|M J Dempsey
Number of visitors to these pages
First of all acknowledgements:
I would like to thank my family (for writing the log in the first place),
and their tireless support over the many months. I would also like to thank
everyone who left a message on the guest book, these have been a great
source of joy and support when I wasnít so well. Almost lastly I would like
to thank my visitors, not just the in person sort but all the thousands of
visitors to this web site from all over the world, I may not know you far
flung visitors as well as I would like, but I have just about worked out who
most of you are so thanks Amy, Felix, Jim and Caroline, Matt, Janet and
Jim. If I have missed any world visitors off please leave an entry in the
guest book I would be thrilled to hear from you. Lastly I need to thank
Britannia Building Society, as a lot of you know before the accident I gave
my all to Britannia. My deepest fear while recovering was that once
recovered I would not be able to restart my life at Britannia, this fear was
crushed by a ton of bricks, when I came to realize just how much support I
was getting from Britannia. Very lastly Ray my ex-girlfriend , who is my
deepest and greatest friend in the whole world who has always been there and
told me the truth Ďyou will get betterí and I will, the road is still long
but it doesnít have to be hard work. Also to her understanding boyfriend, if
you ever hurt her I will find you no matter where you hide.
Chapter 1 Ė death and getting over it
Today, as I write this, it will have been 19 weeks since I died. I must have died because I went to heaven (I lived my life as well as I could, I suppose, but I was expecting pitch forks and horns). Iím pretty sure it was heaven because all the walls were white, where angels and saints cared for me (really nurses and doctors but defiantly as good as angels and saints). Thanks to the angels and saints I got over being dead quite quickly, just a minor setback
On the night in question I was enjoying a drink with friends at the fabulous Red Lion pub Leek, where every night's a good night and Thursday night is 'live' entertainment night. I canít dance, but I am 'live' so I make quite an entertaining feature on Thursday nights. On the night in question the entertainment lined up was a Beatles tribute band I had been looking forward to this night for sometime, and had made every possible attempt to either get a hotel room or a taxi. Neither option panned out. As a result a trusted and responsible friend offered to drive me home and we all know what happened next, actually - if someone could tell me what happened that would be great.
I canít remember the accident or most of the day of the accident (and before anyone tries it, I did not borrow any money off anyone, Iíve checked so donít go asking for that 100 quid I owe you). As for what really happened I donít know, I can only relate my interpretation, bang bang bang crunch. 2 lampposts, a bus shelter and some metal railings. Somewhere in that melee I managed to break nearly every bone in my left side, but on the bright side my mobile survived. And I gave my noggin a good knocking (for fans of the Simpsonís 'okley dokley'). As for fancy show off scars I only really have a few, mostly from the holes the doctors cut in my chest to fix my lungs. However the one on my fore-head makes me look like some sort of Bond villain . Iím not really cut out for Bond villainy, even if one of the scars on my chest does look like a third nipple (if you know your Bond youíll understand).
An other injury I got from the accident is something the doctors havenít really looked at; their motto treat the gaping head wound and ignore the paper cut. It appears that at some point during the accident my hand and credit card were pressed together with enough force to print three of the numbers onto the back of my hand. Now I really can say that I know my credit card number like the back of my hand.
Just to continue my 'luck' for this night, about twenty minutes after I died I got my first trip in a helicopter. They took me to hospital, where the saints and angels started putting me back together. That's when they noticed I was not dead after all - I just thought I was, and apparently thatís not good enough, so they decided to keep me in the land of the living for as long as humanly possible (or at least the rest of my life)
They decided the best thing to
do is to keep me asleep and unable to move until they want me to, like some
twisted game of 'statues', except no one turned the music back on
Chapter 2 Ė limbo
Limbo is a kind of place you go when you donít have anywhere else to go; itís a place where dreams and nightmares are real, and reality exists as snippets of information that push through into my limbo. My limbo took the form of a post war hospital in Bristol, which unbeknownst to me, until the third night, had the UK Sony divisional headquarters in the sublevels. But for the fact that the whole place had been fitted with the latest Sony plasma screen technology should have been a clue. Another one was that the TVs mostly showed Sony adverts featuring Will Smith. The hospital layout was one or two huge rooms that were separated by 6 foot high partitions into wards. The reception, which I now come to believe was the MRI/CT scanner room, was the room that all the nurses and visitors arrived via. I spent many nights sleeping or waiting on the couch in the reception. The couch as it turned out was an elevator that connected the sublevels of Sony HQ with the hospital. It was during this time that I found my mobile (a Sony Eriksson). My mobile had somehow been twinned with my parentís mobiles, via some sort of GPS system, and my phone could tell me how far and in what direction my parents phones were. This meant that I could always keep tabs on them when they were coming to visit. This techno revelation sparked escape plan B. I begged and pleaded with my mum to take me home next time she came, I sent texts to that effect saying I would meet her in the reception, and promising that I would come back to hospital as soon as I had checked my post. My hopes were dashed when a new patient was brought along and put in the bed next to me - Roland. My plan hinged on being able to escape my bed unnoticed. On the bright side I did get to watch the first episode of the new ĎDoctor Whoí on Rolandís 42Ē Sony plasma TV. It was a very late night repeat on one of the free view channels. I found it a little incredulous that Sony-UK HQ did not have sky digital, so I would have to make do with free view. The ĎDoctor Whoí episode plot went a little like this:
The Doctor arrives on earth in a future where earth was recovering from a Dalek invasion, and even 500 years after the Daleks left for no apparent reason. Their engines of war still lived on as an army of mannequins patrolling the streets searching for pockets of human survivors, wiping them out for their Dalek masters.
The Doctor stumbled around the streets unaware of the threat, when a young girl Rose found him and took him to safety. Rose was wary of the doctor at first believing he was just another mannequin out to exterminate the human race. The Doctor now got an opportunity to find out what had been going on since his last visit. Rose told him that when the Daleks came they overran the armies of the world, before turning their attention to the population converting all but the dissident, who they killed, into mindless slaves. These slaves were put to the task of turning the planet into a representation of the Dalek home world. Then all of a sudden the Daleks left to fight a bigger war, and the human slaves were released. Now the entire population hides and lives in fear that one day the Daleks will return to finish what they started. The Doctor informs them that he has seen the fate of the Daleks - wiped out in a great war with the Time Lords. The Doctor was feeling guilt for the death and destruction suffered on Earth under the rule of the Daleks. The guilt stems from the fact that many centuries ago he'd had the opportunity to destroy the Daleks while they were but infants. He passed on this opportunity even though the Daleks spread fear, death and destruction across the galaxy. Many great alliances had been formed between interstellar forces doing good across the galaxy, allied in peace against a greater foe. The Doctorís dilemma - did the Dalek threat do more good than it caused? Was the destruction really justification to wipe out an entire race so no good would ever come from the evil that created them?
I knew that my parents were travelling each day to see me from their home, all the way to the 'Royal Bristol Hospital' in Bristol. It wasnít until one of my many excursions around the hospital that I saw a map of the area showing Bristol as a town a little further down the M6 than Stafford. Next to this map was one of the hospital grounds, the road outside, the nearest bus stop, and the train station. This was the beginning of emergency escape plan A. If I could somehow get to the train station then I would have no problem getting home. It was this bus stop and train stop that my good friend Ray used to visit me.
People think that this limbo was all in my head but they are wrong. Iím sure there was a hospital in Bristol just after the war, and who knows for sure that it wasnít doubling as the local Sony HQ. Because this limbo was in fact not real, but a dream, people think that 'dream time' moves much quicker than 'real time'. So my stay in limbo should have been a matter of moments. This was not the case, I spend five weeks locked into my own head wandering around in my own personal limbo. Days and nights passed as normal. Nights were particularly hard because I had to go to bed and sleep. How does someone asleep go to sleep? In the normal way it appears, go to a bed and lie down close your eyes and relax. During my 'sleep sleeps' I would often dream. I would dream of waking up out of limbo, but I would also dream that if I woke up into my limbo my parents would be in the beds either side of me. I did not want to see that. Back in the hospital in Bristol I found out that my dad was there too. He had been in a road accident and had suffered brain damage. I believed this because I could hear him occasionally a long way away in another part of the hospital. I was told that he had received such damage that he would have to relearn how to do everything. I think I saw him once as a little boy being ushered round the hospital to see me because I had insisted on seeing him.
Days and weeks drudged past. And so the ravages of time and environment started to get to me - some nights freezing cold, others so hot I began feeling dehydrated. My mouth dry and hot, a single glass of water would have been enough to satiate my need. But with no one to ask I began devising my own plans to get water. If only I could get to a pub Ė Ďmines a pint of soda water with a shot of lime'. ' Ice and lemon??'. 'Of course!í
My first attempts involved walking myself to the staff room and getting water from the drinks machine. Every attempt to get out of bed was thwarted; I was either returned to a lying position by a nurse or I discovered I had no real strength to stand or move. I clearly remember getting my foot over the cot side on many occasions only to have it returned to the bed by a nurse. A revelation occurred to further my plan, I found that I had been moved to another part of the ward, much closer to the new father's learning centre and a pool of unexpected resources. I found that by bribing the toddlers, away from their fathers, I could form a quite effective fighting force. Me and the leader of my army laid out exactly what needed doing. The plan was simple, cross the hall, enter the staff room, collect one cup of ice cold water from the machine and return it to me. The general briefed his troops, and the order to begin went out. This is when the first flaw in my plan became apparent - they were babies not commandos. They were young but individual; this is when they collectively decided to return to the safety of their fathers. It later occurred to me that my plan had another flaw; none of them were tall enough to reach the door handle or the buttons on the machine. A new plan had to be found.
Once set to a task I would find my next plan quickly. Water was my greatest need and the best motivation. I discovered that when the nurses finished brushing my teeth they would rinse my mouth with water. The net result of my new plan would be the cleanest teeth in all the land and as much water as I could rinse with. This time nothing could stop me. Except maybe being told I could not swallow the water for fear of my life - I could drown apparently!
The nurses and doctors were always taking me away to another part of the hospital to do various specialist tests. One day I was loaded aboard a helicopter in preparation for being moved to the 'HMS Bristol'.
The 'HMS Bristol' was a specialist hospital facility where trauma victims could be assessed by a team of specialists from all over the world. When I arrived I discovered the ship had a very odd layout. Patients were put in crew bunks while they were treated. The ship had many levels and at the very heart contained a great 'super heated' furnace providing heat and power to the whole ship. On the return trip in the helicopter I learned that it landed in town, ferrying crew to shore from the ship. And so escape plan C had been formulated. The very next day I managed to stow aboard the helicopter on its round trip to the ship and shore. Escaping with the crew into Bristol, all the while listening to the crew, trying to find a way back to the hospital before I was missed. I found out that the helicopter returned for the crew at midnight, before returning to the ship then the hospital. So I had a time and a place now all I had to do is find somewhere to wait. I chose to stop at the 'Red Lion' pub in Bristol. Unexpectedly three of my colleagues from desktop services managed to visit me. Frank and Ian had a pint of coke each. Whereas I had to settle for an off duty nurse squirting water in my mouth. Before too long my visitors had to leave, the landlord called time, and I had to get to the helicopter before it left. I got back to the hospital only to be moved as a mad doctor believed I was the resurrected foot soldier of the sun god Ra. He transferred me to the temple he had created in the bowels of the hospital, believing I would involuntarily perform rituals to raise the armies of Ra and conquer the world. The doctor was mistaken - I could not complete the ritual because it called for me to spill the blood of my best friend. She was bound and gagged with a ritual blade on the floor in front of her. I took the knife and against the doctors wishes freed her from her bonds. She escaped leaving me in the warrens deep inside the hospital. I found many strange things while I tried to get back to my ward. A spiral stair case leading to a room filled with an army of 5 year olds under the command of a heavy set bully with a club hand. In order to liberate these people I had to defeat the bully in hand to hand combat. Once we engaged in combat it was easy to see that he had the advantage, battering my head with his club hand. In the end it was only the forgotten ritual blade that tipped the balance of victory. I returned to the ward a hero. The ward returned me to the day night struggle - at this point I had no idea the real world existed.
As time went by more of reality pushed through into my world.
Visitors came too see me, and I remember most of you, but in limbo all I could see were people made of smoke, recognisable in shape and voice, but not real or present.
This continued for days upon days until one day it was all shattered, when an unexpected visitor, an old friend, a respected colleague, a traveller from London, stepped into view a solid real person - the first visitor I could not see through. It was like a bomb going off in my head, all that had been, disappeared, and I knew I was back in the real world, still confused but no longer dreaming. As quickly as she came she went promising to see me again soon. Possibly shock of circumstance or expectations, however she did it?? I am grateful to her for releasing me from that prison, even if she doesnít know that she did it or indeed how.
Flash forward to reality and the present.
No one could ever know what its like to have 5 weeks worth of memories - 274 hours that passed a minute at a time. Those five weeks contained several life changing experiences that I can not just let go of just because, Iím told, it was a dream. To me the whole thing was real.
Imagine waking up one morning to be told the last five weeks had never happened. You need to wash the car, finish painting the spare room, find and meet the girl of your dreams. None of these things happened, how quickly would Ďyouí accept this? It took me a long time, because my dream contained half truths from reality, so it was easy to accept the rest as fact.
One lie my brain created, that haunted me for weeks afterwards was Dadís accident. While not able to communicate I never had the chance to ask him about it. But the burning questions on my lips were Ďhow long did he have to go through/endure the recovery in MIU? Was he on the same breathing machines? If so how long before I could escape as he had, and get back to my house?'.
I had chance to read all the progress logs from day one up to today's. Am I not doing well? One immutable fact that was repeated through the very early logs was the doctors telling my parents that I would not remember the things that were happening. I may not remember them in reality but they happened in my reality all the same. I remember a lot of things that maybe I should not remember, personal comments made, to or about me, or conversation over my bed, mostly very touching, nothing bad. Most of the log entries for this time can in some way be interpreted as in my limbo. For example dadís accident was in fact dad telling me that I had been in an accident. The hospital reception with moving sofa could only be the CT or MRI scanning room, with traffic noise doubling as the noises of the scanners.
Flash back to the days of awakening.
I spend more days following this explosive awakening, learning this new and strange environment. I could not understand what was happening, why it was happening, and who these people were who were making it happen. Noises, movement, cries, flashing lights and all the people. It was all too much and I panicked, flailing my arms in an attempt to find myself, remove the restraints holding me bed bound, and pull out any tubes that were invasively entering my body. I had a number of these attacks and the doctors thought I was fitting or suffering from drug withdrawal but I knew it was none of these things. I found that I could not tell them because I had no voice, but I did not know why. I could not have gotten through this if my family and Ray, my very closest friend, had not been there to calm me down; telling me 'I was safe', and that they were 'protecting me'.
It was shortly after this time that I began communicating, via lip reading or using the 'comms board' (which would have been great but I canít spell to save my lif. I kept getting wet trowels to mop my forehead. Letís not even start on the fruit thing!
Once into communication I got to find out what had happened and what was happening.
The doctors were discussing some abnormality on my chest x-ray. I managed to communicate Ė why did they not compare with the x-ray I had done a year ago at North Staffs hospital. It was then that people realised I did not know where I was. Dad asked me where did I think I was, and I naturally answered Bristol. When dad told me where I really was any residue of my limbo got blown away, leaving me firmly in the 'now and then'.
Flash forward to today.
A interesting fact that was not discussed in the logs nor related as part of my half memory. Given the damage to my chest, there were many meticulously studied x-rays knocking about. One in particular had the doctors consternated. Where-oh-where was my heart; they consulted one and other until they finally decided to call on a specialist. Along trotted a cardiologist who spent moments examining my x-ray before declaring, Ďnot to worry - there it isí, pointing at an indistinguishable grey 'blob' on the film. It turned out that the massive impact had torn my heart free from its normal position, before settling a little to the left. The doctors have assured my family that it was not a health concern. But I couldnít help thinking what an ace vampire I would make - with my heart in the 'wrong' place, not even Peter Cushing could stop me.
Chapter 3 - heaven or hell your choice
Now that I was awake and communicating I had a choice - sit back and let myself drift, or work harder than I have ever worked before. I choose to work. I was not working to produce any product, I was working to keep myself alive. Not working would not physically kill me but instead I would never be truly alive. The doctors put me on some horrendous breathing machines. The first was the standard ventilator, offered always as a rest from the other machines. This is a myth. This machine slowly forced me to speed up my breathing until all those around me, family and nurses included, were pleading for me to take slow deep breaths. When I attempted to, the machine just sucks the air out of my lungs as quick as I can breathe it in - itís a case of breathe quick or donít breathe at all. I chose to breathe.
When I was not resting on the 'panter' (as I nick-named the ventilator) I was on one of two other devices. The first and most torturous is called the CPAP. The difference between this and the panter? It does not try and help you breath, it in fact makes it three times harder. It is like trying to breathe something much heavier than air, something like water. Each breath in, forcing me to pull with all my strength and each exhale just as hard. Within minutes I would be exhausted. This device made not breathing an appealing option making it so hard to breathe that I would hold my breath for as long as I could to avoid having to breathe. This proved limited in its success, as my lungs by this time had none of their former glory - no more sitting at the bottom of the public swimming pool until the lifeguards get nervous.
The second device holds less terror for me but was still difficult. It was called a trachea mask. This was a small mask which fitted over my trachea, blows what feels like super heated air right down the tube - the best comparison I can draw is standing behind a jet engine trying to breath the exhaust, while the after burner is on.
The doctors said that I could not breathe without the aid of machines or I would risk lung collapse, something I had gotten familiar with over the past few weeks, one for fun, two for kicks and a third for the matching glass tumbler set. All the time they were telling me this, I thought bobbins just stick me on the fire escape in the clean fresh air and Iíll show you what I can breathe. Of course they didnít, instead they would put me on one of the machines for x number of hours and then back to the panter for a rest (Hah!!).
The time on the machines was very like running a marathon, you know each step/second takes you closer to the finish but that does not stop the next step being the hardest thing in the world to accomplish. Each step makes the end that much further away. People often asked why I would pull the pipes from my trachea or mask. Now I can tell you. The air in the breathing pipes was dead, that is it was new air mixed with air I had just exhaled. I needed fresh oxygen rich air, so I pulled the pipe containing this air out and sniffed. It had the smell of that air you only find at the top of hills in the country side. Not at all like the dead heavy air was I being forced to inhale. The price for this small luxury was the nurses would spring to my side replacing the pipe shouting at me the whole time.
Another problem I faced was the build up of fluid in my lungs. The down side of this was if much more collected I would drown. The even downer side was that it could only effectively be removed manually. This was a nasty process, and Iím sorry for anyone who saw it done. It involves inserting a pipe into the lungs causing involuntary coughing. The pipe then acts as a 'hoover' sucking any gunk off the top of my lungs. The nurses had to be ever so gentle when they did this, it's uncomfortable at the best of times but it was not nice being poked in the lung, from the inside. I canít remember exactly why but I use to ask for this process regularly. I think it might have been because I could not breathe. I weighed it up not breathing, over the pipe down my throat - tough call every time.
Cool fact: I could change the stats on the monitors if I concentrated and controlled my breathing.
By now my resolve in getting off these machines had been hardened to the stubbornness of my will, those that know me will realise that it is harder than granite, for I was always as stubborn as something large that does not want to move. More stubborn in fact than either of the lampposts, or the bus shelter. So stubborn that I would not let them kill me, instead I ripped them from the ground and left them shattered by the road. It was a case of me or them, and I can tell you it was not going to be me. They came close but Iím still here while theyíve been replaced.
With this in mind the doctors told me that if I could stay on the CPAP for 24 hours they would put me on the trachea mask for good. If I then stayed on the mask for another 24 hours, they would take me off them for good (when I think that I could have watched the first and second series of 24 in that time, it made me sick - no really, they had to change my sheets). With this goal awaiting me atop a mountain I took every second as I found it, directly after the last, they passed but not without price. I became exhausted quickly. If I was going to succeed I would have to put the pain in my limbs, chest and head behind me, and make the work I was doing, normal natural breathing. At any time I could have called the nurse and moved back over to the panter, annoying but easier. But I can not, could not even imagine crossing the bridge to the greener pasture, because it only looked greener - but I knew it wasnít. Again in a battle against my will I won. Amidst this race I had my confidence boosted, when one of the nurses forgot to connect the oxygen pipe to the machines feeding me air. So for about four hours I was on normal room air, effectively skipping ahead for a preview of breathing without the masks or machines. Once I was off the machines I could rest even yawn and I suspect snore, at least the nurses new I was alive during the night shift.
Found a way to scare my self around this time. The nurses were concerned that my fluid intake was too low so they hooked up a drip that pumped saline into my blood. Unfortunately the valve, in my skin, they chose to use leaked, soaking the sheets with saline. The nurses changed the bottle and the valve. This time it went quite awhile before I noticed it was leaking. Mum arrived at the start of visiting time pulled back my covers to find that not only the saline leaked from the valve, my heart had been pumping blood out of it too. I was quite shocked to see my arms and chest covered in blood. I went white because all my blood was on me not in me. Mum went white and so did several nurses.
ICE the only thing that could sooth my dry lips and mouth - sucking it also relieved the sickness, so I went through gallons of ice. Mum brought as much as she could in thermoses, as the hospital had no handy ice machines or freezers. The ice did not stay frozen for long.
Once the breathing machines were out of the picture I was one step closer to getting out of MIU and in to a lower level care unit. The only thing standing in my way was the persistent sickness. When I wasnít throwing up I felt like I would. If any of the readers were present when I was being ill, I am truly sorry, but Iím quite sure I only threw up on nurses. My favourite example is when a group of nurses came to change the sheets I told them I felt sick - a proclamation that carried some weight by now. I also told them not to roll me. When they ignored this request, and rolled me, I promptly made them regret their choice to ignore the patient, by throwing up all over this poor nurse, all down her pinny and on her shoes as well. I cannot apologise enough. If itís any consolation most of the time I was sick it was on me. If any MIU staff remember this and know who the nurse was please say sorry from me, and tell her I promise not to do it again.
It was at this point the doctors, quite worried that they could get nothing to stay in my stomach for longer than an hour, choose a drastic course of action. They decided that the tube going up my nose was too short; it only went as far as my stomach. Not content with putting food directly into my stomach they decided the best course of action was to skip that part and send food directly to its final processing - the intestines. The process of fitting this pipe was described by doctors as very uncomfortable; this gripped me with fear, as my experience with doctors has lead to the following conclusions. When they say it wonít hurt, you know it will. When they say this will be slightly uncomfortable, it will be very uncomfortable and probably hurt a lot too. Finally when they say very uncomfortable, you know its time to make your excuses and run. They said I was in no state to catch a bus so they made me stay, but they also offered me a sedative. A sedative I thought, what are they going to do fit it by hand via the mouth. Turns out thatís exactly what they did, with the help of a tiny camera, that also went down my throat. When I woke up I had a slightly sore throat - had the doctor left his watch on I wondered? I also had a brand new tube up my nose; just to make sure it wasnít going to be pulled out by me they had anchored it to the cartilage in my nose, so the slightest tug brought tears to my eyes. It seemed to help with the sickness when it wasnít causing it. They would push drugs down the tubes, and I could feel it at the back of my throat and sometimes taste it, the feeling is not unlike sticking your fingers down your throat, the results are the same.
Now that my sickness was under control-ish, I needed to be assessed on whether I could move on to a ward. They had to make sure I was stable and not going to suddenly break. This meant a relaxing few days trying desperately to communicate with people, but even with the help of the comms board it was frustrating. One of my favourite memories from this time was of two of my many visitors - they kept asking me who they were. If they donít know - what am I supposed to say. I was truly thrilled when I mouthed their names and they understood first time, and from their reaction, they seemed so excited to finally know who they were. And you do know who you are, all 'three' of you now.
A regular visitor came to see me in this time. I believed him to be Mr. G. Reaper, come about the reaping to collect me after failing so many times. Hard luck Frank, better luck next time. Let us know when youíre coming and weíll have chocolate cake for dessert, not salmon moose (one for the Monty python fans)
A short time later a revelation occurred in my power to communicate. After weeks and months of silently mouthing words (I could not even talk in my dream) the doctors decided to remove my trachea pipe. The mechanics of it are quite simple. A tube is inserted through the wind pipe allowing air directly in and out of the lungs. To secure this in place a little collar is inflated in the throat, blocking the windpipe and centring the tube. A side effect of this is that no air can travel past the voice box or even out of my nose or mouth. So when the doctors come to remove the trachea they must first deflate the collar, and it doesnít go down slowly or quietly. Instead it 'pops' as something that was blocking your throat shrinks to nothing; the shock of this feeling is considerable. Suddenly I was able to breath through my nose and mouth. They left me like this for a few hours; I did not really understand what would happen next. When the doctors returned they unlocked the pipe fitting, and removed the inner pipe. Once out of the way they could remove the pipe housing, leaving a gaping hole in my throat. They patched this hole with a dressing (for more information on how to do this check the Ford Escort Haynes manual under replacing your radiator). Then they did something I was not expecting. My response surprised me as well. They asked me my name and I said ĎMartiní. I donít know if I was happy because I remembered, or that I finally had my voice back. It was not quite its deeply resonant original but it was sound and it would get stronger. I spent the next few hours alone talking to myself; I thought I better do a sound check. ĎTesting 1-2 1-2í I rumbled. The nurses found this very amusing, and between us we came up with a cunning plan. Visiting time was approaching, and by this time I had not spoken with my parents in over eight weeks. The nurses arranged a blanket to cover the new dressing on my throat and promised not to give the game away. When my parents arrived I remained silent and started pointing at my wrist as if to say íyour lateí. Then as they floundered to apologise and give their excuses (they werenít late at all). I could barely contain my laughter, because I knew what was coming next. I caught them completely by surprise when I did say ĎSurpriseí. Neither fully understood what had happened or was happening. When the shock passed they were as thrilled to hear, as I, to speak. I told them what had happened and which of the nurses had been in on the joke
Chapter 4 Ė I never did dance with the devil by the pale moonlight, I chose heaven instead.
Finally stable, not quite as sick, hungry and eager to get to the next level, I have to regularly remind myself that itís not a computer game and there are no cheat codes. Fully assessed, I was now ready to move from MIU and into HDU in a VDU. Now that I was ready to move, no longer critical, I had my first encounter with Psychos (did I spell that wrong??), of course I mean physios, or do I? They arrived in a squad. At the time I thought this odd, but later I came to realise that it was part of their predatory instinct - overwhelm their pray with numbers. Their feminine charms are also part of their arsenal, placating the male patients with smiles and encouragement. Before you asked, yes, there was a squad of fit young male physios waiting in the wings, but before you ask you donít have to run a vineyard to know a good wine. They arrived, and suddenly I was surrounded, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Then without warning they had me sat on the edge of the bed. Not much you think - but next time you wake from eight weeks sleep, try standing let alone sitting. If you do manage to stand your warm feeling of achievement will be quashed by the hard feeling of your head hitting the hard floor - the doctors call it hypertension. It would appear that my heart had gotten used to not having to pump blood 'up hill', and when I sat or stood there is an awful lot of 'uphill' to pump! After a few seconds, I related the lack of blood making it to my brain to the physios, by 'rolling' and 'swaying' in my seat until they decided to put me back to bed. Mercifully this was quite quick, because they did not want to deal with the paper work if I passed out - good chance of this the way I was going. Then as quickly as they came, they vanished, weaving their way past other patients, occasionally stopping to talk to one. They left me with a cold statement that put fear in my heart - Ďweíll see you for much more when you move to a ward'. This 'ward' thing sounds like more work!
The time to move arrived, but the bed for me to move on didnít. The porters had to bring a bed from my destination, move me on to it, and then take us back to where it came from, and where I was going. I ended up in HDU this stands for 'high dependency unit' and it means itís a cell for people who are sick and getting better, but need a high level of care from the nurses. This was a new and different place, where the visiting hours are short and the routine is set in stone. This ward was ruled by the nurses! My first goal given to me when I arrived was to prove to the doctors that I did not need much care from the nurses (and could skip this chapter and move into ward 23 proper).
It took a few days but they decided that I was ready to move on to the ward proper. There I began my recovery actively, rather than just lying there, I had to choose my recovery path.
One of the first things they told me when I arrived was I could not eat or drink, until I had been assessed to make sure I could. This was a problem as I had been eating and drinking long before I arrived on this ward (and long before I arrived in hospital - been eating solids for 25 years and drinking heavily most nights of the week). The other problem was one of tubes; they were feeding me and providing my liquid intake. If I ever wanted to get rid of them, I had to prove I could eat and drink enough without them. Pulling the tubes out does not work, they just get put back, and I found this out long before ward 23.
The tubes when I arrived in ward 23 had to be tested to see if they were in the right placeÖ. X-ray, ultrasound, psychics spring to mind - but no. They chose to listen to my stomach with a stethoscope and pump air down the tube and see if they could hear bubbles. I felt bubbles, the nurses smiled, nodded and got up to leave. 'Wait!' I shouted Ďare you just going to leave it there?í ĎWhat?í they responded. ĎThe air you just pumped into my bowels! What can you do with it?í ĎNothing - itíll work itself outí. Great, that was something to look forward to.
So I got my eating and drinking assessment. For the eating assessment they got me a red jelly, and 'thickened' water. I was hoping for vodka jelly but I got raspberry, and a shot of JD would have been nice to prove I could drink - instead I got something not unlike watery snot!! After I had these I was officially given a diet of pureed foods and thickened fluids - from a spoon only. I ignored the second part and went back to drinking 'Coke' and 'Dr Pepper' from bottles. I did not get my first plate of food until the next day. Pureed food has the look and taste of liquid airline food. The thing about pureed food is you canít tell what it was 'before'. Iím sure most of the food I got did not have a 'before', it was just squeezed out of a tube onto my plate. The problem with pureed food is you have to eat your 'well done' rump steak with a spoon (Itís not the same, should meat be runny??). I would not be beaten! Instead I held my nose and ate every last drip (and most of it did drip) of every meal they brought me. I also drank gallons of Coke and Dr Pepper (those that know me will realise I was cutting back for health reasons). I endured this for days and days; there were points when I was actually wishing I was still throwing everything up so I could get rid of the slime I was eating.
All the time they are still feeding me through a tube. Interestingly enough only weeks before the accident I had been enquiring what they fed people in hospital who canít eat normally. It must be good stuff because they keep people in comas nutritionally fortified for years. I thought it was just the thing - hook me up to that at night and I'd not have to worry about breakfast or tea. Its not the time I would be saving itís the washing up. No pans, no plates. No washing up!!
And so good to their word the physios returned, informing me that they would be visiting every week until I was walking around the ward. Their first task was to get me out of my nice safe warm bed and into an uncomfortable cold chair. This took some time. Once sitting on the edge of the bed they wanted me to stand and shuffle over to the chair and sit down. I never want to hear it said that sitting around doing nothing is easy. Right there and then it was the hardest thing in the world. Within seconds I was so tired you would think some Princess had pricked her finger on a spinning wheel (slugs, snails and fairy tales). I pleaded and begged with the nurses to be put into bed where I could rest. The first time out of bed had made me want to stay in bed forever - on the bright side I managed 30 seconds. The next few days repeated the first but every time I managed to last longer, 1 minute, 5 minutes, 20 minutes. By now they would get me out of bed in the mornings put me in a chair and leave me. Now that I could stand being sat up, it was time to try standing 'standing', and if I could 'stand' standing. Then I could try walking, which funnily enough is less tiring than just sitting.
Within a few days I could walk up and down the corridor with supervision. I can think of worse things than wandering around with a nurse on either arm.
Now that I was up and walking I could become more civilised. Walking to the shower room instead of being washed by the nurses in bed. Walking to the toilet.
Bed baths are not the luxury or pleasure people believe they are. Iíd have felt cleaner and less attacked if they had just wheeled my bed into a car wash - at least the hot wax is optional in a car wash.
Yes, the nurses had to supervise me in the shower, there wasnít room to be shy, and I just had to get on with it.
One of my favourite memories of the showers in ward 23, was accidentally turning the shower head on the nurse. Showering with the nurses, what would matron say? Oh what a 'carry on!'
Now was the time I felt I could see the end to my long voyage home. I was almost pain free. I was walking without much help, and most importantly both hands were working fine. My left hand which had not quite woken up as quickly as the rest of me, was now working like a normal hand. Quite strong, but also effortless in control and movement. Very good signs of a full recovery.
Flash forward to today; how the accident changed me?
This is a question that has been haunting me for many weeks. I suffered a lot of damage to the personality centre of the brain, so it is only natural that I may have changed. I worried about this a lot, concerned that I would not like the person I had become or changed into. Over time I realised that I have changed. I took some time to explore my new personality, feeling out the changes. But the changes are few and insignificant. I am never-the-less a 'new' person. I considered changing my name to show that I was no longer Martin J Dempsey. Iíve had chance to test drive this new person for a few weeks, and I kind of like the new me. I find myself workable, and liveable.
Other small changes that I have noticed can be attributed to the damage to the perception centres of my brain.
Smell; my sense of smell has ramped up, to the extent I can smell a womanís perfume across a room - even tell when that person comes back into the room.
Hearing; my hearing has also been boosted. I could pick out the nurses conversations, I wanted to hear. Gossip mostly - but if it was about me then every word was important.
Sight; is the down amongst ups. I have trouble seeing things to my left. For example a knife and fork at meal time; I may have trouble locating the fork, especially if itís on the left of the plate. The signals from the left are getting lost or misread by the brain. An up shot of this is I sometimes see things. My favourite things are the little lights that dance round the room (this usually makes me giggle because they are fun to watch). Aside from the lights it could be anything; weirdest, was the flying lady in a red dress, and sometimes faces of people I donít know. I donít see dead people before you ask and I already told you I died (ĎThe sixth senseí without Bruce Willis)
Touch; my feeling of touch is hypersensitive on my left side. But this is not a good thing - pressure and cold are interpreted, by my brain, as great pain.
Human perception; Your human perception is your ability to read the thoughts and feeling of others, just by the way they move, the words they choose, and the expressions they make as they are talking. Take notice of the smiles and frowns you give when talking to someone, also what words 'you' were speaking as you did. Do not be mistaken, I do not claim I can read minds, just the people attached to them. It is a well documented phenomenon, usually affecting people in hospital recovering from surgery. These people report an enhanced empathy for those around, and in conversation with them. I have noticed that it works much better with women than men, and it does not have to be in person. I have had some very interesting results from text messages. An example of this - I was able to tell that a friend was expecting a baby within seconds of seeing her. I try to keep what I know about a person quiet, because I donít always know how the person will react when they find out that I know.
Its not just the changes brought on by physical damage, as the experience has altered me as well. I think about the world with a very different concept of fear. What could I fear thatís worse than Iíve already been through. I view death very differently; now that Iíve seen it, I understand it better. I do not fear it because it would be childish to fear nothing, and thatís all death is - nothing, or at least the rapid onset of nothing. Nobody should be afraid of nothing; itís only the something's that should cause fear. Do not misunderstand - death is a something to everyone. The death of a friend, or family member, petrifies me. How is it possible to imagine a world where something as special as someone you know no longer exists. The answer; it is not possible, that is why it frightens us. Itís the death of oneself that should hold no fear.
The other change Iíve noticed comes down to the number of women that have seen me naked. Before the accident I could count them on two hands (that is a boast - one hand has more than enough fingers, and thatís including my mum). Since the accident that number has increased and even if I get my shoes and socks off the number still falls short of a quarter. This has left me with little to hide. You kind of get used to people seeing you, not really caring or reacting. It has left me with little or no shame. In fact 'watch out' for me. I might streak the 2012 Olympics - might be the long jump, or hurdles, but not the relay, or pole vault (in both cases I might get mistaken for a contestant, the umpire might try to confiscate my equipment).
Flash back to Ward 23
I spent many days repeating the daily routine: get up, shower, get lunch, get dinner, go to sleep. Preceding lunch, breakfast and dinner, was a menu. I think the menu was written by someone not present during the food preparation. They probably guessed what it was from what colour the 'goo' was when it had been 'mulched'. Putting crosses in the boxes next to what you might like was a bit of a lottery. Food came and I ate it, even though the food pump was still pumping 4 square meals an hour into me. If I was going to get rid of the 'tubes' then eat I must!
The first tube to be removed was the one keeping me hydrated. I had finally proved to the nurses that I could drink enough fluid, to do without the drip.
A week or so later I was still eating so they decided that the feed tube could come out. Right! I thought straight forward, unhook and remove. The doctor came round and said this was going to be 'painful' and I would need an anaesthetic spray to numb my throat. ĎQuite painfulí... 'Sorry! I proclaimed. The Pope wants his ashes scattered over my lawn, I must go let them in' (which is odd because I had no idea the Pope had died or that he wanted to scatter his ashes on my back garden.). They didnít buy it - so they began. It started with a spray to numb my throat - no more than 9 sprays, or it would be dangerous the doctor informed me. He sprayed the back of my throat 6 times, and then sprayed two shots up either nostril. Not confident of its effectiveness, nor the doctorís maths, he continued to spray three more shots into my throat. After a few moments he began addressing the tube's anchor. Without a mirror, I had no way of telling this - but the 'anchor' was a second tube theyíd 'slipped' me when I was unconscious. It went up one nostril, and back out the other. It was attached to the feed tube with tape. I have been reliably informed the doctor cut this tape and pulled. The remaining tape on the other end of the anchor tube disappeared up my nose and popped out in the back of my throat. The doctor continued to pull and with a jolt the remaining anchor tape got lodged in the back of my throat. This didnít faze the doctor at all, and when all the controlled tugs in the world failed to move the pipe, he felt the situation called for a sharp 'yank'. He stood, braced himself, grabbed the pipe and 'yanked'!. What happened next will haunt me forever more. The pipe crunched through whatever it had been moored against, and popped out my nose (both the 'crunch' and the 'pop' were audible - which added to my horror).
There was now nothing holding the feed pipe in place. The doctor proud of his initial success took hold of the feed pipe and began 'reeling' it in. Itís a curious sensation having something moving the wrong way in the digestive process. I realised that I had closed my eyes and was holding my breath. When I tentatively took a sneak peak, I was surprised to see he was still reeling the tube in! I waited as he continued to pull the never ending tube from my nose. I felt the pipe reaching the end of its journey. There was nothing dramatic about the tube finally falling free of my nose, except for the extreme exhale (how long had I been holding my breath?). The tube must have been at least 3 foot long.
Now, tube free, mobile, but medicated, I could rest a little while before the next stage, and the next stage was already approaching. A potential place at the well respected 'rehab' centre, Haywood hospital, had been found, and again I would have to await 'assessment' before anything happened.
Assessment occurred out of the blue, all of a sudden one morning by a world famous and highly experienced Neuro Rehab specialist Dr Ward. (Which of you can sincerely say youíve never heard of Doctor Ward? No-one, cos I just told you. Heís world respected and stuff, iníit!). He started by asking me question about the problems I was having. Walking and the slight shoulder pain. Then he asked the pivotal question, the question whose response I would often refer back to. He asked how my left hand was? I responded by lifting my left hand and waving the fingers at him, at first individually, then different co-ordinated patterns (would have been far more impressive if Iíd had the piano in front of me as I was imagining it to be). When I finished he congratulated me on my rendition of oasis Ė wonder wall, on the piano. Seemingly satisfied, and having no further questions, the doctor alluded to the fact that I was exactly the sort of patient they needed at the Haywood (not sure if that statement didnít wear out when I 'degraded'). After a thumbs up from the assessment there was the small matter of the person already in 'my' bed at the Haywood. I would either have to wait till he got better, or till they decided to move him to another bed. In the end I did a little of both. When the bed swapping was over they set a date for me to move (28th of April). Luckily, I did not get excited - it was days away. So it was back to the routine, get up, shower, eat breakfast, order tea (I was keeping hope alive - one day I would recognise the tea as food), eat dinner, order lunch (No Iíve not gotten confused - we had to order lunch for the next day around tea time, and we ordered tomorrows breakfast with our lunch). On the last day it became clear that who ever got my bed after I left, would also get my lunch, and tea (God have mercy on them). Donít get me wrong the food was edible and never killed me (so I wasnít too worried about the next in line).
Afternoon visiting time, the
day before the move. Today I had an unexpected visitor, my Neuro consultant
(the head doctor). With him came a young doctor on his internship. He
asked some question about how I was doing, and then he asked if there was
anything I wanted to know about the surgery that I'd had. There was! 'My
brain surgery was a little rusty', I confessed 'it had been over ten years
since my last operation.' I continued. The consultant, confused by this
statement allowed me to continue. I enquired if there had been any advances
in technology since I last held a knife? The consultant, was at a loss to
know how to answer this question, without agitating the 'crazy' person
talking to him. (Maybe the Neuro surgeons had cut a little close to the
reality centre of his brain - the consultant wondered). Right I thought,
time to get specific. (I was not happy with just confusing the poor guy, I
wanted him bewildered). 'Has the problem of irrigating the brain been
overcome in bone drill technology?' 'Were messy moray clamps still used to
hold the skin flap back?' 'What was the minimum number of holes needed to
remove a section of skull?' 'I felt that three was the best as it allowed
for greater accuracy in removing the bone directly over the damage'. I
paused - my goal had been achieved!! (I could see that bewilderment had
indeed set in). Slightly less funny than his intern, who was taking furious
notes, and asking questions about some of the things Iíd mentioned. It was
no psychic insight that gave me this information. Instead I had some 10
years previous, spent a lot of time learning how to perform brain surgery.
No I wasnít a child prodigy, at medical school by age 16 - I was in fact a
'child' of the computer. I got a computer game that simulated operations
on the brain. One mistake and virtually no one died, or at least, a virtual
no one. The doctors were lucky that I was asleep during my operation,
because no one likes a 'back seat' surgeon. I laugh at those that say
computer games are not educational. Ha!
Chapter 5a Ė long walk home
The day of the move, I had to
get my best travelling pyjamas on with my best slippers. I was awaiting the
ambulance to transfer me from North Staffs Royal Infirmary to the Haywood
Rehabilitation Hospital. Before the ambulance arrived, it was decided that
I had time for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of (and please pay careful
attention to this as it comes up later) warm milk over rice crispies with
sugar. I was a bit apprehensive about travelling in the ambulance; it
would be the first motor vehicle since the whole dying thing. I waited and
they arrived. They helped me to pack all the stuff I had into Tesco
shopping bags. They wheeled in a chair and I got up and put myself in it.
Now completely in the hands of these strangers, they wheeled me off to the
ambulance waiting out side. In order to get me in the back I had to be
pushed up a ramp. It was quite steep, steep enough that the driver thought
he needed a run up to get me on board. We retreated from the offending ramp
a couple of steps and charged. All I could do was hold on. And by god I
was holding on! I still maintain that if the ambulance had gone as fast as
I was pushed, we would have made it to the Haywood in half the time. I hit
the ramp, and braced myself, for I was expecting some flying time. Instead
we bumped and jumped into the back of the ambulance. The chair was locked
in place, the doors shut and the driver took up his position. As expected
this was in the driverís seat, and we set off straight away. I was sat
right at the back of the ambulance facing left, and all I could see was out
of the rear left side window. There were 6 other passengers, all going
different places; they were all elderly so the conversation quickly turned
to Ďthe state of youth todayí Ė unsurprisingly Ďnot goodí was the
conclusion. By this time I had lost all track of where we were going and
how far we had come, not easy to keep track of your location when you can
only see out the side window. The motion of the ambulance was having an
effect on me, and my breakfast; we were trying to escape each other. I
asked the driver how far to go. ĎNot farí was the reply, and when I told
him I felt sick, the reply changed to ítoo farí and he was right. It was
too far (I told you it would come up later, but not yet). I urged the
driver to help, ĎI am going to be sickí I cried. To his credit he helped.
He opened a window and retrieved a sick bag from an over head cabinet (not
yet, but soon). We continued. I did not pay much attention to the road or
the other passengers, who feel threatened by hoodies. I could not help but
imagine an army of empty hooded sweaters marching on and besieging old
peopleís homes all over the country. I urgently asked the driver Ďhow
farí, his answer Ďjust round the next cornerí. This turned out to be much
too far (its time! I told you my breakfast would come up again, and it did
- time and time again!!). I arrived at the Haywood empty, very empty, but
the bag I was carrying was full, very full. Pale and rather shaky I entered
my new home. When I arrived at the nurseís station I introduced myself and
presented the nurse with the bag I was still carrying. She enquired Ďwhat
is it?í ĎBreakfastí I replied. They showed me to my bed, and as soon as I
saw it I knew it was special, 'cos it wasnít there. They told me that a
special long bed had been ordered and would be delivered today. Until it
arrived I was to wait - Ďwhere?í I thought. I looked to the nurse; she
looked to me, a spark of understanding passed between us. ĎRight Iíll get
you a chair to sit iní she declared before leaving. She returned less than
a minute later wheeling what Iíve come to call the 'behemoth'. It was big,
blue and had the steering of the Exxon Valdez (big oil tanker boat thingie
that didnít turn in time to miss a continent. Oops). It was the 'king of
chairs', and had a mind of its own and a brake on every wheel. The brakes
were religiously locked by the nurses, and in turn with enough twisting and
reaching, I religiously unlocked them. My bed arrived and from the moment
I saw it I knew it was really special. It was bigger than the other beds
and had far more controls. It was the bed for the tall techno freaks. I
got to play with my bed as soon as it was hooked up. It went up and down,
bent in many places and had a button that I dare not press - it was marked
CPR. Not wanting to receive any large electric shocks I avoided this
button. I unpacked my stuff into a little cabinet next to my bed. I
surveyed my new home. I was sharing the bay with three other people, one I
knew already (its funny the little circles that patients move through in the
hospital system). He'd had similar problems to me, although he'd already
spent quite some time in the Haywood, and was now walking unaided, and using
both hands. He admitted that he was not long for this place and discharge
was but days away. The other two occupants were nice guys both in on
respite, both also leaving soon.
Chapter 5b - the tale of two Martins
It was about this time that I had a startling revelation; the nursing staff didnít always have polite and friendly patients to look after. So I decided that I would be the politest, nicest, good humoured patient they'd ever had. It came as a shock to some of them that I enquired as to their well being, this seemed only right as they were seeing to mine. It turns out that I had competition. I so far had not noticed the last occupant of the bay, his bed was curtained off, and all I could hear was the occasional giggling fit within, and much to my curiosity my own name. When the curtain was finally retracted I met Martin, the last occupant of the bay. Martin was, in several way like me, we have the same scar on our throats that marks us as sufferers in arms. We'd both had a trachea, and it had left us both with problems associated with this life saving procedure, him more so than me. This first meeting was the beginning of a kinship. He had suffered a stroke which had left him with little control over his left side - a fact, which became later apparent, that we also shared. He had great difficulty speaking or communicating while his voice got stronger - he relied on spelling words out by means of a letter board. Again the comparison to my earlier difficulties was apparent. The next problem we could both understand was food, and that we were not on proper diets. We had both been assessed by therapists to see if we could manage a better diet. Martin was still on pureed 'stuff' (I understand his unwillingness to eat food where the meat looks like the two veg), but I had be assessed twice since then, and I was now on fork mash. Fork mash is one step up from pureed, basically it's any food that can be turned into puree with a fork. Peas, Iím told are too hard and are not fork mash-able - so that pretty much ruled out the rump steak I asked for every day. I did get slightly over vigorous with a roast potato one day. I was told that they were too hard and they could not be fork mashed. This statement was issued as a challenge and I demanded that a fork and a roast potato be brought before me at once! To Martin's credit he soon moved up to fork mash.
Flash forwards to the present.
Now Iím out of hospital I still
visit Martin as regularly as Iím able. He made huge progress in the time I
was there, and I want to see him fully recover.
Chapter 5c - the Kellogg sanitarium
Once unpacked, I was left to my own devices much of the time. On the first day I met a number of people who intended to assess me for this or that. The first assessment was yet another swallow test. Had I some how suddenly stopped being able to swallow (again!)? 'No' was the official prognosis, my diet was officially dignified. Normal diet with emphasis on 'soft options', and normal fluids. Normal fluids, this meant that there would be no need to hide the empty bottles of Dr Pepper and Cherry Coke anymore. A 'soft option' was ways of saying mash potato not roast potato (again with the roasts). Because the staff were not aware of my fame or stature (Iím damn tall), there was no official meeting of the staff, I had to meet them the old fashioned way. As I have already mentioned I lost a lot of my human weaknesses in the crash. Before the accident I was not known as a particularly 'talkative' person, nor was I one for talking to strangers, especially if they were female (not a sexist attitude, just a shy one). Now I made little or no effort to talk to every one of the healthcares and nurses - I didnít need to apply any effort as it came quite naturally. I found out names, holiday habits, weekend plans, and cooking tips. The experience was quite exhilarating, never in my life had I ever had the capacity to elicit such information. Each shred of information carrying more than just words, character, mood, wants and needs. Nuances that I had never seen before, carried a cornucopia of subtle messages, and I could hear them all. I met and got to know all of the nursing, care and domestic staff this way. I was looked after by a good many staff, and it would surprise few readers that I developed a 'crush' on a couple of them. I know at least one of them was aware of this, as she told me so (she may not realise because it was less in words, more in sentence - not as direct as you imagine, more the words between the ones that were actually spoken). There was no sense in entertaining such a crush as it was not possible - just a fun exploration of the new me.
Also on the first day I met with the physiotherapists and the occupational therapists. At this point they were just another group of people to meet and learn. Another circle closed when I met one of the physiotherapists. He was one of the first people to look after me when I first got into the MIU. I may not have remembered him, but he certainly remembered me. After a short chat with him I did remember his participation in a procedure I'd had, in the first few days of my care in MIU. The assessments went well and I was told that for the present I should not walk around without the supervision of two nurses (hurrah!).
Part of the occupational therapist assessment is the washing and dressing assessment. It's exactly as it sounds. Some lucky person gets to watch me in the shower and see how well I could cope with dressing myself.
Socks!! In all my weeks, socks were the hardest thing to put on one handed. Believe me when I say I can swear in 5 different languages (English, French, German, Japanese, and Klingon). So I do feel sorry for anyone standing too close to the shower room when I was trying to put my socks on. I turned the air black with angry words, not understandable words - but even the English ones became very inventive, some double barrelled - but the Klingon swears had verses and most had a chorus too.
The occupation therapist assessment marked the beginning of my fall; I had but a week prior shown the dexterity of my left hand and arm, but during my current assessment I was finding it hard to control my hand in any sort of workable fashion. The day ended with the realisation that sleeping was going to be difficult, because of the physical injuries to my left shoulder, and the big hole in my skull on the right. I could get no comfort from lying on the left or the right, and could not sleep on my back. Sleepless nights became a pattern, a pattern I repeated until well after discharge. The only real sleep I got was during the days, when sleep caught up with me. On many occasion I would get on my bed for a rest in the afternoon and not wake till visiting time, when I would wake to find my visitors standing around looking nervous (to wake or not to wake that is the question). In every case the answer is always 'yes' wake me up, my dreams were never as good as the company that came to visit, even the ones where I had won the lottery. Sessions with the physios started in earnest after this day. There were three types of session. The first and favourite of the three, is the one that starts Ďdo you want to go for a walk?í. Given my walking ability at this point I would expect no more than a quick walk to the day room and back. I was mistaken Ďa walkí means walk out of a so far unnoticed door into the hospital grounds and then walk around the hospital to a door on the other side of the building. The second session was balance work. This is where they take me to the gym and test my balance, or take bets on how long I can stand on one foot before I fall on my 'ass'. Not content they get me to try again with the other foot. The third type of session is my least favourite. This is where they take my left arm and manipulate it at the shoulder, in an attempt to loosen the destroyed joint - before they let me put my shirt back on. (again Iím half naked!!). The reason this is my least favourite type of physio session is not because of the naked thing, but rather the pain they left me in. Following this physio on my shoulder, I would be left with growing extreme pain for days. The doctors, in an attempt to control this pain increased my pain killers. The amount of pain killers I was on meant I should have been able to cut my arm off with a rusty spoon and not felt it (an idea that crossed my mind a number of times - I thought of it more as removing dead wood). Finally the doctors decided to take action. This action was to inject pain killers directly into my shoulder. When the doctor arrived to perform the injection, the needle he brought was three inches long (yikes!!!). The syringe contained an anaesthetic that would only be effective if injected directly into the nerve. The doctor selected a point on my shoulder where the nerves are close to the skin and began pushing the needle into my flesh. As soon as the needle entered the nerve it was like getting an electric shock, every nerve ending in my arm buzzed. The doctor injected the contents, and removed the needle. For two weeks after this my shoulder pain was under control.
In the week that followed I began my psychological assessments. The doctors were concerned that there was more to my head injury than physical weakness on my left side. This was when I found out that my only mental 'weakness' was for attractive intelligent professional women This was highlighted by the attractive intelligent professional psychotherapist who had come along to test me. These test were very exciting and starting with simple observation tests, moving on to complex memory tests. The memory test still amuse me because I can still recall the passages read to me, and if anyone asks - Tom White lives at 26 Station Road, Stoke on Trent. The tests then moved on to word games (those that know me well will know that 'words' are a bit of a hobby of mine). I was asked to list words beginning with certain letters, name fruit, name all the animals I could think of. It wasnít long into this exercise that I noticed she was writing all the words I said down. A wry smile crossed my face. Time to test the tester - I thought. I know many many words of inordinate length, which it could be said were difficult to spell. So I began. The task - name words beginning with the letter 'a'. After going though all the apparently easy answers (some Iíve used here for example), Ďabsquatulateí was my next word. Pleased with the confusion this created I responded with the spelling, and a short meaning (from Old English - an insult, to squat away from). In a timed test, pausing to gloat wasnít productive, or conducive, to completing the task. The next test was to give the meaning to words from a list. ĎThey get harder towards the endí she stated - or not as I discovered. Instead the words got longer. Iím quite sure my eyes were glowing with passion as I completed the list.
My left hand was still degenerating. Some days I had control to open and close my hand, and some days I had none. The latter type of days became more frequent, until the other sort of day did not come at all.
As part of my occupational therapy I joined a cooking group. This group consisted of patients who had problems controlling their upper limbs, and was a kind of kitchen 'work out'. It was in this group, making pizza one day, that I discovered my left hand was not dead - just evil. It had been taken over by some sort of evil presence. I have witnesses that saw it pick up a knife and try to kill me (it is evil and dead. All I had to do now was return to an earlier notion and cut it off, replacing it with some sort of power tool - perhaps a chain saw?). While making bread, I called upon my evil hand to stir the mixture - it reacted quite violently but managed to stir the mixture into submission, before bending the spoon to it's will.
I had my first 'goal planning' meeting. In this meeting all the head therapists discussed what I needed to be able to do before I could be discharged. They asked me what I would like to be able to do before I went home. I gave this some thought, and said I would like to be more mobile, and I said that I would like to be able to press the following keys on a keyboard with my left hand : W,S,A,D (anyone who has lived in the same worlds I have, will know these keys - they are 'gamer' keys).
I spent every moment not in bed or therapy working my hand, trying to get individual finger control, the control I needed to press these keys on the keyboard. Within two days of the planning meeting I was able to press the desired keys at will. This achievement diminished within a week, and soon after, my hand lost all control. But my mobility improved and within weeks I was walking with just one nurse. It wasnít until just days before my discharge that I no longer needed this escort.
In the many weeks I have spoken to the psychotherapists regarding why I canít remember the accident or indeed most of the day of the accident. They have told me that the visual memory is gone, as a result of the head knocks, but it'd likely that somewhere, locked away in my head, is the sensory stuff (touch, taste, smell, pain, noise, and maybe some stark contrasts in light). They also told me that Iím 'nuts', and that I was probably 'nuts' before the accident, so this is a good thing. The reason I asked to talk to them about this was because I had had what I thought to be a memory, and I needed to put it in context - should I believe it or is it just my brain trying to fill in the gaps. After these chats I feel that I can believe only what I felt. Each of the flashes begins with a very real sensation, followed by a burst of many sensations, that I can I can only look back on and try and make sense of after itís over.
The first flash started with a rush of adrenaline into my arms and legs, forcing me to brace against the end of the bed with my feet. The sensations I felt were of massive braking, I can see the road ahead, and I can feel the car begin to twist as the back of the car came round so that we are travelling sideways down the road. Afterwards my hands and feet were still tingling from the rush.
The second started when I had an unexpected breath of cold air, cold night air breathed in from an open space. I could smell the bite of cold in the air. I could see sparkles of fractured glass covering the dashboard. I could see the dark sky beyond. As I breathed I felt my shattered ribs grating together without pain. I could feel my shoulder broken but strangely that too was not painful. Suddenly there was a great light. Someone was leaning through the side window shining a bright light into my eyes. ĎLook at meí he repeated over and over. I felt something warm dripping down my cheek. Still shouting Ďlook at meí, I looked at the man in the window (I would probably recognise him if I saw him again). Afterwards I could not understand why I was cold, I pulled an extra blanket over me.
The third - I had a feeling
that I was suspended, balanced. I could see the night sky again but no
sparkles of broken glass. The window next to me was gone. I felt as if the
car was suspended on a hook - floating in mid air. Precariously balanced
Chapter 6a Ė paradise regained
Although itís been a long and
fraught journey, I can only parallel with that of Odysseusís journey home to
Ithica, complete with one eyed monsters and great tests of strength, with
lessons learnt, itís a shame that I did not have to kill the suitors of my
wife in a bloody massacre, led by my fully grown son, but who can have fun
all the time? (Look it up, read a book!). I neared my goal of escape and
harking back to the days of unconsciousness I began formulating escape
plans. I started by questioning the nurses; bus routes and frequency, how
often we were checked on. I calculated from these facts how long I would
have to escape before the alarm was raised. In the end I was certain that
in one forty minute interval I could have made it to Stoke railway station,
giving about another hour to reach Manchester airport, and then it was but a
hop skip and a jump to anywhere in the world. Lacking any money or pass
port, I had to wait until they became accessible. I still remained alert
for my chance, watching and waiting. Tunnels would have worked, but any old
Tom, Dick, or Harry, would have found them. The laundry truck would have
worked, but the thought of hospital laundry was somewhat fragrantly
unappealing. I resolved to bide my time until I could safely escape without
having to hide in 30 people's bedding, it turns out that waiting paid off,
I was assessed for ward leave. This assessment not only involved seeing how
I coped with the more strenuous tasks associated with domestic life, but
also included reviewing my parentís home. Checking step, chair, bed and
toilet height. Once the house had received the gold seal of approval, I
would be able to spend my weekends there. And to my parents house I went
enjoying time away from the hospital, but I still had the desperate need to
reach my destination, I set out late one night in March, and still, all this
time later, I had not once reached my destination. That destination,
HOME. We all know where we call home and we all know that a home is not
just a place to stay; itís a place to live. And to stay anyplace but home
is to negate living. And so it continued - I spent weekend after weekend at
my parents house, and my weekdays in the hospital. My hand and weaknesses
became worse. My hand, I decided, was not work in progress as I had
believed, but finished, and finished in both senses. It has become
decorative, ornamental, a relic of Palaeolithic reasoning (If your not sure
what this means, I wouldnít try looking it up, because you wonít find it. I
cast no doubt on the value of your dictionary, as I made it up. I created
the word, from Latin. It is perfectly valid just donít use it in scrabble.
I find that I want to say something and a word hasnít been made for it,
there is no problem with creating one yourself as long as the meaning can be
rationalised from a precursor language like Latin. Scientists do it all the
time, and they're all smart arses - just like me). My biggest source of
torment is my eye sight and my hearing. It is incredibly difficult to put
into words exactly how I see the world through my eyes, the fundamental
concept is that Iím blind except for the point I am looking directly at. And
around this point I can see only that which is to its right. Where as to
its left there is nothing. Nothing is the difficult concept I mentioned,
what does nothing look like? There is no false advertising with this one;
nothing looks a lot, if not exactly like, nothing. No itís not black, or
white, fuzzy or blurred. I see no movement; I see no changes in light. I
canít see you especially if you walk up to me from the left. An example of
how this can be a problem: Crossing the road, it's slightly worrying if
when trying to cross you know you canít see the cars until they are directly
in front of you, or worse until theyíve hit you. Back on the ward at the
Haywood my therapy has been redirected away from my hand and focused on my
shoulder and balance. This was the first indication that the doctors and
therapists believed the prognosis for my hand was as bad as I believed it to
be, by my somewhat amateur medical observations I believed that my hand had
not survived the accident (so called, and yet I have no memory of it). I
urged the doctors to look for other causes, causes that could be brought on
over time. I was finding it hard to understand how my post injury hand was
working and then after and over time it degraded. I was sure some sort of
change must have physically taken place between the time it was working and
the time it wasnít. All the doctors could say was Ďitís the head injuryí,
anything less esoteric and more exacting would have been illegal under the
NHS. Even I know the brain contains centres that control or co-ordinate
different cognitive functions, even a layman like myself could tell from
fleeting glances at scans that the functional control centre for my left
side was severely damaged, with evidence that deeper damage might exist,
damage to a region called the hypothalamus. Both these areas border regions
of the brain responsible for memory and personality. The damage does not
spread or get worse, function is either there or it's not. So the phrase
head injury was an unsatisfactory answer for the degradation in control on
my left side. I continued my assault on the doctors, in the end they came
up with a plausible reason (I suspect this was a result of there being no
evidence of any other reason, and it was the best they could do). They
suggested that the calluses of bone that formed round the breaks in my
shoulder and back may have compressed nerves to my hand over time as the
calluses developed. Quite plausible but I needed to find out for sure. I
was scheduled for a nerve test later that week. My hopes were high if I was
suffering from some form of nerve compression then surgery to remove the
bone crushing the nerve would return my hand to it original self, as well as
cure some of the pain. I attended the appointment with high spirits. My
sprits didnít stay high for long as I was introduced to the size of needle
the doctor wanted to insert in every muscle in my hand and arm. Once the
needle was inserted into my hand the doctor had to swish it around until the
machine hooked up to it got a good signal. Once a signal was achieved the
doctor asked me to try moving my hand, as I did the screen on the machine
filled with waves. This process was repeated with the needle in four
different locations, every time I tried to move, the screen filled with
waves of noise. The doctor informed me that the results were clear there
was no evidence of nerve compression. A simple question I forgot to ask was
Ďif the signal is getting to my hand and evidence suggests that it does and
is strong, then why does nothing happen?í Without an answer I had to guess,
and my best guess was this Ė its like a French admiral in charge of a
Russian army, no matter how loud the French admiral shouted the Russian
troops just mill around. In other words my hand speaks Russian and my brain
is shouting commands in French. This would also explain why my hand has
tried to kill me on several occasions. Twice with knives and once by
strangulation. It was about this time that I began to notice my stomach
aches - I had been getting them a while but hadnít thought much of them
until they started getting worse. The doctors diagnosed ulcers brought on by
stress. I laughed at first Ė what have I got to be stressed about - wait,
oh yes, I remember, Iím in hospital recovering from horrific injuries, a
result of which has left a hole in my skull you could easily fit a tennis
ball in, and I've lost the use of my hand. So the ulcers grew worse
rapidly. The treatment on my shoulder often meant taking my shirt off, so
the therapist could see and feel how the muscles moved around the injuries.
This lead to one amusing situation. I was lead into a side room by a
physiotherapist. She enquired whether I minded if two students joined us to
observe - naturally I did not mind in the slightest. Within seconds they
asked me to remove my shirt so they could see my shoulder and back. And as
I performed some gentle movements from my shoulder, all three placed their
hands about my shoulder and back. As I continued to perform, the picture
was as follows. I was sat on the edge of a plinth naked from the waist up,
surrounded by three women, all with their hands on me (OK - have you got
that image, not pretty but I was enjoying it). The door opens and in walks
another therapist (my lucky day?? - Not quite). She looks slightly
embarrassed grabs what she came for apologises and leaves. On reflection
inviting her to stay would have been funny but not productive. Again my
clothes were becoming optional in hospital; I was to have karmic
recompense, in the form of hydro-therapy. The hydro pool is an unusually
warm swimming pool with shallow steps to enter. The karmic recompense I
mentioned was the opportunity to swim (OK was it just sitting mostly?) with
the lovely 'physio' ladies. In a former life I was quite the fish - I would
swim regularly and had been working up my lung capacity so I could hold my
breath for a long time under water. I would like to say for two minutes,
but that was my goal. In reality it was more like one and a half minutes.
Now I canít expect more than fifteen seconds, going by the amount of damage
my lungs took. Hydro therapy was fun but more than that, it was effective -
some focused work on my shoulder produced some good results. With little
else to do I spent a lot of time on the ward where Martin and I agreed on
one thing Ďsay what you like about the hospital food, the mash potato was
good. If nothing else was edible you could rely on the mash to keep you
goingí. I started to claim some independence and began wandering around the
hospital on my own. In desperate need of someone to talk to, some one to
connect with, I would pick on the nurses. They were paid to look after me,
but not me alone. I felt guilty that I was monopolising their time so I
started walking further a field, quite happy to wear myself out as I knew it
meant I would be forced to spend the next day or days asleep or/and not
moving. Finally in a goal planning meeting the chance of discharge was
brought up. This was sabotaged by my parents. They failed to understand
how my driving need to go home, to be home, and not at their house, was
driving me quite hostile at the thought of being released into their care.
They thought that I should stay in hospital a bit longer. I saw this as the
equivalent of being sent to bed without supper. My resolve for escape
hardened, I had nowhere to go but anywhere was escape. I made my desires
quite clear home or hell. Readers you cannot, could not, understand the
raging anger rising at the slightest provocation. You cannot begin to
understand the battles to keep the rage in check, to keep me from hurting
someone, myself, or something. I felt that if I ever released my anger it
would turn the nearest provocation into splinters. I have kept myself in
check as best I can. I could not, would not, hurt another living thing.
But when enraged inanimate objects become endowed with motive, and their
motive is to hinder my efforts at every turn, for that they must be
destroyed, eviscerated. It turned out there was a compromise, my lovely
sweet caring rehabilitation co-ordinator presented a 'half way house'. I
go to my parents but a separate team 'reablement' come in to asses me, and
my home, in an attempt to get me home as quickly as possible. Therefore
several weeks after I could have been discharged I was. I was discharged in
to my parent's care. The arrangement with 'reablement' was such that a care
worker comes to the house to assist in the preparation of lunch for myself
and my mother, then once a week two therapist come in to continue my
treatment. My first attempt at lunch was thwarted by my inability to adapt
to how mother's kitchen works. To me everything in the kitchen was in some
way inferior to that of mine. My desire to return home was so great that
every mistake was attributed to the environment and not to me. So great was
the desire to remould the kitchen into my image that even the sight of all
the electrical equipment in the kitchen turned my blood to acid, however the
kitchen was not the boundary to my insanityís, every room in the house had
someway to anger me. The insanely powerful need to return home had turned
my house into the paragon of perfection suited to me like a glove to a
hand. With nothing to calm my rage I turned my energies to returning home.
I think my slip from sanity did not go unnoticed by my parents; they set
about a plan to create a focus or focal point to negate my rage. Their plan
was quite devious, find something I did not have at home, something that
would love me and something I could love back. They selected a beautiful
and loving puppy, a nameless 'she dog' rescued off the streets. I named her
the instant I met her ĎBellaí - but even though I named her, it has not
stopped me calling her Ďhoneyí. However, I relish the fact that I have a
special name for her that she reacts to when I call. My parents plan worked
well, even if Bella did like to wake me up with her nose at 6 am most
mornings. The next step in getting home - oh how I longed to go home, my
deepest wish is to close out the world and bolt MY door - the next step was
to have my home assessed for practical use. After a tour of my house the
only recommendations were rails for the stairs. I was instantly against
anything that would require the drilling of holes in my walls. It's not
just me, I have a ghost to think about, she is very protective of the house,
and does not like strangers. She made herself known several times while the
therapists were checking my house. Eventually I relented, agreeing to the
rails, on the condition that I moved home the day following their
installation. Lunch times went a little smoother, once I scaled down my
ambition to fit my capabilities. Still complaining about the rails at every
opportunity, at least I had a count down to returning home.
Chapter 6b Ė I followed the yellow brick road
Home! I was dropped off at home. I climbed the stairs avoiding the rails I had yet to accept. I unpacked my bag, applying my order back to the draws and wardrobes that contained my clothes. Once complete, I investigated the rooms of my house noting every change since I last lived here. I was pleased to note that the spiders living in my house were still there, but better still, they had multiplied. I applied order to as much as I could but in the end I decided to sit down and contemplate my achievement in getting home. I was home - this should be the end but it's not (at least another two chapters to fill yet). But why was this not the end. How could there be any further to recover, how could there be any greater goals. I do not understand how I can be home and not yet recovered. My answer came as a disquieting shock. I was recovered to the extent I was going to recover, and yet I was still mentally and physically broken. The phrase used to describe my problems is as worrying as the problems themselves. I am disabled, it frightens me to write it, let alone describe its meaning. It means I am physically incapable of doing things that normal people take for granted. For example, peel a spud. But it also means that I will be living this way for an extended time. Now that I am home I still have therapists and care workers coming in. One of the things highlighted during the assessment of my house was my shower and the dangers it presented, difficulty getting in and out, the shower head position and the danger of me hitting my head on one of them. All of which I had very little fear of (little or no fearÖ I checked and the answer is no fear at all) but if it is recommended under medical advice to do something then I must listen (I learnt that from 'Star Trek', the 'Doctor' was the only person that could tell the Captain what to do, I often wondered the extent of his powers - could he for example demand a raise, or Orion slave girls or a bigger room, sometimes my mind wanders, sorry). It was resolved that I resume an old habit, a care worker would come round every morning to supervise me in the shower, so two old habits resumed, naked in front of another stranger, and secondly showering naked in front of a stranger. Itís lucky she was there otherwise I would have had to get my own damn towel; I think mother was just happy to know I was showering every day. A second care worker came in at lunch times to give assistance in the prep of my lunch (quick easy, and quite spicy, anyway thatís enough about me. I made all sorts for lunch, pizza, steak, turkey, noodles, soup, and even combination of for example turkey soup, or noodle soup). Once I got my computer home time moved eloquently rather than slowly like it did in hospital. My first night home was as sleepless as at least the 12 before. Sleeplessness continues for weeks and months, I lost count of the actual days mostly because of lack of sleep. My eyes started burning all the time I desperately wanted to sleep but I found no solution. I went to the doctors and related my problems - hole in skull and wreaked shoulder making it impossible to sleep, it wouldnít be so bad if they were both on the same side. The doctor prescribed me some knock out pills. I tried them for a few nights but although they were sending me to sleep the effects were being felt throughout the following day. I was unstable and shaky on my feet (so whatís new??). This was worse than normal, much worse. I stopped taking them hoping that a few nights of sleep would kick start some sort of sleeping pattern. My hopes were dashed - I just had to put up with it, but for how long?? The care workers were pulled out as it was reviewed that I needed very little help, so my supervised showers were over and my lunch help removed. A new goal was set when I established I would like to be able to independently travel places, and that meant take the bus, and to do that I would need to cross the road, but not just any road - the busiest road in the county, rivalling the M6 for traffic, and home to the site of my alleged accident. With my near blindness I found it was an untenable idea to cross the road solo. With my therapists help we were able to identify the best place on the road to cross, somewhere I could see in both directions far enough to compensate for my visual difficulties . It's quite a long way to this crossing place and by the time weíve crossed the road and back I'm a little tired (an extra for the upcoming 'Land of the Dead'). I have done several such accompanied road crossings and bus trips. Then I got a white stick. My therapist thought it would be appropriate given my sight to have a white stick, to hopefully explain to people why I just walked into them or a wall or the underside of a bus, but most of all she thought it might help in crossing the road, she thinks that traffic might stop to let me cross if I have a white stick (I have yet to try this out). I am however dying to go into a china shop and knock over a big display, get my stick out and slowly tap (I mean tapping the stick on the floor like Iím totally blind, and not tap dance, although it would add a little more humour to the situation, and make the crime watch video reconstruction hilarious) my way out of the shop. Then I received news that would hopefully cure my sleepless nights, they had found the rest of my head and wanted to return it.
Chapter 7 Ė The right lid for the right jar
Sometimes I miss being in hospital, itís not just the nurses, well OK it is the nurses, but itís the doctors, student nurses, and student doctors. Where else could I go and be looked after by so many caring nice, and in many cases drop dead gorgeous (not a phrase I suggest you use in a hospital, unless you want to worry the other patients) people, they know who they are and I would like to remind them how single I am. Iím sorry most of my mystery was lifted with my clothes, and my appeal destroyed by constant vomiting and horrific scaring. Anyway the point is hospital is great. Itís warmth and safety, and there are lots of exciting machines and tools to examine. I even found a variation on the Boy Scout tool for removing pebbles from horseís shoes, this one removes horseís shoes from Boy Scout heads (stands to reason it would be here, I was in the head injury ward). So when I found out that my final operation had been scheduled for early September, I was looking forward to it, despite all the cutting and drilling, stitching, and general invasive surgery. No one likes the idea of someone rummaging around in their brain box. My brain box is full, unusually full of information, facts, figures, places and passwords. Of this I am proud, as proud as Benvolio is of Mercutio (pointless Shakespeare reference, I write whatever the voices in my head tell me to. This voice is called Mr. Smith; I will talk about him in a little bit). The date for my operation set, I had a little time to kill. Due to a lapse in judgement (I blame my medication) I had sky TV installed. So in the time I have to kill I have 999 channels of junk to fill it. It was then that I noticed what sort of program I liked to watch. No-one would get any points if they guessed it would mostly be Sci-Fi or fantasy escapist trash. But one program held my thrall above all others. That show is called ĎThe Dead zoneí. The main story follows this guy, a pretty average guy. He gets involved in a car accident, suffers serious injuries, none more serious than his head injury. A result of this plus other repertory failings leads to a 6 year long coma. Much to everyoneís surprise, one day he wakes up. Finding the world has left him behind everything he knew about the world was 6 years out of date, everything had changed. Before long he found that the world was not the only thing to change. He had changed; he found that when in contact with objects or people, he experiences lucid visions. Visions of what has been, what is, and what might be. With this gift he has been able to steer people away from danger, or better still into safety. I guess that I identify with the subject matter. The point that means the most to me is that even though his whole life was shattered in an instant, he has after so many years clawed his way back into the world. But as an added bonus he is able to give so much back to the world and the people in it. What I am trying to say is that although I have had so much taken away from me, with hard work, and an immense effort, and maybe Iíll be able to find some way of paying off my karmic debt, and go some way to accumulating some sort of Karmic reservoir. The irony is I sit watching this program thinking how lucky this person is, when both I and the character were dealt the same hands. The characterís name is Mr. Smith. I mentioned a little earlier that I would tell you about Mr. Smith later. Well later is now, Mr. Smith in the television program is my idea of the paragon of altruism, I identify with him not just for the events portrayed, but because in a way I am him (confused, let me explain). There was once a promising and brilliant biochemist going by the name Dr Jekyll. Dr Jekyll believed that all men were made up of aspects of the human spirit. More over, he believed that the spirit was tainted by an evil aspect and a good aspect. He theorised that the evil taint could be driven from the spirit leaving only the good. The goal became his lifeís work, toiling to day through nights; he eventually found a chemical formula that would separate the evil from his spirit. Here in lies the flaw to his theory, once under the influence of his potion, he became that which he sought to destroy, a being of evil. His premise was sound, to isolate and destroy that which made men evil. I have come to believe that there is tangible evil in everyone; there is also tangible good. By everyone I mean to say me, or better, within me. But that is not all. these two mortal enemies good and evil, need a battle field - you or I are that battle field. The battle rages within each of us, it rages across your conscious and sub conscious minds. Never once did Dr Jekyll sit back and think that he was in there fighting over control. Good and evil never truly in control, only able to influence him. His formula did not free him from evil; it gave evil control, his potion only served to destroy him. I relate this story because over time I have become aware of the battle raging across my psyche. My Hyde (evil already has a face and a name, so there was no need to create another one) and Mr. Smith (paragon of altruism. Religion might suggest better candidates to be the flip side of the coin). Each aspect strengthened by the accident, each wielding more control, doing more for their cause. I, the battlefield, have grown weak unable to control either aspect. Both sides want independent control over the battle field. It is on the battle field I have the greatest control over the winners, I can simply yield control to either side at any given moment, or I can fight for an equilibrium and hold both aspects back. Mr. Smith wants me to find enlightenment and inner peace, at which time he will be able to gain full control. Mr. Hyde engenders anger and frustration, when they rule over the battle field. He will gain full control. I feel the battle being fought from one moment to the next. Anger rises and falls back, charity rises then falls back. I bet you are wondering why I donít just let good win. Can you imagine the horror of feeling infinite compassion and empathy for everything around you? It would be like watching Bambi's mum get shot every tenth of a second. No one can handle that sort of emotional weight. Both the light and the dark sides hold equal amounts of untapped emotions.
By this time I had killed a few more days and time had come for me to revisit the hospital. Not for surgery, not yet - this was for my pre-surgical assessment. I trotted along to see the surgical nurse. He asked me many questions. Many of them were as expected, a few were silly, for example: Have you been on any prescription drugs in the last six months? (ĎYes.í I said. ĎAnd?í He said. ĎLotsí I said. To which he responded, ĎOh yes I see from your notesí. Thank god he didnít want them listed alphabetically, or by their standard score in a game of scrabble, international rules). Then he enquired whether I had taken any recreational drugs within that time. (I started giggling, until I noticed that Ďdude! my hand can touch everything. Man, but it canít touch itself. Whoa. 'Cos my life has been a none-stop party these last six months. Oh wait, it wasnít. I was in fact in hospital the whole time. The closest things to recreation drugs I got were aspirin; they were so big you could play tidily-winks with them. So the answer was Ďnoí my drugs were purely serious, not fun in any way, except the aspirin). After the questioning I got to have my revenge, he began the physical examination checking my lungs and heart. I could see the confused look on his face as he checked my chest. I kept quiet the fact that things in my chest had moved around a little, that this was making me produce odd noises as various bones rattled. He seemed to accept this when I told him but another listen wouldnít hurt. Then came time to give blood. I quite helpfully pointed out a productive vein, and watched as the blood pumped itself into the syringe. ĎGo home, we'll let you know if there are any problems in a couple of daysí. So I went home, now less than a week until I was scheduled for the cutting and the drilling. I buckled down to some serious waiting. All tests came back clean, so I was cleared for admittance back to ward 23. On the day before I went into hospital I packed my hospital bag and readied myself. I looked in the mirror. In the mirror I saw a man who had obviously been trapped on a desert island for many months. Long hair (not rock star long, but really long for me) and grotesque overgrown beard. The plan for my hair was simple; let the doctors sort it out for me. My beard would have to be assaulted with some military like tactics. Over the next three hours I attacked and attacked until my chin was smooth. It made me look ten years younger, and the bath room like the barber's sweepings. I was ready, bags packed, physically presentable. When I arrived at hospital I was immediately greeted by a nurse who recognised me instantly. She ushered me into a ward where a specially prepared bed had been acquired especially for me. It was special because it was significantly longer than the standard beds. It had been acquired because 'I' am significantly longer than the standard beds. The ward staff had taken into consideration my special needs and catered for them, without prompting (I was thrilled - not only did they remember me from my first visit, but they had gone out of their way to see that I would be comfortable during my stay. An extra pillow was found for me (remember that it will be worth it.). I was due for surgery next morning, so I figured I should unpack, get comfy and try to conserve my strength for the next day. I unpacked, changed into my night wear, and climbed into bed with my book. I was visited by a nurse who took details for my notes and admission info. She had a pleasant personality and before long I found myself offering pointless information, a way of creating conversation and prolonging the encounter. I also encountered several nurses whose names and faces were so familiar and therefore not unpleasant to see again. I was left to myself before long, so I hung onto the idea that I should rest, saving myself for the operation. So I settled to sleep. Before long a doctor came to visit. He came to tell me about the operation, discuss potential risks, and get me to consent to the operation (not really a question - of course I was going to consent - there is a sodding great hole in my head). As for the operation, I did not need to hear what the procedure involved. I was already well versed in its intricacies, the only point I wanted made clear was my hair. I felt that if they had to shave one side to perform the operation they could finish the job and do both sides, in effect shaving my head completely. He made it clear that I was to tell the nurses and doctors in the morning and they would sort it out. Then I asked the doctor a question that no one had ever asked before an operation. I asked if he would take a photo of my exposed brain. My logic was that I would have something no one else has, a photo of their own brain. A talking point for my coffee table. Something to put in a jar on a shelf, for ever in the knowledge that thatís my brain in that jar. Unprepared for the question he was not ready with a diplomatic denial, he left me to sleep. In the morning the nurses got me out of bed. I washed and put on my surgical gown. The nurses made my bed up for surgery. The anaesthesiologist came to see me. I told him, and the nurses, that I wanted my whole head shaved, not just one side. He checked me out for his part in the operation. I was told that I would be first into theatre, but to settle down 'cos there was no telling how long that would be. But soon enough they came and wheeled me to the surgical preparation room (OK here's where I remind you that Iím writing this all from memory. Iím warning you because in a few moments memories are 'paused' for about 4 hours). Various preparations are taking place around me. The anaesthesiologist from before, inserts an intravenous valve in my right wrist. He then gets a syringe and empties the clear liquid into my arm. I notice the effects almost instantly. I ask what it was, but he is busy preparing a larger syringe with white liquid in. About half of this liquid disappears into my arm, 'just to help me relax', a fuzzy blob tells me, and before I can even start worrying why Iím talking to fuzzy blobs, the whole world goes fuzzy. From this point any memories are gleamed from the edges of perception. First thing I remember is a plastic mask being put over my mouth. During my fight with this, I manage to bite my cheek (when 'awake' people bite their cheeks, they stop because it hurts) but feeling absolutely no pain and being very asleep, there was nothing to stop me chewing on this very lean meat. I only stopped because deep down inside where I was still awake, I knew it was wrong. It was not long before my next memory intruded my somnolence. I recall hearing my consultant arrive for the operation; he requested that some morphine be prepared, for when he was ready. Next I remember the sound and feeling of electric trimmers being used on my hair. Then I woke up, I got to my feet, sinking my bare toes into the sun warmed sand. Clearly a dream I thought - still on the table - well its better than a hospital in Bristol, so far at least. I was standing on a white beach of fine warm sand; I was facing out to sea. The crystal blue waters were alive with fish, every colour, every pattern represented. My attention was drawn to a yacht, moored some hundred feet out at sea. As I watched, a single cotton white cloud traversed the azure blue skies, travelling right to left, behind and above the yacht. On the yacht, I noticed a man standing to its port. To my surprise it was me. I, or rather he, jumped from the yacht into the water and began swimming to shore. He, or I, landed on shore not 3 meters from where I stood. I watched as I attached a basket to his belt. The basket had floats attached round the top; it was filled with every type of tropical fruit known, as well as some unknown. I continued to watch as I re-entered the water, swimming back to the yacht. Once aboard I watched as I relaxed on deck eating fruit. I canít imagine why I would dream such, as I hate beaches, I hate swimming in the sea, I hate the sun, but I love fruit. Had I created the entire thing as an excuse to eat fruit?? I awoke for real, back in the preparation room; I was clearly in shock, cold, shivery, and obviously blocking the pain I was probably feeling. I related this to the nurses who covered me with a 'space blanket' until I was able to calm down, and warmed up. Once I was able to put words together I was returned to the ward. As soon as I got my bearings I found some startling things. Firstly was the surgical removal of my second pillow. Second I had been returned to a different room. Thirdly I was shocked to find hair sticking out of the bottom of my bandages - what if these few errant locks were all that was left? Lastly they had shaved my leg, not all of it, just a patch the size of a saucer. Following the operation I was put on a 3 day course of intravenous antibiotics. These injections were unlike others I had in the past; this time I could feel the progress of the drugs through my blood stream. I could trace the cold route all the way back to my heart, from there the trail disappeared. I quickly got back into the ward routine, but it was not long before I got the biggest shock of my stay. The food. (Those that have read earlier chapters in this story will remember my description of food in hospital.) My first meal arrived and was as I ordered, and was edible. All the food was. This freaked me out for a while. After a few days the dressing on my head was changed. I was prepared for this and for the worst. I had a shaving mirror ready so I could see what had been hidden for all these days. I went back into shock! It wasnít the two long lines of stitches, it was my hair!! For a start I had hair, lots of hair. But more than that my hair was stuck up at all angles - the reason it was stuck up is what put me into shock! Dried blood from the incision was sticking all my hair together. My head now redressed, meant the blood had to stay in my hair. I could wash no more that a single strand at a time. An impossible task, but I had a go anyway. After an hour or so I had made no real progress, but I felt better for trying. Surviving hospital this time was easy. I was quite a veteran, easily passing the time chatting to nurses and doctors. I was desperate for the dressing to come off so that I could explore my new head. I had already noticed an improvement in my sleep, now I had something to sleep on. A chance encounter with a nurse I remember from my first visit to the ward brought an incident flooding back. Itís an incident I probably mentioned in this story. I caught her attention and offered my sincere apologies for soaking her with water in the shower once; she could hardly believe I remembered. I pointed out that I rarely shower with a nurse. Well it's one thing crossed off my list of things to do before I die. Eight days after the operation the bandages were removed and the stitches were cleaned. Taking another look in the mirror, I could see that my hair was still a 'bloody mess', literally. Once the stitches were clean the nurse decided to find out if it was time for them to come out. The doctors agreed with me and the nurse, they could come out. Itís a shame the stitches didnít agree too! Each one had to be gently lifted and cut - once cut, the loose end were just gently pulled free. Being pulled free was exactly what they did not want. They were to my discomfort, stuck a lot firmer than expected. Undeterred, I knuckled down and counted as each one came out. Twenty or there abouts - I might have lost count during the removal of the most stubborn. Lost count, not consciousness - a trifle close once or twice. Dressing and stitches removed, and still I couldnít wash my hair. No scrubbing for a few days. It did not take long for me to begin exploring this wild new sensation. A whole head! I traced the edge of the plate of bone, noting any small hard bumps I found; I took these to be the heads of the titanium bolts. In all I found about 6 of these bolts holding my head together. While prodding and poking, I was first gripped with a now familiar sensation. The first time I felt this it sent shivers of revulsion through my body - I nearly threw up! I call the feeling a 'cranium quake'; pressure between the bolts, the plate and my skull builds up, until it is released, in the form of a 'squeak' and a slight movement. There was nothing now keeping me in hospital, but before discharge my consultant wanted me to have an MRI scan. I was shipped to the scanner by ambulance. Because I was an 'in patient' still, I was escorted by a nurse. Happily the amiable young nurse was one I had first met on my first visit to ward 23, so familiarity eased conversation, and I was not bored while I waited at all, although I can not vouch for her state of mind. When I finally got to the machine, I went back into a hospital gown, and anything metal was left safely in a locker. Soon enough, I was in the machine. Thatís when I started thinking about the power of the magnet I was surrounded by. If there was any metal, magnetic metal, anywhere on or in me, it would have been ripped out. I started to consider the bolts in my head. They were metal, I only had their word that they were titanium and thus not affected by this device. I contemplated this for the whole hour I was in the machine. When I got back to the ward I enquired whether I could go home, surprisingly the answer was yes - so I did, promising to be back at the slightest hint of a problem. I went home. Still my hair was a mess. I had to wash the blood out soon, before I traumatised any infants. I resolved to attempt a bath the following day to try and soak the blood out. I was pleased with the results of this endeavour. Not only was my head clean but my hair was now free to cover both scars. It took a few days to find a reason to go back to the ward - I miss it. I found a loop of 'thread' sticking out of the side of my head. They werenít just going to be able to pull it out - if I couldnít move it, then it wasnít going to move easily. They took one look at it in the hospital and decided that it was an internal stitch that had pushed through from underneath. I need not have worried about removing it; the doctor pulled it straight and cut it off as close to the skin as possible - job done!
I have reached the end of my story in as far as the events are concerned. There is one further chapter. Really it just covers the Ďall done but what now?í
Chapter 8 Ė ever-after to never-more
Never-more the raven called, the call is a threat, a threat of atrophied destinies (an epiphany to Poeís work, one I had never realised until I re-read 'The Raven'). A choice of waiting for Lenore or getting up, leaving safety and finding her. (I write this literary insight based on the phrase Ďit takes one to know oneí). So if I hear a tapping, a gentle tapping at my chamber door, I will not shiver and hide, but throw open to door and face the raven for the raven is my destiny. This is the (please insert how many week its been, a whole lot I think but maybe it would be better in years - 42 is as many as it feels, if not it must be the meaning of life instead) since the accident and therefore this will be the last log entry, but the website will remain my story and all the previous logs will still be there. My life has come to a point where I do not need a commentary; I just need to start picking it up where I left off. For a start I should start working towards working. I will post a message every now and then to keep people up to date, and let you know whatís happening with my head and with my hand.
Need and want - they're not quite as simple as you think. In fact itís very simple unless you have hours upon hours to ponder. Needs are simple. For example I need food, I need sleep, and I need help with everything I try to do. Wants on the other hand are complex, only a want can cancel out a need. For example I need help with things, but I want to do things myself, the need drives the want. The greater the need the greater the desire to be in control. I dropped the word 'desire' in there - Desire; desire is not a want or a need, but can become both, given time (think about it). This little ramble is by way of a pre-emptive apology for anyone caught in the cross fire between my needs and wants. I appreciate your attempts to help, but if I truly want help then Iíll ask for it (notice I said want not need, because clearly I need help but I donít want it). Confused? You should see it from my perspective.
You would think that after all this pain, and time, I would accept the fact that there was, in reality, an accident, and that is the reason I was in hospital and the reason that going back to work would be quite impossible for sometime. It is the case that I, in fact, do not believe there was an accident, the same way that I do not believe in god. You could argue on both counts that evidence is everywhere from the injuries I survived, to the clouds in the sky. Both are very compelling. But I have not seen god (came close once or twice though), nor was I witness to any road accident, that I can remember. I do not deny my injuries, I only question the cause. My resistance to believing in the accident, resists my belief in god. To believe in either one is to believe in the other. If I were, then I would have to believe that it has all been part of my inescapable destiny and that some form of future exists for me, and that this turning point in my life is one that will send me into some sort of fulfilment. Itís a shame that I canít accept it as destiny as I donít believe it happened. If someone reading this happens to invent a time machine would you do me a favour and take me back so I can witness my destiny from the beginning. I know I canít change what happened, because if I did then I wouldnít have written this, and therefore never gone back to change history in the first place - so back to square one infinitum.
A parting word if you so happen to re-read this work remember, on the 3rd of March I got in a car to go home. I will not regret this action, as regret is reserved solely for inaction, the slight detour through hospital, was an interesting adventure, where I met many many wonderful caring people. I write this from home, my six month journey home is now the memories that I have transcribed onto this page, for you to read. I want no lesson, no moral message, or cautionary tale you tell your kids before they go to bed. Instead I want people to realise that life is for the living (people say this all the time but never have I ever realised so deeply, its meaning). Life should be a big party, where regrets can be burdened upon friends (after all what else are friends for), and smiles are the currency of happiness. (First person to tell me the movie and actor for that quote wins a prize). Money is as worthless as its intrinsic value, money's true value lies not in possessions but in the experiences it allows. By this I mean not TVís or Videos, but travel, adventure and escape! (Somewhat a recurring theme, anyone would thing I feel trapped or confined).
Iím left handed by nature, but now I have to do every thing with my right hand. Who else but me could write over 20 thousand words on something mundane like this. All with my slightly worn out right hand. It goes to show my new lifeís philosophy Ė 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but pain will never stop me'.
Things left unsaid, things left undone. As I draw to the end of this account, there seems little left to write about unless I outline and review all those things left undone. All those things that I should be doing but havenít. Or to put a more optimistic spin on it, things to do before I die for real. Things that will make my remembrance more than whispers at a deserted grave side. Did I say that was supposed to be the optimistic view? Then the pessimistic view must involve a short trip off a tall building. I would imagine that my last thoughts as the ground (big and round, I wonder if it wants to be friends- D.A. 2005) rushes towards me, would be not so much about lifeís regrets, more about the annoyance at breaking all the bones Iíd only just fixed.
The first order of business is to get my brain and body working; I need to be able to do things without paying for the time in rest. At my latest calculations, 1 hour of activity equal 6 hours of concentrated rest. So a 7 hour working day (it doesnít have to be working, but if my mind and body are working then it counts), would equate to 42 hours of incapacitated rest (42!? - Its funny how that number pops up everywhere, almost as if it has some more significant meaning. Iíll philosophise over that in my own time, not yours - sorry).
I suspect that sometime in the near future I will disappear, just up and vanish. Iíll be somewhere, that much is obvious, but donít expect the note I leave to betray any information, like where or how long. But Iíll tell you now, Iíll be alone, Iíll be far away, and Iíll be there for as long as I need to be. And Iíll have got there alone, without help or interference, unless I really need it. And whether I need help on this, or not, will be my decision. Do not expect anything more than a post card, one that will probably not get back before me. You won't know where I am or how long Iíll be gone, but you must understand that I am safe, and well. Safe enough to know that I wonít be able to do or go anywhere, until I, and you, stop worrying about what might happen. If you worry about something for long and hard enough, you will create a prophecy. And as with any prophecy it only comes true because you believe it will. When the prophecy fulfils itself, you are still unaware that you made it happen. I realised this fortune cookie wisdom and instantly started worrying about what I would do if I won the lottery (fingers crossed, may not work as well as I hope. Iím a little stuck on the idea that I have to go out and buy a ticket. Not going to happen, at least not soon anyway).
As an addendum to my travel plans I would like to see all the places of the world. I have the means and the motivation, all I lack is a companion. I would like to share the world and its highlights with some one. I realise that by making this sentiment public I am opening myself to every 'gold digger' this side of the Monte Cristo Gold Mine (really famous gold mineÖ. in America), but I am not blind to the schemes of women, not anymore. Intelligence and sincerity are the only charms that can cloud my senses. That and nurses - I would do anything a nurse asked; especially after everything they have done for me.
Did I mention I was going to win the lottery? Yes I did and I will. I feel that there are very few ways I can fully thank everyone thatís aided in my recovery. And if winning the lottery is the only way I can do this then win I must. Oh who am I kidding. All that altruism was for the sakes of any eavesdropping deities, that might want to influence the fates and let me in on next weeks numbers. 'Euro-millions', not 'national' (if Iím going to win, I want to win big) pleaseÖ. ĎHello?í, Ďwell youíre off my Christmas listí. Hold onÖ what do you mean 'youíve got to be in it to win it'. Doh!
I will need to get my hair cut, sooner or later. This is one of my least achievable goals. You're wondering why a world traveller such as me canít get his hair cut. Iím just a little nervous about sharp blades and vibrating clippers near my skull, in the hands of a medically untrained person. I had a hole in my head for 6 months, thus I have every right to be a little cautious of sharp, blunt or buzzing objects, especially near my head.
Anyway, all my exploits foreign or national will be publicized here. Iíd expect some sort of revamp to the website, so I can stick any photos I take up. It should retain the existing content but with a 'smartarse' web designer feel (if Phil or Jon are reading this, any web design pointers would be greatÖ lets do lunch. In case anyoneís wondering I went to college with these web design professionals with mad l33+ skillz - donít ask, its g33k speak. If you want to know more check out the NinjaLane 1337 Dictionary). If me, Jon, Phil and Simon got together, the collective computer skills would make NASA jealous. (If youíre reading this let's make it happen).
Until I get out there and live the dream, there is no more to write, unless you count the last twenty minutes where I sat in front of a computer screen and marvelled at my ability to quote 'The Raven' by Edgar Allan Poe. And soÖ.. no really, thatís it - if you want more Iím sure for a small subscription I could think of something, but I think I will restrain myself to tales of travel and adventure. If you are interested in any future scrawl, drop a message in the guest book with your email address, and Iíll let you know when or if anything new gets published.
A special note to my sister Ė ĎIíve only finished what you started. Thank youí.