Eight months in hospital
Eight months in hospital
23 June 2008
I was phenomenally healthy up to mid-2007, and decided to have the prostate operation. This was successful, but I made the mistake of driving 100 miles immediately out of hospital. Staying with a friend in Walsall, the blood clots started at 3am, and I called the ambulance. The A&E duty doctor behaved very well, calmed me into urinating again, and suggested I go home; that I could always dial 999 again.
Next night at 2am I dialled 999, and a horrific three days began, culminating in my partner Liba bringing a taxi to the hospital main entrance at 3am. While I was struggling to get my various drip feed devices into the taxi, everyone, including the man in charge of the whole hospital, seemed to arrive – at 3am! When a doctor suggested that I was confused, I told him to talk to Liba, unless he proposed that she was also confused. But he continued to talk to “confused” Ivor. After a while, Liba launched into an extraordinary lecture, which they all 7 listened to attentively. She said that since they wore no badges, how did we know who they were? How did we know that this was a hospital? The nurses refused to give us their names, etc.
It being now 4am, the man in charge of the hospital suggested we all get some sleep and had a meeting in the morning at 10am. I said I did not feel safe unless Liba was with me, so he agreed that she sleep next to me – in a men’s ward.
We did not have the meeting at 10am, but I was discharged at 2pm, ten minutes after meeting my assigned doctor for the first time. This was Walsall Manor Hospital. I outline the three horriffic days in the hospital on my website.
Living in a wealthy area with three very good NHS hospitals, I had not imagined how bad the NHS could be.
It is possible that a few experiences like Walsall softened me up for the disaster which was to follow.
In October 2007 I woke up in bed at home vomiting, and dialled 999, to be rapidly taken to our local hospital in Watford. (Mysteriously, Liba vomited heavily shortly after I had left, and dialled 999 again, but was talked into staying at home.)
(I was in hospital for eight months, three months in intensive care.)
They did not find out what was wrong with me for a month, which apparently is common in cases like mine, which are very rare. After a month, they found a 7cm tear in my oesophagus/food tube/gullet. I was on drip feed, food and liquid, for seven months, and did not eat or drink (in the normal way) during that time. Sometimes I was taken out of Intensive Care to protect the other intensive care patients from all my infections!
I had tubes coming out of all parts of me. One night at 2am the hospital phoned Liba, and also my daughter Dana, to say I was dying. Later, one doctor said to me; “You’ve been to hell and back.”
One particular pill [morphine] is extremely effective in causing hallucinations, although pills in general and also fever do. I was so ill that I had to have the hallucinogenic pill. I had one hallucination every morning, of an extremely complex and detailed nature. In the end I decided that I would have to tell nurses and doctors about my persistent hallucinations, although obviously this risked my losing my freedoms. I flew to New Zealand twice, and also was in Frisco. Fortunately, Liba had very serious medical problems a decade ago, and was in hospital for a long time, and was familiar with the problem of hallucinations. Otherwise the extraordinary demands I made would have upset her far more.
My co-researcher Forrest Bishop flew over from Seattle twice, at $800 a time, to see me. Apparently I sometimes had a large congregation at the bottom of my bed – visitors and also doctors, the latter because of the inexplicable nature of my case. (One source says there are only 300 cases on record of a torn oesophagus.) Liba was there almost every day, for eight months, and did a very important job interviewing doctors and giving continuity as I was shunted between three hospitals – Watford, Hemel, St. Albans. (However, all intensive care was in Watford.) I caught many infections, including the one after MRSA with a funny name [cdif]. Bruce Snyder and also Chris Penfold think that but for her efforts, I would not have survived. Dana got a doctor from Harefield to visit, as a second opinion. One dark day, I seemed to face the decision, of whether to live or to die.
The three local hospitals were excellent, except for the occasional mistake.
They put a stent (tube) inside my oesophagus. This restricts the passage of food and drink, and today I have had such a problem – no food for more than 24 hours, and little liquid.
I had to watch my left foot dropping - the hospital staff were only interested in the life and death central part of me – so I now have to work at walking, and for the present I wear a splint on that leg. The splint is excellent.
Although instructed to not drive for a month, I did so more or less immediately. I am very weak, but driving does not require strength. We go to the swimming pool and jacussi at the bottom of the hill three times a week, which is very good for me.