Saturday, January 24, 2009

A SEASON IN HOSPITAL

These last two days have been strange ones. I had another seizure on Thursday, at work. It's at least the fourth one I've had in the last year. Now, anybody can have at least one seizure in their lifetime; but only a special sort of person has four--they're called epileptics. (Well, unless you have some sort of undiagnosed brain tumour.)

So it seems I now have epilepsy, which is a little bit difficult to adjust to, after not having it for 44 years. But they did enough tests to diagnose a battalion with epilepsy when I was taken to the hospital after the seizure, so I can only presume they know what they're talking about. I gave my blood pressure, they listened to my pulse, they took blood samples, they listened to my chest through a stethoscope as I said "ninety-nine" over and over again, they made me lift my arms and legs against the resistance of the doctor's fist, they made me walk, turn and walk again; they even wheeled me into another room and took an X-Ray of my chest.

I had known something was wrong for a long time, but I'd been afraid to do anything about it in case it was worse than I thought (I am a little too much like my mother). So in a sense I was relieved that events had taken over and now it was going to be decided one way or another. Was it epilepsy? or was I the next Severiano Ballasteros, soon to be diagnosed with a brain tumour and facing a terrible operation?

Frustration with events in the hospital soon took over anyway, as they will. After two hours of testing in A & E the Doctor there told me I could go home. But as I was preparing to leave, an orderly came in and told me I had to be taken to Emergency Admissions. When I asked him why, since I'd been cleared for discharge, he said, "You can't be discharged until you've been admitted." Eat your heart out Joseph Heller.

I was taken to EAU and assigned a bed there. I sat beside it rather than get in because I had been told I was scheduled to leave. This was at half-past four in the afternoon. At half-past nine I was still waiting to see a doctor. AND I was parked across the aisle in my bay from a lunatic woman who talked constantly. At one point she asked me if I liked to "take it up the bum sometimes." Every other sentence she uttered began with the words, "As an ex-nurse..." or featured the phrases, "Well, just go with the flow..." or "That's my tragedy..." I was ready to smother her with her pillow. The woman in the next bed along to her buzzed the nurse and then pointedly asked him, "Can't you switch her off?"

After the shift handover they began turning off the lights and settling people down for the night. Afraid I would be forgotten I asked to see one of the doctors. She told me she thought I was well enough to go home, but that I couldn't be discharged without seeing the Registrar. "Is that likely to happen tonight?" I asked.(I didn't want to be a complainer--their job is difficult enough--but I was getting really fed up now, and I didn't understand what would be gained from keeping me in.) "Oh, yes," the doctor assured me, as if the question were ridiculous.

At one a.m. I was still waiting, so I went outside the ward and sat in the corridor to read somebody's paper.THE SUN, but hey, it was a day for unusual and distatsteful occurrences. At two a.m. I was woken up in the corridor by one of the nurses, who apologised for the delay in seeing me with these words: "The Registrar is seeing the Poorlies." I asked her if she had any idea what time I'd be leaving.
"Oh, I don't think that's the plan at all, my lovely!" she said, appearing quite startled by the degree of my incomprehension.

Thankfully, the Registrar appeared half an hour later and true to the original plan, let me go with a prescription for Sodium Valproate and the promise of an appointment at an outpatients clinic. It was two-thirty in the morning and very quiet as I walked through the hospital's main entrance with its closed reception desk and empty cafe. I used to visit this part of the hospital quite often in the days when I worked down here as a Care Co-Ordinator in the Social Work Department. Things had changed since then in ways I can't possibly begin to understand, not even now after spending the next day lying around the house sleeping and trying to assess what has happened.

The full extent of the changes that the diagnosis have brought to my life will become more obvious as I go along. But I wonder now if the epilepsy is as new as I first thought. I have been having weird sensations in my brain for years now. It never occurred to me before that they might have been absences. Ever since I worked in Kettering--and maybe before--I've had these moments when my head seemed to flood and everything for a brief moment slowed down and became really exaggerated. I've written about them in my journals in those days.

Maybe if I'd dealt with them then I wouldn't have had to go through this series of very public collapses I've had in the last year, which for somebody as unreasonably proud as I am have been really difficult to deal with afterwards.

4 comments:

All This Trouble... said...

Fred, I can't believe you didn't recognize me sitting there across from you in the fit pit! That's my tragedy...

I'm glad you've been diagnosed and medicated. I'm interested to know how the meds treat you after a bit.

My only public seizures have been febrile in nature and I've been too sick to care. I know you must feel slightly uneasy inside about your collapses but....it's hard to describe...surely you've seen someone convulse. I think not knowing what took place, of being stripped clean in front of other human beings, is what's bothersome. But for those watching, it jars something in your soul that makes you feel charitable and merciful toward the one down for the count.

Fred Abbey said...

Same birthday, same tragedy! If we weren't born ten years apart I'd think we were Siamese twins!

Wow, I'm sorry to know you have had to go through what I've been through, but it's good to know that you've been able to carry on with your life and, actually, lead a more interesting one than most...I have had this fear over the last couple of days that it's going to take away everything I counted on as normal. Especially since my job said they couldn't let me back until my Doctor had confirmed for them that I was safe to return.

Yeah, I've seen many, many fits, and I've never felt anything other than acute sympathy for the man or woman on the floor. My problem is--and life is slowly wearing it away--I'm so arrogant it makes me really uncomfortable to think of people feeling sorry for me.

Well, I'm learning. It sounds corny, but thanks for sharing what you have, it makes me feel a lot easier...

Sharon Auberle said...

hey Fred,

wish I could respond with something knowledgeable about what you're going through, but I can't, so just want to let you know that we're thinking of you over here in this new kinder and gentler land and wishing you well. And remember this--EVERYBODY is broken in one way or another. You may know the Leonard Cohen quote:
"there's a crack in everything,
that's how the light gets in."
take care of yourself...

Fred Abbey said...

Ah, you're so right, Sharon...and thanks for the kind thoughts. As long as I get to keep some money coming in I'll be all right.The diagnosis itself might be just the lesson in humility this unreasonably arrogant so-and-so needed...