The big day finally arrived, Sunday 15th September and I waited until everyone else had used the bathroom, went and had a shower, which I could do by then (I couldn’t until the PICC line was removed), changed my own dressing and headed back to my bedspace. Why on Earth I did not take my street clothes with me I shall never know, I suppose I just was not used to wearing them by now so I pulled my curtains and got changed. It seemed a bit odd after all this time. I binned my pyjamas in the laundry basket and then stripped my bed and binned the used bedlinen, I thought it was the least I could do. I donated the books I had read to the ward “library” which at that point consisted of two old Readers Digest books of four abridged titles each, not one of which I had heard of!
After that, it was a slightly odd sensation. I was sitting doing my normal things but in my “civvies”. I had ordered my lunch, which you do immediately after breakfast, although I had told the lady I wasn’t sure if I would be there for it or not. She told me to order it anyway on the principle that it was better she prepare it than me possibly go hungry. It turned out she was right and this was the rogan ghosh I spoke of in my previous post plus spotted dick and custard – lovely stuff! I am publishing the images again here as I could look at them all day as easily as I could eat that dinner all day.
I knew I would be going nowhere until I had been given drugs to take with me as I had been told that not only would I be taking some of the medications for a while including 12 weeks of the injections which I was not looking forward to, but that I would be on one of the tablets for the rest of my life. Every day as long as I live which, whilst not a major problem as taking tablets doesn’t worry me, will undoubtedly lead to all sorts of bloody hassles when I travel overseas for months on end. I really have no idea how it works but it must as I am sure others do it. A right pain but something I suppose I am going to have to get used to. Without being over-dramatic, this whole episode had been life-changing one way and another.
All the drugs duly arrived and it was time to take my leave. Cheerio to David in the next bed who had been in for a long time and looked set to be in for a long time to come, I wish him well. Then it was farewell to Kyle in the corner bed (you shall meet him again), and a generic cheerio to the three other guys on the other side of the ward who were all recent arrivals I had not really got to know.
I was well aware that the next bit was going to be the most difficult part and that was saying goodbye to the wonderful staff who had been so good to me over quite a long period. Obviously, the normal business of the ward was going on and people were busy but I cornered as many of them as I could for a brief farewell and heartfelt thanks to the point that it was getting a bit emotional. All of them wished me well, gave me various words of advice about my lifestyle, making sure I took my meds etc. etc. There was still one final little piece of nonsensical hospital procedure to be followed and Sister deputed one of the male nurses to escort me to the front door which is standard practice it appears. Apparently it did not matter that I had been wandering about the hospital alone in the dead of night for weeks. I joked with the nurse that they were just making sure I didn’t steal anything on the way out but it seems they were responsible for me until I was off the premises. Something to do with damned lawyers and spurious lawsuits, I believe.
I know I say a lot of strange things in my posts here and this will undoubtedly rank as one of the strangest to date but I was actually a little sad to leave the place. Obviously nobody wants to be ill and in pain and few people would choose to be in hospital but apart from the obvious physical discomforts (especially that damned NG tube up my nose and the extended starvation diet) I had as good a time there as could be expected under the circumstances. I was made as comfortable as was possible, I was treated with every consideration by staff of all disciplines that obviously believed in what they were doing, I had all day to do nothing but relax, read and potter about on the net. I have really no excuse for how long it has taken to post this admittedly lengthy post with the time I had at my disposal on the ward. When I was eventually allowed to eat, the grub was spot on and I was pretty much left alone to do what I wanted within the confines of my treatment.
Having finally stepped outside and smelt fresh air for the first time in what seemed like forever I relented on the matter of the bus and called a taxi. I was perfectly able to get the bus but I was conscious of time and I knew that my friends Sally and Brian were playing a gig in the Wrotham at 1600 and I really wanted to catch it as I had missed them completely during Folk Week. It turned up promptly and delivered me at my temporary home just in time to catch the start of the set and be accosted by any number of friends, many of whom did not even know I had been ill so my sorry tale was somewhat abridged and related several times. Sally and Brian were superb as they always are, I have known them for more years than any of us would care to remember and I have never seen them do a duff show yet. They do some old-style folk and some numbers which are fairly “socially aware” but they are possibly best known for their humourous numbers some of which are literally rib-hurtingly funny. It was a great welcome back to the “real world”.
Naturally, I had to order a pint which you can see pictured above. I had been lectured ad nauseum about my drinking and smoking in hospital and I had a plan for the smoking which seems to be holding up fairly well as I write this a couple of weeks later but I had told the Doctors that there was no way I was giving up drinking completely, that was just not an option. Before anyone gets in touch, no, I am not an alcoholic, that was proven in hospital when I did not have a drink for a month or so and suffered no ill-effects. When I was first admitted they used to offer me medication if I was getting withdrawal symptoms but they were completely unnecessary. I was very disciplined and limited myself to two pints all night.
The fact of the matter is that I enjoy drinking, as much for the social aspect of it as anything else. I absolutely refuse to sit and drink soda water and lime all night and if you remove pubs from the equation then I may as well put down a deposit on a small cave on a remote island as I shall instantly become a hermit. I shall have nowhere to go socially which I explained to the medical staff and told them I would cut down as far as I could. Again, a couple of weeks in, this strategy seems to be holding up well although it is very early days. We shall see how it goes.
One other thing of note is represented by the rather lovely image above and it is the fact that my spell in hospital had seen the seasons change from Summer to Autumn. Yes, I know it is not officially Autumn on the 15th of September but I always associate the coming of Autumn with the first hanging of the hops in the same way as many people associate the coming of Spring with hearing the first cuckoo.
Kent is known as the “Garden of England” and rightly so because of the variety and quality of it’s produce. It is famous for it’s apples and also it’s hops with the first English hop garden believed to have been created near Canterbury in 1520 and this is the reason for the excellent quality of both the cider and the beer in the County. Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham is reputedly the oldest in the UK and cider has been made in the UK since the time of the Norman Conquest which was very influential in Kent. Can it be merely coincidence that I spend so much time in this fine county?
When the hops are picked at this time of the year, it is the tradition all over Kent to hang garlands of them, if that is the correct term, in pubs. Not only do they look rather pretty but if you rub them gently between your thumb and forefinger, the smell is divine. In the Wrotham, Jackie has gone the extra mile as she tends to do and put up fairy lights amongst the display. I think it looks rather wonderful although it did take me a few attempts to get a decent image. I hope you like it.
After Sally and Brian had finished, the pub pretty much cleared out with only a couple of guys playing pool and I had another quiet night chatting to Jackie at the bar. I could not help but think about what had happened the last time I had done this and all that had happened in what had seemed like half a lifetime. It had been quite a ride. Although I felt OK apart from a little tenderness around my wound site, I did feel tired quite quickly and retired pretty early to my room to stick a needle in my belly, take a handful of pills, a cupful of a solution and then crash into a bed that did not have an air mattress and a remote control. I turned out all the lights and listened to the silence which was punctuated only by the occasional passing car on the Ramsgate Road and it was not long until I was fast asleep.
If you have read this far in my hospital saga then I am unsure whether to applaud your perseverance or wonder at your masochism but whichever it is, I thank you. Yes, I know I have gone on a bit but it was a fairly long period of time to write about and one that was, and still is, literally life-changing. There will undoubtedly be further references to my health and connected matters in the next few posts but I shall try to keep them relevant and to a minimum.
If you want to know more about my rehabilitation into the “real world” then stay tuned and spread the word.