Sometime later, after my gluten free hospital roast lamb and vegetables – that of course also included potatoes, and when my stream of visitors eventually subsided, the pain started to crawl its way into my body.
Julie had just left for the night, saying her goodbyes ironically through the locked toilet door after I had managed to negotiate the bed lowering mechanism, lift myself into the strategically parked wheelchair and using my one good foot push/pull myself to the disabled loos.
I thought about trying to sleep through the pain, but I remembered Julie saying a night nurse should be in around seven for my next round of drugs and it was now almost half past. And besides, I was craving a coffee and a gluten free snack.
I used the buzzer. The one that looks at you with a warning almost daring you to press it. Everyone will tell you it’s there to be used, to be pressed, especially for those that can’t walk. But really its not. It’s a in an emergency button and if you press it when it’s not an emergency… well let’s just say you get crossed off the night nurse’s Christmas card list.
I pressed it.
And heard the sound of the buzzer, its whining every second, from my bed. The girl who I was rooming with heard it too, as I imagine many other patients did also.
I automatically felt guilty, but my pain was creeping its way up from my toes to the throbbing where I imagine my incision was made. The only thing worse was the craving for coffee.
Eventually Miss Night Nurse (I never got her name) came.
I plastered an almost too wide smile on my pale face and greeted her with all the enthusiasm I could muster
Hi! (fake smile and high pitched voice)
I was just wondering, I think I am due for a pain killer?
Ok, well we are just doing handover, just checking. I will have a look and get back to you when we can.
Oh (no longer smiling) Ok (voice level and pitch dropped significantly) well can I also have a coffee and some water please?
You want coffee, water ok, give me a minute let me finish handover.
The buzzing stopped and she was gone.
I was still thirsty, hungry and in pain.
But I waited.
Eventually she came ‘rushing’ back with a few pills and a glass of water.
I have some panadol, and your medicine, and some water.
Oh thanks so much! Fake smile was back on my face a moment before I snatched the pills greedily from the table and dropped them down my parched throat with a swig of the water.
And now I’ll get your coffee.
Do you have any snacks? I asked timidly.
You want snacks? Ok yes we have some.
Umm…. Anything dairy and gluten free? I almost apologized, although not sure why.
I should have just taken the allergic option that would have had me wearing a red warning beacon around my wrist of my ‘gluten intolerance’ but given it would have changed the medication I was supplied thought I best be a little more flexible.
I’ll see what we have.
At least I didn’t have to wait long. Night Nurse was back in a flash with my coffee, long black, luke warm, no sugar.
And she had snacks.
An array of snacks. It was as though she had taken one of everything she could find from the kitchen in order to satisfy the fussy patient in ward 15. But there, buried among the cheese, the savoy’s, the sugar filled nougat, there were even gluten free options.
But nothing paleo.
At least the blue pills had managed to warn off some of the pain and I even managed to doze off half way through The Footy Show.
A few hours later however I woke due to the now violent throbbing in my leg.
The ward was quiet; lights were out, curtains drawn. It was almost 11pm. Across the bed from me I could hear the muffled whispering of my roommate and her boyfriend but of course there was no nurse in sight.
Thinking perhaps I had just slept funny, and maybe a roll to the loo would help the discomfort, I again managed to negotiate the wheelchair solo. But an empty bladder did nothing for the aching in my achilles.
I was going to have to buzz again.
Now just in case you think I am a light touch, a sissy or just fond of the pills let me give you some background.
I have a high pain threshold. I know this, and have had it confirmed by other professional medics. And yes I might brag about it a little, but compared to a friend who once said Yoga hurt while she was down dogging (not my friend Nisha just to clarify) I know I have a much higher tolerance than some.
Proof point number one –
The only time I have ever had to have a filling I was more scared of the injection that was meant to numb the pain than the filling itself. So much so the dentist said he would start and slip it in without me knowing. I went through the process eyes shut and mouth held open. Every now and then he would ask me how the pain was and I awkwardly nodded my head – there was none. A slight discomfort, nothing really pleasant, but no pain. When eventually the procedure was over and I could close my mouth enough to swallow and then talk, I asked when he had given me the injection.
I didn’t. The dentist replied. You have a high pain threshold, so thought you could have the filling without having the injection to numb you mouth.
Proof point number two –
Numerous previous injuries have seen me sprain (never break) arms, wrists, ankles and feet but instead of hopping off the netball court or soccer field I would play the game out only to discover my foot was so swollen my shoe wouldn’t come off until it was iced or that my little finger was actually broken not just jarred.
Proof point number three –
Two days after getting all four of my wisdom teeth chiseled out of me (I say chiseled as they were so crocked they had to be broken in my mouth and piece by piece removed to save my normal teeth) I had reduced my pain killers by half – although was still in somewhat of a delusional state given I thought I could once again eat foods that did not have a consistency of baby slush.
I tried my old uni favorite the 2-minute chicken noodles (I shudder at the processed thought now). I had not tried these bad boys for years, and forgotten the effect the preservatives had on my stomach. The noodles themselves went down without too much hassle; it was a few hours later when my bowel tried to digest them that the trouble occurred. And by trouble I mean the pain of my digestive system screaming at me for feeding it such fowl food. The run to the toilet and the combination of the pain killers and the poor food choice left me reeling in pain – so much so I should have taken more drugs right then and there. But I didn’t and instead when the pain got so much my body cracked it and I fainted (still on the loo).
Actually maybe that goes against my theory…
Either way, by now I was in excruciating pain.
So I buzzed that ‘don’t buzz me’ warning beacon again.
It had been a few hours since my blue pill, and by now the anesthetic would have well and truly worn off, so there was no way I was over reacting – right?
Well Night Nurse seemed to think I was.
For when I told her that I was in a lot of pain and could she give me something she nodded, made some comment my brain couldn’t comprehend in the situation and left.
Half an hour later she still had not returned and I was about to bite my own leg off if it meant the pain would stop.
I could still hear the girl in the ward opposite, she too was calling out for more relief. She too had buzzed. She too had a quick visit from Night Nurse and asked for something. And she too was still waiting. But unlike me, she had support. Her boyfriend was still by her side, refusing to leave until the medication came.
It was only when Night Nurse came to kick her other half out did he demand some relief and he was not leaving until it came.
Naively I thought his stance would be something I could piggy back on. That when Night Nurse bought his girlfriend (who had something removed from her back that had left a hole big enough her mum had to learn how to pack it before discharge) her pills, I would get mine.
I was wrong.
The two measly almost see threw curtains that separated us and the ten feet of white hospital tiles was like an ocean and I was forgotten.
It had almost been an hour.
I buzzed again.
I had no choice. I honestly can say I had never experienced such pain as I was in currently.
Never in my life.
Not one to compare mild pain to labour, I had the terrifying thought that if childbirth was worse than this I was never signing up for it.
I think I went a little delusional.
Thank goodness, the nurse who answered my buzzing this time around was not my slow shuffle night nurse by Miss Matron.
My polite demeanor was gone, I was in agony.
My pain is really bad… I could hardly formulate a sentence
Out of 10? Miss Matron asked all business like
9 (I left 10 for childbirth).
Ok ill bring you something straight away.
I tried to breathe through it – wasn’t that what they told you do to? I tried the breathing I had recently learned in Yoga but it was too loud in the ward and it sounded odd, like maybe I was in labour so I stopped and sheets gripped so tightly my knuckles turned white, prayed to anything that would listen Miss Matron wouldn’t be too long.
The sheets came back with a flourish, a light was switched on and both Miss Matron and Night Nurse were at my side in a second.
Miss Matron – Stacey given your pain is almost at a 10 we have a shot of morphine for you
My fear of needles momentarily forgotten Miss Matron held my shoulders down while Night Nurse primed the injection. It wasn’t until they had pulled up my nightie and swabbed my stomach with an antiseptic that I realized I had been squirming in pain and was moving too violently for the needle and that’s why I was being held.
I wish it was Miss Matron who did the deed but it was Night Nurse who gave me the morphine hit.
It may take a few minutes she said snapping off her gloves. So take these too
More pills. I swallowed them without water and then washed them down for good measure. Hoping I would be in a phase of fog soon and the pain would be gone.
Miss Matron filled up my water and smiled at me with concern.
Buzz if you need anything else that should help you sleep.
It did, but only a few hours.
The injection had left a small bruise on my stomach and a red pin mark, and it had also left me foggy enough that the pain which had returned (enough to wake me) was almost bearable.
Just suck it up Stacey my inner red horned pitchfork holding self said.
It’s probably not that bad. Miss Hole in her back is sleeping.
I’m not sure if she was, but at least she was quiet.
This time I took my inner self’s advice and ignored the buzzer. Mastered the wheelchair again on my own and drifted in and out of a painful sleep for the rest of the night.
At least I was going home tomorrow.