For those who follow me on social media will be aware that I recently had to be admitted to hospital for emergency abdominal surgery. Of course I was shocked at the prospect of needing surgery and the speed at which everything happened but looking back on it I realised I have totally normalised going into hospital when it is for my asthma.
Asthma admissions are still very traumatic but because I have been there so many times I almost know the process, know the people who are looking after me and know my surroundings. I also know all the medications, machines and devices that are used when it comes to looking after a patient with respiratory issues.
For as long as I can remember I have always had eczema in my ears and umbilical. So another patch in my umbilical I didnt think too much of it until the skin split and it was clear there was a big problem. A hole appeared along with some clear signs of infection. Called the GP got anti biotics and an appointment to see the nurse. This was the Monday, by the Thursday I felt horrendous, spiking temperatures and pain were the main symptoms. By Friday I had another Dr appointment- well nurse as she was going to change the dressings, I had actually already called my Mum and got her to come and get Ghillie as I knew I would be going to hospital. I took my bag with me to the GP and sure enough off to the hospital I was sent. Still at this point I was ok at the prospect. My head was in that zone (its very difficult to describe but Im sure others who are faced with similar situations know what I mean).
It all changed once I checked in at reception. I have been admitted to the Western General in Edinburgh so many times over the last 20 plus years but this time I was turning right instead of left (as I write this I have now been laughing remembering a scene from Zoolander with his ability to turn left, mine was to the right), I actually checked with the receptionist if she was sure should I not be going the other way. Of course she was right. I was going to SAU (Surgical Admissions Unit) not MAU (Medical Admissions Unit). From this point on I didnt know what to expect or how any of this trip to hospital was going to pan out. It sunk in I was not going to be seeing people I knew, or going to a place I knew.
What scared me most looking back was how I have almost normalised the process of going to hospital. This should never be the case. I should not be in a position where I know what is going to happen to me, what drugs I will get, what machines will be used and who I will see. Hospital admissions in the last have been traumatic but in a way I have always thrown them off and taken them in my stride so to speak.
I must say once I managed to turn right I could not fault the care I received- all except them not saying I could go home straight away. Part of me was hoping I was just being pathetic and would get sent back home. No sooner had I seen a Dr was I sent off to the CT scanner which also involved being given IV contrast- I hate it, it makes you feel like you have wet yourself. No matter how often I have had contrast I still get paranoid I have wet myself.
CT over and up to the ward and very quickly I was seen by a surgeon. I was able to see my CT scan with the surgeon who was not entirely sure what was going on other than there was evidence of a cyst and substantial infection. Thankfully if I didnt get worse I would not need surgery that night unless I got more unwell, but they would operate in the morning.
The thought of an operation was so daunting because of my asthma. I was terrified it would make it worse and there would be issues. But I didnt need to worry. The surgeon and anaesthetist had a plan and we preloaded me before I was put under and also they had a plan should things go off during the operation and also had ICU ready should I need to go there too. This made me feel a lot more relaxed as I knew I was in safe hands.
Operation all done and it turns out what I had was very rare. When you are born you have a ucharus which goes from the umbilical to the bladder, but as you get to your teenage years this has normally disintegrated. Mine had not- it had thickened, scarred and developed a cyst which had burst. Due to infection the surgical wound could only be half closed- I thought maybe they ran out of staples which was why it wasn’t totally closed.
I was discharged home to recover with industrial strength anti biotics and pain killers. I was also going to need my wound cleaned, packed and dressed daily. Over 3 weeks later and I am still having to see the nurses daily and still on anti biotics with very little improvement but that is mainly due to the steroids I have been on so long.
The whole surgical experience has been really quite something. It was good in that I felt really well cared for and had everything explained to me. I had many moments of feeling apprehensive, scared, lost as I was not in control of my what was happening. I also didnt know what they were talking about sometimes. The drugs being given to me were different but I felt and still feel really well cared for.
It is going to be a long road to recovery but this experience has highlighted to me how quite shockingly I have normalised being in hospital with my asthma. I don’t want you to think I like going into hospital with asthma or that is it not scary because it is and each time I go through a rollercoaster of emotions and have to fight often the biggest fights of my life to get through attacks but when this is all happening my surroundings are familiar and the processes are the same. I think this has almost been the hardest thing to mentally recover from.
I now vow to fight and continue to raise awareness of how serious severe asthma is and that more needs to be done to understand it, and more importantly manage it to prevent so many hospitalisations. I wish this hiccup and operation never happened but I am glad in a way as it has just highlighted to me even more just what asthma has done to me.