1 year ago, last night, I was taken by Ambulance to the local A&E, from which I was admitted to the local Cardiology Ward, for the second time in a few months, and after being told I needed an operation fairly soon if I was to survive.
Within the week I was transferred to Essex CTC where I was to undergo 11 Hours of life saving Open Heart Surgery, but after which I was to suffer complications such as a Stroke, Sepsis and and HSV that ate away half of my top lip. The result of these complications meant I was in a coma for 3 weeks fighting for my life and another 3 weeks coming out of the coma and being moved to the recovery ward.
I woke up in the middle of September with almost complete muscle wastage - able only to turn my head left and right and make some attempts at trying to talk. With great care and help from Physio’s I was able to get sitting, standing and walking again to the point where, after about 4-5 weeks I was able to be discharged back home to Suffolk.
From this point, I carried out the various exercises I had been given, and slowly started to improve physically, but kept experiencing lighted moments or dizzy spells - so had to give up my Driving Licence, any hopes of riding a bike, and even walking too far without fear of having a turn. By February we had a acquired a wheel chair to allow me to get out of the house, which allowed me to try and develop my muscles and improve my overall wellbeing.
Then, on 7th May, I woke up with almost no ability to walk and finding cognition and the act of reasoned thinking or memory a difficult task. Trip to the GP, and a blood test or two later, and I was advised that I had depleted my Iron Stores, and had a Ferretin Level of 28 (should be between 100 - 300). My Cardiology Clinic, GP, and the Essex CTC were all of the conclusion that this was a sign of how ill I was post op, and how much recovery my body still needs. Iron, apparently, is the stuff that carries all the nutrients and oxygen around the body (via the blood stream) to give it the energy to function and repair itself.
So, a Ferretin Infusion was arranged, about a month ago now. We are also trying to see what improvements can be made to my diet, or the size of the portions I can eat. Post op, my drinking consists of a litre of heavily diluted squash and a can of Caffeine Free Pepsi Max - each and every day. Now transfer that to food, and you see the dilemma. Nothing sweet, nothing that could come from a bakery, no take away or fast food, no chips, very few processed foods and no condiments. Only 2 types of cereal available for breakfast - and portion sizes that make a hospital meal seem somewhat generous in portion size.
Considered thinking is: I have at least another year to go like this, maybe 2 - such was the state of my health. This conclusion was arrived at following another trip to A&E last week, or the week before, on the advise of my Cardiology NP because my memory and cognition had almost switched off. Apparently, I was asking my daughter for the name of her youngest son, after having spent a few hours in his company interacting with him!
So each day, I get up, get myself up, washed and dressed (if I remember all of the duties attached to hygiene etc), and assemble my breakfast of a bowl of cereal that I have with my Pepsi Max. My day then consists of me sitting in my chair or walking to the garden and watching the flowers for insect activity. On good days, I try to do some washing up, and make any phone calls that need to be made. I try to do some exercises as well - but too much activity or thinking can leave me drained like a rechargeable battery that has been totally used up and in need of recharging.
And then, I go back to bed! I don’t lay on my side or sitting up, I lay in exactly the same position you find yourself when you wake up post operation - except my bed is totally flat. And that is how I spend the night, either awake or asleep, according to how lucky I am.
If I’m lucky, my wife will agree to go out in the car and I get to get out of the house and have a ride in the wheel chair, or I get to visit the viewing point for the Port Of Felixstowe, or see my daughters and grandchildren, where we can play Guess Who? 😏
When I signed the consent form for the operation, none of this was even considered, let alone voiced. My choice was simple, die or operation and hope for the best. Well, I survived, but I do question whether it was worth the effort some days. The stresses on my wife and daughters to help me through the days and nights was not part of the plan and is taking its toll. I am existing, but not living. I realise that I am luckier than a lot of people - but it doesn’t stop me feeling like a drain on society, on family and on the NHS Resources - all of which could be used to help some one is able to give more back to society.
I live in the hope that things will get better, and I can justify the efforts of all at Essex CTC and the local NHS bodies by contributing to society again. One day, I might even be able to eat Fish & Chips again, or a Sandwich, or have a cup of tea - but in truth, I’m not missing them. I would also like to think that I can make use of my camera again and create images that I like and am happy to share.
Most of all though, if the statistics are right, for all those surgeons cautions about ‘1 in so many could experience this or that’ - I took on all those complications for one hospital last year, which means loads of others benefitted - statistically - from my poor luck. That at least gives me some satisfaction.
It’s just that I had hoped, expected even, to be enjoying the weather more and also getting out and about in the car, on my bike and taking pics with my camera of the amazing sights Suffolk has to offer. Maybe next year.👍