it’s been a while now, and damn do I have a story for you all. I genuinly wasn’t expecting an experience like this. I bet you won’t believe it either, because I barely do, but I promise you, everything that I am going to share with you is true.
I’ll start by saying it’s taken me a few days of rest before I was able to put things in words, and just so you know, I’m doing ok, but I still wanted to share this crazy experience with you all.
It was around 3 am on the morning of Tuesday 20th April, and I woke up to go to the toilet. Yes I know, there’s nothing odd with that, I go to the toilet a lot during the night, but I tend to be half asleep and I only really remembered waking up as I was getting back to bed. I had a strange pain, a pain I hadn’t felt before really. It was located high up on my belly, above my bellybutton sort of between my ribs. I tried all my normal tricks when I’m feeling uncomfortable in my body: laying in different positions, drinking water, going to the toilet. After an hour and half of not being able to get settled I decided “maybe it’s gas” so I went and got myself a glass of bicarbonate of soda (and water) and drank that, and tried to get myself settled in bed again, sitting up. This pain though, it was way worse than any kind of gas I’ve had before, but I have heard of gas being mega painful for some people. However, the strange thing with this pain was that is came and went. The best way I can describe it is like a humming bass of pain with waves of severe pain, the kind of pain that takes your breath away. It was a combination of feeling like I was being stabbed and someone or something was being squeezed in the middle of me. I really have never felt a pain like this before, and that is no lie, well maybe I have but if so, then I have done a classic Charlotte and pushed the memory of the pain into my blackout vault never to be seen or remembered again. It got to 5 am when I had to wake my mum up, I just couldn’t cope with this pain on my own anymore. Laying straight didn’t help, curling into a ball didn’t help, walking sitting and standing didn’t help either. I couldn’t find a way of calming whatever was happening with me. The optimist in me kept saying it was gas, and the worrying pessimist (who stupidly did some googling) was worrying about all sorts of dramatic things like a bowel obstruction for instance. This pain had me in tears, I was breathless, with tears running down my cheeks and as always I tried to be strong, I tried to not admit quite how bad it was. Mum knows me though, and knows that even though I just said I needed company and I’d be fine, that I was really bad because lets face it, I keep things quiet when I’m not well (yes I know, I really am working on ALWAYS being totally honest about how I’m feeling). Mum panicked when she saw me loose my breath with every pain attack, and she wanted to call an ambulance. I told her not to, of course, “it’s not that bad mum, I’ll be fine” while doing a very bad job of holding back my tears. I let her fix a hot water bottle for me, and quietly said “you can maybe call the 111 (non emergency out of hours advice line) and see what they say”. Wow what a palaver it was on the phone. First I had to give all my details and my story to one woman, who then said a doctor would call me back, for me then to tell the doctor everything again. I was struggling to breath through the pain, let alone concentrate or talk. But I did get there eventually, and she told me to go to A&E, and got me booked in (yup to avoid too many people, they try to book you in a rough timeslot so not everyone turns up in one go, although just because it’s booked in, doesn’t mean you’ll get seen then). So I put more layers on, because I kept getting hot and cold, and we got in the car to get me to A&E for 6.30 am. Once there I got a wheelchair because I was really struggling to walk, and you know what the worst thing was? Mum was only allowed to roll me to the waiting room and then she had to leave, damn you covid! I am losing count of the times I have had to deal with the hospital on my own, I just wanted the support, the company, someone to help me. I just wanted to be looked after, however, apparently I’m an adult and should therefore be fine on my own. (Thank god for technology and phones so I could have “company” and support through there.)
The waiting room was well spaced out and only had a handful of people in there waiting. It was a very quiet and calm atmosphere…until I came in. I tried sitting on the plastic chairs that were placed around the room but just couldn’t get comfortable.
Eventually a little old lady called my name… on the other side of the waiting room, which when you are in pain, it felt like the biggest room ever to walk across. She didn’t offer to help me or anything I just had to make my own way there. Once in the room she sat by her computer and started asking me my basic information. You know in films when you see something happening in slow motion, yeah well that was my full experience with this woman, who apparently is what they call a triage nurse. I was sat on, yet another uncomfortable plastic chair, in pain, still having pain attacks and gasping for my breath as they happened, as she sat with her back towards me, typing slowly on the keyboard with one finger. She paused her typing to pull her mask down, blow her nose and then put the mask back and carry on typing, I genuinely cannot remember seeing her wash her hands or use sanitiser. Suddenly I felt myself overheating and had to remove my hot water bottle, blanket and hoodie and felt myself go a bit lightheaded. I asked her for water and without a reply, and again, in slow motion, she left the room to get me water. When she came back I was allowed to have some and then without a word she got the tools out to check my blood pressure and temperature, all without saying a single word to me. At this point I was sweating, and going dizzy all while being in pain, and found myself sitting on the floor with my arms holding me up with the chair seat. I asked if I could get something to help my pain and she sat back down at the computer, back towards me “Are you allergic to anything? Can you take co-codamol? Codeine?” All I was thinking was “Please just hurry up and help me”. She eventually left the room and was gone for what felt like 10 minutes, but probably was only about one. Eventually she came back with a pot with one tiiiiiiny tablet in and said “I’ve only given you one because you’re only small.” I can’t even remember what it was she gave me in all honesty, but she handed me that and a plastic mug with a pink thick fluid. Now my head went straight to thinking “oo how sweet, she’s got me some strawberry yogurt to take with my tablet to be kinder to my stomach”. However, when I smelt it I realised I was very mistaken. I asked her “what is this in the mug please?” to which she replied “its to help the top.. (while air waving to the top of her belly) just drink it”. Thinking back, this was the worst explanation to what something was ever, I actually cannot believe how rude this woman was being to me. I tried drinking it, but with every little sip, I felt myself gagging on it. I don’t know what it was but my body was having none of it. She was sat back at her computer again, typing her slow one finger type, when I suddenly just felt it and said “I think I’m going to be sick”. Without looking over at me, she reaches into a cupboard and takes out a paper bowl and hands me before sitting back down, without a word or without really looking at me. I was right, she gave me it just in time, and I was sick. I can’t remember if it was 3 times or more, but I was sick a lot, all in the same little paper bowl, all without her turning around to check on me or ask if I was ok or anything. I had nothing in me apart from her horrible pink stuff and water luckily, but it was nearly overflowing. It eventually calmed down and I sat on the floor, with my sick bowl, glass of pink horrible stuff and water glass in front of me, with my belongings next to me by the chair. I was now cold, I felt ashamed, I felt small. The next thing I know, she turns around with a little tub in her hand and said “I need a urin sample in this, when you’re done put it in the basket outside the door.” I look at her, unsure if I heard correctly or if I was in some sort of surreal daze. “You want me to do this now? Can I leave my things here?” I had to ask her, I really couldn’t believe it and I had no idea what the procedure was as she had barely spoken to me, but yes that was what she wanted, and in a tone that made me feel like she thought I was stupid she replied “no you can’t leave your things, I need the room for the next person” no concern about how I was, no questions or kindness or warmth, just shooing me off. So, I had little choice other than get myself up on my feet, very slowly, take my things, grab the pot and take support on the walls out to the toilet. I eventually got myself back to a chair, sort of in a corner by a wall. I just wanted to hide. I wanted the wall to swallow me, or the floor to open up under me. I felt so awful, the combination of how I was treated, or rather not treated by the first woman and the pain was just embarrassing, I felt so small. Again, I tried sitting on the horrible plastic chairs, while waiting to find out what my next step might be. The waiting room was still calm. My pain attacks still stubbornly carrying on. Every time a pain attack came on I folded and twisted and tried to not make it obvious..but at one point one man waiting asked “Are you ok? Do you need me to get someone?” I was touched that he saw how much pain I was in and wanted to get me help.. but me being me thought “well I’m already here waiting for help, I should get it soon” and just replied “I’ll be ok, I’m sure I’ll get help soon..I’ve had these pains since 3”. Well Charlotte, well done, I think the award for the biggest idiot reply goes to you. In hindsight maybe someone telling the staff how much pain I was in would have got me help quicker, but it’s me, I won’t fully admit it of course..not at the time at least…anyway, I twisted and turned in the chair, sitting straight and sitting hunched, and eventually just sitting on the floor, with my arms and upper body help up by the chair seat, with my big turquoise blanked wrapped around me, my hoodie hood up, hot water bottle clutched to my stomach, mask on my face and tears running down my cheeks as the pain attacks kept coming and going.
After what felt like forever a doctor finally called my name. She was a lovely woman, and I was releaved by her calmness and kindness. We talked through my symptoms, she asked me a whole load of quetions, and even asked the standard, “on a scale of one to ten, how much pain do you have?” to which I replied “I would say I’m at 8” (even though it was more a 9) and then she asked me to lay on the bed so she could feel my stomach and where the pain was. At this point it felt like all of my stomach was painful under the slightest bit of pressure and I had to really focus on where the main pain was and where it spread, and stop myself from hitting her hand away from me when she was doing the examination. After all this we sat back down again, and she started asking me about my period and a lot about that, part of me thought it was a bit odd but I didn’t think much of it at the time, I just wanted help. When she found out I hadn’t had my bloods done yet she was in shock, she said that should have been done already but not to worry that she would do it. She got all the equipment out, and said she was going to put a cannula in so they could give me medication too. At this point I has having another hot flush moment and felt my head go dizzy so I asked her “Would it be ok if, when you take my bloods, I turn my head away and lift my mask please?” She was lovely, smiled and said “of course.” I was so relived to hear this because I was really starting to feel awful at this point and couldn’t face this needle session. My veins aren’t always the most willing candidates when it comes to needles as it is, and even less so when I’m not well, so I was just dreading this. She wanted to put in in my hand, I guess because it is meant to be more comfortable, but in all honesty, I have always had problems with cannulas and they never sit “comfortably” with me, and always have to get moved after so long. Anyway, she claimed she found a vein and I heard “And now you’ll feel a little scratch”. My days, it was more like a full cat claw with every one of them digging in. Next thing I knew “oh, I think the vein is punctured, I’m really sorry but I’ll have to put it somewhere else.” Great, round two it was, hand in pain, and up my arm she moved. At least this time it worked and she was able to take some blood from me. I don’t actually know how much because I was really lightheaded at this point, and when she was done I picked my head up from the desk (yeah I was struggling to sit up) and said “I need to sit on the floor” because I felt my body slowly slipping together. She quickly told me to lay on the bed instead. Luckily I didn’t pass out, but I was so grateful to be laid there, exhausted, weak and in pain, as she popped out, I think she said to get my medication. She came back not long after, and told me to wait in the waiting room again, still without any medication, and I was so out of it that I didn’t really register and just did as I was told.
So here I was back in the same spot as before, trying to sit normally on the chair, with a cannula in the crease of my right arm, an aching hand and my body still having fits of pain attacks. Again I just couldn’t sit comfortably, I couldn’t hold my body up so I ended up on the floor, with my arm laid straight on the chair and with my blanket wrapped around me and my sleeveless arm, supporting my body with the chair legs and base. Damn this pain really did take my breath away, and I couldn’t stop the tears forming in my eyes. Again, another sweet person looked over at me and said “Can I help you with anything? Can I get you some water maybe?” At that point I realise just how dry my mouth really was, so again, I was totally moved by the kind offer and accepted the water. I was so thirsty, but so scared of throwing up again so I tried to control myself and take very small sips at a time. As I was sat there, in my corner on the floor by the wall, being held up by the chair, the cleaners were walking around. At one point I almost giggled to myself as they got the mop out and started mopping the floor, most people lifting their legs, but I couldn’t really move and they just went around me. I felt like a heap of rubbish and again, just wished I could disappear into some space where pain didn’t exist. I was so tired, my eyes probably being held open by the tear pool that was constantly gathered on my bottom eyelid. Why wasn’t I getting some pain help? I thought that was what the doctor said she was sorting, but instead I was sat here again, just waiting.
Eventually I heard my name being called, and again, it was from the far corner. Out of me came the smallest “yes I’m here” that I think I have ever heard myself produce. The nurse saw, and when I was stood up she was gone. Once I could get myself up off the floor I headed over with all my things and came to a point that felt like it was staff only, but in there I saw a nurse with a drip post and just decided to approach her and ask if she was the one who called me. Finally I was getting some help. She took me to a little room, and pointed me to a big chair, and finally I was connected up with something, and in all honesty, I barely knew what I was getting. It was some sort of anti sickness, pain relief and antacids, but in all honesty, I had no brain capacity to ask anymore. I was totally exhausted, the pain had taken everything from me. Once everything was sorted and dripping away the nurse said she’d come back soon and off she went. There I was sat, in a big chair, finally connected to something and on my own. Now the tears started streaming big time. The pain was still there, I still kept having attacks and I was so exhausted, and I was so alone. I know I wasn’t really, luckily I had my phone with me so I had “company” and support through that, but I just wanted someone there with me, someone holding my hand, or putting theirs on my shoulder, someone to help take in the information they were giving me, but I couldn’t have anyone there, and I tried my best to keep in touch, to keep myself together.
Despite the more comfortable chair, I had another pain attack and ended up on the floor again, carefully with my arm held up on the chair ensuring the drip was able to flow in. Eventually the pain eased down to a humming bass pain, and I could hear, like some comforting childhood background noise, the hospital staff in the corridors walking, talking and laughing, and eventually with tears running down my cheeks I managed to drift off to a little snooze. I have no idea how long I snoozed, and I was only in a light resting state, aware of noises around me, but I needed that. When I woke I tried to lift myself up to the chair and sit like normal. The pain had eased, but I was worried that it was all a trick. Soon another doctor or nurse came to see me, and I honestly don’t know what she was, but now my bloods had come in and she could talk me through the next step.
Apparently the first doctor had been worried about a cyst on my ovaries “gynaecology might be able to see you today, but most likely tomorrow. So we will probably send you home with a time for you to come back tomorrow, but if anything gets worse you come straight back in. Are you happy with this?” I was a bit speechless (put at least all the questions about my period made more sense now that I think about it) and said “I’m not really happy no… my ovaries? The pain is higher up”. So I showed her exactly where I felt it, and how it felt and what it did, and a bit about my history with ulcerative colitis and surgery, as well as mentioning that my dad and sister both have a hiatus hernia, and she agreed that this all sounded strange, and went off to read the notes again and to check with gastro surgeons instead and then she would come back. I was so tired, I had been in pain for 6 hours, not had many hours sleep before the pain kicked in and felt totally drained, there wasn’t much left in me, so I really have no idea how long she was gone. When she came back, she said she didn’t really understand the ovaries comment from the other doctor and had spoken to the surgeons who thought it would be gallstones. Now, this was quite a comical moment, because she actually laughed and said “not that that is the place of your pain either really, but they want you to come in tomorrow between 9-10 for an ultrasound scan.”
Come on doctors, now I’m getting worried about my ovaries and having gallstones, on top of having pain in a third area, but hey, what can you do, at least they were going to do a scan.
The pain had finally subsided and I was free to go home, with mixed feelings. Yes I had no pain, but I didn’t know what pain relief I had been given or how long it would last. I was anxious that the pain would come back and I’d have to go through it all again, however, all I wanted was to go home, to be in my own space, with family and love, and to be able to rest comfortably.
I was given a prescription, told to come back the next day for the scan “and if the pain comes back, you come straight back here again”.
It was around 11am when I finally got home. What a long morning. Waking up in pain at 3am, several hours on my own before even more hours at A&E, on my own. There was nothing left in me, and when I finally got my very needed hugs, and laid down on the sofa. It didn’t take long before I was asleep.
To be continued with part two, coming very soon.