Tag Archives: health

One Year

27 Nov

Its been more than a year since I wrote.

In a year, a lot has changed.

And not for the better.

Last October my relationship of 4.5 years ended.

I moved 300km back to the city to live with my mum, who became my carer again.

I tried to do some volunteer work. They overworked me to the point of collapse, even though they knew I was ill, even though I asked for help. Then informed me I was incompetent and useless.

My best friend of five years was the lead contributor of the insults.

I have spent the last six months, mostly in hospital. My medications have been changed, and changed, and changed again. The pain is agonising. Many times I have thought, ‘I cannot do this any more, I cannot live like this any more’. Screaming. I CANNOT DO THIS ANY MORE

I wake up in the worst pain you could possibly imagine. Its so bad that I want to die, just to make it stop. Mum gives me an injection, another injection. The vomiting slows but the pain is terrible. I try to keep painkillers down, but in the end they are not strong enough. But still we wait, an hour, the slowest hour of your life, just to make sure.

Then we call the ambulance.

They scrape me off the bathroom floor, naked. I am too weak to sit, to dry myself, to move. All I can do it moan. I hold the screams inside, because I know they will worry my mum even more. I am carried to my bedroom, swathed in towels. I am slowly dressed by others. I cannot help. They give me IN Fentanyl. They try to put a drip in, but after four attempts they give up on trying to find a vein. They give me an injection. They are telling me its ok. But its not ok.

They bring in the stretcher, strap me in tight. Wheel me out to the car. School has just finished. Children are talking and laughing as they walk passed the house. An ambulance! How exciting! I wonder if my nosy neighbour has noticed. More Fentanyl. They want to take me to Swan’s, but I need to go to Royal, as that’s where my gastro team is. Royal is ‘ramping’. This means other people in ambulances are still waiting for beds. There is a fire along the way, traffic is blocked. No one lets the ambulance through, even though its the law. Eventually we turn around, and go another way. Every 5 minutes, more Fentanyl.

We arrive and there are seven other stretchers in the room. I know it will be a long wait, but I’m so glad that the paramedics can continue to give me Fentanyl IN until I get taken in.
Sometimes the paramedics will sit with you, and chat. Other times they ignore you, and you are begging them to come back with the drugs. Please, help me.

After two hours, I get a bed. They finally get a cannula in, but they don’t use it.

‘We have to wait for the Chronic Pain Team to decide on your medication.’

The pain team is another ninety minutes. Ninety minutes without Fentanyl. The pain soon becomes unbearable again, I am writhing in pain on the bed. No one can do anything. The pain team arrives, and they give me Paracetamol. Yes. Paracetamol. I have taken Buprenorphine and Tramadol together at home, with no result, and they think paracetamol will solve the problem.

They at least give me another pain patch. My last one ran out five days ago, and I haven’t been well enough to get to the doctors for more. And with that, they tell me I am being discharged. My pain levels are still through the roof. I ask them why I am being discharged.

‘We don’t want you to be dependent on the hospital for help.’

Oh, I’m sorry, here was me, thinking that that’s what you are there for!

Do they really think I want to come in to hospital?

So I get a taxi home. Mum is upset that they released me, but there’s nothing I can do. Four hours later, we have to call another ambulance.

So anyway, that’s currently my life. I don’t go out except to doctors appointments and hospital trips. I am barely able to get out of bed most days. But when I can, I like to make cards for the people who are dear to me. And from now on, since I don’t have anything positive to say about my health, I’m going to be posting my card designs as they are made.

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Sick?

5 May

Its funny how life comes along when you think you are already too sick to do things, and whacks you right on the arse.

“I’m too sick to ride a horse.”
No I’m not. I’m just too aware of the consequences I will face afterwards, and possibly during.

Well perspective ducked his head in and realised I wasn’t living my life to my fullest potential.
I went into the hospital unable to keep hydrated, and I had a head nurse who decided I was not worthy of a doctor’s visit. That would surely be a waste of the doctor’s time, even though they are in the hospital.
She refried my kidneys and put me in a serious, avoidable condition.

And I remembered what being sick really means.

Its not about the days you go around the house slowly, struggling to get a chore done.
Being sick is not being able to clean your own bum, nor crawl to the toilet.
Its being told the plane is on its way to pick you up, take you to a better hospital with more knowledgeable doctors.
Its being told your bowel might have to be removed.

That medication list you just got used to? Scrap it. Here’s a new one, with a bonus 6 new medications!

I will come back from this. I always bounce back, and the bruises usually heal well enough to keep on truckin’.

I Need Help.

14 Oct

Independence is mighty important to me. As much as I love my mum, she’s incredibly difficult to live with and its almost relaxing to be away from that stress.

But at the same time, this is the woman who has showered me and wiped me after I’ve been to the toilet when I’m unable. I have always felt uncomfortable exposing my body even to myself, and she would stare at the walls while chattering away to fill the silence I left.

I would sit, slumped in the chair, as she lifted my right arm to wash the armpit and spoke about her own siblings.

Even after I moved out of home, she would come to the hospital everyday with fresh flowers from her own garden, more things I ‘might need’ and tidy up the area around me.

She wiped the vomit from my lips, replaced the bag yet again.

She’d hang clothes in the cupboard I could not reach, wash the sweat from my hair and then gently comb it out, and work it into a gentle braid so I wouldn’t vomit in it.

She would go and pay so that I could watch TV in my bed, even though I insisted I didn’t need it.

She would take me for a walk around the hospital grounds in the wheelchair, and then later, hold me up as I clung to her, taking those first steps again, rebuilding wasted muscles.

She would carefully lift the fork to my lips, and then polish off the rest of the meal I couldn’t face.

She would wait until the drugs kicked in, longing to see my wrought body relax, and scream for the doctor when instead of stopping me from vomiting, they coaxed me into a seizure.

Once she even managed to arrange to bring my dog in for a visit.

She would give me words of comfort on the long drive home after yet another specialist appointment. Another cream of the crop, top of his class doctor, who had gently smiled at me as he explained the treatment was not working, he didn’t know what to do. Maybe I should see someone else.

She would follow the ambulance in her little white car.

She would run red lights at night in the city, so we would get to the hospital a little quicker.

She would fight my battles for me, for I could not defend myself.

Now is different.

Now, I live 300km away from her. She cannot just hop into her little white car to come visit me for an hour, just to bathe me. Instead, that ball falls into R‘s court.

Now he is the one to double check all the medicine, to make sure I won’t have a bad reaction.
He is the one who brushes out my hair, and tries to get me to giggle through the pain.

He is the one who confronts the nurses when I’ve been in too much pain for too long, and they need to do something else, now.

He is the one to say, Enough is enough, we are going to the hospital.

He is the one who goes to the shops to get groceries because I haven’t been able to leave the house in six days.

He is the one who drives us to the park and back, because I love seeing the girls run around in the sun.

He is the one who changes the sheets in the middle of the night, and organises dinner when I cannot get out of bed.

He is not ashamed to push me around in a wheelchair.

He fights my battles for me.

But he cannot do everything, and I don’t want him to do everything.

He comes home from work, and I don’t want to ask him to clean the shower, mop the floor, get rid of the cobwebs. And sometimes, sometimes, I don’t need him to. But its been a long time now since he’s had a day off.

I spoke to my sister, and since my birthday is next week, she sent me some money. I’m going to have someone come in a few hours a week, to help me cope.

I don’t want to be ‘wasting’ money on something I ‘could’ do myself.

Coming to terms with the fact that I do need that help is hard. It reinforces to me the label ‘DISABLED’. I do not want to think of myself as disabled.

Nine years into this fight, and deep down I still believe that someday, things are going to improve, that I will be able to live a relatively normal life.

Or maybe I’m just starting to confuse belief with hope.

 Image

24

7 Oct

I’ve always loved my birthday.

I can’t work out why I still do.

In the past 10 years, I’ve only had one birthday spent out of hospital. And even then i was barely functioning.

And this year its a special one, marking the ten year anniversary of the death of my health.

Almost half a life, wasted. Mostly forgotten in a haze of medication.

So what do I expect, from the year ahead?

I wish for health, happiness and horses.

I expect hospitals, heat packs and headaches.

I suppose we can only hope for the year ahead to be better than the year just passed.

Hospital Adventures.. 3?

22 Aug

“Get off the floor.”
She demands.

As though Its that simple.

As though I could simply will my body to move at this point.

*

I am fifteen.
My mother had half carried me into the emergency department.

Triage- Blue Seats Only

I stumble to the blue chairs, leaning on anything I can find on my way.

Coke  machine, green chair, stumble green chair, table green chair stumble finally blue chair

I close my eyes and wait, and feel my mum try to take the vomit bag from me.
She still hasn’t learned that I need a new one before she can take the old one.
I cannot be without a bag for even a minute.
People sitting near to me move out of the way,
they do not want to catch what I have, grateful they aren’t dealing with It.

Little do they know, It is not contagious.
It cannot be caught and It cannot be fixed.
It can not be served a restraining order,
nor jailed for breaching said restraining order.
It cannot be gained by worst wishes, It cannot be removed by prayer.
It cannot be removed by scalpels, tweezers, poisons.
It just comes and goes as It pleases, leaving debris in Its wake.

*

The man currently talking to the triage nurse appeared to have a badly swollen ankle.
He speaks very loudly; he is drunk.
“Yeah well see, I, I was just going out for a piss an’ I fell ovvv, over the garden wall.”
He slurs.
The nurse walks from behind the wall to examine his ankle,
removing the makeshift bandage to reveal a scabbed over wound.
“When was this, sir?”
“Oh, that.”
He sniffs the air and then looks at his ankle as though he’s never seen it before.
“Yeah, no, I did that the other week. But now it really hurts, hey.
You need to do something to make it better.”

If I could, I would shake my head.
How dare you take up space in the emergency room at this time of night,
for something you should have had taken care of earlier.
Could have had taken care of earlier.
And now I have to wait for you.

I count to twenty.
I count to twenty in French.
I repeat. I try to think of anything but my body.
But I cannot keep It away.
It rises again and I manage to lift the bag to my mouth with the help of my mum.
I sweat again, I shiver and shake.
I lean all of my weight into the hard plastic seat.
Please just take me away from all of this.

The drunken man is told to go wait along with everyone else in the room.
The nurse spends a further five minutes on paperwork before addressing the three of us.
In that five minutes, my mother and I have remained silent.
Only It had screamed.
It had waved hysterically and shouted in the faces of all those avoiding possible eye contact.
It had splattered the inside of the clean plastic, no longer white and pure.
The nurse looks at us disdainfully, beckoning us to move forward.
My mother lifts me from one seat to another.
She begins by explaining medical conditions, mouthfuls she quickly rolls off her tongue.
She lists medications and dosages.
Name drops doctors and specialists we visit.
She tells the nurse I have been unable to sip water for 14 hours now.
She tells the nurse she’s concerned about my heart rate again.
She tells the nurse I cannot lift my head any more.
She tells the nurse everything.
But the nurse doesn’t even lift her finger toward a pen or the keyboard.
She is not worried.

“What’s your name?”
She is asking It and I. But we cannot speak. We don’t even dare try.
The very last of our energy is being used to sit somewhat upright.
It commands my full attention once again, mother repeats her bag with the routine.
She and the nurse talk, but I cannot hear words,
only buzzing over the sound of my heart beating far too quickly.
The nurse tells us to go wait with the rest of the crowd.
She does not offer any assistance, just watches on.
Mother tells me to count to three, on three sweetie.
She lifts me out of the chair and manages to drag me across the room.
As soon as we sit, she must reach up again to catch It’s latest mess.

And so we wait. I manage to sit for another ten minutes.
Ten minutes of agony, ten minutes of forcing an exhausted body upright.
Finally, I realise I cannot do it any more.
The people around me stare as I slowly slide down to the floor,
rest my head on my right arm,
left arm clutching the bag over my mouth in preparation.
My body rests. We rest together but only for a moment,
before It rises again from Its dark cave, rearing Its ugly head,
throwing Its flames with great force,
demonstrating Its power to all the villagers below.

And that’s when she notices.

She rises from behind her desk at great speed, a woman enraged.

“Get off the floor.”
She demands.
“You cannot be lying on the floor,”
“You cannot be laying on the floor,”
I mentally correct her,
as my mother begins to wage the battle on my behalf.
But still, she only speaks to me, voice getting louder and louder.
“Get OFF the floor. You are not allowed to lie on the floor!”
My mother finally rises from her seat,
putting aside the flannel she had been using the wipe my face dry.
“How dare you yell at my daughter while she is in this condition.
She cannot physically get off the floor. If she could, she would.
Do you think she wants to be laying on your dirty floor? No!
She needs a bed, and she needs medical attention, which is why we are here.”
The nurse stares at my mum, and walks back behind the safety of the door.

Three minutes later, I am in the examination room.
They brought out a wheelchair for me so I didn’t have to ‘walk’.
I do my best to whisper a few answers before the doctor stops asking questions.
He prods and pokes. I vomit and sweat.
He checks my eyes with his torch and I wince from the light.
He listens to my heart and he worries. I vomit and sweat.
He tells me he will be right back.
He is calling out that he needs a bed, “Clear a bed!”
I am lifted onto a bed with wheels. I am wheeled into the Emergency Room.
I see the woman who has been kicked out of her bed, she is sitting in a wheelchair in the isle.
She is having no trouble sitting.
I do not even feel bad.
I only feel relieved. I’m here, I made it here.

It can only get better from here.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – The Longest Rainy Day

16 May
“CFS has been classed by the World Health Organisation as a Neurological Disorder since 1982.”

Thirty years on, and it seems to me that no one is any closer to understanding this illness than they ever were. There are still nurses and doctors who don’t know the symptoms, treatments, or will simply call you a hypochondriac. This is NOT all just in my head; I know my mind and body inside and out; unfortunately, I just cannot rely on my body; trust it, like you can yours.

Chronic Fatigue’ really just isn’t a good enough name. So many people hear Chronic Fatigue and enthusiastically say, “I get tired, I have that, too!”
It’s like calling cancer ‘hair falling out’, or referring to a missing limb as ‘something might be wrong with that leg’.

This is still an undeveloped area of medicine, but I have hope that one day, science will triumph, and sufferers will have answers, perhaps even a cure.

Here is what I say to you, the unknowing stranger.
Your worst day, is my BEST day.

♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ 

I barely even remember, or am able to pinpoint a specific date that CFS ‘hit’ me. I know that all three of us girls, myself and my two older sisters, got very sick at the same time. We all had blood tests, but Kylie’s was the only one that showed a positive result for Glandular Fever. The doctors say that if you test at the wrong time, you can miss it, so I guess I will never know what happened.
Sam and I recovered, but Kylie never did. I went back to school just in time for year seven camp, Sam went back to work, and Kylie stayed in bed. She saw a lot of doctors. I remember she was diagnosed with CFS. I tried to understand it, but Kylie was a pretty angry teenager and didn’t talk to me unless it was a scream of rage and profanities.

Mum was under a lot of pressure to keep up at work and not miss too many days, while taking care of Kylie and taking her to her appointments.
It was nearly two years later that Kylie came home to stay with us; she’d moved out in that time. She had a terrible virus and was bed ridden for weeks.

She also gave it to me.

Suddenly I couldn’t get out of bed either, I was locked in a cage of fog. Mum would wake me to try to get me to drink water. If I rolled over and woke up, I’ll apply moisturiser to my lips to try to lessen the bleeding cracks. I honestly don’t know how long I was in my bedroom for, I could remember Mum sitting on the end of my bed at home and crying when she thought I was asleep, I don’t remember going to the hospital, I just remember being in the children’s ward, in a private room, and knowing time had passed. No transition. Suddenly Mum came in after work and I could sleep the day away, mostly undisturbed, apart from the obs nurses and the nurses replacing the emptied IV bags.

Blood tests showed I had Glandular Fever.

I know I was there for weeks, I know I watched the whole Hopman Cup series. I know I couldn’t walk to the nurses station and back. I was released the day I managed to walk the length of the corridor of the children’s ward.

                pa·tient  
                     adj. persistent, constant, unwearied in the face of
                           difficulties and hindrances.
                     subone who endures pain and suffers. 

So I came home, expecting things to return to normal. I tried to go back to school- but I couldn’t make it through two classes without going completely white, a talent for someone as naturally pale as me. Mum would pick me up from school, drop me at home and go back to work. I would fall over when I stood or sat up. I hated being a burden, a ‘sick’ child.

We began to see The Doctors. Many of them. Tests here, new medications there; never a break.

Brain scans, whole body scans, colonoscopies, endoscopies, small bowel MRIs, MRIs of my brain, CT scans of my brain.
Countless ultrasounds to try to find the source of the pain.
Internal ultrasounds, give by a long penis shaped tool covered with a condom.
Tubes up my nose, tubes in my privates, countless tubes spewing from the failing veins in my arms.
Three to four hour long sessions in Clinipath with nothing but Oprah and last year’s fashion magazines to keep me company, while liquid the colour of Betadine makes its way into my veins.
Adrenaline shots, for the allergic reaction that is guaranteed to follow. Scratching the itchy rash that it didn’t take away on my hairbrush- its on my arm and I can’t move it much with all the tubes.
Tests on my heart, injecting dyes and young doctors examining the position of the scanner while all I can think about is how exposed I feel.
Walking on treadmills and breathing into huge mouthpieces surely made for giants, and then trying to fall asleep in that getup.
Tests on my brain activity and functions, during the day and overnight, sometimes at home, sometimes in clinics or hospitals.
Tests involving cutting off a quarter of the hair on my head. Exploratory surgeries, with normal results.
Blood pressure monitors, a nice weight to carry around with a trendy fanny pack attached to track the readings.
Tablets in shiny new boxes and bottles, ‘Prescription Use Only’. Drug diets.
Potions brewed with God knows what, presented to me with a huge smile, “I had to work really hard, but I managed to get you on the trial for this!
That’s fine Doc, if you don’t have to taste it.
Night sweats became the norm; having two or three full sets of bedding was the only was I could guarantee I would get through the night.

 keep fighting, gotta keep fighting 

”Yes, I sweat in my sleep, too. It’s gross.” You may say.
It’s not gross. It’s exhausting. Having to get up in the middle of the night because you’ve woken up completely wet and have to strip the whole bed- even the mattress protector. If it wasn’t for the ‘accident’ sheet underneath that, I don’t imagine my mattresses would survive long either.
My clothes weigh at least twice as much as normal. The pillows are wet on both sides, and I’m shivering from the cold.
Goosebumps pop up instantly and my palms begin to burn.
I run to the shower and crank on the hot water tap, shredding my clothes as quickly as I can. Dropping them into the laundry basket and stepping into the steaming spray helps the skin that the water is directly touching, but not my legs; they are blue.
I rinse my already wet hair, wash my face and body quickly, and get out to find yet another full set of clothes to wear.
With a dry towel over my fresh pillow to protect it from my damp hair, I get back into bed and try to fall back asleep.

This has been my routine for the passed nine and a half years.

The debilitating pain. It began in my bowel, and over time has spread to most of my body.
Yet it is still the worst in the bowel. This is where I feel nausea, cramps and a knife stabbing into me all in one.
I used to cry my eyes out when I was home alone. I have spent hours of my day on the toilet, bend over, sometimes with a pillow to hunch over if I’m too exhausted to hold my body upright any longer.
These days, not much has changed. I am usually strong enough to hold myself up, and I also try to hold off from going to the toilet for half an hour at a time.

My legs ache and burn all at once. I feel like I need to shake them, but this doesn’t relieve the pain, only temporarily distracts me and tires my limbs more, and brings a slight, comforting pain of having exercised. Being very warm seems to help a little, so I will often have a hot shower and dress in many layers. This pain tends to come in the evenings, and have been known to keep me awake all night, sobbing. Sometimes I have a day or two without it coming, but it always returns. I cannot find a link with the pain and anything in my diet or lifestyle, only that it is worse when I am tired; life being cruel again, the pain robbing you of the precious sleep you crave.

Headaches, soul wrenching coughs that seem to come all the way from your toes and leave you gasping for oxygen, almost constant nausea. The intense cold, on a hot 35 degree day. The anxiety, cyclic vomiting and ensuing panic attacks, followed by psych consults.
Again, no one understands.
The frustration from people; friends or acquaintances, when you have to cancel plans again; you cannot eat anything on the menu without getting very ill, or have to stop, either to catch your breath or your blood pressure.
Listening to your heart beating all over the place, feeling twinges of pain in your chest and waiting for any other symptoms that might signal that it’s more serious, this time.
The random muscle twitches, especially around your eyes.
The cysts that just keep growing, you just have to keep watching and waiting and hoping they don’t get any bigger, or leak.
I still feel guilty because I can’t get up and out of bed to do normal, everyday tasks.
Going anywhere is an ordeal, doing anything is a battle. I have to psych myself up to go to the chemist to get my meds. Sometimes I can only do one chore a day; I have to chose between laundry, dishes, shopping or cooking a nutritional dinner.
People don’t understand my frustration and emotional reactions when I end up having to give more of myself that I had expected, prepared myself for. But if you had been awake for 3 days, I’m sure you would react the same way; and that’s how my body feels.

This is what CFS is for me.

There were the comments of how lazy I was, so often that I began to believe them;

There was Denial; Realization. Life has changed, and the old me has died and passed on to an uncertain future.

I had to relearn my entire body- my boundaries, my daily battles. I had to relearn the inside of my own head.

Understanding those thoughts and feelings, and trying to turn them into something positive. Because now they are different- I am different.

In a dark time, the eye begins to see.
                                           -Theodore Roethke

Hardcore Party Weekends

15 May

Its funny, I was just thinking about how long I’d been out of hospital recently, and BOOM! I’m back.

There are some fantastic advantages to living in a small town, but as a ‘sickie’ I’ve worked out what is most important to me.

The hospital.

The hospital is wonderful. They might not be set up to perform emergency surgery, but its small, quiet, and the staff learn who you are. In Perth, you can go to the same hospital twice a week and never see the same staff member. Here, as soon as I am brought through the doors, someone will call out, “I know this girl!”

And what an incredible time saver that is.

Just a few sticks- 1, 2, 3, 4. The fourth one she doesn’t warn me about, and I am trying to switch to a new vomit bag. I jump a little from the surprise, and I actually feel that one. Things start to fade, the room goes dark, and the next thing I remember is being asked to crawl over to the bed in the warm. I’m so cold. A nurse brings in another two blankets, heated from the machine, and puts them on me. One is almost touching my chin- I reach to grasp it, soothed by its warmth. She smiles, and says, “I thought you might like that.”

I remember when I first began to get sick. Mum would drive us to Armadale-Kelmscott Hospital, and the triage nurse would look bored and ask her questions, that my Mum would answer because I was too busy vomiting and trying to breathe in gasps in between the bile I was choking out of my mouth. The triage nurse would then ask us to go take a seat, and we would be seen when it was possible.

Back in the day, we used to wait at home to see if the vomiting and diarrhea would eventually pass on its own. Mum would be constantly swapping my spew containers so she could empty and disinfect them. The smell of toilet cleaner will for me, always be a reminder.

Eventually she’d sigh,You’re just getting too dehydrated,’ and I’d feebly pack a bag and climb into the car for the trip.

I remember lying on the floor of the emergency waiting room, because I couldn’t hold my body up from exhaustion. I would lay with my head on the cold lino, my whole body shuddering as I heaved over and over again into a bag.

A nurse comes over,You can’t lay on the floor.

My mum nearly had a fit, “Well, it’s not like you have a bed for her to lay on, obviously.”

When I finally was given a bed, they would spend a long time discussing the best form of action- which medication, how should it be delivered.

Meanwhile, I am in agony, and wish I could just die. It may sound weak, but when you are constantly too-ing and fro-ing from the hospital, when the pain is agonising, when you are just trying to establish a regular sleeping pattern. When you wait 3 hours in the waiting room because there was a car accident, and then another 2 hours waiting for someone to treat you.

You try to not cry, because crying will only make you feel worse, and make it harder to breathe while you are vomiting.

When each time it happens, your first thought is,Well, it was only a matter of time.” That feeling, that you will never escape the pain that defines you.

Listening to the doctors explain that your body is making an attempt to empty itself, preparing for death. Waiting for your body to finally give up, to not be willing to suffer through this anymore.

Four hours into treatment, and your cannula is blocked- the vein has collapsed. Doctor orders a new one immediately, and within the next half an hour, a free nurse will quickly whip out the old and often tender plastic tube, and start looking for a new vein. She calls for another nurse- together, they search for a healthy, pumping vein.

They ask again, “Do you use?
I remember the first time I was asked this, I replied,Use what?” Of course, no ones veins should all have collapsed just from previous cannulas. Time passes and they agree they’d better call the doctor back. Doctor is of course, not pleased. He requests an ultrasound machine be used to find a vein. Nurse asks him if we should do a drug screening.

A handsome young man comes with the ultrasound machine. He snaps on some gloves and makes cheerful conversation while he smears gel all over your arms, hands and even legs, searching with this miracle wand; connected to a machine that can see so much better than the naked human eye. He manages to find a vein hiding away, and uses the magic wand to help guide him in.

Success,” he smiles. I smile back weakly, but wonder how long it will be until I need another done- will this man still be around, working his machine the next time? Of course not. They’ll just keep stabbing and stabbing until they manage to get in somehow.

Mum is brought in and is tired, the only answer she wants to hear is how much better I feel. I manage to convince her to go home and get some rest, have something real to eatI’m fine.

Another four hours later, and just about every other patient in emergency is different from the ones who were there when you entered.

The mothers; resting on the bed, cuddling their young babies to their chest, grateful to have someone to help deal with the body wracking cough.

The 6 year old who hasn’t been to the toilet for 5 days, here with his grandmother.

The lady who had a fall, surrounded by her adult children.

The gentleman who had a stroke, whose wife sat lovingly by him and covered his hand with hers.

And the guy with the severely infected foot injury, one of the others in my lonely club of those with no company.

They have all moved on, either to a ward or home. There haven’t been any emergency codes, everything has run relatively smoothly. Every 20 minutes a nurse checks does your obs, asks you to score your pain out of ten and continues on to the next patient. Unfortunately the pain medication isn’t quite enough to completely block it all out. I frequently stumble to the bathroom if I am strong enough; its much less embarrassing than having a special wheelchair next to your bed fitted with a bedpan, and having the ring the bell for a nurse to empty it each time you go.

You are moved to a ward when you are stable enough. Since you have always been tall for your age, you are put in the adult ward 95% of the time; always in a private room so as not to infect any other patients with this mysterious ailment.

The gastroenterologist comes to see you, you discuss having more tests- but since the last four came back blank, there doesn’t seem much point. Each hospital admission is the same- same symptoms, same slow recovery. Why should the tests show anything different?

Food comes and goes. The portions are huge, even though you ticked the ‘small’ box. So much food is hard to even face, let alone stuff into your body.

Each day I go down to the garden for half an hour. I look at the plants. I watch the people in the cafe, and the people walking the corridors. Eventually I drag myself back to my room; I encountered no one. The most interaction I have had was with the lady who cleaned my bathroom while I did nothing.

Eventually the tea cart stops coming into your room if your mum isn’t there- they know you don’t want a tea or coffee. Days are broken up by seated showers, blocks of terrible television, hospitals meals and trying to stretch my muscles.

Then the day when you are finally released. You must wait all morning for your doctor to do rounds; they love the final stamp of approval. If you need a prescription, you’d better be prepared to wait a few more hours.

You walk out of the hospital midday in your PJs, clutching a childhood toy in your hands and immediately the gaze of two fashionably dressed teenagers having a chat out the front falls onto you. You look at the ground, only glancing high enough to follow your mother’s footsteps, so you can’t see the girls. But they are silent, watching, until you are well passed, and hopefully for you, out of ear shot.

Mum grumbles about the shade having moved from where she parked when she arrived. You slide in the passenger seat of the car, feeling queasy and unsure you should have left.

You know that you could be back by next weekend, to go through it all again. You know that, once again, you will be put in the private room,just in case its actually gastro this time’ and have no one to talk to, no one to listen to or be distracted by. The nurses will be in and out to access the storage cupboards in that single room too, so you’ll learn to become a heavy sleeper.

There is a lady in the ward with me. She is kind, friendly, young and aboriginal. She has a severe chest infection, and she begins the day by cough cough coughing. The nurses run her nebulizer every four hours, even during the night. Her mother has just come in with her baby and her older daughter. Her baby, Lateesha, was born in this hospital.

They do not deliver babies here anymore, but Lateesha arrived in such a hurry that there wasn’t a choice. Even the nurses are excited to see Lateesha, she is the hospital’s ‘baby’ and they enjoy seeing her growing into a healthy bub. I feel left out, for this lovely young lady has her family surrounding her and plenty to talk about.

Roland came in earlier to bring me the laptop, my phone charger and some clean knickers. But he is always with me in the hospitals, always waiting. Last night when we came in, he didn’t leave when he wanted to, because he knew I was scared. He did most of the talking to the doctors and nurses, reminds them off all my allergies, and is able to answer their complicated questions. He runs off numbers, dates and names of medications, and does his best to keep out of the way of the working staff. He doesn’t get grumpy with me, he knows I am suffering enough.

This morning he brings my Ipod too, but forgets the headphones. Boys. He will come back later today with a book, toothbrush and toothpaste and maybe some other goodies, too. He tells me that the girls are missing me, that they aren’t the same as usual, they are distressed. Later when he comes back he tells me that Brandy still hasn’t gone to the toilet. He brings everything I asked, both kinds of soap for the shower, warm long sleeved shirts of his, since all my jumpers and winter pyjamas have been soaked in sweat. He takes away the still-wet clothes I had arrived in, now in a plastic blue ‘patient property’ bag. He also brought pictures of my fur babies. I look through them over and over again.

I wish we lived just 200 metres closer to the hospital, I could probably pick up the wireless from there.
I spent most of my time in the hospital asleep. I am never present when a meal arrives- I am usually woken up by the person who comes to take it away. I drink plenty of water, as I’m positive my cannula has collapsed, and do not want them to try to use it. One of the kitchen staff tells me off for not filling out my menu, and I try to explain to her that I can’t eat any of the foods listed for lunch or dinner- my diet is very specific. When she leaves I have a few tears; I’m so tired, can’t she see that I’m trying? One of my favourite nurses comes in and sees my tears. I believe she told the kitchen staff off, because next time that particular lady came in, she apologized and was very kind. I’m sure she didn’t mean to come across so harsh. Later that day I get a heat pack for my stomach. When I aska nurse to heat it up, I swear she brings it back the same temperature it left at.

  
Another great thing about country hospitals- free TV in the wards! Although I don’t usually use it much, its still nice to have the option and distraction available.
The lady and I chat randomly. They bring dinner while I am in the shower, and when I exit the bathroom she tells me that dinner is terrible, don’t even bother trying the salad. We giggle over each others stories and for a little while, we pretend we are just out, having a hot drink at the local cafe. We spent the weekend learning little bits and pieces of each others lives. She tells me I am brave and beautiful, and I thank her. I truly don’t get told I am brave very often, yet I always feel like I’m losing the war.
 
The morning we were due to leave, we both had blood work done.  This cannot be done on weekends. We are waiting at 11:30 when the doctor finally swings by. He tells me that I should come back if I don’t feel well. I’m ready to leave when a nurse announces she doesn’t have the results for the blood tests yet, nobody can leave. Roland has arrived to collect me, and together we wait 20 minutes. I expect the blood work to show nothing surprising, as usual, but apparently I have an infection. I ask for a copy of the results, to send to my sister, the naturopath. And then finally, after another reminder to come back if needed, I am free.
I see no one going to the car- no teenagers gawking at me in my tights and heavy jumper. We are quickly home, and the girls are going insane. I take them outside after just a minute of pats- and Brandy immediately finally goes to the toilet. She’d been holding on for far too long! When we go back inside I sit down of their bed and enjoy being jumped all over. Roland makes sure the fire is burning nicely before he goes back to work. I sit in front of the flames, wishing the warmth would reach my core. My bones feel cold. But I am home again. I am surrounded by my own things, I can prepare my own edible food.
 
My girls sit one my legs and their body warmth slowly makes its way through my jeans and to my skin. I pet Missy, and Brandy gets jealous and wants some pats too.
Things are normal again. At least for a little while.