Just two days ago I wrote my regular Monday blog post and reported that I was hiding in the bedroom having a PJ day and keeping out of the way of the heating engineer. I have just seen said engineer and joked with him that despite appearances, I am not deliberately going to extremes to avoid him. Although I am hiding in a different bedroom today, having a PJ day for different reasons.
One of the books I listened to last week was Brain: the story of you (read by the author, David Eagleman). My own traumatic brain injury (TBI) was only part of the reason for choosing the book which was absolutely fascinating. One of the most interesting things was how memories are made and how we can unwittingly embellish them to the point that we can have extremely vivid memories of events that never actually happened. So I will be interested to read this post some time in the future and see how my memories compare to this fresh report of the last day or two.
Yesterday morning was a normal kind of morning. I had a reasonable nights sleep on Monday which was welcome as my sleep patterns in recent weeks have not been particularly good. As we were due to have a heating engineer arriving any minute I wandered out to the kitchen, not properly awake, to have the coffee that #theloveofmylife had made for me, planning to go get dressed before the work started. He was in the small courtyard below the kitchen and as I went to go down the three steps to join him with the coffee I lost my footing, fell, and landed on my back on the steps. The look of horror on his face as he watched me fall, again, was heartbreaking and almost numbed the shocking pain in my spine as I landed. As you can imagine, I was quite winded by this turn of events, not to mention wet, as most of the contents of the hot coffee mug landed on my midriff. On the bright side, there was no damage to the mug itself.
Having previously had an accident that caused both a back and head injury, you would think that I would learn my lesson and wait for paramedics after this kind of accident. I must admit to being somewhat slow to learn. I knew how stressed #theloveofmylife was feeling that day between an important work call and the engineer visit. And the horror of watching me fall again was adding to the stress. So, I slowly, slowly moved myself into a position where I could catch my breath, then slowly got to my feet, and with support wobbled back to bed, trying to reassure both of us that all was well.
The shock and the pain of the fall made me extremely tired and I managed to doze through the important work call until #theloveofmylife was freed up to focus his attention on me for a little while. He brought me pain relief, a drink, a snack.
I think it was around that time that I messaged my housegroup (small group of Christians who regularly meet for Bible study, prayer, and fellowship) to ask for prayer. They were all most supportive both praying and urging me to get checked out. Eventually, I acknowledged the wisdom of this. I had been dreading the practicalities of a trip to A&E during COVID restrictions. But needs must. So we called 111, the non-emergency health line. During their assessment they decided that I needed to be seen by a paramedic.
Whilst we were waiting for the paramedics I tested the barely embryonic nursing skills of #theloveofmylife by getting him to help me to the bathroom. I needed to pee, and I wanted a quick wash and change of pyjamas. Bearing in mind I had significant pain in both my lower back/right hip AND my upper back/shoulders the bending and twisting to remove clothes and redress myself was just too painful. The blank look on embryonic nurses face as he had no idea of how to help would have been amusing if I wasn’t so tired by the whole thing that I barely had the energy to explain step by step how to help.
Once the ambulance arrived and they had done their assessment, they agreed with me that the best thing was to go get an X-ray to make sure there were no new fractures that may be unstable. Going by ambulance meant I was released from the difficulties of sitting in the car and then the agony of waiting in a chair in reception. I convinced the paramedics that I could use my stick to walk out of the bedroom and front door and they brought the stretcher to that point. Less painful for me, and less manual handling risk for them. And then I was able to doze my way through most of the waiting ahead.
Having got to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital A&E, there was a waiting line of ambulances to offload patients. We settled in for a two hour wait for space inside the department. All credit to all of the staff working under such difficulty circumstances for so long. The department was designed for about 36 patients as a maximum and they had over 70 patients at a time with further 5-10 ambulances waiting. All trying their best for each and every patient. Of course, by the time I got into the department I was subject to not only the tail end of the post-bank holiday rush, but also entering ‘out of hours’ for radiology department services.
Cutting a long story short, I had two thoracic x-rays and then a CT scan. It turns out that I have more injuries to my thoracic spine than I knew about but they were 99% sure there were no new fractures. They all seem to relate to my spectacular dismount of 2017. So in the end I was allowed home to conservatively manage the new injuries with increased regular pain relief, rest and a hotline back to the department should I experience any new red flag symptoms.
It was after midnight by that point and #theloveofmylife had his own adventure getting to the hospital that he had never been to before and getting parked close enough to collect my wheelchair and get me to the car. He had been primed to bring me food and coffee (the supply of gluten-free food in A&E is not great). But, eventually, at about 1am I made it home. We decided that the spare bed for a few days would be the best idea as I need more room to move and get comfortable. And not having the weight of the dog to move every time I turn would be so much easier.
So why did I title this when is a set-back not a setback? Well, I am getting quite practiced at finding silver linings. And there have been so many silver linings in the last couple of days. The opportunity to have my prayer-warrior housegroup colleagues on my side. The chance to talk to and see the work of so many essential workers and express a tiny fraction of the gratitude I have for the work they do. The way the precious skids rallied round to support #theloveofmylife as he waited for news and tried to process all those emotions. The number of good wishes I got from friends and family. Especially my four oldest siblings (sorry for the worries, but thank you all so, so much for being my siblings and for your messages, they mean SO much). I even got some time to read my Big Sister’s latest book Amelie’s Journey (you really should check her out at http://www.johannajackson.co.uk). Then I got the chance to see the purpose and be grateful for the training I have had since my spectacular dismount. I already have in place the adjustments I need to manage these bruises and their affect on my mobility. I already have a supply of pain relief, and a stick. And more love and support around me than I could imagine. And a God who knows my name, has a purpose for me, and is with me whatever valley I walk through. So all in all I would say that the last few days have been eventful but not really a setback. Just a reminder to take notice of all the blessings around me.