I’m getting used to the routine of the Hospital day now, my little side room feels like my space, and though not as busy as the ward itself, with the Doctors rounds, meds, physio and visitors there is plenty going on. In between all of this I either doze or colour in. The morphine has still poleaxed my appetite so I’m not snacking on the impressive pile of chocolate I have accumulated; the meds knock me out each night so I’m getting plenty of sleep and my water intake is being monitored so for once I am properly hydrated. Basically if we ignore the legs for a moment, I’m in better shape than at any time since having the boys. I’m not going to get rich on it, but it is a silver lining.
I’m not desperately keen on being assessed each day in my nightwear, it makes me feel a bit vulnerable, so this particular morning I got dressed. This is another first. I’m on a roll now, so don’t get in my way; seriously though, don’t get in my way, if the high rollator runs over your foot you will know all about it – I’m ok I have casts on!
I am measuring and mentally recording every sign of progress, every first, every improvement. The first time I got up; my first steps; going a further distance, using the loo not bed pans (that was a major improvement), sitting in a chair; and this morning it was getting dressed; all small things but signs of progress. So I was dressed by the time the Doctors did their rounds, and… <smug face on> I had proper coffee.
Ah Morphine you old stinker, you may have stolen the joy of a sneaky choccie but you haven’t diminished my appreciation of decent coffee.
With a coffee bag (an excellent invention) and a flask of hot water I was able to sit like the cat that got the cream; no insipid, hospital instant coffee for me, I pretty much had the real deal. The smell of filter coffee filled my room and it was delicious.
Maybe thats why they told me that I would have to move on.
Officially it was to prevent me getting MRSA getting into the wound, probably they needed the bed space, but really, it’ll have been the smug look on my face when the Docs were doing their rounds and I was drinking real coffee.
The question is “where to next?” and there’s a lot of talk around it. I can’t go home as I’m not able to use the zimmer frame yet, never mind manage the stairs, but I can’t stay in hospital either. I require a stay in a nursing facility. There seem to be a number of options some of which make the staff exchange worried looks, and talk in hushed tones, I’m not sure I like the way this is going. I am comfortable where I am and don’t really want to move but, needs must. However a place is available at one that everyone agrees will be the best for me.
Thus begins my stint in the Maximum Security Twilight Home.
I must have lowered the average age by about 40 years. Forget about the carpet, and the ‘home’ decor when you walk in, this is where hope goes to die.
Arriving fresh from hospital by ambulance, I’m wheeled to my room upstairs on the second floor. I have a few forms to fill in, the head nurse has gone through a few points of administration and apparently someone will be along soon to do a skin test.
I presumed this was some sort of allergy test. Apart from developing nasal rhinitis both times when I was pregnant, I have no other allergies, so I was fine with this.
As it turns out, a skin test in a nursing home is not an allergy test. It is where they check your skin for any bruising or wounds and record them. It is invasive, it is humiliating and it made me feel violated, more so because the female nurse who was conducting the test was accompanied by a male nurse who just stood there and watched the whole thing. If you are reading this and have a relative who may need to use one of these places, find out if this is part of their procedure, if it is, insist on being there, and ask your relative if they have a preference about who it is conducted by.
Eventually its over and they leave my room.
Lock the door.
I can’t get to the door! If I could get to the bloody door I could get out through it and never set foot here again.
Have they done that to everyone else in here too? What if it was my Mum, she’d never get over it!
A list of family members and friends come to mind, all of them would be horrified.
Christ I’m only just here, what else is going to happen to me? Can I stop any of it? Do I have any rights? Fuck!
Yo! Buttercup, suck it up! You aren’t dead yet. There is nowhere else, this is the best option available, you heard the nurses, everywhere else is worse.
Fair enough, but I’m not going to forget that! It’s logged
I couple of days later I have my first real run in with Nurse Ratchet. Oh, you know; the nurse from ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,’ Yeah her, or her modern day counterpart. Nurse Ratchet is a four foot nothing, Portuguese nurse who has had an entirely successful sense of humour bypass.
As far as I am concerned, I am here to learn how to do things for myself, to become independent again so that <Newsflash> I can go home.
This isn’t exactly going down too well with the nursing staff. So, Houston – we have a problem!
Did I mention at any point that I list being stubborn, pig headed, determined, dogmatic and obstinate amongst my finer attributes? No? Thought not.
And if I decide that I am going to do something, and you don’t have a really good reason why I shouldn’t, then you’d best just let me get on with it. Probably best you don’t get in my way, or form experience, things will get worse before they get better. For you.
So after a day going head to head, about opening my own curtains, or reaching for my book, or pouring my own water, when I woke up in the middle of the night, needing a pee, I also had a humpy head on, and the idea of asking for help to go to the loo AGAIN, was too much.
This was the start of my covert night time manoeuvres.
Dark Ops – AKA project Independent Pee
I have a big armchair beside my bed, and a footstool to put my feet up during the day, its pretty close by and I can just about reach it.
You could do this yourself you know?
Stop it! That is a stupid idea, are you even paying attention, have you seen your legs?
Bet you could! Go on see if you can reach that stool. Take it in stages, bring the stool to the bed, put your moon boots on, get from bed to the stool, and stool to the floor, then you can cross the floor on your bum.
We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Stupidest thing I ever heard! (As I’m strapping the velcro of the moon boots)
Now a bonus of the blasted high rollator is, that my upper body strength has been improving, so I manage all of the above without any fuss, and get into the ensuite. Now it gets difficult.
You didn’t think about that did you?
Getting around on the carpet was ok, the surface gave a bit of traction, but here in the ensuite, the floor is smooth and the moon boots are a bit slippy (at this angle). To be fair, they weren’t designed for this.
How are you going to get up then genius?
I can’t bend either ankle. I can get onto my knees but every time I try to get up further my boot skites away underneath me and I’m left almost doing
the splits. This is not helpful when I need the loo.
Fuck, you’re going to have some fun explaining ‘this’ when they come in!
Right, ok — this whole area is set up for accessibility. There are handrails everywhere, lets test them.
I’m on my knees, I get one boot (better leg) wedged against the toilet and hold on to the handrail, use the wedged foot like a fulcrum and I lever myself up.
It wasn’t elegant, it wasn’t pretty, and it certainly wasn’t clever, but it worked, so bugger it (it was genius!). Objective complete, now I need to do the return journey, which proves to be much easier. Having the stool beside the bed makes it a breeze getting back into bed. Moon boots off and set back exactly as they were, a very self satisfied me pulls the covers over myself and promptly falls asleep.
So for the first time in a fortnight I have used the bathroom without anyone knowing.
Ha! Suckers, you’d be so pissed off with me right now!
Morning comes and buoyed up by the success of last night’s clandestine operation, I decide to get myself dressed.
So, same as before, I move the stool to beside my bed; foot end this time, lower myself down onto it, put my moon boots on and slide the stool to the wardrobe; I select a top, put it on select a skirt, and have it in my hand as Nurse Ratchet opened the door with an expression that would curdle milk.
“What you doing? You want something use buzzer, yes?”
I get the distinct impression that this is not a question and mumble something non committal in reply.
Bugger, Nurse Ratchet left the door open, obviously she’s going to be keeping a closer eye on me from now on.
Literally, If I’d got up five minutes earlier I’d have been dressed and not caught in the act. Getting up in the morning never has been my strong suit.
Oh well, its Book Group tonight and the girls are coming here, something to look forward to!
The day needs some interest, I have TV and the Rugby World Cup is on, I get to watch Ireland playing like headless chickens so start organising an escape committee on Facebook.
Rooster (chicken farmer) is going to drive a tractor from Armagh to Belfast and break a hole through the wall. he’s in charge of demolition
Nads (make up artist — extraordinaire) is in charge of disguises and will bring clown wigs, a couple of vodka tonics and she’ll bamboozle anyone so she’s co-ordinating communications too.
Bones (wtf do you do these days anyhow)? Has previous in breaking out of hospital, he’s co ordinating logistics. The fact that he is in Glasgow and therefore on the wrong bloody island doesn’t seem to be an issue.
Viv & Bryan – personal bodyguards, they wheel me to safety once the coast is clear
Darren (Recycling Officer) – propaganda, espionage and misinformation
Zoe (Classroom Assistant and driver of Auntie Zoe’s Banter Bus) – getaway driver
Everyone knows their role, we just need a suitable date.
This must have captured everyone’s imagination because it led to an epic thread on Facebook and put the day in rightly till the girl’s arrived… with contraband.
Gathered round, the hallowed bottle of Bombay Sapphire is distributed with a proper tonic, and we toast my recovery, eminent release, and the success of smuggling gin into a nursing home.
That was a big day.
My confidence and improved upper body strength mean that I can now graduate from the high rollator, I now hate this thing with a cold fury; it has left me with friction burns running down both forearms, so it now actually hurts to use. I have moved to the much better zimmer frame. My Physiotherapist is impressed with my progress and I am thrilled. The zimmer means big progress, and very importantly, the beginning of independence.
Obviously, the next day I happily get up, get myself washed and dressed, assuming everything is fine.
I’m sitting in my chair watching TV when guess who turns up, again, in the best of bad temper.
“Who got you dressed?”
Who do you think?
“YOU CAN’T do that! – you are not allowed the zimmer, you have to use the High Rollator!”
“WHAT? Why? Absolutely Not! I am not using that thing ever again, thats WHY I have a zimmer”
Are you out of your mind crazy lady? That would be going backwards! Thats ridiculous, why would I even do that?
“I speak to the manager”
“DO THAT! Then tell her I want to speak to her too! RIGHT NOW!”
Then – get this, she leaves taking my zimmer with her!
The cheek! Why would they do that to me? I have worked so hard for this.
I AM NOT GOING BACK!
I have had enough. I have endured astonishing pain, separation from my kids, being poked with needles, woken up every night, no privacy, and the utter humiliation of the skin test, just to mention a few. This is too much and everything that I have gone through gets funnelled into my rage.
God help her, the manager comes in and I eyeball her with minus 200 cold fury.
“Mrs Boal” I cut her off ”You address me as Mrs Boal”
She starts again “Mrs Boal, you aren’t allowed the zimmer, you can’t be using that. You have to go back to using the High Rollator”
“Why? Why would I go back to using that when I’ve been using the zimmer, seriously what is the point?”
“The Physiotherapist hasn’t updated your chart, he won’t be back until Monday, so until then you have to use the high Rollator, I’m sorry, thats just how it is.”
Is it really?
“Fine. call the out of hours doctor I’m discharging myself”
“What? Why would you do that?”
“Why? Seriously you are asking me WHY? (voice is escalating)
You know, that I have been using the zimmer frame, and that I am trying to get back to my kids, therefore I need practice using it since I will be taking it home with me. Not only that, but you are going to force me to use a piece of apparatus that is at best unstable and has given me open wounds on both arms – wounds that I did NOT come in here with.
(I have her – there is now fear in her eyes)
What on EARTH would possess me to make these wounds worse? Do you have ANY idea about how sore it is putting my weight on them? Get the our of hours doctor, if you aren’t going to let me use the zimmer, then I am going home”
“Oh, I didn’t realise about the wounds”
“Really, Is that the case? Well, they have been treated here, these are your dressings, have you not recorded them? I would have presumed that doing THAT would have been quite important”
I am apoplectic. I am so cross that I could go into orbit. As it turns out I am victorious.
“Um, maybe there is some middle ground. Would you be prepared to give us a demonstration of using the zimmer frame correctly?”
“Of course, but you will need to bring me my one back, since the Physio (just wait till I see him) has it adjusted to the correct height.”
Nurse Ratchet brings it back
I get up in one smooth movement, with as much grace as can be mustered in casts and moon boots and give an Oscar winning performance for Best Supported Actress on a Zimmer Frame. I return to my chair, and gracefully sit back down; slowly and controlled.
I never sit down gracefully, I collapse into a chair usually, and hope it doesn’t buckle under me, but this time I used every muscle in my core, even the redundant ones and utterly controlled the moment.
They know I have won, I know I have won.
“That seems fine, you are obviously able to use the zimmer in a controlled way. The chart isn’t updated, by letting you use it we would be breaking rules, would you agree to only use it under supervision for the rest of the weekend”?
I might be angry, but I’m not stupid (except at night time but no one knows about that, so shush) I realise that they are caught between a rock and a hard place, so I magnanimously agree and see her wobble with relief. We have an accord and peace is restored.
I am not spending one minute more than absolutely necessary in this place!
I take my mind off things my having a look at Facebook and notice that one of my friends has updated her profile pic to one of Darcy Bussell. There is a badness in me, and I have an idea.
Later my friend Elaine arrives to visit and I fill her in on the days events, she is astounded, then I show her the Darcy Bussell photo and explain what I want to do. If I can do it, will she take the photo?
So once again I lower onto the stool, and onto the floor (this is after she has locked the door obviously) I am getting to be a pro at this, and scootch across the floor where I take up position, readjust my skirt, pose and update my own profile. It’s overdue.
Monday Morning and my Physiotherapist has been primed, because he avoids me till the last moment, then comes in with a rushed apology and scarpers; coward!
The day after, we do stairs. There isn’t a mission of me doing this upright for ages, so I do them sitting down. This is the last obstacle to getting home and I have to master them. It takes two more days.
Then three weeks after I fell, Bryan picks me up.
We have the loan of a wheelchair from the Red Cross in which further shenanigans will be had, and we head home. Everything is scary, getting up the tiny step into the house seems insurmountable, but I manage it.
Finally. I am home.