So, what happened?
Recently I spent some time in hospital.
My life has now taken a radical change, and though most people would say it’s perhaps for the best, I’m still gutted.
Let me first explain what happened. On the night of Saturday 12th July, I drove to a party to pick my daughter up. On the way home I felt a mild pain at the top of my stomach. By the time we were home, around 0130-ish, it was unbearable and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night.
I stayed up watching television until about five, when the pain died down a little.I woke up a few hours later, in agony. The pain wouldn’t go away, I thought I must have eaten something bad and decided I’d go to the village sawbones the next day.
Around dinnertime I was sick, pale and felt paralyzed by the pain. My wife, fearing I was having a heart attack, phoned an ambulance. The journey to the hospital was hell, as the driver seemed determined to hit every bump and stone on the road. We eventually arrived, they took some blood and carried out the relevant tests to determine what was wrong with me.
Acute pancreatitis was the diagnosis, intensive care, peeing in a bottle and no food, (not that I had any appetite what so ever). I was distraught to say the least. My plans for that Sunday were at the fire brigade. €10 to quaff all the beer and eat all the bratties I could push down my ever hungry gullet, whilst watching Germany march through Argentina.
This was not to be. The evening ended up with me on my own, strapped to a monitor that looked like something out of Space 1999, with a ten inch television and three different drips being pumped into me. True misery is something that we in the “civilized world” don’t really know much about, but on that evening, I came close to it. I mean REALLY close to it.
The next day I had a roommate. Wolfgang, (name changed) was 56 years of age, and had drunk two bottles of schnapps and eaten a handful of pills to try and end it all. Due to the fact that he constantly ripped out his wires and tubes to “have a fag”, they were forced to tie Wolfgang down. He fought with those bindings until 3am. The man had the stamina of a draught horse, he didn’t stop! It was lucky I was pumped full of chemicals as otherwise I wouldn’t have had a wink of sleep that night.
He was actually a very charismatic person, who in between bouts of wrestling with his restraints, kept on asking me to phone his mate, who’d bring us round a couple of joints so we could party. When I pointed out the nurses would be a tad disgruntled to find us both wacked out on grass in their ward, he confidently waved my fears away with a , “Leave the nurses to me, I’ll sort it.”
He smiled a lot, asked me my name about fifty times and was funnier than I can possibly make out on here. The reason he wanted to end it all was tragic, and yet i think he knew he’d made a mistake and had learnt from it.
Around 3am I woke up to hear a male nurse talking to him.
Nurse: Okay, forget about what happened earlier, no problem.
Wolfgang: Yeah, it was stupid, I know I can’t smoke here, I don’t know what I was thinking.
Nurse: Right, I’ll take these bindings off, but no getting out of bed for a smoke, okay?
Wolfgang: Of course, it won’t happen again, I was stupid, I’m really sorry.
The nurse took the restraints off and left the room. Not three seconds after he was gone, Wolfgang’s light flicked on, and as the alarms for the heart and breathing monitors exploded like a tripped video game as he ripped the sensors off, all I heard from Wolfgang was, “Right, time for a fag at last…”
Tuesday I spent sleeping, I also had an endoscopy, which involved pushing a tube down my throat and seeing what was what. I had another on the Wednesday, but this one was important as they also cut a small hole in my bile duct. What had happened was that a gallstone, under 2mm apparently, had lodged itself in the bile duct, restricting drastically the flow of bile into my stomach. My liver was also blocked and the poisons and what-not caused my pancreas to become inflamed. With the blockage now clear, the uric acid and bile that were trapped could now flow out, which was the key to my recovery.
However, such was the flow of poisons or uric acid, or whatever it was, into my stomach that my body couldn’t handle it. So it stored it in my knee, as the body always stores uric acid in the joints, and by Wednesday evening I had a knee that resembles a pink, hairy basketball, and enough pain to cripple a Brontosaurus.
Tuesday evening I was moved out of intensive care and into a normal ward. My knee was hurting, I was dressed in an open backed frock that I felt was an affront to my masculinity, but at least I had no monitors strapped to me and I could finally pee in the toilet.
Wednesday I ate solid food. I wasn’t hungry but I was told to give it a go. After the first mouthful I realized I was ravenous, and yet I still only managed half the plate. Before that, I had the second endoscopy, as my stomach was still a little uncomfortable. They found nothing, which wasn’t exactly true but more on that later.
Thursday the doc saw my knee and had a fit. He was genuinely puzzled, which does not incite much confidence, believe me. He knew why it had happened, but it meant that his original diagnosis, (that I was a screaming alky, which wasn’t too far off the mark I’ll give him that) was wrong and that it was a trapped gallstone that had caused it.
Friday they drained my knee, which was very interesting indeed. The doctor, on reading my names said, “Jones? Englander?”
Me: No, Welsh actually.
Doctor: Welsh! That’s even more interesting!
And he promptly went on to quiz me about the castles of Wales and Edward 1st.
Saturday and Sunday I spent in hospital doing nothing but eating pills, reading, and chatting to the odd visitor. I wanted to go home, after they’d drained my knee I felt fine and it seemed daft me sitting there for no reason.
Monday I was released. I went to my GP and she told me what had happened, how the hospital had missed that I also had a stomach complaint and various other things. The results for the second endoscopy had shown that I had a long standing complaint in my stomach, but somehow the doc in the hospital missed it. Anyway, she gave me some drugs for it, they drew some blood, and I’ll know the results on Monday.
So, after that minor drama, where does it leave me?
Pancreatitis is a very serious condition. For one on five cases in can lead to death. I was lucky; I seem to have escaped the sharper end of the deal. However, a radical change in lifestyle is now called for. Gone are my days of quaffing into the wee hours with my mates, in fact drinking alcohol is now completely out of the game plan for the next couple of months, perhaps longer. After that, I can drink a couple now and then, but nowhere near the “parched elephant seal” levels of imbibing I used to partake in. For me, the landscape has changed drastically, and though I hate the fact that I’m not indestructible, I’ll have to face it and deal with it like the adult I’m not… bah.
I told a friend of mine about it yesterday, and he said there are some things more important than drinking with your friends, like life.
And he’s right. I know I never want to put my family through that again, so I’m taking it seriously.
Many thanks to the people who have written or phoned me, I do appreciate your kind words, (be they judgmental or not, I know you mean well).
I’d also like to thank the nurses of Salzgitter Krankenhaus. The doctors didn’t really inspire me, but the sisters and their tireless, good natured endeavours made my stay there a lot more bearable. Nurses of the world, YOU ROCK !!
Take care and thanks for reading this to the end.