Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

Chasing dreams, because I can

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If it’s not one thing…

Posted by Oli on Monday 27th November, 2006

Things have been steadily improving over my week out of hospital and after my insomniac murmurings last Friday, I was whisked to the Churchill for bloods to check the dosage of my current IV antibiotic regime. (The two things are, actually, unconnected, despite how I made them sound in that sentence…)

Just as I was leaving the flat, I got a call from my physio asking me to take mini-Neve in with me (mini-Neve being the smallest NIV I’ve been given, as compared to Neve and Fat Neve). It turns out that, as suspected, NHS employees have far too much time on their hands and often find themselves perusing the websites and weblogs of their patients.  And, I trust, are now in the process of calling I.T. Support because they’ve just spat coffee all over their keyboard.  Unless they’re at home. (Don’t worry, you can always blame Seb.)

But clearly, it’s all part of the ever-expanded and improved NHS service and I’m certainly not going to mutter anything in the way of discontent, because no sooner had I been leeched by the vampires in pathology, than I was on the old ward (now the Treatment Centre) being shown the ropes on my New Neve. 

New Neve (who will from now on simply go by Neve, because I’m a lazy git and typing New every time is far too annoying) is not as swish-looking or well-designed as the last one, and still stands with one foot somewhat in the analogue age, but appears to be much less inclined to a) stop breathing and b) stop breathing.  Both of which I see as positive factors conducive to good breathing overnight.

And what a God-send she is, too, sorting out my insomnia with a breath of humidified air, perfectly in sync with my own breathing and without even a hint of giving up the ghost halfway through the evening’s work.

Settled into my nice new overnight world with my nice, new overnight partner, the weekend passed in a wonderful haze of relaxation and sleep.

Which is clearly not enough excitement for my body.

At 5.30am this morning, with Neve being somewhat cranky (well, it is Monday morning), I wake up lying on my side in bed with a pain in my chest.

“Nuts,” I think to myself, “I must be sleeping on my port and making my shoulder ache.”  I readjust myself and rustle around a little.  The pain stays.  I realise I’m lying on my left side, the opposite to my port site, so the pain emanating from my right shoulder can’t be port-pressure related.

I roll over.  It gets worse.  I breath in deeply at the discomfort.  It gets worse.

My by now increasingly awake brain sets into motion and starts ticking off symptoms on it’s mental self-diagnosis list: stabbing pain in specific spot on chest: check; increases significantly on inspiration: check; spreads up into the neck and slightly down the arm on inspiration: check; lessens on exhalation/improves with shallow breathing: check.  Previous symptoms-compatibility: pneumothorax, to the letter.

A pneumothorax, for those of you out of the loop on medical jargon, apart from being very hard to spell (and stumps most spell-checkers) is a partial collapse of the lung.  I’ve had them before, four times as a matter of fact, although previously all on my left side, and they are usually identified by a “popping” sensation before the pain arrives, which I sadly appear to have slept through this time.

They can vary in severity, from minuscule to major, the very worse being only slightly less than an entire lung-collapse. 

Luckily for me, mine have never (and wasn’t this morning), been bad enough to warrant any kind of emergency treatment.  Frequently, the only course of action for pneumothorases (check the correct plural usage!) is to insert a chest drain, a process which I’m assure is as painful and uncomfortable – not to mention as inconvenient – as it sounds.

Sticking to my propensity for drama without the critical edge, my lung has behaved itself in not deflating any more.  It has, rather mischievously, managed to detach itself ever so slightly from my chest wall right around the point where my port is located, which means it’s pretty much impossible to spot on an X-ray, although I know for certain it’s there.

So the recovery and adaptation process is thrown into turmoil once again.  Having spoken to my wonderful Doc at Oxford, I have managed to avoid immediate admission, but I’ve had to retire to Mum and Dad’s to recuperate as with the combination of pain and decreased tolerance to any kind of movement, I’m going to need more babying than K can afford me at the flat right now.

It’s a massive blow, if I’m honest, as the last week or so has caused a rather marked sensation of losing my independence and to now be taking a further step back to living at home with the ‘rents is a bit like having your face rubbed in it.

That’s not to say anything against my parents, and indeed there’s nowhere right now I’d rather be, because it’s intensely relaxing and easy to cope with, knowing that I can get whatever I want just by asking and I don’t have to worry about doing anything for myself.  But in the grand scheme of things, it feels like another step backwards.

I’m aware of just how bizarrely those last two paragraphs read: at once mourning the loss of my independence and celebrating being back at Mum and Dad’s and the security and reassurance it brings, but that’s kind of the place I’m in mentally at the moment.  Everything situation has 2 sides to it and I seem to be constantly experiencing both of them at once.

Right now, the painkillers are working and I’ve had a rest and a sleep this afternoon, things are looking OK and I know I just need a few days of rest and I’ll be good – or improving at least – but I also know that tonight, when I wake in the middle of the night with chest pains, and quite possibly with a headache since using Neve is out of the question with a pneumo (the pressure being too much risk of causing a much bigger collapse), I will struggle to see the positives here.

All I can hope is that if I fail to get back to sleep, I can come down here and log on to this blog and remind myself of the positives – that they are there and they will be tomorrow and that improvement is just a matter of small steps taken one at a time.  Sometimes they go a little the wrong way, but I know if I wait long enough to recover between mis-steps I’ll end up striding forward again.

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6 Responses to “If it’s not one thing…”

  1. Ben said

    Hey Oli,

    Just wanted to say hi really, and that your writing is tip-top.

    hope to catch you over chinfoot,

    all the best mate,

    Ben x

  2. Suzie said

    Hi Oli,

    Sorry to hear you’re having to cope with a pnuemo on top of everything else, its hard to know what to say sometimes to you, Em and everyone else who’s waiting for a call.

    Chris used to have what he called his totally dependent times and at first he hated it with a vengence. Like you he preferred to stay at home unless it was absolutely vital he went into hospital, as home kept his spirits up better. Although he’d never actually left home he was as independent as he possibly could be, when he couldn’t manage the daily stuff he signed off totally and took time out, by doing that he was able to relax somewhat and re-charge a bit.

    It must have been really hard for you to move back to your parents house, but if it gets you through this difficult patch its just you saying, this is the quickest and easiest way to get back to where I was before, and you will chuck.

    All the best.
    Sue & Chris

  3. Emily said

    Can’t say what I want to on here without swearing 😉 Thinking of you Hope you are more inflatey soon xx

    (ps – they could do a lateral to spot it if you need another Xray? Just a thought.)

  4. Jacqui said

    Hey Oli,
    Thanks for forwarding the link to your blog.
    Sorry to read things are not the best. I hope the pneumo(lazy shortened version)isn’t as uncomfortable as it sounds.
    Hope you’re able to relax, recharge and regain the degree of independence you’re used to asap.
    All the best. x

  5. Jac said

    Not good news about the pneumo. Hope you are striding forwards again in no time 🙂
    Jac

  6. Oli Rayner said

    Hi Oli

    Thanks for your inspirational efforts, especially this week. You’re piece for the Guardian was great. Hope you feel better soon.

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