I cannot remember my flight home, but I’m told it’s not such a bad thing. My first memory of being back in England was waking up in a small dark room staring at a blank ceiling. I was put into a side room in the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) by myself on account of my MRSA and other illnesses. It was right in the depths of the hospital, far away from everything else, with no natural daylight. Even though I could not see out, it was comforting to know that I was surrounded by a country I knew, close to the people I love, and friends I will never forget.
I was put on a tilt bed as the doctors did not want to sit me up, which I hated. I always felt like I was going to slide off and, knowing I could not stop myself if it did happen, it was horrible. Panic was inevitable. This was not helping with the strain on my heart. My pace maker was having a field day. When they decided to move me onto a bed which could sit me up, they had to slide me across. The transfer was horrible. Lucky for me they chose to sedate me, giving me a sweet release from what was happening. I finally had a chance of getting some much needed sleep. Looking back now it was very minor, but huge at the time.
One thing that I will always remember is each day that I cried back in England, but not all through sadness. There are three days that will always stick with me. The first is the day my brothers walked through the door of my room. The last time they saw me I was a fit and healthy seventeen year old. Now they were looking at me with multiple drips going into my body, a feeding tube going up my nose and a tube in my throat breathing for me.
Finally we could be together as a family, something that I thought would not happen when I was laying face down in the sea. It was a highly emotional time, but a great time. Our mum and dad were in the room with us. We were all back together again. Having my family there lit up the otherwise dark room and situation I had landed myself in.
At that point I could not imagine the lengths they would go to and how much all of them would sacrifice and work to be there for me whenever I needed them. Without them I do not know where I would be right now.
The hardest thing to deal with during my time in ITU was illness. I contracted a higher level of MRSA, MRSA Septicemia, which at the time hit me hard, mentally and physically. Just at the point at which I thought I might be getting better and able to move to the acute ward, the next stage. The MRSA would flare up and hinder my progress knocking me back two steps. It was something that I would try and deny as it was the last thing I wanted. This mindset would make things worse. All I should have done was accept it, and move on. I thought I would never get out.
I remember one time my cousins came to visit, and it was a fair bit of a drive for them, and all my illnesses and infections flared up at once. My timing could not have been worse. For me I thought I was getting cold as my teeth would start to chatter and I thought my face was feeling cold. This is when I knew it was bad. But in fact my temperature was sky rocketing. A normal body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius, where 38 is considered high. Mine reached just over 41, dangerously high. I felt really bad though, not from infection but as my cousins had to leave after only being with me for a few minutes. The last thing I wanted to do was turn people away who had come to support me. When this kind of thing happened the only way to keep my body cool was to have bags of ice surrounding my body, thank goodness I couldn’t feel all that. The injury meant that I cannot control my body temperature, a problem I still have today. Rather than have all the ice, I wanted a cold drink to speed it up. The feeding tube meant I still wasn’t allowed to swallow anything, food or drink. The closest I got to a drink was a small sponge dipped in water, then sucking the liquid from the sponge.
Nights were horrible. I was given some serious sleeping tablets, but as my mind was working over time it would work against them. All kinds of thoughts and weird dreams would flash by in what little sleep I could get. I would look forward to the next day when I would have someone by my side and feel calm enough to nap. As I could barely speak at this time, even that was tiring, the nap was a relief. I could barely move my neck at that point, so just basic things would tire me out.
The day I had my ventilator changed was brutal. I was used to my old one. I felt like I could not breath, it was working against what I was used to. I really felt like something was blocking my throat, almost like being back in the water again. It was awful. It took a while for it to be adjusted, but once it was done I had a new lease of life. I could finally get some words out, some almost normal communication. It was also one more step to moving to the next ward.
Thankfully being back in England allowed me to finally see all my family and friends again. It was always such a lift to have someone come and see me. I cannot put into words how much support I had, even at such an early stage, or how much it meant to me and helped me. I always had a constant stream of cards, people letting me know they were thinking of me and my family. Each card was more emotional than the last for me. I can still picture them arranged on a shelf in the corner of my room. I would look at them or read them during a bad spot and knowing people were behind me really drove me on to get as healthy as I could, to show them how much their support helped. It was and is the only way I could thank them for their support.
Every day my family would be there for me. My mum would come early every morning and be there all day, even until the evening. My eldest brother was at university at the time, but would drive home every weekend to see me, and spend the weekend with me. My second brother would come every day after training and I remember we would watch multiple episodes of Come Dine With Me, as it was the only good thing on the tiny TV I had in my room. My younger brother would come everyday after school, and stay for as long as he could before he had to do his school work. My dad would come after a long day of work and stay with me late until I went to sleep, sometimes very late. No one could understand how much their support helped, and I cannot explain it.
I was out of ITU after two weeks. I just wished it seemed that short.