Thursday, 23 February 2012

Don't leave the house!

I am not agoraphobic. However, I am nervous of going out in public. Actually, that's not strictly true. I'm fine going to the doctors, dentist, vets, hospital, any allocated appointment really. It is crowds, in particular shopping centres, and more specifically, queues, of which I am afraid.

A few years ago I made an innocent visit to the post office. As I was standing in line the woman in front of me was looking at something in my direction. She sneezed. I received the full spray face on. It was absolutely disgusting. I remember waiting for her to apologise, but of course that did not happen. Within 48 hours I was ill. A week later I was in agony.  My throat and nose were killing me and I was coughing so hard it felt like my ribs would crack. I was rather impressed when my doctor said I had a chest infection, throat infection, AND nasal infection. Of course I do not know these all came from Sneeze-Lady, but they definitely came from that day out. This is why I am more than a little nervous at heading out in public.

People are not sanitary. People don't wash their hands after using public toilets, then they touch things in shops; things you might touch yourself later, picking up whatever remnants they had left on their hands. People do not consider the health of the person next to them in a queue, or the person they happen to be walking past as they cough their germs into the air. How often have you heard someone say something akin to 'I don't know where I got this cold from, I don't know anyone else who's had it!'?

C and I went shopping last weekend (the 11th). We figured that after weeks of stress we should get out and do something enjoyable for a change. I used the wheelchair from the moment we arrived so that I did not deplete my spoons before having to trek a mile or so back to get it (learnt wisdom). It was a good day. I bought clothes. I ate a potato. It was a nice day, and I was exhausted afterwards.

I've been feeling nauseous for weeks, so when I started feeling more nauseous a few days later I didn't think much of it. When I had an upset stomach later on in the week, again I didn't think much of that either, as my body is so unpredictable that that isn't particularly unusual. On Saturday evening I didn't feel well. C somehow managed to persuade me to eat some ice cream that I really did not want to eat. Having done so I kind of knew I was going to be ill.

An hour or so later, C was snoring. At 11:30pm my stomach said to me rather clearly 'You should go to the bathroom now!'. So I did. I'll spare you the details; needless to say I was extremely ill. Honestly, I have never before been so ill in my life. I collapsed on the bathroom floor, absolutely exhausted, and called C. No response. I called several times, I banged on the bathroom door with various things, but he was out for the count. Ironically, it was my quiet crying a bit later on that actually woke him up.

I was scared to move. Every minute movement made me feel like I would be sick again. By 3am, I was dehydrated to the point that my mouth kept sticking to itself. C phoned his mum, uncertain of what we should do. She advised we go to the hospital. It is what we had both been thinking, though the thought of every bump in the road filled me with dread.

I was amazed at how busy the ER was at 3:30am in the morning, and scared that I would be waiting hours to be seen. Thankfully we had taken a bucket with us, and there was a toilet in the waiting room. We were called in to what they call the triage nurse; someone who assesses whether you need to see a doctor (who then assesses whether you need to be admitted). The nurse had an attitude with me from the moment she looked at me. My mouth was sticking together, the room was spinning, I was doing my best to not be sick, and had my legs crossed because I needed the toilet again, so I asked C to talk to her for me. In a rather confrontational manner she almost shouted at me 'Can't you talk to me yourself?', to which I said I could but I didn't wish to be sick on her. To me it didn't seem that she wanted to take me seriously. Having explained that I had started throwing up at 11:30pm, she asked me what my GP thought of the sickness. How could I possibly see my GP on a Saturday night? She allowed me to go to the bathroom during the middle of this consult, during which time C explained to her that I have severe M.E., and I managed to get lost trying to find them again. When I returned, she called for a wheelchair and admitted me to the next stage. C believes this was mostly because he'd told her I have M.E..

We were shown into what I presume was an assessment ward, where everyone was in little rooms by themselves. The guy opposite me was propped up, lights on, covered in blankets, with lots of pillows. I was left in a dark room, with no blankets, no pillows, no instructions on how to prop the bed thing up, with the air conditioning on full blast. They could see I was in my flimsy pyjamas. They knew I was having V&D. C went to ask a nurse where the toilet was. We were told that I was not allowed to leave that cubicle, and must use a commode. I was therefore brought a commode, but no toilet paper. I was still being sick.

Eventually a doctor showed up. He asked me a few questions. I tried to explain to him that I have M.E., and that I've been struggling badly for a few weeks with a reaction to mould; that my immune system has already crashed. I may as well have been speaking gibberish. He looked at me, said 'At your age your body will do what it is supposed to do, and fight the bug for you.', and he left.

At my age? Have I pointed out in my blog previously that people keep thinking I'm a lot younger than I am? Is it not fairly widely accepted that the bodies of those with M.E. tend to behave like those several decades older than they are? Was this man a prize idiot? C and I sat and stared at each other, wondering what we were supposed to do next. Eventually we asked a nurse, who said we should just go home as the doctor had not admitted me. We both assumed this meant that someone would come and pick me up with a wheelchair again, but this did not seem to be happening. So once again C bothered the nurse, who seemed genuinely surprised that someone who had been brought in in a wheelchair might actually need to go out in one too. A chair arrived. A chair with no foot pads!?!

We left the chair at the hospital entrance because the slope up to the car park was covered in snow and ice. I got a few steps up the slope when it became apparent that I had taken on a task a lot bigger than I could cope with. C had marched on ahead of me. I didn't have the energy to call him. The road by which the path ran was for ambulances only, so C couldn't have come down and picked me up anyway. I'd have crawled up the slope if it hadn't been for the snow and ice. I came very close to collapsing again, and once I reached the car I threw up violently.

I wish I had collapsed. An ambulance had driven past me. I have no doubt that they could see how much I was struggling. Had I actually collapsed I suspect they would have helped, and then I would have been admitted. I admit that I do want to make a full sized V sign at that doctor, but I also know that I should have been on a drip. I was extremely dehydrated, my body was in no shape to accept my attempts to put anything in it, and I was too weak for my body to fight.

Five days later and I am supporting my weight for the first time. I've been able to walk to the bathroom and back, but it has felt like I was controlling my body by remote control, and each trip left me exhausted. I ache all over as if I've run a marathon whilst lifting dumbbells. I haven't sat upright all week. I am now. I have no idea what my body thinks it is up to, as it isn't behaving properly yet, but I have been eating some toast and fish the last couple of days.

All because I went out and enjoyed a days shopping for once in my life.


[Edit]
There has been one very vital fact left out of this post, because I needed to talk to a close friend of mine before announcing it to her on my blog by accident. I am pregnant. This is why we went to the hospital with the dehydration, V & D so soon, and why we were so disgusted at the treatment received.

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