Tuesday 30 November 2010

I Just Nearly Died.

And, no I'm afraid that isn't one of my attention grabbing headlines.

I just came the closest to dying I've ever been.

This afternoon, a porter arrived to take me down to the endoscopy suite. They were going to insert a nasal-jejunum tube to make the MRI easier. The tube by-passes the stomach and feeds straight into the small bowel. It would mean I wouldn't have to drink litres of horrible contrast tomorrow and they would get a better image.

Today, I am weary, and I feel unwell. I shuffled down for my last cigarette, but the unremitting nausea that I've had all day mocked me by finally turning to vomit just inside the door to the secret garden. As I started to gag, the NJ tube started to shift - something I've never had happen before).

Suddenly, the tube is looped back in my mouth, the new kink pressing against the back of my throat. I can't breath. Shiny brown-red clots are streaming from my mouth, and all I can do is catch them. I look around wildly for an emergency cord. I am kneeling on the cool ceramic floor and slip on the clots as I realise there is no cord.

I am dying. This is it, I am going to die. After all I've survived, the workaday end would be a toilet floor of a hospital, all alone. I am choking, I can't draw a breath. The choking shuts down all my other  strength, it is all there is. I must have started to crawl towards the door, but the toilet is at the end of a corridor to nowhere and I am going to die before anyone sees me.

I shout a gurgling, deep cry for help. The word contains my very last hope.

A sister is by me. She is taking my wrist and her other arm is round my waist. I manage to rake a long gravelly breath into my lungs but then choke again. She is telling me to breath and walking me down the corridor. I look at her and open my mouth to show her where the loop of tube was blocking my windpipe, but she marches me on. I try to beg her with my eyes not to move me, I need her to grab the loop and pull it clear of my windpipe, but relentlessly, she marches me on.

I manage to beg her to stop, but she keeps repeating "Keep, walking. Keep walking."

We speed down the ward, clotted brown jelly leaving a trail behind us and falling through my fingers. I drag another laboured breath in and suddenly I am gone.

I watch myself, with cool detachment rush along the hall. I stop gagging, I stop choking. I feel calm and just march. The lift is not there and I see her push the button to summon it down. I am dying and she is making we wait for a lift. Somewhere deep, deep inside me, I think I even find that funny.

We are back on my ward, and Alison, heroine of Friday night, takes one look at me and pulls the tube straight out. She supports me back to my bed and puts an arm around me.

I don't cry, but my head plonks on her shoulder and we sit on my bed and stare for a while, her arm tight around me. Each of us is thinking

 "Shit, that was close".

Post Script, 2.51am

Half an hour or so passed, and the nurse popped back to see how I am. I was shocked, detached and unimaginably tired. She said she thought she ought to get a doctor to give me something "fluffy" (her word) and check me over.

He declined to come.

So, just as I always do, I will get through it myself. Just like I always do, I will "Pull myself together." Just like I always do, I won't make a fuss. Just like I always do, I will lay here awake, my mind replaying horrors until I fall into exhaustion.

On top of all that, something so fundamental has been overlooked,  that I can't even tell you about it here. I like tonight's nurses and they've been kind to me. If I told you the final part of my story, they would lose their jobs and the NHS would just lose two good souls.

I don't want that.


  1. That must of been absolutely terrifying, I'm so glad you got through it, it would have been awful to lose you. Bloody hell

  2. Hey Sue....Just read what it says on the packet. 'Smoking can damage your health!' You won't be told, but then again, I suppose being indestructible does help ! :-)

  3. I am so glad that you have survived ... I'm horrified at how near you came.

  4. "... and suddenly I am gone.

    I watch myself, with cool detachment rush along the hall. I stop gagging, I stop choking. I feel calm and just march. The lift is not there and I see her push the button to summon it down. I am dying and she is making we wait for a lift. Somewhere deep, deep inside me, I think I even find that funny"

    This is a perfect description of dissociation - cutting out the feeling and dispassionately observing - even finding it amusing.

  5. I liked your poem. Is that really yours? Gosh, blimey, crikey, you are so clever. I feel like the cockney ragamuffin who says to the gent
    'Corlubbaduck guv ain't you a toff'.

    Quite a few blasphemous euphemisms in there from this atheist.

    Oh, on topic, it seems to me that one to one around the clock is the only acceptable service level for someone like you, with the attender having instant telephonic contact with the consultant.

  6. How're you doing now? I find the fear doesn't hit until a long time afterwards. Thinking of you BG Xx

  7. i have a heavy heart reading your struggles sue
    and don't know how you keep going what i can say is your always in my thought's and that's enough to keep me going
    thinking of you as always :)

  8. Hoorah! Maybe you're sick enough to be with your friend now! Glad you made it. ;)

  9. I'm very pleased that you're still with us and still posting. I hope that you have a better day tomorrow and can go for that scan.

  10. Sue,

    You have me speechless. Dont be leaving your bed in future, without someone with you! Gees. Maybe even a personal alarm... the loudest one you can buy! Dcotr's don't like noise, that'll get them coming to your aid a bit quicker...

    Apoligies if my advice is unrealistic and naive, but gees...

  11. Syzygy/BG - I have felt like I can't switch off the detachment. I'm in a daze, can't chat, don't want to read or type, just want to stare into space between naps.

  12. Sue

    Don't worry... it is just shock ... give yourself time to return. BG is right .. the reality of what happened won't kick in until you are stronger. The conscious brain is a bit MI5-ish ... it operates on a need to know basis .. and at the moment, your body needs time to recover.

    So just concentrate on sleeping, eating, drinking and wrap yourself in cotton wool. Everything is back on track now and you only need to worry about nurses getting your injections in good time.

    Your 'detachment' is totally normal and is temporary.

    Big hug Syzygy Sue xxx


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