24. To sleep – perchance to dream.

Sleep… an unusual concept on a busy ward.  On the hour a nurse or healthcare assistant pokes you to ensure you are still alive.  They stick something in your ear to take your temperature, put on the blood pressure cuff  on your arm and place a peg on your finger.  I’m tall and the bed was at an angle so I had slid down and my feet were hard up against the end of the bed.  I asked the nurse if she could help me up the bed… she said “no” .  To get up the bed I would have to dig my heels in and lean on my arms to push myself up.  Considering that I was plugged into the cannula on one side and had two drains on the mastectomy side – pushing up wasn’t really an option.   I was a tad surprised and just remained with my feet hard up against the end board.

The ward was not quiet.

The elderly woman in the bed next to me was obviously very unwell and in the night suffered from pneumonia.  I know this as I heard the doctors and nurses discussing her, calling for a mobile chest x-ray and x rays  happening, all through the thin blue curtain which separated our beds. Poor soul who was so ill, poor me who could hear it all.

At about 3am I was desperate.  The  nurse whom was unable to help me up the bed responded to my call and whilst I was being very British and apologising for disturbing her I told her I needed to pee.  She said that she couldn’t get me out of bed to which I  replied that I still needed to pee.

The compromise was that she brought a cardboard spade for me to sit on.  I did ask how I was supposed to get on and we re-rehearsed the talk about pushing up (drains were still in – it was only five hours after my arrival).   Somehow I got onto the spade which is called a slipper pan and the relief was short lived as it overflowed.  Unfortunately, there was a significant amount of huffing and puffing  and when the spade/slipper pan was removed a bit of a shriek on her part as the urine was bright green – I told her it was radioactive too  (but surely she knew I’d had a mastectomy and as part of that there is a trip to nuclear medicine).  The spade, sheets and gown were taken away and the plastic mattress wiped with a wet wipe.  I pointed out I could do with a wipe myself and declined the nurse’s offer – I needed a little bit of dignity and preferred a different type of wet wipe to that which had wiped the bed.  Settled in clean bedding and gown I soon went to sleep as the exertions of getting on the spade made me feel nauseous and exhausted.

Tip:  Passing urine is a normal function, don’t be terribly British about it, nurses are trained in this.  Sitting on a cardboard spade is not a normal function – don’t bother practicing this at home with a real spade as it won’t help. 

Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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