The flight home went without any hitches, apart from the rip I got in my trousers which was not ideal having ran out of clean pants and gone commando! The security woman at Mumbai probably got more than she bargained for when she patted me down!
Upon arriving at my Mother’s house, she told me to leave my backpack in the garage. As I stepped into the house she instructed me to immediately go into the bathroom, strip off my clothes, tie them in a bag, wash throughly in the bath, and handed me some folded pyjamas.
At first I thought she was joking but it became clear very quickly that she wasn’t. She kept exclaiming about the possibility of infesting her flat with bed bugs and even tied my handbag up in a carrier bag!
One day off, and then straight into a six day week of late shifts. I felt probably the most exhausted I have ever felt; I barely had the energy to stand up, and I was facing the prospect of only one day off before another rotation.
I couldn’t seem to get warm at all, I had about four or five layers of clothes on and a portable heater at my desk yet I still felt so cold it seemed to be in my bones. The pallid landscape of England approaching winter, whilst beautiful, made me miss the warmth of Asia.
I slept for my entire day off under a mountain of duvets and blankets. I called in sick the following day because I barely had the energy to stand.
The next day, I felt a little better and attempted to go to work. By the time I had got there, I was feeling very under the weather, I could not keep my hands steady, my whole body was shaking, and I was having extreme hot flushes.
One of the doctors came over to our team area to see me, he asked me questions about my recent travels and symptoms. He suggested I go to my gp surgery or hospital to get an emergency blood test done for malaria as a precaution.
I called my surgery who were unable to do the tests and she urged me to get to A&E as soon as possible. I was sent to A&E in a taxi for tests.
In my head, I had thought that I would have an emergency test, be fine, be given antibiotics and sent on my way. After having various tests (have you ever tried giving a urine sample when you’re shaking too much to hold the pot?!), and having a cannula roughly shoved in my arm, I was left to wait for two hours before he came back to tell me that although they hadn’t had the results back, it looked like I had malaria.
I was a bit shocked to say the least. I felt ill but I had imagined malaria to be much worse. I was told to stay in overnight, which has never happened to me before. I was left sitting in A&E and no one updated me for hours.
About three or four hours later, I was told to make my way down the hallway to have a chest x-ray. Eventually at about 7pm I was taken to a ward just off A&E to a bed.
In the bed opposite me was a girl sitting and rocking back and forth, repeating one singular phrase over and over “It’s not safe in here.”
This started to creep me out quite a lot, I pulled my hoodie up over my face, the blanket up to my neck and put my winter coat over top, still shivering, I curled up in a ball and tried to sleep. Later on in the night, I heard screaming. A lot of screaming. A woman was howling the place down and at first I thought she might be in labour, but I heard the nurses talking a few feet away about an RTA which I knew meant there had been a car crash.
I didn’t sleep much more that night.
In the morning, I was told I would be moved to a different ward.
I was the only patient under 60 years old and there were two particular very elderly ladies who seemed to not be of sound mind.
I spent most of the day drifting in and out of sleep, woken up by the nurses for blood pressure checks, temperature checks and blood tests. Then they would disappear, reappearing to place one of the elderly ladies back in her bed after her numerous escape attempts. No easy feat when you are 95 and have broken your leg in two places yet she still tried several times a day.
The other elderly lady kept mumbling incoherent words and burping very loudly. However, towards the afternoon, and through the evening, for some reason she started to get a lot more lively.
She kept shouting random things about judges and jury’s and demanding that “somebody fetch the sheriff!” This went on for hours and it was driving me insane. I begged one of the nurses to let me go for a cigarette because I couldn’t stand it anymore.
It continued into the evening and night, she shouted, emptied her cup on the floor, and started banging it loudly on the railing of her bed, until she finally fell asleep and there was some peace.
I fell asleep but was continuously woken up by the first lady’s monitor, which kept beeping to say she was dead. Initially, this frightened the shit out of me, but it turns out she just kept unhooking it.
In the morning, they came round to offer food. All I wanted was toast and strawberry jam but she gave me one tiny pot of marmalade for four slices of toast.
This seems quite trivial, but when you are stuck in a hospital, surrounded by crazy old ladies, and you just want something simple and comforting, it becomes very upsetting and I genuinely nearly cried.
They came round regularly to give me paracetamol and that was it. Several times when I was feeling very ill, I requested anti nausea tablets, but with the lack of nurses on the ward, they always forgot.
I was having two to three blood tests done a day, throat swabs, and urine samples but no one would give me the results or really give any indication of what was wrong with me or how long I would be staying.
Thankfully, one of the girls from work brought me a care package, complete with Pjs, magazines, chocolate, pants, toothbrush, toothpaste, shower gel, shampoo and deodorant.
I was so over the moon for this, as the staff had offered me nothing at all and I could not bare the idea of not brushing my teeth for another day. Especially when they kept sending the good looking junior doctor to me to do the throat swabs!
The only problem with the care package, was that my friend could only find one pair of PJ’s before she came to visit, and whilst the top was quite cute with a little kitten motif on the front, the bottoms were hot pants that were probably a little more than snug on my bottom!
They didn’t offer any vegetarian food options but I was too ill and too tired to care.
The doctor came round to see me in the evening to ask me a series of questions, poke, push and prod me, kneading my abdomen like dough, and admitting they did not know what was wrong with me but they would do more tests and keep me in for another few days.
With the additional stress mounting on me from some various family drama that happened during my admission, my mood was growing dark and my patience for old lady 2 was wearing thin.
She threw her food all over herself, emptied her drink on the floor, and used the cup to continuously bang on the side of her bed, demanding someone put her in bed. Eventually a nurse came to her, and tried to explain to her, that she was already in bed.
She wasn’t having any of it.
The nurse gave up and carried on with her round, while she continued to shout utter bollocks and bang her cup on the railing again.
I knew it wasn’t her fault, and part of me felt sympathetic towards her, but part of me wanted to put a pillow over her face because it was just relentless. All this, and paired with the sporadic eruption of foul smells (presumably from someone defecating themselves) was driving me to the point of insanity.
I found it difficult to sleep as the cannula was pushing into my skin and making me very uncomfortable. I was still getting hot and cold flushes, but it was difficult to get my hoodie on and off as it kept catching on my sleeve, painfully ripping at my skin.
I was the only person in the ward that was able to shower or toilet unassisted, and I grew more and more thankful to my friend for bringing me shower gel and shampoo.
Several days in to my admission and I still had not been offered any toiletries!
I wondered what the hell people did when they had no friends or family to bring them these things?! I had to ask quite a few times before someone even brought me a sodding towel.
The shower had a timer that lasted all of 10-15 seconds before the water stopped. The first time I used the shower, I didn’t realise this, and had build up a good lather of shampoo when the water stopped. Unable to open my eyes, I fumbled around for the button to turn the water back on and nearly slipped arse over tit.
There was a commode on top of the toilet that was so high, I couldn’t actually put my feet on the floor when I used it, making me feel like a child in a highchair.
At some point one of the nights, I woke up to an old man with a cut up face standing at the foot of my bed and staring at me. It was literally like something out of a horror film. I thought my time had come.
A nurse came rushing in and told “Ted” it was a female only ward and he was not allowed in, and walked him away. Throughout the course of the night Ted tried to come back to the ward a total of nearly 10 times (I kept a tally).
I learnt to appreciate the little things in life, such as when they bring your meal out and your peas are actually green instead of grey. Seriously some of the food was god awful.
What even is this?
One morning, the lady who usually offered breakfast was off, and the woman in her place offered me an option between marmalade and jam.
As I mentioned earlier, all I had wanted was strawberry jam and toast. My heart actually soared at the prospect of having something I wanted to eat! I eagerly requested jam but as she walked off and I reached for the plate, I realised it was blackberry jam, not strawberry.
That went from exciting to disappointing very quickly.
I had to ask multiple times to get any sort of indication on my tests results, most of the time, I was told they would send someone to come and discuss them with me and then no one would come.
My family came to visit me bearing gifts of chocolates and fruits. Luckily my Father has quite an intimidating demeanour (though not indicative of his personaility), so once he cornered one of the junior doctors, he was a lot more forthcoming with information.
My test results were coming back negative but they had wanted to complete a 3 day malarial screening before considering discharging me, if this came back negative, they were not sure what was causing my symptoms but they would sign my discharge papers, as all other tests had come back clear.
To give you some sort of indication of why they were so concerned, even though I had taken anti malarial tablets for my trip, my symptoms were consistent with malaria and I had been bitten to fuck in Cambodia…
My last night in the ward, the junior doctor came to tell me they did not know what was wrong with me, but they had come to the conclusion that it was a severe viral infection exacerbated by exhaustion.
I was told I would be discharged in the morning at about 11am. The empty bed next to me was occupied by a woman that spent the entire night projectile vomiting. I’m the sort of person that just can’t deal with vomit in any way, shape or form. Even the sound of someone being sick makes my gag reflect go.
I spent the majority of that night lying in bed gagging, focusing on not being sick, and trying to block out the sound by wrapping a pillow around my head, curling up in a the fetal position and praying for it to stop.
In the early hours they took her away, pulled down the curtain, and bleached everything. The smell of bleach was still stuck in my nose when they came round to serve breakfast (no strawberry jam I might add).
I was so thankful my family had given me some fresh fruit to keep by my bedside as that was not among the breakfast options.
I packed my things after breakfast and waited for my stepmother to collect me, I could not wait to get out of that place. She came to collect me at 11am, but they didn’t have my discharge papers ready in time.
Wventually, I returned home, feeling tired and like a human pin cushion. My family had invited me to stay with them until I was well, but all I wanted was to get into my own bed, and be left in peace to have my first night of undisturbed sleep in a week.
I treated myself to a little get well present…
The important thing is to pay attention to what your body is telling you. I had symptoms for over a week which I dismissed as jet lag and continued pushing myself, to do activities with friends, to go to work. In actual fact, my body was fighting something and needed to rest and heal.