#4: In Limbo
Updated: Feb 27, 2021
24 - 30/06/2020
Despite the unbearable 30 degree heat, my (now TEN) bags sliding all over the place and the fact that my legs couldn’t touch the floor, it was nice to escape the hospital environment even if it was just for a 50 minute ride down the motorway. My ‘in-mate’ Debbie - who I’d kept in close contact with since she was discharged a week prior to my departure - had warned me that the patient transport staff were lunatic drivers but oh my god. I spent the entire journey frantically switching between trying to stabilise my left leg on one of my bags for support, and clutching onto my poor weak arm which was uncontrollably flopping all over the place due to its lack of ability to hold still on the arm rest.
I arrived outside Frimley Park Hospital and instantly felt closer to home - not just because I was physically closer but because this was a familiar hospital that I had been to several times earlier in the year to visit my nannie. Although I was nervous for another sudden change and already missed the familiarity of St.George’s, I had slight hope that maybe the visiting rules would be different here. I could see the A&E entrance as we pulled into the carpark and found it hard to believe I was rushed in there just over 5 weeks ago - it feels like I’ve been away for years!
As I was guided through the hospital to the ward I'd be staying on, I discovered my time at Frimley would be spent on the Stroke Unit. My heart sank as I pictured myself to be the youngest person on the ward, surrounded by extremely unwell patients needing a lot more medical attention than me. I couldn’t help but feel frustrated and held back from recovery, knowing that if I was at QM already I’d be having several hours of therapy a day. To add to my frustration, no visitors were allowed here either which was a difficult pill to swallow knowing my family were just 10 minutes down the road.
After being shown around the ward I was taken to a side room where I was *yet again* tested for Coronavirus and told to self-isolate for the first few days whilst I waited for my results - shock horror, they were negative. Whilst the thought of being alone felt isolating (pardon the pun) at first, it was nice to have some space from the business that comes with a hospital. However, despite being in a private room AND being covid free, I wasn’t allowed to have a fan to save me from the unbearable summer temperatures incase (quote) “it blew covid around” - makes sense. My time in Frimley was during one of the many heat waves the UK has experienced this year - the one summer I’m stuck inside, typical!
A few days into my stay here I got chatting to a nurse, Elaine, who recognised me from my initial trip to Frimley the night I had the bleed. She saw me in my raw state, 5 weeks prior, and was so amazed by the progress I’d made so far. She was also the bearer of good news and told me that I COULD have visitors. Just the one, and it had to be the same person, but nevertheless this was music to my ears given the information I was told just the night before.
Twelve hours later I was greeted by my boyfriend who I hadn't seen throughout my whole time in hospital - he surprised me with pizza (gluten free for me!) and we spent the hour in each other's company. It was just perfect. A very special day that I will remember forever. To my surprise my trip to Frimley was shorter than expected and I found out I was moving on the following Monday. This was a bittersweet moment as I knew as soon as I was transferred to the rehabilitation hospital the likelihood of having visitors was very slim. Richard came to see me for the next 3 days and I clung onto these moments like they were our last, as I knew it would be a long time until we’d be able to spend time like this together again.
The physio at Frimley was better than I imagined. I pictured my time here to be a bit standstill. A limbo phase between post-op and rehabilitation but my preconceptions were wrong, and I received physio every single day - even over the weekend! It was here that I took my first steps without my boot on (link to video). Another exciting moment. Obviously I was being supported by one of the physios due to my knee not being able to carry my weight, and they helped with the placement of my foot as I was still unable to control the movement in my ankle or toes. Whilst I was here I was also introduced to ‘Functional Electrical Stimulation’ (FES) - a technique that uses low-energy electrical pulses - which temporarily activated the muscles in my foot - sounds painful but it just feels like really intense pins and needles! This method is used to remind the brain of the muscles and their function, and so overtime helps with their recovery.
I was due my last visit from Richard before moving on Monday and it couldn’t have come at a better time. After the excitement of being allowed one visitor had worn off and I knew this wasn’t going to last I began to overthink the situation I was in. As mentioned it was one of the many hot weekends we’ve had this summer and lockdown restrictions had begun to ease. My closest friends (who have always been my first port of call, aside to my family and Richard) were (rightly so) making the most of the weather and went back to visit their uni towns. I couldn’t help but feel so far removed from everyone back home and knowing I couldn’t do the things I normally do to pick myself back up again made the situation feel so much worse. I spoke to Izzy about how I was feeling and she reminded me that everything is not always what it seems.
I think it’s so important to mention here how social media (and photos in general) are not a reflection of real life because when we are posting online we are only ever putting out the ‘best version’ of ourselves. Whilst we are aware of this it is easy to get caught up in this pretend world and believe that everybody else around you is having the best day ever. Caught on a bad day, this can be really triggering. Especially if you’re spending your summer in hospital.
I knew I had to get out of this rut, because in order to move forward, comparing my life in hospital to the lives of my friends on the outside was going to get me nowhere. Digging deep, in search of my inner Edith Eger, I reminded myself of the things I knew. No more looking back, or thinking “what if”. This was my situation and I couldn’t change it, but I could be excited about what was yet to come. In the words of Edith, “Survivors don’t have time to ask ‘why me’, the only relevant question is ‘what now?’” My rehabilitation started the next day. This was the last leg of my journey before going home and I couldn’t be more ready.
My time in rehab coming soon...