I honestly don’t understand why I pay for this website, when I write posts about four times I year. Occasionally, I get a big boost of creativity and confidence in my ability to run a website, and that last happened in August, just after my birthday. I had a lovely post written about why I hadn’t blogged in so long – with a huge build up to the fact that me and Matt had bought a house, and we were busy in-between shows making it into our first proper home. I planned to post it at the start of September – and with that I wanted to start blogging properly again now I had the time and was free of the stress.
Instead, I’m stepping back into blogging with a little story about how I went to town to see my brother and ended up in hospital. Strap in, it’s very long, it’s very dramatic. It’s also quite descriptive, so if you’re not a fan of hospitals, needles or medical things, I’d skip this post. Just a friendly heads up. I’d still like to share some posts about my new house, even though they are now 3 months out of date, but for now it’s the hospital storytime.
A week after me and Matt officially moved into our new house, I decided I wanted to make the garden look a little bit nicer, so I asked my mum if she could take me to a garden centre in Speke. (She’s got a huge car, and I wanted a lot of plants!) England’s glorious summer weather had come to a bit of a halt, and it was absolutely teaming down, but I’d promised my nan I’d pick her up some winter bedding plants and I assumed most of the things I’d be looking at would be indoors, so I thought nothing of it. I was, of course, wrong – and all the shrubs and ornamental trees were in an outside, uncovered area. I got soaked, much to my Dad’s amusement.
When I got home, the weather had cleared up, but rather than try to get dry I sat in my garden in my wet clothes for the rest of the day, planting all my new plants. That night, I woke up with the most intense pain in lower left part of my abdomen. I’ve had stabbing pains before, and the hospital have never known what it was, so I put it down to sitting in wet clothes. I took a painkiller, and fell back asleep.
The next morning, the pain was still there and my stomach was swollen and very tender. I couldn’t even lean over to my left side, and I was aware that it felt like there was ‘something’ in my stomach. I tried to get on with my day as best I could, but it hurt so much to almost everything, so I trudged off to bed, annoyed I had wasted a day. I remember (vividly) waking up at 3am Monday morning, with the pain and pressure on my stomach being so bad I couldn’t breathe in while lying down. I sat up, and started searching online for what it could be. Was it because I sat in wet clothes? Was it a hernia because I’d moved house the week before and I’d lifted things far too heavy for me? Was it just an extreme amount of….ahem….constipation? At some point, I fell back asleep, sitting up as it was the only way I could breathe, and had another good 4 hours of sleep.
I’d made plans to go to town with my brother that day, before heading into work. Matt kept telling me to cancel my plans and ring my GP, or go to the Walk-In Centre, but at this point I’d convinced myself I just needed a Senokot, and walking around would be good for me. I slowly made my way into town, clutching my side and hobbling because my left leg hitting the ground sent ripples of pain up my side. After an hour of walking around town like this, I admitted to my brother I was knackered, and he suggested we have a drink and a sit down, and maybe after it we should go to the walk in. After the drink, and a lengthy sit down, my brother took me to the walk in clinic, which wasn’t too far from Starbucks anyway. While walking, I threw up a few times, and very quickly began sweating even though I was freezing. I didn’t see this as a symptom at this point, I drank coffee (which I’m not supposed to do) and I’d drank it with ice. This was just my body reacting to downing a frappucino too quickly. I gave my symptoms in to the receptionist, and she told me to take a seat and I’d be triaged shortly.
I stayed standing, because sitting hurt, and got called through to the triage nurse very quickly. I told her my symptoms; acute pain in an isolated area, vomiting and being unable to lie down. She took my obs, and told me that my heart rate and blood pressure were far too high. I assured her that they were always high and it wasn’t an issue, but she said she felt uncomfortable with how high my heart rate was, and she’d get me seen quickly. In a walk in centre, you’re seen based on urgency rather than the time you arrived, so I admit that I got a little worried when I was called through almost seconds after the triage nurse sent me back into the waiting room. I was seen by a second nurse, who did all my obs again, did some tests and said he thought I was probably just constipated – which was the diagnosis I was dreading to be honest. With such strain on the NHS at the moment, the last thing I wanted to be doing was wasting their time by just needing the toilet. To prove his diagnosis, he pushed my stomach a few times and listened to my bowel, and you could tell by his face he’d changed his mind. He said he thought I maybe had a bowel infection, but wanted a second opinion just to be sure. A third nurse came to see me, and she seemed convinced straight away that the problem was my ovaries.
“You probably have a twisted ovarian cyst,” she said. “I don’t know what else it could be with the location of the pain, to be honest. We’ll send you to the hospital. You’ll skip A&E and you’ll go straight to Unplanned Care, they’ll have a doctor there waiting for you.”
Only when I got to Unplanned Care, they’d already decided where I needed to be, and they sent me to the Surgical Assessment Unit, where a very friendly surgeon was waiting to see if I needed emergency surgery. He asked me a few questions, commented on my heart rate (which was now around 190bpm while resting) and blood pressure and told me he too thought it was ovarian cyst. By this point, it was 5pm so most of the departments in the hospital were packing up for the day, and although he rang about twelve times, there was no one in the Imaging department to book me in for a scan.
“You’re up and about,” he said, “and though you’re clearly in pain, I don’t think what is wrong with you in an emergency. I think we can safely send you home to wait for a scan tomorrow, providing your obs drop to a normal rate. We’ll take some bloods, give you some pain killers, and we’ll check you again in an hour. Let’s get a cannula put in.”
Now, I don’t have the best veins, and I know I’ve given nurses trouble before when they’ve tried to take blood, so I warned the doctor it might take some time to get a cannula in, and I’d rather just have a drink and some tablets but he told me, as I might need emergency surgery, from this point on I was nil-by-mouth until they said otherwise – and they also needed to take a fair bit of blood, so one cannula would be easier than ten or so needles. It took them six goes before they were finally able to get a cannula in, with each attempt being on 5 different parts of my arms. That’s 30 stabs in a very short amount of time, so though I’ve nothing against needles myself, I’ll admit I was feeling pretty queasy. A few hours went by, and despite the copious amounts of painkillers they gave me, my obs were still high, so I settled in for the night – but while I was changing into my very fetching hospital gown, I got a sleeve caught on my cannula and pulled the thing right out of my hand. Not to worry, the nurses told me, someone will come along and get a new cannula put in.
Me drenched, me with my best friend cannula no.1 and me getting admitted. I kept sending Matt selfies and he made this thinking he was really funny.
There’s no more filler to this story now, the next few hours of my life focused around one thing, which was getting this canula back in. By this time, it was the overnight shift, so the Nurse Pactitioner had gone home. Instead, 4 junior doctors tried to get a cannula in me, but it had turned into a bit of a catch 22. I’d had one drink all day, so I was dehydrated and my veins had collapsed, but I could only be rehydrated by IV fluids – through a cannula. No fluid since 1pm, and it was now midnight, on top no pain relief (which also would have come by IV) meant I wasn’t in a good way. Eventually, at 2am in the morning I got a cannula in, after 12 attempts – and again, each attempt was five points. 60 needles in the space of 4 or so hours. The finally got one in by one doctor forcing my arm right back, another pushing down on my arm, and the third actually getting the needle in. I celebrated by throwing up on them.
At this point, I was sure I was done for the day, and I’d be left to sleep, but I heard a few of the doctors gathering around my bed. I think they thought I’d finally fallen asleep, because they were speaking quite openly.
“She’s deteriorating rapidly,” one said “I thought maybe it was the dehydration, but she is so tachycardic, she could…if we don’t get her heart rate down”
“What do you think is the problem?”
“She need’s a CT, we need to make sure her bowel hasn’t perforated. It’s definitely not her ovaries.”
“That’s a big dose of radiation to give someone when we don’t know what we’re looking for”
“It’s a CT or it’s open her up.”
So at 3am, I was taken for a CT. Despite asking to walk, it’s hospital policy that you be taken in a wheelchair, so I threw up a few times as I was getting wheeled backwards, and I threw up again after the saline flush before I got injected with the contrast fluid. The CT technician was very nice, and far too cheerful for someone who had to work at 3am, but he explained what would happen to me, and what I needed to do to get the CT done quickly. He explained I’d get a metallic taste in my mouth, I’d possibly be sick and I’d very definitely feel like I’d wet myself. Within a minute, I was done, and packed back off to bed with a lovely bag of painkillers, and finally, a lovely bag of fluids.
I woke up at 10am feeling like I was in an episode of Scrubs. I was surrounded by doctors on iPads, including the three who’d looked after me in the night, and a man in a suit – who was clearly the most senior of the group. He had the the doctors explain how they treated me last night, how I responded and what happened next.
“It’s good news!” he said “you shouldn’t need surgery, and if you do, it certainly won’t be in the forseeable future. You’ve got epiploic appendagitis, there are little pouches on your intestines, and yours have been strangled by blood vessels and become inflamed. It’s quite rare, and it’s more rare to see it on the left hand side of the body. You’ve also got a bit of an infected cyst which is causing strangulation of the bowel. We’ll give you broad spectrum antibiotics, but if your obs go down to a level we’re happy with, we can send you home tonight!”
I wasn’t sent home that night, or the night after, or the night after that, because I responded really badly to the antibiotics. Matt came to visit me, just as I was standing in a corridor, projectile vomiting and crying because both toilets were locked and I had nothing to be sick in. My heart rate remained high too, but in the end they agreed that keeping me in was just causing me to stress so my heart rate would never settle. I was eventually allowed out, but even now after a month I still have frequently, though less acute, pain in my left hand side. I came out of hospital and was working the day after, so I didn’t really have time to rest. It’s only now I’m being able to sit back and work out the pain, and also enjoy my new house. Just in time for Christmas rehearsals to begin.
But, that’s the story of how I nearly died because I’d only had a Starbucks all day. The lesson is; stay hydrated, you’ll never know when someone will need to put a cannula in.