“The hardest part of this period was feeling truly insane and out of it. I knew I couldn’t control the delusion and mind wandering.”
I came round with my eyes still closed, feeling hazy, almost drunk and quite giggly. I was engulfed in a warm fuzzy feeling. I felt quite happy and blissfully unaware of the harsh physical reality that laid before me, or rather, was me. I had a tube down my throat which started to make me choke and I did my best to gesture that I wanted it taken out but I couldn’t move my arms, they felt like limp fins on an exhausted washed up sea turtle. A gentle flap was all I could muster.
I could sense that I had a body but it felt as though I wasn’t wired to it. The connections were just short of each other, like a gap in a bridge. One by one I felt parts of my body come back to life again; where there was nothing before now a presence occupied that space and I realised I could move a bit more, so now I was more like a very drunk sea turtle, flapping about on the beach with no sense of direction.
I tried to signal again that I would like the tube removed, and was now coughing and spluttering as it became more uncomfortable. I heard my mother say: “I think he wants the tube out”, and at the same moment it was removed.
My head felt like it was full of stars, a glistening haze of sparkles in a thick warm darkness; I was back in my own head again. I opened my eyes or at least, I felt as if I did, and all I could see was three vertical strips of colour. They were red, green and brown from left to right. There was no outline, no shape and no texture, just three bold stripes. A three-colour rainbow was all I could see and each colour shone with warmth as if lit from behind by a soft glowing lantern. In an instant I knew that the red, green and brown were Mum, Dad and Tiana respectively and I was reassured by their presence. With an internal sigh of relief, I felt secure.
There was some talking and muttering; my parents were speaking to the surgeon and I sensed stress in their voice but had no idea what was being discussed. It turned out that the first thing the surgeon said to them was: “we listened to the music, it wasn’t really my thing”
I closed my eyes and I could feel the nurses moving around me. Once again, all I could sense was the immediate space around me; I became a dome of space which occupied a circumference of one metre around my body. Again I was disconnected from the physical ‘me’. I felt broad and wide, big empty open space was my nature and I felt so peaceful. Then a feeling in my hand started to come back and like an electric current I felt parts of my body waking up and I was back in my body. I am not sure how long this lasted but I could sense I was going between my body in the physical form of it and then back out above it, spread out, overlooking an infinite horizon.
I had a small plastic morphine drip control button in my hand which I had been told about before the operation and I could administer at will to ease any pain. If I pressed it, it would allow a controlled amount of the drug to enter my bloodstream every few minutes. I wasn’t in any pain but kept pressing it anyway, thinking a few minutes had lapsed each time when in fact it was probably every five seconds given my distorted sense of time. I didn’t want to feel anything anyway.
The next time I came round I was in a room with two nurses fussing over me. I opened my eyes and this time I could see, although it was blurry and I let my eyes adjust. It felt like I was on a ship in stormy seas; my bed was swaying, or was it the room?
Seeing me stir, a nurse came over to ask how I was doing and if there was anything I needed.
I requested a drink, which she got hurriedly.
It felt as though the nurse was continuously fussing over me and saying things. She seemed like a character in a cartoon who was darting from one scene to the next in a tornado of blurred colour and confusion. Whizzing around me from one end of the room to the other, my bed turned into a boat and spun chaotically it seemed. I had no idea what she was doing and remembered thinking to myself ‘this nurse is crazy; she seems so frantic. What is she doing moving so rapidly and what is she saying?’ I felt the motion pause for a moment and having a brief moment of clarity I told myself to calm down.
From then on I gave her the nickname ‘crazy nurse’. It was at this point that I had a personal nurse for twenty-four hours and I have a vague memory of opening my eyes once and then closing them to go back to the familiar blackness where I felt safe.
I woke up as I was moving into another room with three other people nearby. Two of them were my roommates from the first night. I was starting to feel a lot more with it now, or at least I thought I was. We were each propped up slightly by the back of our beds, and were facing each other in a diagonal four-bed cross. There were bright lights on us but the room itself was dimly lit in neon green.
There were lots of wires connected to us from multiple machines and the sounds coming from them seemed deafening. There were bleeps every few moments, the sound of air moving, the oxygen tubes in my nose, nurses coming over and sticking things in me every moment or so, lights flashing, the room spinning. Was I tumbling down a rabbit hole?
It felt like I was in this room for an eternity and it was mental torture.
I looked at the clock on the wall hanging above the door. It was silver with thick, straight black lines on its pale face indicating the time. It felt menacing and as though it commanded the room, like an army sergeant bearing down on me. Slowly it kept time.
I pressed the buzzer in my hand for a nurse to come over and I desperately asked: “can you switch these machines off? Or at least the sounds, the bleeps are driving me mad!”.
It turned out she was new to her position so went away and asked. She came back and politely said: “no”.
Having then dwelled on it for a few moments I realised it was probably a good idea not to turn them off. I looked back at the sergeant on the wall, feeling like a few hours had gone by but not even five minutes had passed.
I came round after closing my eyes for a while and had a sudden realisation that I didn’t know what was going on. I felt safe but confused.
‘Something’s wrong I shouldn’t be here,’ I thought. Looking around I then started pulling off some of the wires which were attached to me and to generally unplug myself from the spaghetti junction of cables. All of a sudden the bleeping sounds were a lot louder and there were new, more urgent ones as well. A nurse came rushing over seeing me sat half up right and said: “what are you doing?”
In a tone that was perfectly natural and self assured I responded: “It’s alright luv, I’m fine. It’s those three you have to worry to about. I’m off to the loo, where is it?” I thought I had been on a big night out and had woken up somewhere strange. I didn’t need looking after, it was the others that did. I just needed the loo.
Propping myself upright and struggling to move I saw the look of sympathy on the nurse’s face and she gently said: “no, just lie here, you can’t go anywhere.” Which brought my train of thought to a crashing halt, as if a door had slammed in my face. “Maybe she’s right,” I thought, and I lay my head back on the bed as I realised where I was and what was going on.
Every few seconds I was passing liquid, trying to close my eyes to sleep and then sharply opening them without warning. I did my best to ignore the barrage of sounds and generally tripped out feeling which was paralyzing. I looked up at the sergeant timekeeper and couldn’t believe it, only another five minutes had passed.
The hardest part of this period was feeling truly insane and out of it. I knew I couldn’t control the delusion and mind wandering. My mind felt as if it was tripping out and running away with itself. I had moments of realisation which felt like coming up for air, a gasp of sanity which then quickly dissipated as I fell back into crazy town. Without those pockets of sanity, I wouldn’t have known whether I was insane or not. When I came up for ‘air’ it was a welcome relief and offered a moment’s reflection.
I came round and we were being moved to another ward. I was very relieved to not be in that room.
There was a window next to me allowing light to come in bringing a sense of warmth and ‘life’ with it.
I could feel that things were getting better and the sense of urgency was diminishing. I was on the level below where I started and knew that the next stop would be back in the original ward.
I had a new nurse looking after me called Matt. He was slightly overweight with a few days growth of stubble which was encroaching on his goatee and looked Filipino. At first I thought he was a doctor and I addressed him as such to which he quickly corrected me. He was extremely attentive and calm. On one occasion I remember the look he gave me after I asked the same thing ten times in an hour. It was a look of ‘Oh dear, you’re really not with it’ softened with a smile. He had the wonderful patience to provide the same answer in a clear and calm manner again and again. It was from his expression I then realised I had asked him a few times already and chuckled to myself, “Oh dear” I thought.
I had a few more visits from various doctors and nurses. A young female doctor seemed to have been assigned to me who had long dark hair, a pretty smile (which reminded me of Julia Roberts) and warm light chocolate skin tone. She wore glasses that highlighted rich brown eyes and despite the ‘white overcoat’ everyone was wearing, she had a bright coloured shirt underneath which shone through adding a welcomed warmth. I took an instant liking to her, she was kind and caring whilst being professional.
Another time a different doctor was joking and laughing with me. He was of medium height and round shaped with a bubbly demeanour seeming to bob along as he walked. With small glasses perched on his nose he reminded me of a mole.
He recalled a story when he was in training to me and some nurses. “Part of the learning process is to understand how things feel to a patient, what their position is like. When we were learning about the ECG process we had to have the wires attached to ourselves. I have a very hairy chest, so if these wires were stuck to my chest and ripped off, well, that would be painful. So I chickened out of trying this!”
The nurses and I chuckled as he told the story, sympathizing with him.
I was moved to the last remaining ward and all I could think of was two o’clock when visiting hours started. It was the only thing I could look forward to and the clock wasn’t moving fast enough.
I tried to kill time by going for a hobble around the room which the nurses actively promoted. A snail’s race was more exciting than me cranking the cogs of each limb. However, slow as it was it felt good to move and particularly to stand upright.
At the end of the room on the left there was a big window looking out over London. The sun was shining and bathing the room in bright light that reflected off the ceiling and walls. The heating in the ward was set to desert temperatures and along with the sun it was hot but soothing.
I sat up in bed and looked over towards the window to see a huge swarm of flies buzzing in a giant ball of organised chaos just inside the window. With military accuracy they stayed fixed to their position.
“That’s not good,” I thought and looked back around the room to see what was being done about it.
Everyone was calm, lying in their beds being seen too by someone and the nurses were doing their checks as if everything was normal. A pleasant murmur of chit chat filled the room.
I thought to myself how strange it was and when I looked back at the window the giant ball of flies was still hovering in mid air; a bustle of darting confusion and noise. I glanced back into the room and again saw that no one was paying any attention to it and it struck me that I was hallucinating.
Feeling fragile I stared at the end of my bed; it was more comforting.
Throughout the rest of the day I started to notice other patients were losing it too. In a bed opposite and slightly to the right of me was an elderly gentleman who was starting to break up. I could see he thought people were out to make it hard for him; he was being held against his will and wanted out. Everyone was his enemy it seemed. Our eyes met on a few occasions and all I could see was despair.
With a vacant stare, his pupils were large and misty black. His eyes looked like they were popping out of his head, being pushed forward as though his mind was trying to break free. A series of creases cut into his forehead in intense, compact ridges, creating highways of thought on his skin. The pressure was evident on his face.
I imagined he just wanted to get out of here, as I did, but the drugs had consumed his sense of normality.
I found it distressing to see someone being restrained by the nurses and then having to remain in the same environment as them. I took comfort in the thought that at least I wasn’t like that and sympathised as best I could.
It is only from then that I remember seeing visitors. My family had come in during the first two days but I have no recollection of it. Apparently I was sitting upright, quite alert and chatting away to them.
The below image was taken on the fourth day in hospital before I was about to leave.