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Orange Juice is not a Starter (my two week hospital vacation)

Published June 28, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

I can think of better ways to spend a fortnight, beach holiday, city break, meditation retreat, chilling out at home, but no, my body thought it would like a two week stay in Neville Hall hospital battling acute pancreatitis. No warning, no niggly little pains leading up to it, just full on ‘one of my internal organs is about to explode’ pain in my abdomen at 5 am on the morning of the royal wedding.

I don’t remember the ambulance journey or arriving in A&E but I was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis and admitted to a ward, my home/prison for the next two weeks. Now, of course I am grateful for being looked after and mended by the NHS, and I do have a few positive things to say, but my overall experience was horrendous. I heard someone say ‘I’m in the best place’, that was a lie, a better place would have been the Nuffield private hospital in Hereford, but I don’t have private health insurance so I was stuck in the National Hellth System.

I’ll get my negative experiences out of the way first. Some are trivial but when I’m in extreme pain and coping with sleep deprivation my mind upgrades everything to ‘end of the world’ status. I vomited a lot during my stay, violent ‘let’s have a look at your stomach lining’ vomiting, it looked like swamp water and smelled much worse. Now I don’t expect nurses to come and hold my hand or rub my back whilst being sick, but no one ever came to check if I was ok, one of my fellow inmates rang her buzzer one night at 3am informing the nurse that came that I was being sick (it was truly like a scene of the Exorcist) only to be told ‘she has a bowl’ then walking away. An hour later I buzzed to ask if someone could remove the sick bowl from my table as the stench wasn’t nice for the others in my room to have to inhale. This request was responded to with an irritated sigh, as were most requests.

Urine collection was another bug bear of mine. My urine output had to be monitored and having the choice between having a catheter fitted or weeing into a cardboard bedpan for the nurses, I chose the latter. The idea was you’d take the bedpan to the toilet with you, use that, then hand it to a nurse to measure and record the amount. Straightforward. Well it would have been if you could either find a nurse at the nurses’ station, or you could interrupt their chatting and catch their attention if they were there. How they couldn’t spot me waiting most of the time I don’t know, I looked like the ghost of Christmas past lurking in front of them. Thus, I would leave my bedpan of urine on the desk top if there was no one there and get told off. I wasn’t just leaving it there to be a rebel or annoy people though, walking to the toilet was such an effort I’d be about to pass out so leaving the bedpan on the counter and collapsing back into bed was preferable to passing out at the nurses’ station and my urine ending up all over the floor with me. When I did try and explain why I’d left it, I got told to leave it on the toilet. That’s not practical when at least seven other patients are using that toilet, I didn’t want anyone else’s urine topping up my measurements. ‘Can I give you this please’ I said to one nurse, ‘what am I supposed to do with that?’ she asked me in an accusatory manner. ‘Measure it and record it on my chart at the end of my bed.’ Jeez. Why ask the patient what you’re doing?

Suppository in the dark was another lowlight for me. I was on morphine hourly but when that wasn’t working for my pain I could have a diclofenac suppository, which worked well for me as it knocked me out. One time at 3.30am I buzzed for one of these, I got one of the miserable nurses who went off to get it with grumpy sigh. If you choose to be a nurse and you choose to work nights, don’t take it out on the patients. She came back with the suppository and the attitude. I curled up into position. ‘Your light’s not working’ she complained to me. I don’t know where she was expecting me to produce a light bulb from. More sighing ensued followed by the unwrapping of the suppository. ‘Wrong place!’ I quickly said. ‘I know’ she growled. If she bloody knew, why was she trying to shove it in the wrong slot?! ‘I’m going to have to put the main light on now’ she hissed. The main lights went on, fluorescent tubes pinging into life and lighting up the room like a football stadium. Hallelujah, I got my pain relief. Did she turn the main light back off? No. Now I know she didn’t just forget to, it was nearly 4am and the rest of the bays on the ward were in darkness. I presume she left it on in spite, but I was out of it in about 15 mins thanks to the diclofenac, so it was only my three fellow inmates that suffered from the bright light torture.

Lack of sleep, quality sleep, doesn’t sit well with my body or my mind. I’m sure a lot of my delusions, hallucinations, and unbalanced thoughts I had in there was not helped by the lack of sleep. I know it’s pretty much impossible to get sleep in hospital, it’s a hospital not a luxury spa resort, if you’re not throwing up or writhing in pain yourself you’re having to listen to the others in your room do so. One thing that really annoyed me though was being woken at 7am every day (when having only just managed to doze back off after much vomiting, pain, and having IV antibiotics plugged into me at 5am) just so the auxiliary staff could make my bed.

Now for patients that could get up and about, I kind of understand the need for a routine of get up and sit in your chair. But for patients like me who were too ill to do so and were staying in bed I failed to see the point. It was bad enough having the curtains flung open and being scorched by sunlight like an ancient vampire, and bad enough having two overly cheery valleys ladies chatting about their night out while they did so, without the shrill screech of ‘c’mon ladies get out of your beds so we can make them’ every morning. I’m not a morning person anyway even with a good nights’ sleep, can you tell?

I did challenge the one auxiliary one day. As I stayed in bed rebelling against the order, I asked, ‘Why? As soon as you make it I’m going to be getting straight back into it.’ To which I got the reply, ‘because it’s my job to make the beds every morning’. What a jobsworth.

When she finished making my bed, and not even changing sheets, just tucking the sheet and blanket in, she would raise the bed to its highest setting in an attempt to stop me getting back in. ‘You need to sit in the chair for breakfast,’ she’d say. ‘I’m nil by mouth,’ I’d remind her while stroppily yanking the blanket and sheet off my bed.

Another bug bare was at wash time. The auxiliaries would come around and ask who needed a bowl of water to wash with and who was going to the shower. I’d request a bowl of water, and every day the same annoying woman would say ‘why don’t you have a shower?’ and every day I’d reply, ‘because I feel like I’m about to vomit and faint, I’m in pain, and I have a cannula in my foot that makes it awkward and painful to walk, and I don’t want to risk knocking it as I have collapsing veins.’ She’d then reluctantly bring me a luke warm bowl of water.

‘Quiet time’ was good and bad. According to one of the doctors that came to find one of my veins during a ‘quiet time’ session we were the only ward in the hospital that had it. Basically, ‘quiet time’ was an enforced afternoon nap. After lunch the curtains would be closed, and the lights switched off. Anyone not already in bed would be told to get into bed. Now the nice part was getting some extra sleep, although as my bed was nearest the nurses’ station I often lay there having to listen to details of their holidays as the nurses chatted all the way through ‘quiet time’. The bad part of ‘quiet time’ was being woken abruptly two hours later by the lights going on and the curtains flung open. I would feel groggy and grumpy and can totally sympathise with toddlers being woken from nap time.

The thing that made upset me the most was something very trivial. I was nil by mouth to start with for a few days, then I was on fluids only. The only fluid items on the menu were fruit juice and soup, so for two days I had that. On the third day of fruit juice and soup my tray arrived with only soup. At first I thought the juice had been forgotten, until I checked my menu I’d ticked the boxes on. Someone had written ‘you can only choose one item from the starters’ with the word one underlined.

I was immediately annoyed. Firstly, I could read that rule but as I was only having those two items and not ticking anything from main, main accompaniments, desserts, dessert accompaniments, I thought common sense would indicate that I wasn’t being greedy wanting two starters but that’s all I could manage. The person plating up the previous days obviously had common sense. I was even more indignant due to the patient next to me having a tray so full of food they had difficulty fitting it all on. She’d come in late and was out of it, so a nurse had ticked everything as she didn’t know what she’d like. So, there was Becky (not her real name) having an all you can eat buffet banquet while I had four tablespoons of parsnip and rosemary soup looking sorry for itself in lonely abandonment on my tray.

My second main gripe was, and still is, that fruit juice is not a starter, it’s a beverage. It was a starter in the seventies, when I was seven years old on the rare occasions my family ate out, orange juice was on the menu as a starter, and that was thought quite exciting and exotic. But thirty-nine years later culinary notions have changed, is orange juice listed as a starter in any eatery these days? I protested by sending the menu sheet back with my tray with my reply added to the note: ‘fruit juice is not a starter unless you are still living in the 1970’s’. It probably didn’t get back to the person who had originally written it but it made me feel better in a petty way.

There was a lovely catering lady though, in fact all the catering staff that gave out the food were brilliant, but one lady was really kind to me. She knew I was on fluids only and I enjoyed the orange juice so she would give me an extra juice when serving tea and coffee. I wasn’t being greedy, I wasn’t having tea or coffee. This little act of kindness made a big difference. Also, the evening tea lady remembered that I liked a little cup of milk instead of a hot drink, that felt so nice that someone would remember that rather than just seeing us as bodies in beds.

The best random act of kindness made me cry. And again it’s quite trivial talking about it now but at the time it overwhelmed me. When I was allowed solids, I’d been violently sick at tea time so couldn’t eat my food (not pleasant for the others having to listen to me while trying to eat theirs). A couple of hours later when my anti-sickness tablets kicked in I was feeling hungry, quite a rarity for me in hospital. I asked one of the nurses if there was a spare yogurt or something left over from tea time. She said she’d have a look but doubted it. She came back and said that everything had been taken back down, I thanked her for looking and then she did the most wonderful thing. She offered to make me a piece of toast from the nurses’ staff room if I wanted.

Now to lots of people someone making you a piece of toast is not a big deal, but I was so low and demoralized in hospital that this lovely nurse making me a piece of toast when she didn’t have to was such a lovely act of kindness it brought me to tears. She probably would’nt even remember doing this but for me it will stay in my memory banks in the feely good section. Best slice of toast ever.

The hospital food makes it into my positive section. If I ate it now it might be different, but when you haven’t eaten for days food tastes so delicious. I think one of the catering staff thought I was taking the micky for a couple of days. On eating soup for the first time I told her that it was the best soup ever. Then the four mouthfuls of mashed potato I had was the best mashed potato ever. She thought I was being sarcastic as it was dry and lumpy but to me at the time it did taste like the best mash ever. When she realised I was being serious every day she would join in, ‘best omelette ever?’ she’d ask with knowing look. I’d smile and say, ‘oh yes.’ These were the rare occasions I smiled in hospital, when being treated like an individual human being.

There were four nurses too over my fortnight in there that were brilliant and treated everyone as individuals and not just bodies in beds. I only wish they could be cloned and replaced with the majority that need to rethink their career choices.

Another positive was the wonderful anesthetic doctors that could get needles into my veins. I have stealth veins. They don’t like to show themselves and if caught they collapse and disappear again quite quickly. Hence during my two weeks hooked up to the various IV drips I had cannulas in both crooks of my arms, both wrists, both backs of my hands, and both feet numerous times. For someone needle phobic with anxiety this is a complete nightmare, but there were three wonderful doctors that would be paged when a vein collapsed, and a new cannula had to go in. I called them team amazing as these three would get needles in me when many others couldn’t. I never thought I’d be grateful for someone getting needles into my veins, but I heard someone say I had a good vein in my neck, so I was very grateful they managed to avoid that.

Being incredibly ill in hospital and thinking you might not make it back out puts life into perspective. The consultant told me the acute pancreatitis wasn’t due to my poor diet, but I don’t believe that. Before hospital I was binge eating sugary food, despite my type 2 diabetes diagnosis fifteen months ago. I’d been living in denial and didn’t care about myself or my body. I hadn’t told my family I had diabetes, the first they knew about it was when the paramedic was in my room asking if I had any medical conditions.

I had time to take stock of my life while in hospital and how I was treating my body. Whether or not I had contributed to my pancreatitis by neglect of health, I decided that I never wanted to go into hospital again, and if avoiding that meant I needed to overhaul my eating habits and make my body as healthy as I could, then that’s what I’d do. It was like a switch had been flicked.

I’m now only eating natural healthy foods. I’m a vegetarian, and have been for 40 years, but now I no longer eat processed foods, fried foods, pizza, cakes, biscuits, sweets etc. Basically, if it’s not nutritionally good for my body – it doesn’t go in. I no longer want my body to be a bouncy castle, I’m transforming it into a temple of wellness. It’s going to take a while to undo all the abuse I’ve inflicted over the years but eating healthily is having some good side effects already. I lost two stone during my two weeks in hospital and since then I’ve lost another half a stone, not by following any diet, but just by eating natural healthy food. I’ve turned into a preacher of gut microbes, read up on them if you don’t know much about them, they’re the key to good health!

So, while there were memorable good moments that were outweighed by my bad moment memories, I’m counting my whole experience as a positive. Acute pancreatitis might have actually saved my life.

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Five Ways I Didn’t Kill Myself in Hospital

Published June 21, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

(WARNING – even though humorous, I do talk about suicide, avoid if this is a trigger for you.)

I mentally broke on day five in hospital. I was in extreme pain and constantly vomiting, I wasn’t improving and felt like that was how I’d spend the rest of my remaining days. If euthanasia was on offer I’d have taken it. I did ask a nurse for this service and got the reply ‘I’ll bring my gun in tomorrow.’ She obviously thought I was joking and played along. Now the pain has gone I’m glad there wasn’t that option available to me, but in my despair and delirium I was trying to figure out a way to kill myself.

My first thought was jump out of the window. But as I was only on floor two and the windows only opened six inches I had to rule that out. I’m not that skinny and a fall from two floors would only result in a sprained ankle. Realistically, I reasoned with myself, I’d need a fall from sixteen floors to die. The hospital only had five or six floors, I couldn’t remember which, so that would probably result in just a broken leg, if my fat suit didn’t break my fall completely. Aha, I thought, I’ll dive off the fifth/sixth floor head first with my arms by my side, that should do it. Feeling smug I remembered that I was struggling to walk the ten steps to the toilet and back, so trying to navigate my way to the roof was a non-starter. Drat.

My next idea was to save up the liquid morphine I was allowed hourly and overdose. I was given it in little plastic measuring cups and they didn’t watch me drink it, so it was doable. I had a bottle of Fruit Shoot next to my bed and I thought if I drank all of that I could tip my shots of morphine into there until it was full. Great idea. Except I would have to stay in even more pain if I wasn’t taking the morphine hourly, and Fruit Shoot bottles aren’t exactly big, so even if I drank a bottle full of morphine sulphate, without vomiting, I’d probably only make myself extremely woozy. Drat.

I observed the drugs trolley closely when it came around. Being a pharmacy dispenser I know which drugs which drugs will cause the most damage and kill me. I’ll grab some from the trolley and use those I thought. But the trolley was never unattended long enough for me to pull off a heist. Drat.

Watching a nurse use a syringe to inject anti-emetics into my IV, I had an idea which I thought was my best chance. I could inject an air bubble into my vein trough a cannula and bingo, it would travel up to my heart and kill me. I was ready to swoop on any forgotten syringe that got left behind, but unfortunately/fortunately for me this never happened. Drat.

My final idea was the least likely to work out, but by this time my brain was clutching at straws. My boss is a pharmacist and I had the genius idea that he could come and visit me, bringing drugs in with him to finish me off. But there were too many flaws in this plan. While it would solve my problem, it would no doubt be traced back to him and his visit and he’d lose his business and go to prison. I’m quite proud of myself that I was unselfish even in pain and didn’t want him to get into trouble for me. Although I had thought about how I could get my life insurance policy changed, to him being the beneficiary, so I could bribe him with that to do it. It was only because I knew he’d want more than the eighty thousand pay out to endure a prison sentence that I abandoned exploring that option more. Drat.

I happy to report that now I’m recovering at home I’m glad that none of my options were feasible, and I’m glad that I’m still here on the planet. In fact, I’m so glad and grateful that I am, I’m finally taking control of looking after my health, so I can avoid ever going to a hospital ever again.

But, I am increasing my life insurance policy, just in case.

How Not to Behave at a CT Scan

Published June 18, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

While in hospital I had a CT scan, or CGI scan as I kept calling it. I’ve had one in the past, but this time it took place when I was off my head which resulted in the 5% of my aware brain being totally embarrassed by 95% of me.

I’d been out of it all morning leading up to the scan, my anxiety had shot up to maximum levels at the thought of the claustrophobic scanner, I was on a lot of morphine for the pain, and my temperature was high, which always distorts my brain. I didn’t realise that the combo of all this would result in me losing all filters in my brain and not knowing when to shut up.

It was a strange experience, instead of just thinking my thoughts, they were all coming out via my mouth, and even though the tiny reasonable part of my brain was listening and telling me to stop talking, I couldn’t. I had no control of my mouth, even though I could see peoples facial reactions to me. I’m sure most of them thought I was a complete loon. I certainly did.

It started when the porter, Steve, arrived at the ward to take me for the scan.

‘Are you my taxi driver?’

He humoured me. ‘I am, jump in.’

‘I haven’t got any cash to pay you.’

‘Don’t worry, I’ve switched the meter off.’ What a good sport.

I climbed into the wheelchair and he attempted to put a blanket across my lap. ‘I don’t need that, I’m far too hot.’

‘I was thinking of your modesty.’

‘Oh, don’t worry about that, everyone has seen everything before.’ I can assure you everyone hasn’t seen everything of me and I was wearing a nightie that went down to my ankles. We set off. ‘Is it far? I don’t fancy a long journey today.’

I was assured it was just down one floor in the lift then straight into the scanning rooms. And it was. It was a busy day as when we arrived in the waiting area there were three neat rows of people in wheelchairs, about nine ahead of me. Steve parked me in the front row.

‘Are we going to watch a drive-in movie?’ I asked loudly. I should point out too that because I’d been nil by mouth all morning, for the scan, my mouth and lips were like cotton wool so I was slurring my words due to my tongue trying to cling like a limpet to every surface in my mouth.

Steve said we weren’t watching a movie and went to inform the scanners I was there. The scan lady came out to find me slumped over (I felt like I was going to pass out in the heat), she got me to sit back in the wheelchair and felt my forehead looking concerned.

I indicated to the room on the right, ‘I don’t want to go in that room as it sounds like a 3D printer and I’m not looking my best today, can I come back another day when I look more presentable.’

Deciding I was delirious with the temperature the scan lady upgraded me to going in next. ‘I’ll just go and load her details into the machine’, she said to Steve.

He said he had to go and pick someone else up, I waved cheerily goodbye to him.

The scan lady asked a paramedic, who was with their own patient two rows back, to stand with me to keep an eye on me while she popped back into the room. The paramedic lady did this reluctantly, she tried not to make eye contact with me. I asked her if she had a slush puppy she could plug into my cannula in my arm to cool me down. She just said no and remained looking ahead. I then told her my slush puppy flavour order of preference. I didn’t know I had an order of preference.

The scan lady came back out and wheeled me into the room where there was another scan lady waiting, the paramedic went back to her own patient with relief. The scan room was heavenly. It was so cold.

‘You have the best room in the hospital’ I told them, although they probably knew that already.

They asked me to lie on the scanner bed. ‘Ooh look! I’m coordinated!’ The runner on the scan bed was purple and so was my nighty. I explained that I wasn’t drunk, it was because my mouth was so dry that I was talking a bit funny. They relaxed a bit.

I led down, and the one lady asked me to put my hands above my head. I did. ‘Am I going hang gliding?!’

‘No, I’ going to inject dye into your veins to we can see everything on the scan much easier.’

‘I’d prefer to go hang gliding.’ I don’t think I would, I don’t like heights, or flying.

Now I kept amazingly still during the scan. But that’s because I had reached maximum capacity anxiety and had therefore disassociated my mind from my body, it doesn’t happen often, and I can’t control it at will so it’s not a great party trick. When I emerged from the scan however I came out of my trance and continued sharing my thoughts with the two ladies. ‘That was great! I felt the dye going through all my veins down my arms to my abdomen and I pretended I had been struck by lightning and was turning into a superhero.’

‘Oh, that’s different, no one has told us that before,’ one of them laughed.

‘And then the whooshy fast stuff was like NASA space training.’ There was no whooshy fast stuff, but my brain thought there was. ‘Although I must disclose I have never done NASA space training, so It’s what I imagine NASA space training to be.’

After more laughing from the ladies, they asked if I could sit up unaided. I wasn’t sure. They asked how I’d get out of bed normally, sit upright then swing my legs out or swing my legs out as I sit up? This seemed like the most difficult question in the world. I’ve never thought about how I get out of bed before. ‘I don’t know, move me like a Lego figure and put me where you want me.’ They did. ‘Can I stay with you for the afternoon, you’re the best and your room is so lovely and cold.’

‘We’d love to let you stay all afternoon, you’ve made our day, but they need you back up on the ward.’

‘A superhero’s work is never done.’

I was wheeled back out to wait for Steve. ‘I highly recommend going in there,’ I told the glum crowd. ‘It’s the most fun you’ll have all day.’ Steve took me back up to the ward. My three other inmates were in bed as it was ‘quiet time’ (more about that in another blog).

As I entered our room the girl in the next bed whispered to me ‘how did the scan go?’

‘It was great! I did hang gliding and space stuff.’

She looked at me confused. ‘Oh, you’d better have a lie down then.’

I got into bed and fell straight asleep, dreaming of what kind of superhero I’d be.

Hospital Hallucinations, Visions, and Delusions.

Published June 17, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

While in hospital I had the most vivid hallucinations that were scary, unnerving, and downright freaky. For three whole days I thought I had lost my mind and was expecting to get transferred to the psych ward at any moment. Then in a moment of clarity I asked the nurse what antibiotics were in my IV drip. Metronidazole. Of course. I had these in tablet form from a dentist once and I saw a Zulu warrior sat on my sofa, and a grapefruit dancing in my bedroom. I stopped taking them and made a mental note not to take these ever again. Unfortunately, when being admitted to hospital and asked what I was allergic to I had only mentioned penicillin. I was kept on metronidazole for another day until my consultant switched them for a different variety, gentamicin. So, I’m blaming the antibiotics, but it could have been that combined with the morphine I was on, and the temperature I had distorting my brain too.

If you’ve never hallucinated it’s scary as you can see things that aren’t there, and no matter how much you tell yourself it’s just your brain playing tricks, because you can see it so clearly you can’t convince yourself it’s just a mirage. I can’t remember all my hallucinations but here are the ones that I can. It would have been freaky enough to dream these, but to see them was terrifying.

Dancing biscuits. My fellow inmates and nurses were witness to me shouting ‘make the biscuits stop dancing’. Embarrassing to look back on, but at the time I’d been tormented by a five-foot custard cream and a five-foot pink wafer with arms and legs dancing, jazz style, next to my bed for hours. Every time I opened my eyes they were there, grinning at me, dancing. They weren’t nice friendly grins, I found them darkly menacing.

Velcro Bryan Ferry. I opened my eyes and the hospital walls and ceiling were covered in Velcro. Bryan Ferry popped up in a bright yellow Velcro suit and proceeded to sing ‘Let’s Stick Together’ whilst flinging himself to the walls and ceiling. When I ignored him, a bed appeared to the right of me (there was no bed on my right-hand side) covered in Velcro and he wrapped himself around the bed in 2D flattened style, still singing. I had to whisper ‘not now Bryan’ to make him stop. He then sat on the bed that wasn’t there with his back to me and kept looking slyly over his shoulder at me to make sure I was watching him.

Eight grim reapers. At one point I opened my eyes to see not one but eight figures in black hooded cloaks gathered around my bed. This seemed like such a revelation that there was more than one grim reaper. I shouted ‘There’s more than one! Everyone has it wrong, there are loads of them!’ plus ‘That’s so unfair, eight of them and one of me, I don’t stand a chance.’ Goodness knows what people must have thought I was looking at.

Headless patients. Looking around the room and seeing the other three patients minus their heads made me physically vomit. (I was vomiting a lot though, so my stomach didn’t take a lot of persuading to purge itself again). Two were sleeping minus their heads, the third was flicking through a magazine with her hands, but there was just a neck stump, no head.

The scariest hallucinations though were ordinary people stood in front of me, talking to me, that weren’t there. There was a lady with short hair in an orange and blue horizontally striped jumper that I found particularly creepy, she would talk to me about her dead children then stare at me. I did wonder at one point if I was doing a ‘Sixth Sense’ and seeing dead people.

I have never experienced audio hallucinations before. I now have. I hear voices in my head most of the time, but I ‘hear’ those with my mind as a running commentary, as I guess do most people. But I’ve never heard things externally with my ears that weren’t there, so I didn’t realise it wasn’t genuine at first. There was a lady in bed three whose hearing aid kept whistling. When she fiddled with it trying to tune it in it played Jingle Bells. ‘What kind of warped person buys an elderly relative a hearing aid that plays Jingle Bells’ I thought to myself. This happened a few times. I was cussing whoever bought it for her. It was only when the hearing aid started to play Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’, in its high-pitched tinny sound, that I realised my brain was messing with me.

Other auditory hallucinations included hearing people say my name and start talking to me, except when I opened my eyes there was no one there. And I could hear a rock station on a radio. I thought it was the woman in the next bed listening to the radio, quietly but not quietly enough, and for a couple of days I was thinking ‘why can’t she put headphones like the rest of us’. I then realised it wasn’t her (she checked out of hospital and it was still playing), it was my brain playing tricks on me again. It was so weird though, I could clearly hear the host introducing artists, new rock music, and I could hear this music and lyrics I’d never heard before so clearly. I can’t remember any of the songs now but at the time of ‘hearing’ them they were all new to me. I wish I could remember them so I could write them down and sell them on to musicians and make a fortune.

As well as hallucinations I had delusions. Only a few thank goodness. I was convinced one of the catering staff was a cyborg. She walked down the corridor exactly like Robert Patrick in ‘Terminator 2’ and as she walked past my room her eyes scanned in, with a slight movement of her head, just like the T2. That was enough for me, my brain told me she was a cyborg, I believed it. I wouldn’t make eye contact with her or I’d pretend to be asleep when she came around. I also believed we were all being given drugs via our drips that were keeping us sleepy and docile, and that the hospital was a front for top secret experiments on our bodies. Whenever I woke up I would scan my body for any signs of unauthorised incisions.

The visions I had were both terrifying and amazing. When I closed my eyes to escape the hallucinations I had visions. No escape from my brain. The inside of my eyelids became a film screen and I was shown weird and wonderful images by my mind. The horrific images my brain showed me were so repulsive I’ve buried them in a filing cabinet never to be talked about, I’ll just say I was disgusted I could create vile images that make ‘The Human Centipede’ look like ‘The Teletubbies’.

There were weird images, that felt like psychic images. I could see the bottom half of a body buried in mud, blue denim jeans, brown boots and a brown satchel type bag buried with, but that was all, then my mind would flicker onto another vision. There was an exquisitely animated film that made me cry as it was so beautifully shot. It was a Swedish girl in the woods, and the animals she lived with and the music was so haunting. They were made of a weird clay type pottery and painted in muted colours, and it was stop go animation. I can’t remember much more now about the story, but at the time it made me weep with joy.

There was a story of two blue and yellow birds that were unseeable by human eye, they lived in human noses, one in each nostril. They were soulmates paired for life but would never see each other as they couldn’t leave their respective nostrils as their jobs were to protect the nose from invaders like pollen, bugs, germs etc. The birds were the happiest creatures, even though they couldn’t see each other they would tweet to each other through the nasal cavities and just knowing the other was there was enough for them. They had such a pure love for each other it was beautiful. They’re names were Geoffrey and Viola.

My brain made a complete Disney animated movie called ‘Vegas to Alaska’. There were four Alaskan Malamute dogs (Montana, Iowa, Utah, and Vegas) that performed in a Las Vegas show. They weren’t mistreated but had a working dogs life, having lived there performing in shows all their lives. Due to animal shows getting less customers they were dropped from the bill and the owner was selling them on. Three sold quickly but no one wanted to buy Vegas, he had been born with one ear and couldn’t bark/talk like the other dogs. The owner was due to fly to Florida, so he gave Vegas away to a random stranger, Ben. Ben had stopped in Las Vegas on route home to Alaska and had lost his dad’s money gambling. He was feeling such a loser but couldn’t say no to taking Vegas home with him.

The film followed their bonding trip in Ben’s red pick-up truck from Las Vegas to Alaska, Vegas taking pure joy from simple things like riding in a vehicle with his head out the window and feeling a breeze on his face, something he’d never experienced before. It was basically a love story between man and dog, about learning to trust, learning to value the small stuff, and learning to love life. I enjoyed it.

A short film that played in my head was a beautiful love story starring Tom Hardy. He played a man, finding out his sister had been mistakenly switched at birth. He only found this out when he’s contacted by his birth sister’s ‘brother’ explaining she needs a kidney. Reluctantly he agrees to visit her in the hospital and when he meets her he agrees to donate, telling her ‘I will always be a part of you and we will go on magical adventures.’ They fall in love, but not a sexual love, a pure love of humanness. They move in together and are inseparable, they make everyday life into wonderful adventures, but then she is stabbed in a random petrol station robbery and dies in his arms. It was called ‘The Day my Kidney Died’.

A comforting vision I had was a huge belly of a monster hovering above my bed, it was peach coloured and furry, with an outie belly button. But the belly button opened like a lid and inside was a fluffy baby monster curled up. I climbed in and the lid closed, and I snuggled with the fluffy baby monster. It was lovely.

There was so much more that played in my head but unfortunately I can’t remember anything else. I was too out of it to write it all down at the time, a Dictaphone would have helped but I didn’t think to ask my mum to bring one in for me. ‘Can you bring toiletries, spare nighties, and a Dictaphone in case I hallucinate.’ Mental note – buy a Dictaphone and carry it with me always.

And while I’m glad I escaped and left my hospital hallucinations behind, the creative part of me would like to have some of the visions return, maybe with an on/off switch. Oh, and yes, I do feel bad that I left my fellow patients to the mercy of a cyborg.

A Colonoscopy Adventure

Published January 19, 2015 by Naomi Rettig

I arrived bright and early at Nevil Hall Hospital. When I say bright I of course mean the day was bright not me. I was feeling hollow and fantasizing about soup – carrot and coriander. I also had the shakes. My body wasn’t enjoying the effects of no food for twenty hours and it certainly didn’t like the lava waterfall the night before courtesy of ‘klean prep’. Horrific and no more will be said of that.
I reported to the desk of the LLanwenarth day surgery suite, which makes it sound quite glamorous, and waited my turn. A lovely nurse called Judy checked me in and took all my details, my allergies: penicillin, animal saliva and fur, broad beans. I’m guessing they only needed to know about the penicillin allergy. Judy then discovered my blood pressure was a little high – no surprise as I was in the middle a panic attack. I was given wrist bands on each arm (appearing like I’d been to a really good festival) and an extra red one alerting anyone of my penicillin allergy. I was disappointed I didn’t have one alerting people to not feed me broad beans.
Judy then left the room for me to strip off and change into the fashionable hospital gown. I’m being sarcastic, it was anything but fashionable. I know these have to be low budget but surely they could find material suppliers with cheap funky designs. I’d want disco cats on mine. After a quick sit down in a side waiting room, doing some last minute Facebooking and a quick Kindle read, I was whisked into the treatment room.
My veins are cowardly and like to play hide and seek and thought it would be great fun to disappear completely. It took a full ten minutes for the surgeon to get a cannula in a vein. The nurse had looked first and decided she’d leave it to the surgeon as she couldn’t find any at all to even have a stab at. Now ten minutes may not sound long but when you are needle and hospital phobic and already struggling to hold onto happy thoughts to stay in your happy place, (a snowy winter forest with a wolf watching over me), having people tapping all over your arms and hands to find a vein seems like hours. The surgeon kept apologising for my uncooperative veins while he tapped. It reminded me of when seagulls tap the ground to get worms to rise to the surface.
I was given a drug first to make me woozy, it did and I felt nicely fuzzy headed. Then I was given anesthetic to make me sleepy and floating but not go under. I don’t know if I had a little too much but my blood pressure dropped like Mafioso in concrete boots and I went under. That was my highlight. It was heavenly. I felt myself free falling slowly down through water with friendly pink and green spotty octopi and electric blue jellyfish buffeting me like mini trampolines as I sank. I felt so relaxed. So I wasn’t best pleased with the nurse for waking me up and I asked her to leave me with the octopus. She didn’t though and I had pain inside that I can’t even describe. Every time I cried out in pain I apologised straight away for being a baby. I requested ‘give me more’ meaning give me more drugs but it felt like this had been misinterpreted as give me more tubing up my backside!
The nurse was a star though and tried to keep me calm by reminding me how to breathe, always good to be reminded, and telling me that she would like to go and work in Canada but her boyfriend doesn’t want to leave the UK. I normally wouldn’t offer advice without being asked but the power of anesthetic removes the filter of tact. ‘Leave him behind’ was my helpful drugged up advice. She had lovely eyebrows and an unpronounceable Welsh name beginning with I. ‘Ooh that’s exotic! Where are you from?’ ‘Merthyr’.
I was wheeled to the wake up room and had three more lovely nurses looking after me, well, chatting by my bedside monitoring my blood pressure readings. Its great lying back with your eyes closed listening to other peoples conversations. I learnt that a nurse in another room was a boring stickler to the rules with no sense of humour but she had a sporty car with a double exhaust. Yes, a double exhaust – this was quite out of character apparently. One of the nurses around my bed had moved to Abergavenny from Bristol to be near her husband’s family but they were all horrid to her and she wanted to move back, but he didn’t want to move. ‘Leave him behind’ I shouted in my head. That seemed to be my stock advice of the day. Do what you want with your life not what others want you to do.
After sitting in a squeaky green pleather chair with a cup of tea (which tasted like the best tea ever) for half an hour I was discharged home with a report of a normal healthy colon and wind noises in my bowels sounding like a blue whale fighting with Chewbacca. Happy days.