When I was bedbound…
My name is Clive. I have been a paraplegic since I was 21 years old…I’m nearly fifty now. After my accident I was in ICU for two weeks and then transferred to a spinal Injuries unit (SIU) for 10 months. I had a complete break in my spinal cord leaving me with total paralysis from the belly button down, head injuries, my leg broken in two places, cracked ribs and punctured lungs.
The first two weeks in ICU I was mostly unconscious and I have no knowledge about, apart from the dreaded suction tube to clear the tube going into my lungs from the ventilator. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and the pain of one of the tubes being removed from my collapsed lung. My wife will have much more memories of that time but thankfully I can’t remember much of it.
In the SIU for the next 10 weeks I was completely bedbound. The following 7 months I was mainly in bed and was able to get up for short periods. This was until I was able at ten months to fend for myself more.
The first thing I had to get over was the embarrassment of having my bowels done by someone else. Being young and previously very fit and in the Royal Navy I had never experienced illness at all nevermind the degree of help I needed. It was a weird feeling having all this done for me. It felt like coming around slowly from a deep sleep and having to learn everything anew. The nurses always treated me with respect…they ended up more like friends than nurses.
Because my right leg was also badly injured and held together by external metal rods I was on a special pressure bed that folded in the middle and was turned every two hours. I remember longing for the two hours to be up because I was in so much pain. Just being turned and put in a different position was heaven. Every two hours…turn…even at night. Pain…turn…pain…turn. This was all to prevent pressure sores. It was it’s own sort of hell.
Buildup milkshakes were all I could manage…I had no appetite until they gave me a drug to have an appetite I think.
Lukewarm tea from a plastic cup with a straw…bloody awful. I still hate eating in bed today…it reminds me of that time I never want to go back to.
I remember my hair getting manky, I couldn’t even go on the stretcher shower because I couldn’t be moved from the bed at all for those first ten weeks until my spine fused together.
My hair grew outwards into a bushy mess. Cleaning my teeth was a challenge. I hated feeling scanky all the time.
I remember the heaven when a nurse (Yvonne) washed my hair in bed with a special bowel.
I remember crisp packets getting hard to open, thinking they’d used stronger glue and then realising it was me getting weaker.
I remember thinking when I can get up I will get a fast car and find a brick wall. I couldn’t see any future for myself. Until I met another patient who was in for respite care who could only move his head and one arm if it was in a sling. The nurses took him out to the pub for a drink and the next morning the only place he could feel (his head) was hurting and he never moaned once about being in a wheelchair or anything so I thought…if he can be happy with just his head, I’ve got my arms and everything so what was I moaning about! He really was a turning point in my mind to acceptance that I was paralysed and it is forever.
Visitors came and went. I was always pleased to see them. Sometimes it was a blur…being on medication, days rushed by and also dragged unbearably.
Routines happen quickly…breakfast, bowels, bedbath, teatime at ten, dinner, afternoon tea with a biscuit or cake. Drug rounds. Visitors. Then there was evening meal, supper with a sandwich. I wonder now how I lost so much weight…I was like a skeleton back then. (I’ve managed to put it back on…ballast…haha)
After ten weeks I was moved to a larger ward in the unit. Being in an old-fashioned open ward there was always someone to talk to. I never really felt bored but I was frustrated. The nurses were excellent apart from one…but there’s always one isn’t there! I always knew they were there to get me well enough to cope with being in a chair and helping me to learn to be independent again.
The charge nurse was probably the most influential in my recovery. He was a bit like marmite…you either liked or hated him. I liked him…he was straight and he always told it how it was. If I did something wrong (and being young and stupid I did) he told me off and then it wasn’t mentioned again.
I made a good friend on this ward…one I value so much and speak to every week. We kept each other company through those few months and helped each other along.
I can’t remember any feelings. They had me on drugs that I didn’t even realise until 5 months in. I asked what the pills were. One was an antidepressant. So I told them to shove it. But I suppose they must have helped. I stopped there and then. I had a bad few days feeling really crap and miserable. I went off my food. I just wanted to pull the sheets over my head and sleep. It passed. I think by then I was more mentally strong to be able to cope with it all without the medication.
So the past twenty nine years I have had a fair share of being confined to bed again with short illnesses etc. But never as long as those early days. I also sleep poorly and can never really get comfortable in bed until the early hour when I can get some relief from the twitching, spasms, pain and irritation from every tiny crease in the bedsheets. I still have to turn, with my wife’s help, every couple of hours to prevent bedsores…but really it’s second nature now.
So my bed is something I both love and hate. But I am grateful I have a bed…somewhere warm and safe…with two cats, a dog and a wife I never feel lonely either.
I have written and remembered this to help discuss beds and being bedbound for the #beddingout Campaign by Liz Crow http://www.roaring-girl.co.uk/