Morphine Madness

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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.

And 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.

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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.

She wasn’t.

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.

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The Primal Challenge Day 28

Last night I was poisoned. I’m not sure if it was deliberate or just a miss communication, but it happened. And I paid for it. All night, and most of the next morning.

My nervousness over going out for dinner seemed to have been warranted, perhaps it was my sixth sense or my third eye or perhaps it was just because we are so close to the end of the challenge I am more worried than normal about things going wrong.

The menu was different. That was the first thing. I had looked and planned and prepared and thought I knew exactly what I would change and what I could keep, but then it was different and my choice wasn’t there and sides I had googled to see what they meant were no longer an option and I was thrown into panic.

A specials menu was put under my nose and when the waiter came to take our orders it was so loud from the other side of the bar I could hardly hear what he was offering. It must have been the same for him because I had to repeat twice that I was no gluten, no dairy, and no grains.

He ran off to check with his superiors in the kitchen, like they all do. And I waited patiently, looking at the menu again. There were two options that from what I could tell would not cause much trouble.

  • Option 1 – beef shin with pumpkin, carrot and black cabbage (aka kale).
  • Option 2 – grass fed Black Angus with potato, salsa verde and something else I had no idea what it was.

There were pros and cons for each.

Option 1 –

Pros – looked like it was relatively straightforward and not much to change. Plus it was something different than the standard steak I had been ordering as the safe option when dining out.  I was assured it was both gluten and diary free.

Cons– when I asked the waiter if it came with a sauce, there was a flicker of uncertainty on his face before he had to run off and check again. When he returned, he said only what the meat is cooked in, its own sauces for braising.

Option 2 –

Pros – it was steak, which means you generally can’t go wrong with a steak. You can tell them how to cook it and what you don’t want on it.

Cons – would have to substitute the potato, put the salsa verde on the side and find out what the last part of the puzzle was. Plus I had steak all the time. ALL the time.

I chose Option 1. I took the risk. The sauce was a worry on my mind, but I again repeated to the waiter no grain, no gluten, no dairy and he assured me that all was good.

I ignored the comments from my fellow dinners as they apologized to the waiter for me being so difficult, told me I should just eat air (did they not remember their own diets and meal plans before they got married?!) and drank my standard mineral water.

There was that buzzing in the back of my head that continued to worry me about my food choice, and at one stage I thought about asking to change to the steak. Something felt wrong. But it was too late, and before I knew it our meals had arrived.

The plate was put in front of me and I straightaway knew I was in trouble.

Two large bits of beef. Great.

Some squares of roasted pumpkin. Fantastic.

Both resting on a bed of kale. Very happy.

But then, smothering, almost drooling off the entire dish, was the sauce.

And no, not just a sauce, a gravy if you will. A thick, onion based gravy.

This was not merely a meat sauce. This was not even just a stock. This, my friends was a guaranteed to be not on the challenge list of approved substances, sugar full sauce.

The waiter must have seen the worry on my face as he came rushing over straight away.

What’s your concern.

The sauce.

Don’t touch it, ill just double check it has no gluten and dairy.

He was off before I could mention anything about sugar levels and just as quickly rushing back to my side.

Defiantly no gluten and dairy.

Ok, but about sugar.

His eyes narrowed.

What exactly is it you can’t eat or your allergic to?

Um… I’m not meant to be having sugar either…

There was a pause. It was uncomfortable. Not just for me, not just for the waiter but also for my friends at the table and the rest of the diners who were by now obviously staring at us.

Is this a choice?

The once friendly waiter asked.

Um yes.

So you are not going to die if you eat it.

Not yet! I wanted to tell him. Maybe later, when my body is so clogged up with artificial sweeteners my heart cant pump anymore. But instead I shook my head.

No, I won’t die.

Stare down. The waiter versus embarrassed diner.

The waiter won.

 I’ll just scape it off.

And so I did. Full of humiliation, not enjoying one bite of the meal I scraped the sauce off the meat the best I could. I ate the carrots, the pumpkin, the kale and most of my meat.

I had made my choice. It was a failed one, and now I had to live with it.

Sure, I could have sent it back, asked and paid for another meal, made everyone wait for me to get it and most of me desperately wanted to. But the other part of me realised the mistake was mine, and not the poor waiter who took the order and scurried back to and from the kitchen.

I thought I had been clear.

When he took our entrée I said the only thing I could eat were the olives.

When we were offered a free round of drinks I said I was only on the mineral water, and when he asked if I wanted a soft drink instead I said no thanks, I cant have sugar. And when he offered me a pepsi-max instead, I simply smiled and said no thank you, no sugar, even fake sugar.

So why did he think sugar was ok in my meal, that sauce was ok, THICK sauce and how was it thick if no flour had been added to it?

After our semi-embarrassing stare down when taking coffee orders – actually taking my coffee order as the others continued to drink wine – he bought it not only with a chocolate biscuit on the side of the plate, but a small jar full of brown sugar.

I know it was loud in that place, and he had other tables but HAD HE NOT BEEN LISTENING TO ME SAY NO TO SUGAR ALL NIGHT!!!???

I almost forgave him because we sat there so long, talking over wine and mineral water that he finished his shift and clocked off before a bill was paid and a potential tip.

Not that I was planning to give one.

That night I woke up four times. I was restless, uncomfortable and unable to sleep. My stomach flip flopped all night and when my alarm went off at 8:30am rather than springing out of bed like I normally would have, my head throbbed, my mouth was dry and my stomach killing me.

I felt as though I had a hang over.

I had drunk 1.5 litres of mineral water over dinner so there was no way I should have had a thirst, or a headache, but I did.

I hadn’t touched a wine all night, but I was bound to the loo as if I had drunk the bar dry for most of the morning (sorry I know this is too much information but it is required).

I could hardly keep food down, and felt like I hadn’t slept at all.

Even my paleo breakfast at Palate couldn’t pep me up.

I’m not sure if it was just the sugar I know must have been in that gravy/sauce/poison, or if they had put corn flour in it and forgot that it is a grain and still a flour, or if there was something else, but my poor old stomach did not like it.

28 day’s of detox and my stomach can’t handle the slightest hiccup. Or maybe it never did and I just looked past it.  Or maybe I just guilted myself into being sick after not sending my meal back.

Just in case it was the meat, I text my friend who had the same meal, but of course she was fine. No stomach pains, no dehydration, no headache, no need to remain close to the toilet and buy an extra 12 rolls of loo paper from Coles. And she as the one who drank the bottle of wine.

If that gravy means I failed this challenge, then I failed myself and I have well and truly paid the price.  I don’t need anyone else to tell me, my body has said it all.

And if that reaction is just from sugar I know was in that sauce, although quantity unknown, then what will it do when I bust open the container in the fridge that holds a Tim Tam and the ears of an Easter bunny I have been saving for the end of next week? Or the drink I know I am going to have with friends on Friday night as they celebrate end of dry July? Or the yoghurt I am going to introduce next week to go with my clean muesli I had just made? Or the piece of full fat double Brie cheese I can’t wait to remove from the plastic wrap in the fridge and devour, because I cant seem to stop thinking about what I am going to have to eat post this challenge that I probably still shouldn’t have.

Day 28 and when I should be close to celebrating, I’m well and truly panicking.

The Primal Challenge Day 23

As many of us know, some more than others, eating food is often an emotional thing. It can bring comfort during stress or sadness, to those both eating it and those making it, and celebrations often revolve around it.

During exams I used to stock up on energy drinks and packets of lollies and chocolate. All the things I thought I needed to wash down the multiple cups of coffee between studying. In the romantic comedies we love to hate, during the epic post break up scene the lead female is generally pictured tucking into ice cream, or chocolate, eating peanut butter or jelly straight from the jar. How many times have we said we are only eating it because ‘we are having a bad day’? The moment something we want to celebrate happens in our lives, we arrange to go out for dinner, or drinks.

We over eat to compensate for something, we eat the wrong types of food because we are too mentally drained to think about what we should be eating, or we forget to eat because our mind is simply elsewhere.  Or on the flip side, we eat that extra piece of cake because it’s a special occasion, or because we ‘deserve it’ and that extra bottle of champagne is popped because we have worked hard, and now its time to celebrate.

When someone dies, food is often the easiest way people can communicate and show they care. Fridges and freezers are full of home cooked meals, many of which will never get eaten by those left behind to grieve.

What we put into our mouths is often the result of the way we are feeling, and can also impact the way we continue to feel.

Today was an emotional day for my family as we said goodbye to one of our own, and if there was any day I was tempted to break the challenge it was today.

But I didn’t.

I over compensated and packed not only my breakfast, but also those making the four-hour car trip with me. My bacon & egg muffins 3.0 went in one container, my sister’s vegetarian version (3.1) went into another. A (small) container of almonds and macadamia nuts to share with my sister-in-law who has kept dairy but is otherwise desperately trying to eat primal. One green apple for me. A bottle of water for each of us.

We set off early.  The muffins were gone before we had even reached the freeway, so Colac was our first stop for breakfast. I put up with more ridicule from my brother, who this time also thought it hysterical to pile a teaspoon full of white grain sugar and wave it in front of me chanting ‘take your medicine’. I might point out at this stage he is 30 years old. I managed to find a smashed pumpkin with poached eggs and rocket breakfast – hold the feta thank you.

Probably one too many coffees – two long blacks before 10am and another at 2pm. It was the only thing (apart from water) I sought out during the post service gathering. Party pies and packaged hot food was waved before me, white bread sandwiches stacked high on tables were a popular favorite.  I’m sure there were other items but I never went over to the table to see just exactly what was there. I didn’t quite trust myself.

Then the cakes.  Larger than I have ever seen before lamingtons with extra cream in the middle. Lemon slice, caramel slice and my sister-in-laws favourite, jelly slice.

I could see her eyes light up when she saw that red topped sweet being unpacked by the church ladies behind the counter, the jelly glistening in the light, its slight wobble throwing teasing shadows in our direction.

me – Don’t do it.

her – But it’s my favourite.

me – It’s not worth it.

youngest sister pipping in – I’m going to have some

me – Not helping.

I lost sight of her for a moment as my grandmother bought over a stranger who had at one time babysat me when I was two and visiting Warrnambool with my family. No sorry, I didn’t remember I was muttering, eyes searching the crowd for Heidi.

I found her, not one piece of jelly slice in hand. Still I was not confident in her determination, her sweet tooth would give most of the elderly that were around us that day who used to bake for a living a run for their money – and we were in the country so that was saying something.

I bet it’s not even homemade.

I assured her when I eventually made my way through the crowd and was able to take my post as bodyguard once again.

You reckon?

Nope, look at it, its all the same size. Look at the base.

In truth, I wasn’t that sure of its roots. It could have been homemade, I was just looking for excuses.

Ill just go have a look at it.

I kept my eye on her again, but I need not have worried. Again she returned empty handed, and for the next few hours the jelly slice, along with all the other food types on our banned substance list (which was everything available) remained uneaten.

Which meant by the time 3:30 came, we were positively starving.

I shared the nuts, well really she took one handful and I had the rest (we were in separate cars) and when they were gone I downed the green apple. Heidi had told me a recent trick of hers was to eat protein just before the fruit. It would mean the sugar levels in fruit would not just spike your insulin, so you felt fuller, and it would also mean I didn’t binge on nuts as much.

I followed the advice, and I’m not sure if it was because I had run out of nuts or because I had no other food with me and still a three hour drive ahead before we stopped in Geelong for dinner, but I didn’t feel hungry anymore.

On the way to dinner Heidi sent me a text –

My self control today deserves a mention

For sure! By passing the jelly slice in a tough emotional situation… Big mention.

And she did! Not one rule broken today. Not one sweet, not one sandwhich. Not one piece of toast  – even the gluten free toast – at breakfast.

Dinner in Geelong meant more ridicule from my brother. I was ready to eat my arm off but instead ordered crispy skin salmon with the green beans, no butter, and hold the lentils but can I please have a green salad instead no dressing?

The food came and was quickly eaten. I always leave the salad for last and the first forkful revealed it was not naked as I required but fully dressed with what I thought was vinegar and olive oil – but couldn’t be sure.

But I was emotional, and hungry. And so I ate the salad and thought if there was any sugar in that vinegar dressing then too bad. I had made my choice, eat it and be full. Heath (my ridiculing brother) took great delight in taking a photo of me eating said salad and promising to put it on his blog, which was all about failed challenges….

I ignored him (again) and was just thankful I had not spent the entire eight hour car ride up and back today listening to his jeers, jokes and jibes over my eating behavior.

A BIG shout out however to his better half over her refusal of the jelly slice, and an even bigger one to all my family, both here and in Warrnambool as we remember beloved Sandi.

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