Prescription for Disaster

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Dishonorable Discharge Drama

Ohhhhh. So that’s what psychosis feels like…

It’s taken me a little while to write this one out, as I first needed to get over the experience before I could write about it. This was actually a fairly tough hospital incident for me. I don’t always breeze through bad experiences with unfaltering humor and ease, sometimes I falter – but the mass amounts of psychosis inducing drugs didn’t really help.

But this one was hard.

I’d been in the hospital for about a week, and although I was joking about my ridiculous experiences with entertaining roommates, the toilet not working, the desperation for proper food and my ridiculous vibrating bed incident, the truth was that by Day 6 it was all wearing quite thin.

See, I had to get back to my life. My husband. My kids. My dog. My non-vibrating bed. My job. My office. I was raring to get out of there and back to… well… the wild.

The truth was that I was tired of the toilet in our room not flushing and having to flush it by filling a bedpan. I had been kept in the hospital for an extra two completely unnecessary days because of a vibrating bed. I had been told by the weekend doctor that I would be discharged on Monday morning and I prepared to go on with my life, ready to go from the hospital to the office to home so I could hang out with my family and best friend that had flown in and was only here for a couple more days. I was ready to go.

The morning hours came and went. I queried the doctor’s whereabouts with the nurses, and they assured me that Rheumatology was coming. Lunch came with the return of the infamous Macaroni and Cheese Suspiciously Lacking in Macaroni. Still no rheumatologist came. The nurses were starting to get agitated, and bleeped the team again. And again. And again. Someone was coming, they promised me. They were just re-checking my MRI result from Friday.

3pm hit and I gave up any hope of making it in to the office that day. I was just done and ready to go home. Doctors came and went through the ward and past my door. I spent the afternoon sat up in my vibrating bed like a border collie, staring at the door with my ears perked, packed and ready to go the moment they arrived.

But still they didn’t come.

My other roommates that had been there for less time than I was for actual surgery were leaving before me. The nurses again promised that somebody would be coming – Rheumatology was on their way up. They had just been held up by something.

And yet still they didn’t come.

I had spent the entire day staring at the door waiting for a doctor like a wound up top. Nobody had come to hang out with me because we all assumed I would be going home any minute. My entire day, the third day, had been completely wasted again. I had kids! I had to get home!

And so… not a particularly proud moment… I lost it.

And I mean lost it.


At 5pm I burst into furious tears (why, why do I cry when I am angry??? WHY?!?!) at the realization that the doctors had probably all gone home, again. I couldn’t take this – I wouldn’t take this. I buzzed for a nurse and when she came I demanded to self-discharge. 

She advised me against it, I didn’t care. I was done. My voice had hit that crying ‘dolphin-like’ octave and even I could barely understand myself. My cheeks were bright red and I was sending myself into another flare from the stress, but I didn’t care. Two other nurses returned with the form, strongly advising me against leaving and telling me that they’ve called the doctors again – they are  definitely on their way up to see me right this very minute.

“I’ve been told that every 15 minutes for the last 9 hours!” I burst out, grabbing the form and pen and reading through the self-discharge form. Paul had warned me not to do this, that to do so would probably upset Dr Sarc the Great. But at that very moment?

I. Didn’t. Care.

I read through it and made some amendments.

I, ______________________, am choosing to leave the hospital against the advice of the consultant and medical staff… I would have taken the advice of the consultant and medical staff if they had f&*£%@g showed up at any point during the day!!!


(something completely illegible and tear-stained)

I then politely thanked the nurses, again declined their advice to stay put and stormed out of there with all the drama of a harlequin romance heroin – loud, audible sobs and all.

I got to the elevator – I just couldn’t think. I was still crying hard and couldn’t stop, thinking that Dr Sarc would be so angry with me and that he would drop me from his care, so I would probably die. I then figured it would be worth it just to spend the evening with my family, but I was also far too angry about the broken toilet (the least of my problems at the moment) to let that go – so on the ground floor I stormed over to the PALS office to make a complaint, but they were closing up for the night. As distressed and sobbing as I was, still wearing a hospital band, the PALS office woman just handed me a card with their complaints email and left me there crying outside their door.

And so I was lost in a whirlwind of emotion – I was angry and crying and scared and sure that I was going to be blackmarked on the NHS for being ungrateful and then left to die the next time I had a flare. It was so dramatic that passersby started asking me if I was okay as I made a beeline for the front door. All I could do was wail “I’m fiiiiiinnnnnnnneee – hiccup- eeeeeeee.” as my mind focused on just getting outside into the fresh air meaning that somehow everything would be immediately better.

It wasn’t.

I then realized that I didn’t have anywhere to go – I couldn’t call Paul, he was at his own doctor’s appointment and it would take him at least an hour to get here. I couldn’t take a taxi, that would mean having to go back into the hospital to use the ATM and I’d already made too much of a scene to go back any time soon. So I started walking to the tube, I would just take the tube home.

Still sniffling and sobbing as I walked to the tube in the dark along the busy Hampstead Heath high street, I was nearly at the tube when my phone rang. It was Paul.

“Why is the hospital calling me asking if I know where you are? AGAIN???

So I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and let loose a torrent of wailing and self-pity to my husband on the phone, saying that there was no way I was going back to that hospital. I was going home.

People on the street started to stop.

He countered. “Look, I’m on my way. Just go back to the hospital so they stop panicking and wait for me. I will be there to sort this out. I’m on my way.”

I held fast. “I’m not going back to that hospital! My brain is fine and I feel fine and there is NO REASON to keep me there for another night! I just want to go home! I’ve been there for a week! A WEEK! I probably don’t even have brain damage!”

People on the street started to gather.

He played the ultimate card, the bastard. “Don’t go back for you. Go back for me. I am on my way and I will meet you there. Just do this for me. You don’t have to, but I will be really disappointed if you don’t go back there to wait for me.”

Touche, Paul.  Well played.

“I’ll… I’ll think about it.” and then I had to go because I was getting another call.

In front of the crowd I answered it, just then starting to comprehend how large of a group had actually started to gather. It was the head nurse from the ward, she had tracked down a doctor and as soon as I got back she would personally go down to bring him up. She said I had already done the hard part, I had already had all the tests and treatments and I had waited so long, let’s just finish this properly and make sure I’m okay before I go home. Please come back. I started to cry again, softly this time, and told her that I would think about it.

And so I stood there, crying at my phone in the dark on the street, completely lost in my own head until a man gently touched my elbow and said:

“You should really go back to the hospital, dear.”

What? Startled, I looked around to the people that had stopped around me on the street – they had heard everything.

The small crowd nodded in agreement. I should definitely go back to the hospital. It would be best, they murmured at me. It was like I wasn’t even in my own head as this group of complete strangers kind of herded me around and back toward the hospital – some of them even standing there and watching to make sure I was going in the right direction.

So when a head nurse, your husband and a group of strangers on the street are telling you to go back to the hospital – you just go back to the hospital.

I’ve got to admit though, when I got back I looked a lot like this

The head nurse was thrilled. The other nurses were relieved. I was psychotic.

A doctor saw how distraught I was and called the rheumatologist on their personal mobile – then assuring me that the elusive rheumatologist was on her way up, I was to stay here at the nursing desk to wait for her. Okay, I could do that.

I waited for an hour and a half. For an hour and a half I alternated between standing by the wall or sitting on the floor in the corridor, softly crying. I had snapped, and was completely, utterly defeated. My husband was coming, but he was stuck in traffic. The rheumatologist was ‘coming’. The nurses apologized to me constantly, one even sitting on the floor beside me – saying nothing but just being there. 

This went on for so long that the head nurse shouted something into the phone, went downstairs and brought up the Rheumatologist herself – walking through the ward door at the same time as my husband, kids and best friend. The cavalry was here yet I was numb. I don’t even remember what happened next, I just remember my husband talking with the rheumatologist and then leaving the hospital late that night in a daze.

I’ve still no idea why that all happened or how things got so dramatic – I normally am pretty chilled out with these types of things. I’ve narrowed it down to three possibilities:
 I I got a taste of psychosis – a brain flare mixed with massive doses of steroids messed me up big time

I’I'm actually a Crazy McRaving-Pants

3.     This hospital stay finally broke me.

All I know is that even though it was such a small, small issue – I’d never before felt so broken in my life.

Monday, 17 November 2014

£0.69 away from a stay in the 'secure' ward

£0.69 away from a stay in the ‘secure ward’

I swear to God I am about 2 incidents away from being moved to the psych ward.

Day 5 of captivity and I’m feeling fine – I’ve been feeling a bit weak but pretty good since Day 3 to be honest, and I’ve been railing to go home ever since. Sure, the Bells Palsy may be permanent, but it is improving. No big deal, I’m already married and a half-paralyzed face is pretty much a free pass to collect hordes of disease-ridden animals and talk to yourself when you are older, so I’m more or less okay with this. It’s the whole ‘cycle of acceptance’ thing, right?

I’ve had Bells Palsy before, much worse than this. Sure, it’s never lasted this long even after being blasted with such strong treatments, but I’d already accepted my pirate accent and Quasimodo face the first time it had happened. I was okay with it then, so it didn’t take me long to reach ‘acceptance’ now.

So other than that, I was feeling pretty good. A little weak and shaky, but that was to be expected after a major neuro-flare.

The doctors weren’t pleased, however.

I explained the shakiness to them as best as I could.

“It feels like I’m trembling. Almost like I’m vibrating.” The team of three Rheumatologists took my pulse. Seemed fine. I confirmed that it was much more noticeable when I was lying down, which concerned them greatly. An EKG was arranged, as well as blood pressure monitoring every two hours and blood sugar monitoring every four hours. They were going to continue to observe me for the day while they consulted with Neurology. This was Friday morning. Nothing to really worry about, they said, they just need to re-visit my MRI results and then look into this further.

They assured me that I would be going home for the weekend, as my best friend had flown in and I was desperately wanting to get out of the hospital to see her. I also had to work, I have a family, I missed superhero day at the twins’ school… I needed to get out of here.

But the shaking feeling continued, at times getting worse and then better in waves. I told Paul about it – who was not pleased. He didn’t want me to rush myself out of the hospital just to spend time with Nicole – we had to think of long-term effects here and we were going to do whatever the doctors wanted me to do. Maybe she could come hang out at the hospital.

Friday afternoon around 4pm I was starting to panic. The doctors said that they would be back, but surely they would soon be leaving for the weekend? I had a nurse check what time they were going home. Around 6 she said, and she was certain that they would be coming to discharge me before they left.

Okay, this vibrating thing isn’t that bad. I’m just shaky. Or something. I started asking my roommates if they felt the room was shaking at all. Nope, they didn’t feel anything. It was definitely just me.

“You guys are sure the room isn’t moving at all.”


A young nurse walked in to take my blood pressure and I asked her to get in my bed with me to tell me if it was shaking. She declined, so I got out of the bed, stood to the side and insisted that she lie on my bed to tell me if it was shaking.

“Nurse, you don’t understand. I’m not crazy. Just get in my bed and lay down and tell me if the world is moving.”

Humoring me, she got in for about 3 seconds and confirmed that no, the bed wasn’t shaking.

Okay, it was definitely me then. This was not good.

Well, 6pm came and left and I was devastated. The doctors weren’t coming back, I would be stuck here for the weekend – I wasn’t even being treated, just observed and monitored. This was infuriating. I wanted to be home! I wanted to take the twins to Kung Fu and to meet Nicole at the airport, I wanted to get back to the office and I wanted to eat proper vegetables.  I was so done with this, and I was so angry that the doctors had selfishly forgotten me, just keeping me in here for the weekend like it was no big deal.

So when the on-call weekend ward doctor came to check on me at about 2pm on Saturday I was pissed. How dare they keep me in here! At the very least I wanted a day-pass, if I had to sleep here that’s fine but there’s NO POINT in keeping me here when I’m feeling fine! It’s a waste of NHS resources! Aren’t there bed shortages or something?

And then he explained to me what was happening. They had done EKG’s, they had checked my blood sugar and blood pressure and other static tests. He went on to explain that feelings of movement and vibration are neurological, like pain, etc. That this ‘vibrating feeling’ when combined with my Bells Palsy, neuro-flare and some kind of thing they weren’t happy about with my eyebrow meant to them that something more was happening in my brain, and we might be looking at some serious neurological damage here.

Wait, what?

He did some quick neurological tests, which seemed fine except for some double vision in one or two areas but otherwise fine. This didn’t look good – I was vibrating like a hummingbird whenever I lay flat.

“Sorry,” he said, “my instructions from the Rheumatology and Neurology teams were very clear. We are to keep you for monitoring over the weekend until we can do more testing on Monday. We can’t tell if you are at the tail end of a flare or still the beginning of it, and we cannot risk permanent neurological damage by having you just go home.”

In a bit of a daze I thanked him and watched him leave, then sitting back on the bed and bursting into vibrating sobs.

We were talking about actual brain damage here. What did I do?! Was this because I didn’t come to the hospital fast enough when this first happened on Wednesday? Was it going to get worse? I couldn’t even call Paul – I couldn’t even speak.

My denial was seriously faltering.

So I started to write, just to get it out. Sobbing hysterically on my bed as I typed away listening to Norah Jones and coming to grips with having something like irreparable brain damage. My curtains were open and I was unaware of how much of a scene I was making until the mother of another patient came over and gave me a hug – scaring the hell out of me (I was rather absorbed in what I was writing) but also very comforting. I even found myself hugging her back, clinging to her for support in a very low moment of weakness.

Okay. It’s okay. I’ll be fine. It’s not a big deal, I’ll be fine. Deep breath.

I called Paul, and told him what happened. He agreed that vibrating like a hummingbird whenever I layed down wasn’t good but that I shouldn’t worry, the great Dr Beynon will sort me out like he always does. Just relax (why was everyone telling me to relax?! How is that not the worst thing I could be doing right then?? Just laying in a hospital bed, relaxing and vibrating like a pager. THAT’S NOT RELAXING! That is terrifying.)

I still couldn’t quite believe this was happening to me. Paul and the girls came that night to visit me, and I even made him get into my bed to check if the room was moving. I’d been asking nurses all day if the room was humming, I was going crazy here, and two steps away from being brought up to the secure ward.

He said the bed wasn’t moving. My spirit died a little just then, finally accepting that there was a good reason I was still in here – that something was seriously wrong with me.

My family left, promising to pick up my best friend at the airport the next morning and then to come see me – maybe we could arrange a pass for me to leave for a few hours or something. Chin up, it will all work out.

And so I cried, again, at watching my husband and children walk out of the hospital ward and again leaving me behind.

Oh God, this was killing me. I was vibrating alone with my thoughts and fears. This went on for hours as I lay in bed on the dark ward, listening to the ravings of Crazy McRacist Pants in the next bed and the nurses trying to placate her. I needed to distract myself – I was driving myself crazy -  so I adjusted my laptop on the bedside dresser, curled up on my side, put my headphones in and watched the newest Riddick, crying quietly to myself as I did so. I just still couldn’t believe this was happening. Brain damage. This was serious.

I lost myself in the movie, until about halfway through when my headphone made a weird buzzing sound – the headphone wedged between my pillow and my ear as I lay on my side watching the screen. That was odd. I took it out, gave it the side-eye and re-adjusted it back in my ear, laying back again to watch the movie.

And then it moved again. My earbud was moving, like it was vibrating out of my ear.

What? Neurons fired at once all over my supposedly melting brain. This didn’t make any sense – the EKG didn’t pick anything up, proving that it wasn’t an actual vibration, just the sensation of vibrating. So… why was my earbud vibrating out of my ear?

Hang on.


What if this wasn’t ME? What if I wasn’t actually vibrating – and that this wasn’t in my head?
What… what if it was the bed?

I ripped out my earbuds and leaped out of bed, staring at the thing like it had electrocuted me. I needed to check this out, and wondered if I could convince a late-night nurse to hook up an EKG to just the bed. Okay, okay. Probably not. I quietly pulled the blue paper curtains around me for privacy and turned on my bedside light – this was insane. I’m actually going crazy. No wonder I was still in here.

I put my hand on the middle of the bed. Nothing. I put my hand on the foot of the bed. Nothing. I put my hand on my pillow and there was a very vague… something.

Okay, think Candace, think. It was 2 in the morning and I was standing outside of my bed trying to prove I wasn’t crazy or brain damaged. Think!

I sat back on the bed, picked up my iPhone and googled ‘can an app feel tremors?’. This somehow brought up a bunch of pages about Parkinsons, which did not help my mental state. Okay, okay. I’m using the wrong search keyword.  ‘can a phone feel vibration?’. The screen filled with page lists of downloadable phone vibrate signals.

Okay, this was not working. Think back to junior high science class. What is that thing called? Come on, come on…. Yes! ‘iPhone seismograph’ came right up on the App Store on my phone (thank FREAKING GOD I had internet on this ward!) and, putting in my password I paid £0.69 for a seismograph for my iPhone.

Downloading it was the longest two minutes of my life.

A small bleep and it was done – I was ready. If this didn’t prove my theory then I would have no choice but to accept that my brain was melting and I really did have serious, irreparable neurological damage (on – top of the whole neuro-sarc bells palsy thing)

Okay. Okay. I turned it on, made sure nothing was touching the bed and placed it gently in the middle of the bed. Nothing. One bar lit up intermittently.


I picked up the phone and put it at the foot of the bed. Nothing. Not even one bar.


I picked up the phone and put it on my pillow at the head of the bed, and the app lit up like a Christmas tree – the signal bouncing madly at full bars.

I KNEW IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (super large type) I screeched as I punched my fist in the air – a nurse came running in, having a mild heart-attack at pulling back my curtains to find me jumping up and down beside my bed like a proper crazy woman. I rounded on the poor man.

“ I KNEW IT! I TOLD you guys that there was something wrong with the bed! I don’t have freaking BRAIN DAMAGE!!! It was THE BED!!!”

He tried to calm me down. Oh hell no, I was NOT calming down now! And I showed him the app. He couldn’t believe it. I made him get in the bed and he agreed that he could feel it a little bit – but then he wanted to see the app again. He called two more nurses to check this out. Once it dawned on them that I had been kept in the hospital for two extra days because of a FAULTY BED making the doctors think I was BRAIN DAMAGED they started to laugh ( I wasn’t yet at the point where I thought it was funny). They assured me that they would write this in my notes for the morning rounds but there were no other beds for me to use that night.

I told them it was fine, now that I know the vibration isn’t from BRAIN DAMAGE I’d be fine. It would be like an annoying massage – I’d just pop another quarter in this thing and go back to sleep.
But I couldn’t. I was too irate and enraged at the injustice I had suffered. I called Paul in the dead of night – waking him up with “I TOLD YOU it was the bed!!!” I messaged friends on Facebook throughout the night, spitting venom at having had a faulty hospital bed mistaken for brain damage.

I woke up the next morning, refreshed and renewed. Life was again good and I would be just fine. Just a bit of facial drooping, no biggie. I was getting the hell out of here, and I was getting out TODAY. I sat up in bed and stared at the door watching for that doctor like a damn Border Collie.
My roommates, once they heard the story, were howling. The nursing staff were howling. This story was clearly going to be making the rounds around the Royal Free. 

The poor doctor came in to check on me, opening with ‘and how is the vibrating feeling?’


He couldn’t believe it. Eight doctors and nurses surrounded my bed placing my phone all over it in astonishment. My roommates got out of their beds so we could all test theirs – nothing at all. Not even a bar on theirs.

They were still under strict instructions not to let me go until Rheumatology cleared me on Monday, but were now willing to strike a deal. I could just come back here to sleep, then be formally discharged on Monday morning.

That poor doctor, I cannot describe his face. He walked out shaking his head – in all his time as a doctor he had never, EVER heard of something like this.

Me? Not so much. This is pretty much par for the course in my life.

So… long story short. I don’t have irreparable brain damage. There was just an electrical fault in my hospital bed.

And that is hands-down the best £0.69 I have ever spent in my LIFE.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Greatest Roommate EVER - Bells Palsy stay Part 3

The Greatest Roommate EVER

Alright. I have had some serious doozies in regard to roommates over the last three years, but this one absolutely, ABSOLUTELY takes the cake so far.

I’m on a ward of four beds for the duration of this stay, four beds and a broken toilet in our private bathroom. I’m okay with this, as is the woman beside me – Grascia, who is from Poland and taught us all to flush the toilet by filling the bedpan with water and pouring it down. Carol, the lovely Portuguese woman diagonal to me seems okay with this too, as the three of us have been finding the ordeal rather comical together.

Penny is not okay with this. Penny is not okay with anything.

See, Penny is a lovely woman (erm… most of the time), that loves to discuss plays and the works of Voltaire. Whether her audience is willing or not. She is here recovering from surgery, as are my two other roommates.

But she doesn’t grasp why I am here.

I have explained to her that I’ve not just come out of surgery, this is a general recovery and monitoring ward – but she’s not buying it. In fact, she’s pretty sure I have Cancer, because I look like I have Cancer (…?) and I should probably get tested because well, I probably have Cancer.

And she drops that bomb on me as a greeting each morning.

“Good morning everyone.”

“Good morning Penny.”

“How is everyone feeling? “

“Fine, Penny.”

“Did they test you for Cancer last night?”

“No, Penny. But I’ll be sure to bring it up during ward rounds, just in case.”

See, for the life of me I cannot work out Penny. At times she is a lovely, kind and highly complimentary woman. At others she is a raving, racist, diabolical torrent of abuse.  Yet this only happens late at night, to catch us all off guard.

She’s like…. Were-Penny.

And then we also have the third side of her, the oblivious Penny.

Our first group indication that Penny might not quite be the sweet old lady we assumed happened when ordering her meals for the day earlier this week with a poor, poor young care assistant. Now, Penny is an elderly, white British woman that quotes Shakespeare and lectures us on the work of Voltaire. And the care assistant was a young, black British male putting himself through nursing school. Really nice guy, very chatty and friendly. The three of us loved him as he checked on us and worked around us. And then he made the grave error of asking Penny what she would like for lunch and dinner.

She couldn’t read without her glasses, and made him read out the menu to her. Nothing too out of the ordinary yet, but there was a vibe going on in the room that made the three of us sit up and pay attention.

It started with angry bursts from Penny of “What?! I can’t understand you!”

The three of us shared puzzled looks across our beds.

“I can’t understand your accent. You are not outside, you know. You need to speak properly in a hospital.”

Wait, what?? Our eyebrows shot straight up into our hairlines as we sat up in bed, watching the scene unfold.

“I am speaking properly Madame.”

“No, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with your accent, just that you need to speak the Queen’s English so I can understand you better.”

Oh my God. She did not just say that.

“Do you want the rice pudding?”

“No.” she spit back, “Do you have porridge?”

“No. We don’t serve porridge for lunch Madame.”

“Look. I know you are probably from South of the river but you need to treat me with proper respect in a hospital young man! I am a patient here, and I have paid taxes all my life! Now speak properly to me, I cannot understand you!”

Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. The three of us shared looks of incredulity while two of us simultaneously pressed our buzzers, calling in a rescue team for the poor kid, which arrived quickly and efficiently – understanding what had happened and whisking Penny through her remaining lunch order and urging the poor kid to finish the rest of us off.

When he got to me I told him I couldn’t understand a word he was saying as he was far too British and could he please read out the vegetarian menu items in an American accent for me.

And I got a high-five and an extra pillow from him out of that one. ; )

And then Penny turned to us as though nothing had happened at all and was again perfectly lovely. Nothing to see here.

Leery, the three of us shared another look and continued on with our day, with Penny being lovely and chatty all through her obnoxiously loud opera radio until around 10pm when she accidentally locked herself in the bathroom and I darted out of bed like a freaking ninja to turn off her TV and radio before she got back. I was back in my bed quite innocently and to the applause of the other two sane roommates before the nurses arrived to talk Penny through unlocking the bathroom door, again.

And when she got out she was furious at the nurses for having locked her in there in the first place.

I was awoken again at around 2pm by lights and angry shouting. Penny was up, swaying like a madwoman at the foot of her bed and waving around her drainage bag (tubes from her surgery connected to pots to collect her seeping innards). The night nurses were being too loud out in the hallway for her, which was rude and obnoxious and unacceptable as people were trying to sleep.

She communicated this by turning on all of the lights in our room and shouting at the nursing staff from the foot of her bed for a good 20 minutes. The irony was actually painful. A nurse asked her if she was in pain, to which Penny raged that of course she was, her stitches were killing her. The nurse countered with a perfectly reasonable question of ‘do you want some morphine?’ to which Penny exploded with:

“Why are you asking ME? Do I look like I have a medical degree behind me on the wall???YOU’RE the medical professional!”

And like lightning that nurse had a syringe of oro-morph in her mouth and was guiding her back to her bed.

Ohhhhhhhhh Penny.

She then woke the next morning and took us through the entire storyline of War Horse, the play, not the movie. Then she talked us through the movie.

See, Penny started to grow on us. Sure she caused the three of us to sleep with one eye open, just in case. Yes, she was horribly racist but only seemingly at night time and she was completely oblivious to the world around her. But on the ward she was ‘our’ Penny, and so we looked out for her.

When she somehow spilt yogurt all over her curtains we helped her back into bed and wiped down the vanilla. When her TV wouldn’t stop coming on we limped over and turned it off for her. When she went to the bathroom and left her radio on I would dart over and turn down the volume. We found her reading glasses from their hiding place atop her hair, called the nurses for her when she couldn’t work out the buzzer and we even stopped her from hurting herself whenever we could.

But the most delightful point was when she started giving us advice, particularly me as I was the one sat across from her and right in her line of sight.

For one, my voice was lovely and very song-like. It’s just a pity about my poor accent. Then there was the whole ‘me looking like I have cancer’ thing. And then, as she was a party to not only the Bra-MRI but also the vibrating bed incident, she took it upon herself to teach me to be graceful, as this would greatly improve my life, surely.

So at 9pm (were-Penny hour) tall, elderly, completely oblivious Penny rises from her bed to the pathway between us and demonstrates Tai-Chi, completely forgetting that she was attached to a series of blood drainage tubes and bags that drug behind her, knocking everything off of her bedside table and covering her drainage bag in tea and yogurt. This did not phase Penny. She did not notice, and continued with her Tai-Chi.

All three of us hit our buzzers.

Nurses came in, cleaned up Penny and got her back into bed and all was calm. Until Penny looked at me and clearly stated ‘You’re not as impressive and special as you think, you know.”

Shock. Pure shock registered on my face as my two other roommates keeled over in pain nearly busting their stitches trying to laugh quietly.

Penny continued. “I’m very accident prone as well. It’s not just you.”

Oh. So that’s what she meant. Probably.

“I really think that with a bit of Tai-Chi you can improve your movement and get into less problems. It is very calming, see.” And she was up and out of bed again, completely forgetting her drainage tubes and bags that got caught on the underside of her bed and ripped one open as the three of us screamed “PENNY! STOP!!!”

All three of us hit our buzzers.

The nurses came in again, cleaned up Penny and re-attached her to her drainage tubes. A hazmat team came in to clean up the gore beside her bed and we again thought all was good.

But Penny wasn’t finished.

“Well, Tai-Chi might not be best for you after all.” (I stole glances at the other two, why was this just happening to me?? They glanced back, howling with silent laughter that Penny didn’t notice. “You know, a friend of mine does ballet.”

Oh my God, no. No. NO.

And Penny raised up out of her bed for a third time, humming the theme from Swan Lake and standing completely tall and erect. “Penny! Your blood bags!!” all three of us cried in unison. She stammered and remembered that she was still attached. Picking up the blood bag in one hand, the dark red tubes dangling and swinging from the bag and into her side she approached me and in a graceful command began to explain that the dance of the death of the swan was the most calming ballet dance of all –  “Penny, I don’t think-“

And she opened her arms wide and out behind her, beating her arms and chest like graceful swan wings as she threw her blood bag across the room and launched it into the wall.

And our buzzers, again, went wild.

The nurses have now cleaned up Penny and the wall, and have turned off the lights for the ward. All is calm and quiet as we are settling in for whatever sleep we can manage.

“It has happened to me that my knickers have fallen down, but not in public.” muses Penny aloud from the darkness of her bed.

“Good night Penny.” chime the other two, but not me. I’m wide awake, eyes now staring at the ceiling in horror.

Oh my God. I think I’m going to be Penny when I grow old.

(Erm... not racist though)

The Bra Incident - in an MRI

The most insane hospital stay yet - Part II. Leaving my bra on for an MRI.

For even more fun, I left my bra on during an MRI.

Now that’s an interesting event, let me tell you. I was brought down by a porter in the wheelchair of shame to the MRI area, filled out forms assuring them that I had never been shot, bombed or stabbed (metal fragments?) and before laying down onto the platform I was asked if I had any metal in my pockets or on my body. I took out my hair-tie for fear that it would shoot into my brain if I didn’t, handed it to the nurse and then remembered my bra. I told her that I was wearing one and moved to take it off but she told me not to bother, the MRI was just of my head and I could keep it on.

Seems legit – surely she knows her stuff, right? So in I went to the machine, bra and all.
I was a little concerned as my head was being strapped down in ‘the cage’, reminding her once more that I was still wearing a bra with metal clips and under-wires.

She said I’d be fine.

I asked her if I’d be coming out of this thing wearing braces on my teeth, imagining the under-wires shooting straight up and into my brain during the scan. She assured me, again, that I would be just fine – try to relax.

Which I do. I love MRI’s. As long as you don’t open your eyes at all it’s just like a nice tight nap. I even tend to snore a little in there, and within moments of the machine being turned on and the overbearing whirls and pulses firing around me like a warzone I was peacefully fast asleep.

And then I had the odd feeling of being raised off the bed – by my breasts.

I woke up, suddenly alert but refusing to open my eyes for fear of seeing how tightly packed I was in there – and my boobs were jiggling around like popcorn. The bra wires were pulling upward in jerking movements matching the pulses of the machine, lifting my chest clear up into the air. I wouldn’t call it relaxing per se, but it started to get a little uncomfortable when the timing changed and they started lifting in different directions.

I must have jerked my leg in response, as a loud voice came through my earphones checking to see if I was alright.

“Ye..e..e…s.sss..sss…Ffff…ff.ff..fiii..nnnne.” I called back through the machine, giving the thumbs up as my chest jiggled madly on top of me.

“Try to keep still please.”

What the hell did they think I was doing in here? Dancing? The Judy Blume bust increasing routine?

Ten minutes later and I was drawn out of the machine, unhooked from my cannula wires and helped to sit up and back into the wheelchair of shame.

“How was it?” asked the radiologist.

I wasn’t sure what to say or how to respond to that. Odd? Strange? Frightening? Wildly inappropriate?

“It was…new. Next time I’ll try to remember to wear metal underwear too, just for the experience.”

I’m getting used to leaving baffled looks in my wake at hospitals. Why stop now?

In the hospital... again. But this time I'm starting to understand why.

How did this become my life?

September 5th, 2014 was the worst day of my professional life, throwing the rest of my life into complete chaos. My husband, Paul, has been a rock throughout as I worked tirelessly to fix what was happening – but I just couldn’t hold it together. A UK political move shut down 74 businesses in our industry, the company I had built over the last 5 years like a child being one of them.

If I had done something wrong, if my business model had failed. If I had been what they accused us of, if I had faltered in some way – I could understand. I could accept it. I could move forward and learn from it. But what is there to learn when you have been literally persecuted? That you are not welcome, that your contributions are meaningless. Your achievements hold no value.

I had responsibilities. I couldn’t walk away – though everyone else has done. Of all those affected, only a handful still stood to brace after the shock and dutifully clean up the debris. My life was thrown into taking care of everyone and everything. Where others had bolted their doors and abandoned their students and staff, we stayed. I stayed. I spent weeks arriving at the office and holding my breath on the street outside of the door, pulling up resilience from the ground around me to walk in and fix everything for everyone. I didn’t turn away a single student, a single client, a single staff or colleague that needed my advice, directions, instructions, support or reassurance.

But what they didn’t see was that I was weak. I didn’t have all the answers – though I did everything I could to find them. I even made answers, moving mountains to pull together the seemingly impossible to try to save even one, even just a few, from the fallout that the government had imposed upon these hundreds of innocent people. And I couldn’t say anything. There was no remedy – there was no justice. There was nothing to rally for or rail against. It was blind, crushing acceptance that everything I had worked for, everything I had come to the United Kingdom for, was over in one fell swoop that had absolutely nothing to do with me or what I had built from nothing.

And so I threw myself into a headlong rush to fix everyone. My door stayed open, though nobody knew how much I had to force myself into the building each morning, and how hard it was to force myself to leave each night as there was still so much to do, so much to fix. I was finding my staff new jobs, new positions, new companies – I wanted to leave no one abandoned and on their own. I felt like I was trying to re-home cats outside a Walmart at some points with my staff and students, wondering why this all had fallen to me, and how I could still keep any ounce of pride in having failed all of them.

I had taken care of everyone and everything – but I hadn’t taken care of me.

It was nearly over, all of the arrangements had been made and the final steps were all fully in place. It was done.

It was then, last week, that I hit my breaking point – and I tried to walk away. For the first time in my life, I tried to walk away from a 13 year career that I lived for.

And then I fell.

I woke up on Wednesday morning with an all-too familiar excruciating pain on the right side of my face. It was a ripping, electric sensation of my face and neck being torn open. I was disorientated and couldn’t raise myself up out of bed, even to help my girls with their hair. I didn’t realize the extent of my returned Bell’s Palsy until I tried to eat the cereal that Paul had brought up for me in bed – which ended nicely for the dog as he got to clean up my sheets.

But I didn’t listen to my husband, who knows me and my condition so much better than I do. I insisted on going to work – there was still so much to do, and that morning held a critical meeting that meant the stability of my remaining employees for the remaining month that they needed. And so he drove me to Central London while I cried and clutched a bag of frozen peas to my face – though I appeased him by calling the hospital infusion clinic to tell them what was happening.

They told me to come in as soon as I could, and I promised to do so after my meeting. It would be a 2 hour steroid infusion, max. Nothing to worry about.

But I arrived at the infusion clinic on Wednesday afternoon, and I’ve been here ever since. It’s now Saturday – and my best friend in the world arrives tomorrow morning for 3 days. And I am stuck here. The doctors won’t let me go. Paul won’t let me go. My friends won’t let me go. See, along with the Bells Palsy that won’t heal, I’ve developed a new symptom – a feeling that I am shaking and vibrating. Like tremors that nobody else can feel. The doctor tells me that it is a sign that further neurological damage is occurring, and they need to keep me to determine if this is the start or the end of the flare. They don’t even know what to do as I’ve already been pumped full of the max dose of steroids to treat this.

I have to admit, my denial is starting to falter.

I don’t even know why I’m writing this – this isn’t my style. This is a bit too raw for me. It’s like a part of me is feeling that if I accept why this happened that I could then hit a turning point and heal from it.

At least, I want that to happen.

But yet despite whatever landed me in here, I’m still me. I still attract disaster and I still want to get the hell out of here so I can get on with my life. It’s like a forced vacation in here but with a roommate that craps herself, is terribly racist and keeps telling me she thinks I look like I have cancer. So I’ve been keeping myself busy making a rap video (The Bells Palsy Rap), which actually takes freaking HOURS to do and is not easy – as I was told off by a nurse for being too loud and had to whisper through it from behind closed curtains. I even brought my laptop into the bathroom to film in there for a scene but it just came out looking too weird and inappropriate.

So I resorted to the usual ways I amuse myself during hospital stays. I played the ‘how long can I hold my pee’ game. I brushed my teeth with great bravado, playing the ‘how many public sinks on the ward can I brush my teeth in until the nurses catch on’ game (12). I had full conversations with one of my insane roommates about how I look like I probably have cancer, and that even though she can see how painful, terrifying and debilitating my condition is, at least I don’t have a thyroid condition – because her sister had one and it was awful.

And yet despite all that I have been through and written about in hospital over the last 3 years, I find myself staring up at the ceiling from my hospital bed, surrounded by blue paper curtains and wondering. The nurse presses her lips together in concentration as she places electric receptors at my ankles, wrists and chest – hooking me up to an EKG. The hundredth EKG of my life since that first lightning strike so long ago. Light breaks through the paper curtains, a second nurse arrives for more tests. Once afraid and questioning, I continue to stare blankly ahead as he takes my hand, sanitizes my finger and roughly pricks it to bleed for a sugar reading. Until I felt the sharp strike I didn’t even know what test it was going to be. I didn’t care. It didn’t go deep enough, and the other hand had to be used a second time. I barely register what is happening, like it’s all happening to someone else.

And yet despite all of this familiarity, I stare at the ceiling and cannot help but wonder….

When did this become my life?

With all the finger pricks I’m also now wondering what Paul can do to get the blood off my laptop keyboard.