A Surgical saga, Part 4

At this point a year ago I was still deep in a coma, so there isn’t much action to report there, and I remained so until I “woke up” in what must have been mid-January. Unfortunately, and I hate to disappoint those that are interested, but the aforementioned “waking up” was not nearly as emphatic or decisive a coup as I wish it had been. There was no eureka moment whereby I suddenly gasped myself awake and was fully lucid. Rather, it was a long, slow (somewhat disappointingly so) process whereby I incrementally regained full consciousness over the course of days and weeks. Not long after ‘waking up’, I was relocated to the Oxford Centre for Enablement – the OCE – in Headington, Oxford. 

Now the OCE – how would I describe this place? 

Whilst being, upon first glance, fairly morbid and not for the faint of heart, this place was awesome and I am so grateful to them for everything they did for me and for how much my condition improved whilst I was in there. Put it this way – upon admittance I was unable to speak and I was still confined to a wheelchair. To all intents and purposes I was still asleep; very much still doing my world-winning impression of a human sphinx. I was even being lifted in and out of bed by a mechanical hoist attached to the ceiling too apparently, but luckily I can’t really remember the early days…probably for the best!

The OCE was awesome, and getting a place there was another huge stroke of luck.  This place is almost the equivalent of the Ritz, but for matters of neurology, and once I was in there my improvements came thick and fast. I was a completely different person when I left. I went in there in mid-January, unable to walk or speak, very much confined to a wheelchair, and I came out of there in May, walking, talking and a pretty good resemblance of what had been like before (I hope!) 

It’s a real shock to the system spending a prolonged amount of time in a place where there is such a smorgasbord of mental and physical conditions on show. Being in a place like this, first thing it makes you feel is a deep sense of gratitude that your ‘condition’ isn’t quite at the level of most of your fellow patients there. Anybody who came to visit me in the OCE will attest to the hell that E******, a poor Polish lady who was also living there when I was, must have been going through. She had had a stroke (oh please not another – I have met enough stroke victims in the last year for a lifetime!) which meant that, amongst affecting most of her everyday cognitive function, it had landed her with the unfortunate side effect of being able to communicate only in wails and shrieks. A prolonged, pained (it was fairly harrowing to hear) wailing was her only recourse, her only way of communicating; and this became the soundtrack of my time in the OCE. Poor, poor lady!

Being in a place like the OCE, and seeing the kinds of things you see whilst in there has one surefire effect – it makes you so grateful for the sanctity of human life and it makes you appreciate (healthy) life that bit more! It also gives you boundless respect for the medical profession as a whole. They are truly amazing people, those that work in service of the mental and physical wellbeing of others, and you never quite realise it until the shoe is on your foot…

I will delve into more detail about the rehab centre next time I post, as it has been busy busy this end for the festive period. Até logo!

Surgical saga, part 3

For about a month and a half, whilst I was busy down in Bristol impersonating sleeping beauty, I sadly missed a couple of landmark events. These included Christmas, New Year and also – and this is the one that pains me more than anything – the memorial service for my dear grandmother, Gug. Having explained last time how close we were as grandmother and son, this was an utter travesty, and something that will unfortunately haunt me for life; I am reluctantly having to accept. It’s nothing short of heartbreaking that Gug’s funeral was collateral damage from events surrounding my accident; I missed it due to being, well, in a coma! I guess I have only myself to blame for going up on that roof in the first place…

Don’t climb on roofs kids!

I just wanted to spare a thought for my dear parents, who, as parents, came about as close to rock bottom as is humanly possible. Picture this, if your imagination is powerful enough to allow you to do so; you are my parents – still lying in bed as the day is still young – when you receive a knock on the door. “Who on earth is here at this time” you ask, “what could they possibly want now” your confusion continues, until my father rouses himself and heads downstairs. He is then subjected by something that no parent deserves to go through, which is two police ladies from the Northamptonshire constabulary, asking if his son is called Thomas. My father, having done his proverbial time with the law, knew instantly that it is never good news when they send two police officers rather than just the one. When he apprehensively confirms that he does indeed have a son called Tom, he is then informed that his son has had a major accident in Bristol and was at that time fighting for his life in Southmead hospital. My poor parents are then ‘blue-lighted’ (driven at breakneck speed to the tune the car’s sirens) down to Bristol – which I have recently discovered only happens if they don’t think you’re going to make it – where they find a roundly distraught Ben. As I explained last time, having been woken up on the roof by a police officer, they then took Ben to Southmead hospital where I was temporarily residing but then, not being a direct relation of mine, wouldn’t tell him anything about my condition…God damn red tape! Just put yourself in Ben’s shoes for a second there and you get an idea of how agonising that must have been…

I also know now, from what I know that my parents had to endure in the first few days and weeks, that there is no greater pain for a parent than what they went through. Let us also spare a thought for my siblings. At this point my siblings were all over the place; in a variety of different scenarios in which to receive the news. My brother Fred was working in Surrey, whilst Ed, who’s also at Bristol University, was mid-way through the second year of his Spanish and Politics degree (shout out to the language crew!). My sister, Bella – a.k.a Bubz – was in her last year at school and was pulled out of a lesson by a teacher who relayed the news… not the nicest manner in which to receive the news is it? As if school wasn’t bad enough already!

All things considered and thinking back to where I we all were this time last year, I couldn’t be more excited for Christmas…

Merry christmas to one and all!!

A surgical saga, pt. 2

I will get to the joys of the rehabilitation centre soon enough, but I’m just going to open today’s entry with a quote from the diary that my mum wrote at the time of the accident:

 

The Glasgow Coma Scale (G.C.S)

Darling when a patient has suffered a major trauma (or poly trauma as they referred to it), on admittance they are assessed by the Trauma Consultant (or actually they already have been by the paramedic at the pick-up point ) at the hospital.

We are all a 15 when fit and healthy and the lowest you can register is 3. Below this, with no vital signs, you are no longer here.

You measured a 3.”

 

This is a wee snapshot into life this time last year for my parents and I. (I say my parents and I, but, as we have established, I wasn’t really there!)

To say that I have been lucky would be a crippling understatement;

At one stage they didn’t know if I would ever come around, and thought that if I did come around I could be severely brain damaged; at another stage they thought that I may never walk again; and finally – and probably worst of all – they even thought at one stage that I may have been blind – can you imagine any of these scenarios ??

 

When you consider all the possible eventualities I think that it’s quite clear that Lady Luck was smiling down on me. Either that or I have a guardian Angel or whatever you want to call it, but there is something going on here! We, as a family, like to think that it was my grandmother’s final act of love for us…

That’s a heartwarming thought wouldn’t you say?

 

 

A surgical saga

Wow what a year!

Let me elaborate on my seemingly innocuous comment and set the scene – it was this Monday (the 4th December) almost exactly a year ago, and that Monday night, or the the small hours of the morning of Tuesday 5th, I came uncomfortably close to death.

The Thursday before my grandmother, Gug, with whom I was incredibly close, had tragically passed away. To say that she and her hordes of grandchildren (she had 15 of them – talk about a matriarch) were close does not even begin to do her justice; and my two brothers and I enjoyed a relationship with our grandmother that was almost unheard of.

To be fair to her, she had had a very good innings and at 92, after a long and illustrious life that included 7 years living in Lahore in India (which is part of modern day Pakistan) she would have been happy to call it a day when she did. No one could blame her for shuffling off her mortal coil after such a fulfilled life, and however upset we all were, in many ways she had reached a point beyond which her symptoms and general wellbeing were becoming so extremely dire that she would not have really wanted to, in the words of Wiston Churchilll, “keep buggering on”.

This brings us to Monday 4th December 2017. My grandmother had sadly left us on the Friday prior (the 1st), and having been cowering at home since the previous Wednesday, sitting in a ball of shared grief with my mother, I had finally elected to get back on the horse and head back down to Bristol to face the proverbial music that is student life. A great friend, Ben, with whom I was at school and subsequently lived in Paris with happened to be at his family home that weekend, which is only just down the road from Bristol. He knew how close Gug and I were and thus knew that I needed the support and love of a great mate to bring me back to life, so to speak. As such that evening, having been out for drinks with a few of my fellow 4th year language buddies, Ben and I splintered off from the group in order to really talk. A good heart to heart was had I am sure (neither of us really remember the night’s events – god damn alcohol eh?!), and then what had begun as fun, games and an emotional outpouring between two best friends turned deadly serious at breakneck speed… Somehow (why can’t either of you remember goddammit?!) we ended up going from whichever bar we had been in (I have a feeling it was Zero Degrees microbrewery and bar, but as we have established, I simply can’t be sure!) managing to make our way onto a small section of roof that can be reached from the public staircase which links the lower and upper sections of pavement. Referring to the image that I have in my head of when I visited said section of roof with my parents in the Summer, it is a fairly non-descript section of asphalt about 15 by 20 feet, but importantly it sits at somewhere between 30 to 35 feet above the pavement/road at the bottom. This was the height from which I somehow managed to fall, God only knows how, onto the pavement below; and what it earned me was about a month and a half in a coma, a fractured femur, a fractured pelvis, six broken ribs, a lacerated spleen and liver, and some fairly severe cranial swelling as a result of a large knock to the head.

I must, at this juncture, salute the man who was the one to find me. He had been out walking in the streets at that time and thank God for him, because had it not been for him raising the alarm and phoning the ambulance, I most likely wouldn’t be here today.

Is it perhaps reason to believe in guardian angels?

However bad that you can imagine that must have been for me, at least I wasn’t at the receiving end of perhaps the rudest of awakenings possible, as my dear friend Ben was. Having, far more sensibly it must be said, remained asleep on the roof, Ben was then woken up at about 5 o’clock by the police – can you imagine?! They had come in order to find him and presumably prevent a further fall, and when they found him they announced the news that they had found a boy of a similar age who had fallen from the roof and was in hospital in a critical condition. Ben was then taken along to Southmead hospital where I was in temporary residence but, not being a direct relation of mine, was then subjected to an agonizing and prolonged wait as they wouldn’t/couldn’t legally give him any information as to my condition, as he’s not a family member. The phrase ‘kept in the dark’ has never rang truer than for poor Ben!

I shall continue the surgical saga at a later date, as I appreciate it is a slight information overload. Next up, we’ll have my description of life in a Neuro Rehabilitation Ward, which is as homely and as welcoming as it sounds!

Ciao ciao