Wednesday 31 October, 2007 – 18:41
I am including a few photos here (more will come later, promise) to remind mainly me that my life has suffered many strange turns, but I have fathered two children whom by any standards are quite exceptional.
This me with my daughter about 1987, when she was six (or maybe one or two years later). It is just a reminder to me that no matter what I have achieved, or what has happened to me, at least I can say she has risen to the rank of a much sought-after graphics design person who also happens to teach at university. If I sound proud, it is because I am! I have a son of whom I am justifiably proud, but I hate to tell him so because his head is swollen enough.
It Began This Way
Early in January I felt tired and sickly, but thought the Xmas activities had been too much. By mid-January I felt I had contracted a mild lung-infection from the effects of oversweating in the heat, and went to my doctor. He said I was just tired, and recomended a chest X-ray. I had planed to go the next morning (Wednesday January 17th 2007), but when I woke up I decided it was too hard and went back to sleep. The telephone rang later that day but I was too tired to answer it. Later on I decided to sleep on the floor next to it in case it rang again. I really should have realised that something was wrong if I thought it was normal to sleep on the floor in those circumstances.
I received a call the next day (I am reconstructing events that occurred nine months ago, partly from single memories of mine, but mainly from others’ comments, medical reports, and the most logical assembly of events) from my now carer, Margaret, and said she could come over, since I was going nowhere and she was visiting close by. Margaret found me on the floor next to the phone, half-dressed, unconscious, but clean, and with my arms and legs bloodily lacerated. Apparently I had crawled around the flat on hands and knees, tried the toilet and had a shower; all while unconscious. I had apparently fefaecated everywhere, to the point that my bedcover could not be cleaned and was consigned to the garbage.
Margaret stayed with me all night. Apparently I was incoherent, grinning and babbling like an indiot, and sweating profusely from a high fever. On Friday morning, since I had apparently not improved, Margaret called an ambulance and had me taken to hospital. Unfortunaterly, I knew nothing of this, and since I would have enjoyed the experience of two ambulance officers trying to carry my 90kg mass down three floors (no one admits they might have dropped me from the balcony onto the driveway, hence my injuries). I know I didn’t enjoy two other ambulance offcers carrying me down only four stairs after I decided that a bottle of whiskey would ease the pain of a severe fall at the end of September.
Anyways, I was taken to Liverpool Hospital (the one in the news lately because of some interesting problems), and after several hours dithering, was transferred to Bankstown Hospital. Luckily it was early enough on the Friday afternoon that the medical staff had not begun the weekend skeleton roster, otherwise I would not be here to write this! For those ignorant about the ways things work: hospitals generaly temporarily discharge patients on the Friday, making them as crowded as mausoleums over the weekend. Patients who still require care are re-admitted on the Mondays. At Bankstown, visitors had to queue for over 30 minutes to find a parking space during the week, but on weekends there was hardly a car to be seen. Bankstown in my experience was not the only hospital to go short-staffed over the weekends.
My experiences at Bankstown are continued in the post "Light Becomes A Coma".
Friday 02 November, 2007 – 05:11
I continue more of my boring saga about my most recent brushes with death. For those interested, the story began with "…The Dying Of The Light" (a reference to the title of the George R.R. Martin science fiction book of the same name), and continues here.
You Can’t Bank On It
Last installment, I was admitted to Bankstown Hospital in the early afternoon of January 19th 2007. By the way, I have noticed a rather excessive use of "I" and "me" and "my" here: but it is my blog, ain’t it? Anyway, a number of medical staff worked on me, trying to find out what was wrong (that’s me, the centre of attention again), but I apparently promptly died.
I don’t know if I was in the High Demand Unit (HDU, or Intensive Care Unit – ICU – to those unfamiliar with the current political correctness that demands all patients be said to be receiving intensive care, not just those needing it) then, or was transferred later that day. I do know it was in the waiting area of the HDU that my carer was told that night that I had died while the staff were trying to determine my ailment; that all my body systems had stopped except for my heart, which then crossed the floor to vote with the majority; that several doctors had resuscitated me and put me on life support; that after several frantic hours of laboratory work it had been concluded that I was a victim of Legionnaires Disease; and that the person under all those tubes was me (the sight of which – the tubes, not me – caused several visitors to leave: I later counted 17 healing holes in me from the various tubes, and this count does not include the feeding tubes in ther nose, or the breathing tube that screwed up my epiglottis; the count does include to tracheotomy tube I was given later, well after the feared-for damage to my epiglottis had already occurred).
It is now Monday November 5th 2007, and I’ve spent a few hectic days, mainly lost in thought, as I realise that some of the things that I remembered happening in hospital I accepted as real make more sense if treated as hallucinations. These were constructed by my subconscious in order to make more sense of what I was experiencing. I have always had a strong grasp of reality (evidenced by my poor ability as a hypnosis subject), and it seems that if some facts were combined with feelings and fears and assumptions while I was in a coma, and were combined so swell that I remember them as real experiences. Fortunately, I do have some strong reference points that show up inconsistencies in these memories!
Dreams of the Dreamers
One of my previously strongest memories concerned the day when I had to have my room changed in tensive care, an event that has now been confirmed as occurring midway during my comatose period. That is, I was moved about 1-2 weeks after admission with Legionnaires, but about 2-3 days before I was confirmed as being infected with MRSA (courtesy of Bankstown Hospital).
The dream began on a sunny morning. Several doctors were rushing about, three of whom wanted me to sign consent forms concerning poking a camera into my brain via the left jugular vein (to be done as a training exercise by an Asian doctor), and an endoscopy by a bigwig and his junior offisider, to confirm that no gut damage had been done by Legionnaires. I blissfully signed the consent forms, and thus began a morning of pain and chaos.
The doctor wishing to view inside my head haltingly explained the procedure, argued with a nurse that he didn’t have the correct camera as detailed in the manual (after deciding he didn’t, he found it hidden underneath a towel). He then draped a towel over my left shoulder to catch the blood, explained that I couldn’t have anaesthetic, and then attacked me under the chin with a scalpel blade held between gloved fingers. Like a good little boy, I put up with the pain for what appeared to be about 90 minutes. He viewed what he was doing on a display that looked a lot like the screen of a dialysis machine (except I couldn’t see any detail). eventually calling in a nurse to help him because the display was working intermittently and he couldn’t fix it because he was wearing bloody gloves.
The nurse kept resetting the display, and after a pain-filled never-ending hour, told the doctor that the display was failing because the power kept cutting out. A maintenance man was called, and while they kept cutting at me, the two doctors who wanted to endoscope me came back and explained that somehow I hadn’t signed their consent forms. They explained that while the test wasn’t really necessary, the specialist technician was unexpectedly available, but they had to have the consent form signed because the procedure was dangerous. I was suddenly tired of the whole exercise and refused to sign the forms. A frustrating period ensued as I tried to explain in sign language that I didn’t want to risk the procedure because I had been endoscoped four times previously and I was warned about having a fifth tube stuck down my gut in case it tore my hiatus hernia. All the doctors seemed to understand was that I was telling them to shut up and talk to my hand!!!
Amidst all this chaos arrived the maintence people, and after a confused discussion it was eventually decided to move me to another room so a faulty power-point on the floor could be fixed. I remember the move, remember worrying that the physiotherapist might not find me (I needed the exercise, apparently). I remember nothing else except brief snatches (and long dreams that were repititious, pleasant, satisfying, horrendous, torturous. or a cominations of any of these) until about the end of my fourth week in prison (er, hospital, thas is).
Last night, talking with my carer after writing en e-mail that caused me to think back about dreams and realities, I discovered that this, the stongest memory I have of the in-and-out coma period, contains so many inconsistencies and is so much at variance with independently-verifiable events that it can best be described as a complexly consctucted hallucination. The reasons for my decision can be found in my next post, "Nearly The End Of The Dreamer".
Monday 05 November, 2007 – 23:31
In my last post, "Light Becomes A Coma", I spoke of a memory that has remained sharp for over ten months. It was only a few days ago, when I had to describe it for chronicling reasons, that I realised that the inconsistencies of the memory made it the winner of the "Most Realistic Nightmare Award".
Did Death Become Me?
It might make it easier to understand all this if you remember that I was in a coma for about four weeks, and that my first real awareness – and I do mean "real" – of my surroundings came through closed eyes when I tried to answer the first questions asked of patients who seem to be newly conscious: "What is your name? Where do you live? What is the date? Who is Prime Minister?" Believe me, it is hard to answer these questions at all, especially the date, but you try to do it anyway, in the faint hope that the annoying bugger will be satisfied and let you alone!
I recall being surprised that a month had passed; I was surprised by what seemed to be a much later request, the answer corrected b the nurse, that another month had passed. I was damn confused that in spite of trying to remember my previous answers, yet a later series of questions were corrected to remove that additional month. Overall, I spent more than three weeks, but less than four weeks, in a coma. Although I was later told that I broke through the coma several times earlier, mainly due to pain that had to be alleviated with morphine, I had no memory of these events except the false memory described in this and my previous post.
Please understand that in the 3-4 weeks I was in the coma, I experienced the most horrendous nightmares, with horrors that were at the limits of my imagination and often beyond the limits of my endurance. I lived several lifetimes in those few weeks, often killed and was killed. On more than once occasion I gave up and surrendered, and I distinctly remember that I prayed that the death I was then suffering was a real death, and not just me sinking into blackness just long enough fo a new way of torturing me and terminating me could be found.
No, It Didn’t
Eventually, against all odds, I began to win, although I do recall that as I began to try to escape from the nurses’ annoying questions, my winning nightmares became more like pyrrhic victories. I tried to not remember the details of these nightmares, even though I occasionally consciously acted as though some details were true. Instead I chose to just remember the overall feelings. Luckily, by now much of the detail has been lost, as if I was forgetting the details of a Stephen King novel, a small mercy I really need. But the pain does live on, and has hopefully forged a better person for my surviving it (even if I swing between sarcastic humour and pragmatic violence rapidly on occasion.
Life Becomes A Dream
I my previous post, I mentioned a strong memoy that I have accepted as being a particularly vivid dream, even though it contains some elements of truth. For example, my room was changed, occurring slightly before the staff discovered I had become infected with MRSA. But the move was because of hospital rules, not because of a faulty power point. In fact, that type of power point did not exist in the ward. I assume it was manufactured from decade-old memories of a similar free-standing power point in an office that was being renovated, one that I used to trip over regularly. The incongruity of this fact is what first lead me to examine my memories and helped me decide that this even was another nightmare, albeit a very convincing one.
The memory of the painful medical examination has to be a nightmare, constructed from details gathered by my subconscious when I apparently broke through the coma occasionally. The walls of the room were bare, unlikely given the constancy of the posted notices to staff to be aware of hygiene issues. And it was highly unlikely that a doctor would insert an exploratory camera into a vein while I was lying in a ward bed. As well, the scanning machine looked similar to the dialysis unit I later came to hate. Interestingly while I later found no scars on my neck as evidence of a scalpel-blade attack, at the same time I found the mark where a tube had been removed from the left side of my throat and inserted into my right side instead, and a dressing attached. Perhaps, my coma was breached by this small surgery and I manufactured a botched examination to explain the pain I must have felt?
Several days later, in the presence of my carer, in one of the few conscious moments I remember in those first four weeks, I asked my nurse (by spelling out my request slowly on a card containing the letters of the alphabet – even if I knew ASLAN, my muscle control was too poor to do more than this) that I would agree to the aborted endoscopic examination. While I was worried that not having the examination was prolonging my stay in the torture-house, the nurse was now worried about an examination that had never been scheduled! I also remember from my nightmare that I was concerned that the physiotherapist would not find me in the new room. I can’t see me worrying about that unless I realised I had a need for such therapy due to reasons surrounding one of my abortive escape attempts. After all, I was not a candidate for physiotherapy since I was immobilised with umpteen tubes holding me down (unless the therapist had seen me to describe what was planned for me when it seemed I was getting bettter, even if my apparent consciousness was an artefact of my coma).
Make what you will of my saga so far: perhaps my subconscious was telling me that it did not think much of the competence of the medical staff who were unaware for quite a few days that my breaking out of the coma meant I had some chance of observing their behaviour. In any event, those interested in more tales from my crypt (or cryptic mind) can read on in my next post on this topic, "Both Dreaming And Life Are Nightmares".
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