I have spent months putting off posting this because nothing ‘interesting’ really happens. I’m determined to just get it done now so that I can continue getting my story on paper. I’ve found that my memories of events back this far are starting to fade a little.
The day to leave ICU had arrived. This meant I was progressing, moving forward, and as such I should have been celebrating. The reality is I was not. I was leaving an environment I knew. A predictable daily routine gave me comfort. A staff I’d grown to know and trust gave me the confidence to relax.
It’s difficult to imagine that you can form real connections with people when all you can do is blink. Through the help of my army of interpreters I managed to communicate everything I wanted to during my 8 week stay. As a result, the ICU staff saw me as I truly was. The person behind the diagnosis and the disability. And I got to see them in all their glory. Only incredible individuals are called to work in the ICU.
It was an emotional day. Saying goodbye to all the ICU staff was really hard. They filtered through all day to say goodbye and tell stories of things I had done during my stay. My sister-in-law Courtney arrived as my things were packed up for my transfer. Apparently I told the staff I would take them to the pub when I recovered. I could still only blink at this stage and was completely tube fed, so a beer at the pub seemed like a massive goal.
You aren’t allowed flowers in ICU. A good friend of mine who is a doctor, realised that as I was being transferred to the stroke ward today, I would be allowed flowers. It was a lovely reminder that I had many people supporting me from afar.
In my last post I talked about having the cuff of my trachy deflated. The Rehab ward doesn’t accept patients with tracheostomies so I needed to get it out. I was starting a 24 hour trial to see if I was capable of maintaining my airway on my own. When the cuff is down, some air gets through to the larynx. This means that in theory, with the cuff down, I should be able to make sounds. As I was being transported from ICU to the Stroke Ward, a nurse encouraged me to try some simple noises. I managed to make a very soft ‘oo’ and ‘ee’ sound. Very exciting.
In the Stroke Ward, I would not have my own nurse. I would share a nurse with several other patients. I still wasn’t strong enough to press the call button, so Dawn arranged for me to have a private room in view of the nurses station. My Room was really spacious and a much better space for having visitors.
In the afternoon I had a visitor arrive unannounced. Sharon is one of my very best friends and had driven 8 hours from central Victoria. Sharon and I had spent many years doing almost everything together. We had shared so many adventures raising our kids. She was naturally shocked and devastated to see just how ‘sick’ I was.
For the 8 weeks since my stroke, I had only seen the same handful of people. They had all dealt with the shock of my condition weeks earlier. They had also witnessed the tiny bits of progress I’d made against all odds, so were feeling hopeful that I would make further improvements. Sharon was the first ‘new face’ I’d seen since my first days in hospital. To see her heart break before my eyes, was a massive jolt back to reality. I saw myself through her eyes and was reminded of everything I’d lost.
That night it all got too much for me. I was hysterical. Thankfully Dad and Courtney were with me. Blinking out sentences while crying hysterically, adds a level of difficulty for those trying to interpret! I was asking Dad and Courtney how disabled I was going to be. I was panicking about the future.
They managed to calm me down. They reminded me of Kate Allatt’s recovery and told me with hard work and determination I too would make a full recovery.
The copious amounts of tears meant I had to abandon my 24 hour trial with the trachy cuff down. I would try again tomorrow.
Dad stayed the night with me. I was very relieved that I was allowed someone over night. It was daunting to not have a nurse stationed at the end of my bed with no way of attracting attention. It was a much quieter ward than ICU and I even had a door I could close at night.