The past few weeks have been somewhat of an unexpected curve-ball. My normally busy and hectic schedule came to a crashing halt about 2 weeks ago when my body decided to want some attention from the resus department in A&E. It wasn't even happy with just one visit... no, it decided that I needed 3 resus visits, 1 blue light ambulance ride and 2 inpatient admissions. Safe to say, I was not prepared for any of this, and even more unprepared for the impending time off I'm now being ordered to take.
Now, if you don't know me, let me give you a little insight into what I'm normally like. I'm not someone who slows down or stops. I am always doing something and I have a million and one projects on the go, as well as working full time as a NICU sister. So being ordered to rest and recuperate is frankly my idea of hell, even more so when it is for an extended period of time.
So, here I am, thumbs twiddling, having already done a large portion of work on other projects, thinking "How am I going to pass the time?"
In comes Pops and Meg-
Both of these wonderful humans thought it would be a great idea for me to start a blog.
Now, I had already started to prepare this website to keep people up to date on things such as the NHS assembly and other projects I'm involved with, but these two have pushed me to be a little more personal and candid in some of the post that I do.
So, here is a start to that journey- and a journey that I hope you will find interesting. Like I've said, this wasn't a journey I was planning on taking- but one that I'm now on, and hopefully sharing it with you will be interesting. I plan on being honest and not just social media entertaining. I hope sharing the highs and the lows will be entertaining and interesting.
So, lets start with a little background, there I am in mandatory training- the torturous mistress that befalls all healthcare professionals once a year. In the middle of an infection control update- just as we start to discuss scabies of all wonderful bugs, I started to feel my skin burning and itching. There I am thinking what an amazing psychosomatic reaction to have, you talk about little bugs and you start to feel itchy. But then my skin really started to burn, and one of my colleagues turns to me with a shocked look on her face and asked if I was okay?
I was covered in hives, my skin was red and sore, literally within the matter of seconds. I nip out of training to go and grab some antihistamines- thinking that would be enough; but then my chest begins to feel tight- something I have never experienced before and I cant catch my breath. Now, I'm not the best at taking care of myself- I'll push through because "you're not sick unless you need an ITU bed" my brain tells me.
By this point, you can hear my chest wheezing and I'm feeling very strange. My vision is full of black spots, and I can barely even say my name without gasping for breath, and I don't exactly have a long name do I?
So, the decision is taken out of my hands, and I am frogmarched to A&E- up there with one of the most embarrassing thing to happen when you work as a nurse in the same hospital.
Before I've even finished booking in, I am put on a wheelchair and told not to panic, but we're heading straight in to resus.
Not to panic? Right.... Easier said than done. A&E don't like their resus beds being full, so I'm obviously sicker than I originally thought. The nurse brain kicked in... if you panic, you wont be able to breathe- you need to keep breathing, its a simple enough task, even the babies can do it.
So there I am, hooked up like a small Christmas tree with 5 or 6 people around me- all doing different tasks. I sit there and rationalise what they're all doing in my head. I've got one hooking me up to the monitor, someone on either side of me trying to catch a vein ( very unsuccessfully) another getting an arterial blood gas, one documenting and getting details from me and the other drawing up what can only be described as a terrifyingly large needled syringe of adrenaline. They throw on a very sexy mask over my face and nebulise the life out of my lungs to help them open up.
So, there I am- watching this amazing team work unfold around me, and I'm being reassured the entire time... I start to feel a little better, the breathing is easier, the burning rash all over me has disappeared and I'm not looking like sloth from the goonies anymore (well, anymore than I usually do). Result!!
Then comes the bonging of the monitor- one that I know well. I know which bongs I need to be worried about- the tiny humans I look after know how to set them off almost constantly, but I am not one to like them being set off when they're attached to me. My breathing starts to feel hard again, I cant catch my breath, my skins starting to burn again.. this isn't good.
I sit there desperately trying to calm my breathing- resus is busy and I really dont want to bother anyone, especially as looking around, just from my bed, I can see they have a traumatic brain injury, an unstable fast AF and a severe sepsis patient. I can cope with catching my breath for them.
So I try, I try really bloody hard to catch that breath... but my god- it was pretty difficult. Just as I am about to think about calling a nurse over, one of the coordinators walks past and makes the decision for me. Before I know it, I'm having more adrenaline, fluid boluses, steroids, more nebulisers and lots of doctors and nurses swarming around me.
It was a terrifying few hours, yet there was so much kindness thrown my way, that it barely felt like I was in resus at all (bar the painful cannulas/ IM injections/ Blood gasses)
Eventually I was moved out of resus- I managed a whole 4 hours of not needing adrenaline ( mini mental high five for me) and I was sat in majors. By now, everything had settled- but they ideally wanted to keep me in overnight. The ever sensible nurse brain chimed up at this point.
"You know the trust is on black escalation, there isn't going to be a bed"
"If you stay in A&E any longer they'll breach even more and you'll cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds"
"You only live a 10 minute walk away, you'd be better in your own bed and to just take steroids and antihistamines at home rather than block a bed"
My brain was on FIRE for excuses to not be admitted- so after a long, very long, discussion with the medics- they agreed that I was sensible enough to go home and come back in if any symptoms develop! Realistically, I'm only coming back if I'm barely breathing, not if a rash appears.
So they agree, they send me off with my steroids and antihistamines for a few days and hope that it doesn't happen again....
Fast forward 3 days- I wake up at 4am and my chest is a little tight... Its no issue, I'll just take my medication early and I'll be fine.
I'm due to be on a night shift that night- so I plan on staying in bed all day and hoping I feel a little better by the time I need to get up. It's only one night shift, I can totally pull this off- dammed if I'm going off sick for the sake of an allergic reaction.
I get to work, and I sit in the staff room, again mentally thinking- "Just push through... it's one shift, you've got this".
Oh, but I soooooo did not have this......
I sit whilst my colleagues opposite me watch the burning red marks develop on my skin again, and my breathing resembling that of a surfactant deficient preterm. Now normally, we only have one of my equivalent on per shift ( I'm a band 7 if that puts it in to context). There is one of us on every shift night and day, and as there are only 6 of us in a team, we very rarely have 2 of us on a shift, but the gods where kind- and one of the other girls in my team was in working over time. Before I knew it, I was back in A&E and back in resus.... with a repeat of the previous course of action. I couldn't have been more embarrassed if I tried. Twice in 3 days... they're going to hate me!!! Of course they didn't because A&E nurses are angels on earth!
This time, the doctors weren't quite so happy to let me go home... 2 anaphylactic shocks in a week for no apparent reason... yeah, we're not happy about this.
So, completely unprepared for a night in hospital, I got to try out the ever sexy orange NHS issued pyjamas... and I'm not gonna lie.. orange really is the new black!
So here I am, looking like a cross between an american convict and a strawberry walrus (depending on if I'm reacting or not) with a cough that sounds like an 80 a day habit, a voice which now sounds like it should be on a sleazy phone line and I seem to find myself surrounded by exceptionally handsome doctors! Cheers body... way to go with helping my love life right now!
Still, a mountain of nebulisers later, and a couple of hours sleep, in between catching up with my colleague to make sure the unit and her shift is ok (you never switch off as a nurse!!) I have the joy of my first ward round feeling completely guilty I've taken up a bed for the night.
"So, how are you feeling this morning?" a simple question...
" Well, currently, I feel like I've been hit by a bag of spanners, but you know, I could be worse"
The lovely consultant tried to laugh with me, but I think she probably thought I was an idiot.
We went through the history, and it was decided... epipens and an emergency appointment with the immunology team in Manchester.
Brilliant... There's a plan.. kind of... well... we still have no idea what I'm reacting too, but we have at home adrenaline, what more could I need?
So, off I pop to sit in the discharge lounge for a good 5 hours waiting for medications to go home with. Sitting there, I did question why on earth a week supply of steroids, antihistamines and epipens takes 5 hours to sort, but then I also know that I am the pain in the arse nurse constantly badgering pharmacy, so I get why there is probably a delay, because they probably have hundreds of me ringing them saying their medication is more important than TTOs.
I finally got home, epi pens in hand, and I did the sensible thing of taking the rest of the week off work... Unheard of for me. When I broke my spine last year- I didn't take a day off, so for me to take a week... It made my skin itch (don't worry we're not having another reaction guys... step away from the epipens)
So... there I am, at home, rattling like an old lady with the mountain of tablets I was now having to take each day.... I mean, could I be more attractive?
So, we're good... we have epipens, we have emergency appointments, we have steroids... I'm set. Pass me a good book and I'll try and relax.... (well, yeah, no that didn't really happen, but you know the thought was there!)
So, two days in, and life is ok... I can breathe, I've had no burning rash... I'm nailing the whole immune system control. I am the queen on not reacting to god knows what!
Yes, you may all bow to my incredible achievement.
Its amazing what the body can trick you in to thinking....
Roll up day 3 post discharge and I'm back to feeling like I've been hit by a very large train.
I take things slow, take my medication and hope that I keep things at bay.... Like hell am I stabbing myself in the leg.
Now, like many HCP's the thought of ringing an ambulance is literally the worst! I have so many good friends who are paramedics, and I know how stretched they are, how many people abuse the resource, I didn't want to be one of those people... So, again, the rational nurse brain thinks of ways around needing to do that... so I message my very good friend who has been following my reaction escapades with this picture, saying "Do you think I should go back to A&E, my skins burning and this rash has come up and its slightly hard to breathe my lips are tingling a little"......
2 minutes later, I had a wonderful paramedic knock on my door- with the look of horror on her face as mine began to swell and I turned round and said- "Yeah, I actually really don't feel well"
So, much to my embarrassment, I have cannula after cannula attempt, and my muscles had the joy of lots of injections. Off I tootle on blue lights to A&E for my 3rd Resus visit in a week.
All with the same nursing staff... they must think I'm a bloody nightmare.
So, I begin to make friends again..
I can't stop saying sorry... so much so that the junior doctor starts wracking up how much she would get if she got £1 for everytime I said sorry.... we got to £37.
This time, my positivity was hitting a low... this was the third time in a week I had been in resus, reacting to, well, noone knows... No amount of steroids or antihistamines seemed to be sorting this out... I was needing nebuliser after nebuliser. What felt like constant adrenaline and IV steroids... my heart was LOVING the mix of nebulisers and adrenaline... my resting heart rate of 124bpm wasn't from a good HIIT session thats for sure.
So there I am... slightly more prepared this time as I had an emergency bag of over night stuff as a 'Just in case'.
Once settled, and you know, able to breathe... I finally got moved out of A&E ready for my next overnight admission with the view I'd be going home the next day.... or so I thought.....
So, we're 3 resus visits, one ambulance ride and 2 admissions in... and you're probably slightly sick of reading, so I will split this in to two parts....
You have a whole 11 Days of being an inpatient to look forward to... and they wont disappoint...