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Catherine Ann x

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Scoliosis Story... Part 4


The first thing I remember was lying in a bed which seemed to stretch out for miles around—probably because I couldn’t move my head at all. I remembered where I was right away, and what had happened, so the first thing I did was to move my legs. I brought my knees right up to my chest: they could still move—good.

There was a nurse in the room who was responsible for making sure I was OK when I woke up. She said hello to me and I fell back asleep. I was in and out of consciousness for a few hours and at some point my parents came in to see me. At this stage I wasn’t in any pain at all... brilliant.

So, for anyone who’s going to be getting this surgery, here’ s what happens when you wake up. You’re on a drip which is feeding you. You’re catheterised (shudder). You can’t lift up your own head. Your legs are OK, but it’s hard to move your arms as well. You feel ridiculously weak, but don’t worry. You begin recovering without delay.  But you’re not especially worried. A combination of the drugs and the copious amounts of genuinely caring people around you makes you pretty relaxed.

They try to get you walking right away, which for me was pretty scary. Have you ever seen Avatar? That’s the only way I can describe it. It’s like having a whole new body to control. Because you’re straightened up—and in the beginning, not at all flexible—you’ll be a lot taller than you were when you woke up that morning. Picture a ten-second growth spurt. The floor is further away. For me, I already felt like I’d lost weight, so my limbs themselves looked longer. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I was taught how to stand up without putting strain on my back, a kind of rolling motion, and then I took my first steps there in the intensive care unit, holding the hand of a nurse named Aisling who to this day is one of the kindest people I’ve met.

Walking was hard. One or two steps felt like wading through treacle, the blood rushed to my head because I’d been lying down for so long, and all the while I was terrified of falling over or falling apart. Little by little, though, I got the hang of it and got up every couple of hours to take a few steps.
I got moved back up to my room and mum stayed the night with me as there was plenty of room. I was hooked up to a machine that monitored my breathing. That night, I began to feel real pain in my back. The machine kept beeping when I didn’t breathe properly—it was funny being told I wasn’t doing something properly when I’d been doing it all my life!

Since my ribs had changed shape, one of my lungs hadn’t decompressed properly and even though I barely noticed, I was finding it difficult to breathe deeply. I was taken back down to intensive care where I had to wear a special oxygen mask which basically forced air in and out of my lungs, in order to expand them properly. Imagine a vacuum attached to your face. I couldn’t talk when I had it on, and it dried out my entire face at a time when I wasn’t allowed to drink water.

However I recovered pretty quickly, despite an initial scare when two nurses decided to stand by my bed to talk about another patient, so I overheard “she’s really going downhill”..panic... and soon had to go for a CAT scan. This was a very scary experience as I had to be lifted by a team of nurses (not that I’m terribly overweight, but a team) on a blanket onto the CAT scanner. Irrationally, I had visions of myself crashing to the floor. Not a nice thought when you’re feeling totally fragile, like you could snap at any moment.

I also had to get several X-rays from my bed. This involved me having to be helped to sit up (sitting, strangely, is harder than standing) and having a board wedged behind my sore back. My breathing was also checked with a handy little machine with a straw I had to suck to see how strong my lungs were getting.
Eventually, I got there, and it was time to move back up to the ward for only regularly ill people. Yay!

I hope this isn’t putting you guys off too much, but I’d like for people to have this resource if they need it. On Thursday I’ll talk about fun with morphine and much more... and then I’ll begin my next, less depressing, theme.  

Read part 5 here.

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