My recent hospital stays have reminded me of my theory that staying in hospital is like being on a long-haul flight.
You’re in a confined space, there are constant interruptions, it’s hard to sleep, there’s the threat of deep vein thrombosis, boredom, ordinary food and you can be stuck in close quarters with some very annoying people!
My first hospital stay (after my birth, obviously) was when I was nine-years-old and I remember it as quite an exciting experience. About a year before that, I can remember my Dad threatening that I would have to go to hospital because I wouldn’t/couldn’t swallow the antibiotics he was trying to get down my throat. I think I had tonsillitis or a middle ear infection – a fairly regular occurrence for me as a child and as an adult whenever I get a cold – and I would not swallow my antibiotics. Dad said, ‘Well, you’ll have to go to hospital then’, thinking that threat would be enough to make me swallow the tablets. I walked over to the telephone hanging on the wall in the kitchen, picked it up, and told him he better make the call. He tried to bluff me and I called him on it. I thought a hospital stay sounded like it could be quite fun.
I don’t feel the same way anymore. For one thing, I’m now well-practiced at swallowing tablets (but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t able to swallow whole tablets until I got to high school – up until that point they had to be ground in with jam or honey to make the medicine go down). I also require water to swallow tablets. You people who take tablets without liquids are freaks.
A tiny splinter of steel went into my eye when I was nine-years-old. It was in there for a few days while we thought it was conjunctivitis so it was quite lodged in by the time the doctor found it. I remember my GP using a long, fine needle to try to dig it out of my eye, but it was in too deep. So I had to go see the eye specialist and have an operation on my eye. It was pretty exciting at the time! It must have been terrifying for my parents, but I didn’t think about that at the time.
My next hospital stay was many, many years later – not until my late 20s when I had an ovarian cyst removed. I think that was a three-night hospital stay that sent me a little stir-crazy, but definitely not as much as my more recent stays! I think the post-surgery hospital stays make sense. It feels like it’s the right place to be, though I’m glad if I can ever get out earlier than expected.
The annoying hospital visits I have had in the past couple of years have been for infections where I have felt pretty good, but because I have cancer, doctors want you to stay in hospital because infections can make you really sick. I understand they want to be on the safe side. But I’d just rather not be in hospital.
Last year, I had to spend four days in hospital because it looked like I had an infection in my right breast after my mastectomy. The reason for the infection was my own fault and is another story I’ll tell you another time. I was a big fan of The Neverending Story when I was a kid – the book and the movie. In the book, author Michael Ende used the line “But that is another story and shall be told another time” and I feel like that’s going to be a constant in this blog!
I had to go into hospital and be dosed up with intravenous antibiotics, which my surgical oncologist described as ‘it’s like we’re basically pumping Domestos into your veins’. I felt absolutely fine but I followed the doctor’s orders as once infection gets into the mastectomy space, it’s very difficult to treat because there’s nothing there to fight the germs.
That hospital stay was my inspiration for my long-haul flight theory. Instead of the flight attendants, you have nurses coming into your room constantly to check on you and do observations, waking you up all night. You don’t get enough sleep and just wish they would knock you out with drugs. Being hooked up intravenously traps you in your bed, similar to the seatbelt on a plane. It’s a pain having to get up and navigate your way past passengers to go to the toilet so you hardly go. So you start drinking less water and get dehydrated because you don’t want to have to keep getting up all the time. You’re in a confined space, but you need to try to stretch or make some small walks (see hooked up to machines/navigating plane aisle) so that you don’t get deep vein thrombosis from sitting still for so long.
You lose track of time and you seem to be constantly fed. Meals, snacks, and you think it can’t be time for another meal. Yet it is. You eat it even though you’re not hungry and it’s pretty bland and tasteless.
You hook up to your tablet or computer to watch TV, movies, play games or read to try to block out the noise of your fellow passengers’/patients’ snores and farts. It’s really important to load up your device with as much material as possible to fill in those many hours of nothing happening.
So that’s my theory. Treat your hospital stay like a long-haul flight. It is testing, it is long, it is boring, but it’s worth it when you get out/to your destination!