72 hours in A&E part 3 – Mission Impossible?

Later that morning I was told that the medication they had been giving me was causing me to have low blood pressure, which had caused me to collapse. Whilst I was on this ward I was given a combination of anti-viral medication and anti-inflammatories, and also a mysterious pill that came in a little white envelope that I was told to take with meals – this was the pill I would no longer be taking, due to my low blood pressure. Then came the corticosteroids. These types of steroids are different to the type that you hear about athletes abusing, and are used to help reduce inflammation in the body. I think the reason that people who have experienced sudden hearing loss are given this drug, is because many of the possible reasons for the hearing loss could have caused inflammation, e.g. infection or trauma. Hence, reducing the inflammation could increase the potential to hear again. Whilst on the A&E ward, the corticosteroids came in the form of a white liquid in a syringe. Every few hours, a nurse would come by and squeeze the syringe through the line, into my arm. This liquid stung like warm acid as it entered my body.

There was only one shower for everyone in the ward to use. There seemed to be some kind of shower rule about when we were allowed to use it, as it appeared to be out of bounds after around 11am, but nobody had explained these rules to me. The shower room was a tiled cubicle in which there was also a toilet and a sink, and a trolley where two material sacks hung: one was a laundry basket to put your gown in to be washed, and the other had a supply of clean gowns. In the mornings, it seemed impossible to shower as there was a steady flow of elderly patients; each with a nurse by their side, to aid them in cleaning themselves. This meant that anybody who was mobile, it seemed, was forced to the back of the queue. My first two mornings, I had managed to sneak into the shower between the old people’s shower appointments. However, each time a nurse knocked on the door and told me come out, as people were waiting. By the end of day 2 in A&E I was desperate to wash my hair. Enough was enough! I had been monitoring the activity of the nurses. The evening meal started to be brought into the ward around 8pm every evening, and I didn’t usually get my food until around 8.30pm. At this time, the other patients were promptly in their beds, obediently awaiting their food, and so wouldn’t be needing the shower room. My boyfriend and I waited until 8pm. I grabbed my wash bag and towel, and by boyfriend accompanied me. I got to the shower room door, looked both ways to check nobody was watching, and I quickly ran in. My boyfriend waited outside, guarding the door. It was amazing to step under the shower and feel the drops of warm water on my head. After washing my hair, I peeped around the door, and my accomplice told me that the ward was busy with the meal time routines, and nobody had passed by. He walked quickly, yet casually, back across the ward and grabbed my hairdryer. This cubicle was now mine, and I was going to use it to its full potential! I applied face cream, and dried my hair. I emerged from that bathroom refreshed, and feeling quite mischievous, after successfully completing our mission! We arrived back at my bed to find that my meal had just arrived.

72 Hours in A&E Part 2

There was no natural light in the ward, and the few windows that they did have in the room were frosted, concealing the outside world. The beds were so close together that the patients could probably all hold hands. The first patient, who my boyfriend and I laid eyes on, was a lady who was in the bed to the right of me. Wearing her backless gown with confidence, she would circulate the ward with sociable ease; chatting with the other patients, and helping them by pouring water and getting them tissues. This lady had the biggest pair of knickers on; the skin coloured kind you see hanging up in town markets. From the top of her knickers emerged the line of her bottom which seemed to carry on all the way up to her shoulder blades! My poor boyfriend didn’t know where to look! Then there was the old lady who sat opposite me. Her name was Ana. She was 97 years old – I know this because the nurses kept shouting conversation at her – I think she must’ve been quite deaf. Ana spent her days sitting in her chair with her head moving from side to side in some kind of uncomfortable looking spasm. When her family came to visit though, she appeared to transform into a much more independent and happy woman. Her visitors also never shouted at her, and seemed to converse with her effortlessly, something I found curious. I spent three days on this ward, with patients coming and others replacing them. The sociable lady in the bed next to me, left after one day, in a big floral dress, waving happily goodbye to the short term friends she had made. Her replacement was a very ill-looking guy, who was probably in his early thirties. As soon as he was in his bed, he was connected to lots of bottles of fluids and medicines. The whole time he was there, he had someone by his side; his mum who sat on a chair and knitted throughout the night, and a younger girl, who may have been his girlfriend.

My first night was a sleepless one. The nurse’s station was in the ward, so there was always a light left on, and quiet chattering from the staff. A chorus of snoring also filled the room, and at various intervals, there was the clinking of glass bottles, as IVs were changed. In the early hours of the morning, I got up to go to the toilet but found it was being cleaned. I waited, but started to feel unsteady on my feet, so used the men’s toilet instead. When I came out, I proceeded to walk past the nurse’s station, back to my bed. After only a few steps, my legs started to wobble and I was feeling really hot. My heart was beating strongly and breathing became difficult. Everything around me started to blur, like when children mix poster paints together on paper. I started to tell the nurse at the station, that I didn’t feel well. Soon after, I was falling.