Don’t forget the kitchen sink (and your elephant)

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My (rapidly counts on fingers) fourth night here was a fairly good one. I’m finding this particular visit much easier and more pleasant than the last, being stoned off my bonce notwithstanding.

Although I’m at my maximum ketamine level and have been for quite a while now, I’m lucid most of the time and it’s only really when I get very tired that the nurses tell me laughingly that I look like I’m off my rocker (then they tell me firmly to go lie down and stop knocking into the walls).

I’ve slept as well as can be expected given the whole hospital getting-woken-up-constantly-and-random-strangers-yelling-at-1:30am thing.

And bizarrely, after a pretty appalling start, even the food seems to be improving. Yesterday I had two salads, one for lunch and one for dinner, and blow me if they weren’t both pretty fresh and crispy!

It seems that for me at least the first infusion was the worst. My body seems to be tolerating the Special K much better this time, which makes me hopeful that it might be more effective this time too.

I wonder if it is also easier because I’m not on strong opiates this time? Maybe that is why my energy is greater and my head is clearer.

There are several other important things that have made this stay pleasant as well:

A window seat. My roomie got into the room first and selected the bed closer to the door* which means that I have unimpeded access to sun and a lovely view. I can’t convey the difference that has made to my mood.

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Better than telly. (Actually SO much better than telly! Have you seen what’s on telly lately? I miss Netflix.)

Familiar environment. I know the Etiquette of the Visitor Lounge and am unlocking the Secret Menu Items (aw, yeah). I know where to go for a bit of solitude and where to get ice and biscuits and towels.

Familiar faces. I remember a lot of the staff and patients from last time and as they’re all lovely it’s like seeing friends again.

IV Owner’s Manual. I have the knack of how to wheel the ornery beggars about, how to wrangle the leads and what most of the various buzzers and alarms mean (and how to turn them off when it’s safe to do so). Also, I know where to tuck my iDevices on the unit when I’m zombie-walking, and where to balance empty water glasses and suchlike. And I know what sort of garments to bring that I can shrug on and off in spite of the line, which is crucial to maintain comfort.**

What to bring. This time I packed pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, and lugged it all in (well the poor Captain did most of the work) without shame. Apart from the basic necessities I have a comfy pillow, a bolster, a laptop that plays DVDs, some quality BBC comedies, sketchbook, grown-up colouring-in book, various art supplies, books, magazines, music, a (hem hem) ‘Poo Power’ kit (prunes and figs), earphones, earplugs for sleeping, saline nasal spray for the relentless aircon, much moisturiser, safe non-slip covered slippers, amusing tshirts and my Keta-lump.*** And every single one has helped to make life better. If you ever know you’re going into hospital, I earnestly urge you to bring absolutely anything that you think can make you more comfy and keep your spirits up. Don’t be the smug one-bag uber-traveller type. Nobody is a hero in a hospital! If you can squeeze your favourite sofa and fifteen stuffed cuddly toys in there, give it a shot.

The big one: the kindness of others. Last time I was in, I was a bit ashamed of people seeing me in a mind-altered state and I didn’t encourage visitors, even though the visitors I did have cheered me enormously. This time, encouraged by my yoga classes and our discussions on the topic of ‘kindness’, I decided to give in and let the dear people who I love into this tricky space. There is no shame in being a bit fragile, sick, grumpy or doolally in hospital, and there is no shame in depending on the kindness of people who care for you. I have had visitors every day who have turned what is frankly a rather unpleasant treatment into a peaceful sojourn away from the pressures of everyday life. I’ve been showered with lovely things: love, hugs, chats and bits of news. Also delicious food and treats, comforts (like this sheepskin rug that has turned a hard painful hospital bed and chair into a cosy snuggle, thanks Mum and Dad), flowers and books that lift spirits, and belly laughs which really keep body and mind together.

Today my ketamine levels will start to be decreased, which means that a) the end is in sight, b) I’ll get to find out how life sans opiates is going to work for me, and c) my posts might start to be a bit less saccharine than this one. (I know, phew, right?)

I might get some news on when I can get home too. While I’m very keen to be home at least this time I’m not utterly desperate!

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Symphony in pink on our windowsill

*I know, I was surprised too. But it was a wise choice. The air conditioning makes it much cooler by the window and as she is in her 80s and as delicate as a lovely flower, she is much warmer where she is piled with blankets while I happily sit in the breeze in my tshirt wishing they’d turn the heating down. We keep the blinds up to share the view and have arranged our flowers on the windowsill so we both have something pretty to look at.

**For the record, any short-sleeved open front garment works, and for more warmth, a soft slouchy cardigan made of any fibre that won’t snag the lead works too, especially if you can roll the sleeves up. Either way, pockets are essential.

***Keta-lump was a gift from my sister and family last infusion. He’s a funny little cuddly elephant with big, glittery, wild and frankly stoned-looking eyes. I’m not ashamed to admit that he is lovely to cuddle and he and I have had quite a few good chats too. He’s my lucky ketamine infusion charm now.

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