Code Black

This morning I woke early to go to Hydrotherapy. The water is lovely and warm, and I enjoy the exercises. While we waited by the door to leave, Jenni suddenly rocketed past and shoved an older lady into the stairwell.

Suddenly there was chaos. An alarm rang. “code black! Code black!” an automated voice sounded. nurses rushed, the older lady cried. “Call Security!” someone shouted.

We all stood around awkwardly in the middle of everything…the older lady blocking our exit…until a nurse herded us out through the staff passage (two security guards raced towards us). Once we were off the ward the conversation started. We were told Jenni had been refusing her medications and was “very very unwell”.

“what is the difference between code blue and code black?” asked one of the younger girls. Being a hospital, we hear many code blues being called, but this was the first code black.

“It means something has happened and assistance is required…don’t worry your head about the codes love” the nurse replied.

The mood on the ward was somewhat muted for the rest of the morning. There was lots of whispering and Jenni truly did become person non grata.

It was right about then that we remembered we weren’t at home.

It’s a Knockout!

Weeks of vomiting and diarrhea left me, not only a few kilo’s lighter, but malnourished – and perhaps more importantly – not absorbing the psychiatric medication I had been prescribed.

I have officially found out what happens if I quit taking the pills – and it ain’t pretty.

My head is so full it hurts. Voices are angry at me. A male voice in particular. I’m worthless, disgusting, a bad mother, a LIAR, an attention seeker. I need to kill myself. Others would be better off without me here. I’m a waste of space.

I know it is only my mind, I trust the doctors who say I am hallucinating…but the voices always come back and try to convince me that they are right, and everyone else is wrong. I sat in the hospital chapel a week ago, and apologised to the Lord (though I am not religious) for my misgivings. It was then that I saw The People for the first time. Sitting watching me. Judging me. They followed me back to the ward and I was scared to go to bed that night.

My thoughts zoom a million miles an hour. I feel like screaming. Sometimes I have this overwhelming urge to harm myself. Sometimes I feel nothing at all.

Now I am absorbing my food and medication again. But the medication I need for my gastric condition…infact the ONLY medication that will work for this incredibly rare condition has the side effects of mania, psychosis, depression and insomnia. Pretty much the most annoying side effects I could have right now.

These side effects are remedied through sleeping pills and higher dose antipsychotics. But I can’t take the optimal dose as the drugs will negatively impact my GI system.

The steroids also can burn a hole through your stomach lining. More meds for that.

They cause me to be immuno suppresed, the drugs impair my immune system so my body can stop treating food with an allergic reaction. But it also means I am vulnerable to catching any cold or illness that comes along.

I feel generally run down. My stats are crappy. Tachycardia, low blood pressure, fainting, weakness and low grade fevers.

I’m in pain, but they can’t prescribe me opiates as they will wreak havoc with my stomach. Unfortunately I have established that no pill at a non narcortic level is worht taking for this pain.

Of course I am affected by the side effects, so I am put on sleeping pills (which have a 50% chance of working), and stronger antipsychotics. But they can only give me a certain level of medication or it will start to negatively impact my oesionophilia gastroenteritis.

Full circle.

Sometimes it all gets too much. So I have trained myself to operate on a day to day basis. Some are good days, some are bad. But I have an 100% record of getting through bad days, so I have faith in myself.

I swallow down the rainbow pills…I fall asleep after breakfast. It’s a knockout!

Jenni from the Block

There are no shortage of interesting patients here in D block. But one really stands out in my mind.

Jenni*, a woman of indeterminate age and mental status, who had a knack of being infinitely child like, yet wise beyond her years,

Jenni arrived one Thursday night, and within an hour of being there had already caused chaos on the ward. She caught sight of a group of patients smoking outside by the pool table (as they did every night) and got it into her head that they were dealing drugs. She informed the nurses of their alleged misdemeaners, and the nurses of course, had obligation to follow the accusation up.

The smokers were not amused.

It became particularly complex as many of the smokers were being treated for drug addiction. Accusations of drug possession could presumably jeopordise their voluntary status or treatment regime. Two of the smokers came out and tore the poor girl to shreds. Though, Jenni, to her credit held her own.

When it was over she turned to me. “My best friend Rachel DIED from drugs and alcohol. I won’t touch it. I won’t let them force me to take it. It isn’t nice. Rachel was a competent driver. But she DIED.”

This was all getting too creepy for words, so I decided it was time to go to bed. As I lay in bed, a new patient, a young girl, Serena*, was talking to her mother on the phone about how scared she was of the other patients in the ward.

Suddenly Jenni was in our room, it appeared that she was in the bed opposite me. She whipped open the curtain to Serena’s cubicle. “Allo! Who are you? Have you got a comptuer? What are you playing? Cards? Who’s winning then?” came the torrent from Jenni.

I could only imagine this interrogation was not helping Serena’s anxiety. Worse still Jenni started talking about the supposed drug dealing going on outside, and now, apparently, prostitution.

“IN the hospital this is happening?!” Serena kept asking.
“Yeah yeah!” Jenni responded.

I made a mental note to talk to Serena in the morning.

“So…what are the men like here?” Serena whispered to Jenni.
“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t really like men with grey hair and beards. It depends what you like I suppose.”
“No!” said Serena, horrified. “I meant..are they scary men?”
“Oh no.” Said Jenni. “But that show they were watching was pretty scary and they wouldn’t change the channel no matter how many times I asked!”
“Bastards” Serena concluded.

I have never known anyone to sleep as much as Jenni does. Literally all day, then awake for a few hours at night. The nurses have given up trying to wake her. “Good luck” I tell them, as another nurse fresh from shift change prepares to shake her and shout her name.

But when she is up, there are always questions;

“Serena, why does that girl stay with Austin Powers when he keeps doing it with other women?”
“Rachael, what are you reading? What are you doing?
“Why does God have grey hair?”

Last night I found Jenni outside our bedroom door. “Can’t sleep cos of the snoring?” I asked her.
“I don’t snore!” Jenni asserted defensively.
“Oh I know, I meant the others”. It was a particularly bad night on the snoring front. As I slipped into bed I sighed and grabbed a pair of ear plugs. Suddenly a figure was opening my curtain.
“Rachael. I can’t sleep because of the snoring.”
“I know, Jenni. Go and ask the nurse for earplugs”. She disapeared, came back to bed and turned her light off. After about 10 minutes her light came on and she came back into my cubicle.
“Rachael. I got some earplugs and I can still hear snoring. It’s awful!”
“I know, Jenni. Just try and get to sleep.”
“Ok Rachael. Goodnight”.

Around 10 minutes went past and I lay awake, getting angrier and angrier about the situation. Damn me being in hosptial! Damn me in a shared room! Damn it all!

Then a male nurse came in for checks. He peered into each cubicle with a flashlight and when he reached Jenni there was quite the commotion.

She sat bolt upright (I am not sure if she was asleep or awake), “Out!” she shouted at the nurse. “Man in here! Scram! Go on! Get out! Shoo! No men allowed!”

The young nurse hotfooted it out of our room, and I rolled over and laughed into my pillow until it was wet with tears. I didn’t even know what was so funny, but, wow, it felt good to laugh!

*all names have been changed for confidentiality reasons.