‘You’ve been right to the edge: the only thing that’s got you through is your positivity.’
Mr Jain – Head of Urology, (Jimmy’s), and my consultant and surgeon.
From Anthea: 5th December: 5 hour op to remove bladder. Melissa and I visited you on the High Dependency Ward and you were as high as a kite. John and Anna were regular visitors too although most of the time they sat beside an unconscious figure with all sorts of tubes going in. 6th December: High Dependency Ward – chatty. 7th December: Walked to nurses’ station, spoke on ‘phone, still high. 7th – 13th December: Ward 52 recovering. Evening of 13th wound burst open and a bowel infection was found both needing emergency operation 2-4 a.m. performed by Mr Jain called from home. Back on High Dependency Ward, 15th December: Inhalation of bile caused toxic burning inside lung leading to aspiration pneumonia. Fought vigorously with male nurses inserting tube down throat – ‘The strongest patient I’ve ever had to deal with’ – nurse. Bile removed. Major organs compromised. Intensive Care Unit on ventilator for breathing. 15th-20th December: Intensive Care on full sedation. 20th: Sedation reduced and ventilator removed. Very paranoid. 21st December-3rd January: Recovering on Ward 52.
When I got home, I was utterly exhausted and could only walk very slowly. I could just about manage the stairs.
As Anthea has written, my memories of my hospital stay are incomplete – especially of the earlier part. I can only remember accurately the last few days on Ward 52 where I was groomed for discharge. Earlier than that I was unconscious, semi-conscious, or experiencing a waking, paranoid nightmare whose terrors I can’t express in words. It was a labyrinth of inexorable and terrifying doom and very realistic. I was the victim of masterminds who had me caught in an ineffable, logical, inescapable, infinite programme of physical and psychological horrors, the latter punishing me for fictitious misdeeds over which I experienced dread guilt. I believe the paranoia was caused by the pain-killer, morphine: as well as being drip- fed I later had a patient-control gun of the stuff.
The waking nightmare overlapped into real life so that, when I saw my consultant, Mr Jain, who I like and respect a lot, I shouted ‘Oh not you, too. I trusted you’. Everyone I saw was part of the conspiracy.
The delusional events were as real as real life. I spent one night in my bed in a field under the stars with staff talking about books in tents behind me. I remember on Ward 52, maybe just a few days before discharge, saying excitedly to Anthea ‘You’ll never believe who was here earlier. Just visited briefly and left. Only Peter Schmeickle!’ Anthea wasn’t impressed: ‘It was Ho Chi Minh last week’.
As I write, it’s 8th February and I’m just back from my longest walk yet – twenty minutes or so round Otley Market. When I got back, I wasn’t particularly tired but glad of a sit down. Apart from two setbacks – brief infections – I’m making painfully slow progress towards getting my mojo back.