I know that it is March. It is March again. It was March last year too, and the year before. And I know that March is MS Awareness Month. It is MS Awareness Month again. It was MS Awareness Month in March last year too, and the year before. But how to mark it? How to 'celebrate' it? How to Raise Awareness? That is what MS Awareness Month is all about, Raising Awareness.
Trishna Bharadia has already done stirling work this month. Trishna, already an MS Champion, was chosen to appear in the 'People's Strictly' in aid of 'Comic Relief'. Trishna has done Marvellous and Remarkable and Splendid work. She has flown the MS Flag for everyone with MS and passionately and courageously she (along with her lovely dance partner Aljaz Skorjanec) proudly lofted the MS Flag up as high as she could reach and waved it with enthusiasm. Trishna and Aljaz have trained and worked hard, really hard to learn their dance (the Jive). Well done Trishna. You were amazing. You raised money and you raised awareness. You were our MS Dance Star. What have you done today to make you feel proud? Trishna Bharadia you have achieved a stack. You can certainly feel very proud. Rightly Very Proud. On behalf of everyone with MS, Well Done you. Alijaz wasn't bad either.
So, what am I going to do? Well, it turned out that I am going to highlight MS Awareness Month by feeling terrible and going to Hospital, to the Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI). Part of the University Hospitals of Leicester (UHL) NHS Trust initially to the Urgent Care Centre (sort of what was A&E). In the Urgent Care Centre I was given something to stop me feeling sick and something for the pain and where I was put on a trolley and put on a drip and then despatched off onto Ward15 the Medical Assessment Ward.
When you are lying on a Hospital Bed, really not feeling your best and certainly not looking your best, when the pain really becomes so unbearable so all-consuming that you think you want to die; when you really would make any sort of deal with anyone who could offer you a viable solution. To anyone who could ease your pain. When all you want is just for the pain to end. When you have dealt with pain, and lived with pain, and carried on with pain, and suddenly something within you shouts 'ENOUGH' I simply cannot do this any longer. And when you once were able to carry on with the pain living and carrying this burden of pain with you at every waking moment, at that point you can't eat, you can't sleep, you can't drink, you can't swallow, you can't think and you can't speak. And for anyone who truly knows me, they know it takes a monumental amount of anything to get me to shut up; to not speak. But if you are in enough pain, you do eventually shut up. Even me. Even I shut up if I am in enough pain.
So there I am. Wheeled on a trolley in my Onesie and Boots to Ward 15; the Medical Assessment Ward of the University Hospitals of Leicester (UHL) NHS Trust. Lying on a Hospital Bed on a drip in my pink Onesie (with the hood with ears) and my Boots. Unfortunately not an Orange Onesie to raise MS Awareness. My hair un-brushed. Basically, it is fair to say I looked ROUGH. I like to think that somehow through my pain I somehow managed and looked strangely attractive. But, no. Alas. At this moment in time I looked ROUGH. Fair to say really ROUGH. Not in the slightest FOXY.
The staff on Ward 15. The Staff Nurses and Health Care Assistants and the Doctors. These people are fabulous. It is always difficult to express thanks because of the fear of not mentioning someone ...but Carly was lovely straight from the moment I arrived in Bay 4. She welcomed me and introduced herself and said that they would help. I probably grunted something incoherently, which meant 'I am really pleased to meet your acquaintance and if you could do something about the pain that would be marvellous'.
Ward 15 has a high turnover of Patients, as they more from A&E / the Urgent Care Centre to be found a bed and placed on a relevant Medical Ward. But despite this high turnover, quick pace and huge amount of paper work that is quickly amassed of Blood Pressure and Heart Rate and Temperature and the like. Everyone is treated friendly, quickly, politely and calmly. Even in my state of not being quite with it, I was able to recognise that everyone is treated in a reassuring and kind manner.
And things do quieten down in the evening. The Nurses arrived for the night shift. These are people who have chosen a job of looking after the sick and ill and injured and those not always able to help themselves. These people do have their own dramas and lives and worries and domestic trials, but they put them on hold and come to work to put 'your/my' health and well-being as their priority. This really is a self-less task, and one which is acknowledged but not probably in the manner that it should be. That evening; Saturday Night; I was in a hospital bed in my Onesie. By now I had put on a pair of socks rather than my boots. I felt like crap and was still fairly uncommunicative. But that didn't really matter too much as that Night our Staff Nurse was James; and to be honest I am not sure I would have got a word in edgeways!
James was hugely engaging to listen to. Quite soothing and reassuring. Nothing was too much trouble. At some point he decided that the main lighting on the Ward was too bright and suggested we move to more 'mood lighting', and he achieved a much calmer and relaxing environment. He then apologized for lack of a 'DISCO Ball'. He took time to engage everyone in turn. Nothing was too much trouble for James or Hayley. Nothing. It was all very ordered and systematic. Although James is slightly OCD about the curtains that divide the bays, and gets really quite annoyed and cross that the Doctors don't seem able to close them after they have examined or spoken to a patient. At one point someone on the ward commented that they were dying for a 'Cup of Tea'. No sooner was this said than James had fetched the tea trolley and offered to make everyone a drink. James was busy; he had more urgent things to do. But he recognised that there is a big different between what is urgent and what is important. A patient needed a cup of tea. A simple thing. A simple request. A simple pleasure. A simple gesture. But so reassuring. James rather took the bull by the horns at this point and with gusto declared that if we were having tea we were at least having biscuits and cake too. And to his credit he indeed supplied tea and cake to those who wanted it. I was still feeling nauseous and somewhat off-colour, not 100% so turned down the kind offer of a Cuppa; again testament to the fact that I really felt quite shockingly wretched, and pretty damn rough, as I never ever refuse an offer of a Cup of Tea. He also told me an amusing story that involved RAF Uniform, Singapore, Gin, and Raffles, and being outrageously drunk.
I made it through the night and as the dawn approached I was hooked up to my third consecutive drip. Being in hospital is scary. No matter how old you are. No matter what day it is. No matter what is wrong with you. It is frightening and it is lonely.
The day shift returned and the night shift made their farewells. And Carly and Katriona were back in charge. Reassuring, and ensuring that everyone was as comfortable as possible, whilst swiftly and efficiently dealing with the paperwork and day to day matters. Getting us up and washed. I unhitched from my drip and stumbled towards the shower. I was in there for ages. You don't think very quickly and you don't move very quickly when you are unwell. And everything is a monumental effort. Everything. But eventually I was clean and into my clean WonderWoman Onesie. And to compliment the look I was given some UHL-tr Socks. How splendid are they?
Rose, An elderly lady of 89 (as she kept reminding anyone who would listen) demanded that her Nurse demonstrate the absolute Patience of a Saint. Rose was rather loud with her cries of 'HELP'. 'HELP ME'. 'I CAN'T BREATHE'. The Nurses checked her Oxygen levels, which were c. 96%. They gave her an oxygen mask. But she kept taking the mask of to shout. Kim was calmly polite and reassuring but firm. Rose was 89. SHe was in hospital. She was alone and she was frightened. I am not 89, but I was alone and frightened too. We all were. The uncertainty and diagnosis and treatment. It is frightening. This is when Nurses appreciate the importance of the touch of a hand. They understand kindness. They recognise that the touch of a hand can convey so much, can reassure. But this simple kind gesture also conveys a lot of information to the Nurse. Is the patient is hot or cold? Is there skin clammy or dry. They are constantly checking even when you don't realise that they are. One noisy patient does unrest the rest of the Bay.
The lady moved into the Bay next to me was 'Nil By Mouth'. When she arrived the nurses spoke to her, introduced themselves and reassured the patient as much as they could. Katrina then without being asked, using her previous knowledge and experience, went and fetched the patient a small glass of water and some mouth foam swab things. She explained to the patient that 'Nil By Mouth' patients can often experience a dry mouth that if this happens it is helpful to use the swabs to moisten the mouth. Katrina did this without being asked, and this again demonstrates the kindness of the staff; how they go the extra mile to ensure the well-being of the people in their care. All in a days work. But those small gestures mean so much to someone who is alone and frightened.
I saw a Neurologist who asked me some questions and examined me and tested my reflexes and tickled my feet; and then I saw Doctor Jackson. Doctor Jackson was lovely. Very calm. Very kind. Very reassuring. And able to communicate. Communication is so essential. To clearly communicate, not only to exchange information but to convey feeling or thoughts or ideas. Communication is such a vital skill. And listening is as vital a part of communicating as talking. Doctor Jackson was warm and humorous but hugely reassuring and quickly imparted a confidence in him.
Having been prescribed some Amitriptyline to complement my Pregabalin I was told I could go home. And so I went. I packed my bag and called my Dad. I went through the Hospital, not really giving a hoot that I was wearing my WonderWoman Onesie and Hospital issue Slipper Socks and even though I was feeling much better than I did, I still looked really quite rough. I went with my bag and my stick to the entrance point where Papa collected me and took me home. Home to my cat and hot water bottle.