blood clots and help the pain somewhat so I shouldn't complain. The fact that my admission was not completed though and I was temporarily 'forgotten about' was cause for complaint however. Apparently an 'irrigation system' (as attractive as it sounds...) was supposed to have been set up but wasn't. This job was left to one of the night nurses who thankfully relieved the immense pain that had started to build up because this job hadn't been done. Once this set to work 'flushing out' my kidney I started to get some relief. Until this day I would have boasted I had a very high pain threshold, a boast I no longer make! Night one and so far I know I have a 'lump' in my kidney and that it is bleeding which is in turn causing me pain. Another day another doctor and another revelation to follow.

Day 1 - 1 car, 2 ambulances and 3 hospitals

After realising the only way to go was hospital, my husband helped me into some clothes (I was insistent I couldn't go out in my pyjamas...even in pain there are limits) and drove me to the Robert Peel. *Note to self - I need to invest in some clothes that are easy to pull on and off!
The local hospital has only a minor injuries unit. When faced with my symptoms that morning (blood loss and pain in my left side) they questioned ectopic pregnancy and settled on anxiety...I'm not making this up. Thankfully they deemed this worthy of an ambulance call to take me to the nearest Emergency Dept.
En route to Good Hope hospital in Sutton Coldfield the ambulance had to pull over and canulate me in order to give me morphine, the pain was unbearable by now. It was then that the paramedic questioned the diagnosis of 'anxiety' after asking me for my symptoms as he said it was the worst and most painful case of anxiety he'd seen. It was also at this time I discovered laughing was excrutiatingly painful when I misheard him ask me if I was a biker (on account of my trousers - which were incidentally L.A.M.B. combats by Gwen Stefani). I thought he asked if I was a 'Pikey'!
On arrival at Good Hope I was put in the already queuing line of stretchers along a wall of cupboards. Unfortunately my stretcher was in front of the 'Towel & Linen' cupboard which was continually opened which meant I was constantly shifted backwards and forwards causing more pain every time I was moved. Thankfully though this meant I was shifted forward to a cubicle sooner as I was obviously not looking good.
After having my morphine topped up and observations taken I was left to wait for a doctor to assess me. The bleeding had appeared to stop, what I didn't know was that it was actually clotting - this was established when I couldn't supply a water sample.
Before too long a doctor came and told me I'd be sent for a CT scan, it was still uncertain as to what was wrong but signs were pointing to a kidney problem due to the pain in that area. I was taken by stretcher down for the scan and moved onto the machine - by this time I couldn't move myself at all for the pain. The scan seemed to take ages as I was moved in and out of the tunnel and the dye fed through me, it was later I found out why.
From the scan I was taken to a bed in the clinical assessment unit to await results. While I lay there I quite clearly heard nurses discussing me and the words 'she hasn't been told yet', this was more than a little disconcerting. When a doctor arrived to see me he explained they had found a 'mass' in my kidney and I was about to be transferred to Heartlands in East Birmingham. At this point I still didn't think the worst, I was more concerned that I had told my husband to pick me up from Good Hope later as not for one minute did I think things could be that serious, despite the pain. While staff contacted my husband I was stretchered to another ambulance and set on my way to Heartlands. The journey was so painful, even the morphine couldn't mask the pain as every bump in the road jolted me and I had to have gas and air as well.
I arrived at Heartlands and was taken straight to a ward to await further assessment, at this point I had no idea where this would lead and never thought the worst. That was yet to come.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Rude Awakening

Wednesday 13th March 2013 was not a good day.
Shortly after waking up I collapsed with a severe pain in my left side. I was rushed via 2 local hospitals to Heartlands in Birmingham where I was diagnosed with a tumor in my kidney. I recorded the events that followed and will share them here as I try and make some sense of my transition from being a fashion victim to being saved by the pain in my side. I really am very lucky that this cancer was found as there's no telling how long it was there or what plans it had to travel. The fact is that now it has been removed, along with my kidney. I am 3 weeks post op and still have a fair way to go, a lot of unanswered questions and quite a bit to say so I'll start's not over yet!