My move from ITU to the acute ward was huge and one that would be of greatest significance. It had been delayed and delayed through my illnesses. It felt like a place where I knew I felt I could start making some progress. My time on the acute ward would prove to be my most emotional and pivotal time after my accident. It was at this point I was told I would most likely be in hospital for eighteen months. This at least gave me a time frame, but also something to beat.
Having been in a room by myself I was slightly annoyed to be moved into a room with someone else. Although my friends who were with me at the time might say I was more than “slightly” annoyed. It wasn’t exactly like we were squeezed into the room, it was only two of us in a room for four beds. An upside of having MRSA, it’s not all bad.
The move did bring one immediate ray of hope, and that was the fact I finally had a window I could look out of and see the sun again. It had been five weeks since I had seen outside, and seeing outside was huge for me, like I was close to getting out. Although in reality I was only at the start.
We could open a window and let fresh air into the room, it felt so great. I could finally breath it in, as much as I could whilst still being on a ventilator.
With being in a bigger room, and a more relaxed frame of mind, I was able to accept more visitors. Until this point we had tried to keep things a bit quiet as I wasn’t quite ready to be surrounded by people. But once I was ready the influx of support was unreal. I have already spoken about the support I had, but it will be an ever present factor that has been endless since day one and continued nearly four years on now. I will never forget it. It meant friends could visit more regularly, my teachers would travel for miles also to come and be by my bedside.
My feeding tube was taken out early on in my time on the acute ward but I was only allowed to start with puréed food. So I was given a menu and got to pick my food. I picked salmon with mash potato and apple crumble for pudding. Worst decision ever. Word of warning, never pick hospital puréed salmon. It barely got past my lips before I spat it out. Awful. From then on mum would cook jacket potatoes, beans and bacon, puréed of course, but it was so good.
Once my feeding tube was out we started to set out goals to achieve. Next was the ventilator. After that it was to get to the rehab ward, followed by getting out. It was time to work hard.
As my illnesses were a bit better, I was finally able to get on with some chest physio and work towards getting off the ventilator and getting rid of my tracheostomy. I started to ween off the ventilator with my oxygen tank, and was increasing my time off it every day.
In the last part of my story I wrote about the first of the three days that I cried and will always stick with me. The day I was first put in a wheelchair was the worst of the three, but probably my most pivotal. My physio got me in the chair with my oxygen tank attached to my tracheostomy. As I had not sat up properly in so long all the blood would rush to my legs making me extremely dizzy and hard to stay awake. Once I had been adjusted my physio took me around the hospital with my mum and a friend of hers who was visiting. Mum had a go at driving and it ended being like a game of bumper cars, with the walls.
It was great to be up and around and see parts of the hospital I had heard spoken about but not seen. It was great. That was until we went outside and were about to go through the entrance. The main entrance consisted of two giant glass doors and I could finally see myself for the first time in nearly two months. But what I saw was not me. It was a razor thin young man that looked lost in his bulky wheelchair. There was a tube in his throat that helped him breathe and he could not move a thing. I had to take a double look to make sure it was me. I had lost nearly four stone in weight.
After my mum’s friends had left, my mum and I headed back to my room. It was at this point that everything hit me. I just broke down. The reality of how the rest of my life would be had been shown to me in that reflection. I was just crying into my mums comforting shoulder, just wanting to be able to hug her. The rest of my day was tough and I was in no mood for visitors. When my dad took my mum to her car that night the days events hit me once more. I broke again, with uncontrollable tears saying over and over ‘Why me? Why me?’. I was still going when my dad returned and it was on my dad’s comforting shoulder that I cried this time, just wanting to hug him.
It was a day I needed and a chance for me to let go of what was a lot of built up emotions. Once my dad had left I was lying awake in bed until the early hours, not even my sleeping pills could send me off this time. It was at this point that I thought to myself,
‘There is no point being sad or angry, I have no one to blame for what has happened. I may as well just get on with it.’
For me, that day gave me what I needed to really push on.
Being able to get around I was able to see others in a similar situation to me. I had been told I would need a head controlled electric chair for the rest of my life. However once I saw someone pushing himself around, I knew it was for me. Personally, going into the electric chair for me was giving up when I knew I could do more. It did not go down well with the hospital, but deep down I knew I could do it and I knew what I wanted. It would be an ongoing fight.
One great day was when my parents, brothers and I had a Sunday roast in the hospital cafe. My whole family learnt what to do with my ventilator so we could leave the ward without assistance. Mum had cooked a full on roast, my favourite. It was at that point it felt like nothing had changed, and with my family around I would never have anything to worry about.
I never had to ask them for anything. They all wanted to do what ever it took for me to get out. I guess being around them gave me the strength to push on achieve what ever I could. All my brothers were amazing and I’m very proud to have and call them my brothers.
Using their strength my next challenge was to get rid of my ventilator. The weening had gone well and I was really pushing myself during my physio. It was great, I was finally being worked. If you had seen how the physio worked me you would think it was some kind of torture or he was beating me up as I was an easy target. But I loved it, I would have done anything to get my tracheostomy out. Eventually I did, in a total of eight weeks, record timing for someone with my level of injury. It felt wonderful to finally achieve something.
The reason I could achieve what I did was because of a huge team effort. My family still had their visiting routine from the moment I woke until the moment I went to sleep. Not just from my family but from our friends also. Throughout this time the support myself and my family had was unreal. Mum would be by my side all day so had no time to cook proper meals for the whole family. So many of her friends would take it upon themselves to cook meals and leave them on our doorstep. Every evening my mum would turn up and find another meal there, it was amazing. When I got to solid foods it meant that it saved my mum time to cook. My mum’s mum would cook giant pans of food for my fiends to eat when they came up. We had to do something for my friends as many of them would travel from south east London. It was a small way we could show our appreciation for what they were doing.
I consider myself very lucky.
It was very different for me living my life as part of a team. I had been in teams for years playing sport, but outside of that I was quite a quiet solitary person. So to accept that I would need to rely on a team the rest of my life was hard. But I had to accept my limitations and get on with it.
Very soon after I had made it downstairs. The final step towards getting out of there.