It's funny how when you're in the middle of something traumatic, you barely acknowledge that it's happening. Surviving the trauma is your body and mind's main focus, and nothing else seems to matter. It's only after you're out the other side that you look back and think, "wow, what just happened?". And that's kind of where I'm at now.

On Friday 28th February, I'd been experiencing some central chest pain. It was more of a dull ache, so I took some painkillers and popped off to bed. I was awakened in the middle of the night with sharp chest pain and nothing I did or took was easing it at all. After several hours, it wore off and I got back into bed. I never make much of a fuss with pain, as with chronic illness you find yourself with strange aches and pains, in weird and wonderful places, daily.

I assumed it was heartburn so took some antacids the following day when the dull ache had returned. Fast forward to Saturday night, I awoke with the same pain - except this time, I couldn't move because the pain was so intense. I felt nauseous and attempted a crawl to the bathroom. Before I reached there, I woke my husband up as I felt now was the time to call an ambulance. As I woke him to tell him, at that very moment, I was spectacularly sick. Several times. I took some more painkillers and decided to go back to bed.

Reading this back now, I realise how utterly insane I must sound not having gone to the hospital, but when you live with chronic illness, it's so incredibly hard to distinguish daily pain, and life-threatening pain.

By Sunday, I had completely gone off food, and I started to feel like something wasn't right. The same thing happened Sunday night, and by this point all of my bodily fluids had changed colour, and by early Monday morning, I knew in my gut something was wrong. I told my husband to stay at home and go to work, as everything would be fine. Boy, was I wrong.

I got to A&E about 7am. I was still being sick, had no appetite, bad chest pain and was just generally unwell. I felt like a walking zombie; the Walking Dead, if you will. I'd been to A&E several times with chest pain so the nurses did an ECG and basic blood tests and said everything was fine. I was reluctant to leave, and a few hours later, my skin was yellow, and the whites of my eyes had gone yellow. After pushing for a full blood test - they said there was something wrong with my liver, and that it was shutting down.

The on-call doctor pulled me to the side and asked if I was a heavy drinker, or if I had overdosed on over-the-counter painkillers. I'd already told her in the previous observations that I didn't touch alcohol, and that I hadn't taken too many painkillers. She asked me FOUR times over the next few hours; insistent that I had caused this myself. Knowing I'd done nothing of the sort, and seeing my body change before my eyes, I was worried by this point.

After 10 hours in A&E, a consultant came round and knew instantly what was wrong. She took my hands and told me I had problems with my gallbladder and that I'd need an ultrasound, an MRI and to stay in overnight. The thing I'm most grateful for that day was her kindness. I was terrified, but she made me feel like I was going to be okay; and that I was in safe hands.
During, and post-jaundice

Anyway, after taking blood cultures, they found out I had a foreign bug - as well as the gallbladder infection. I was in hospital for 4 days, and an inpatient at home for 5 days, with a nurse visiting 3 times a day to give me two lots of IV antibiotics. I was on morphine, codeine, paracetamol; every painkiller I could get my hands on. And boy, was I ill.

After a few days, I could finally get myself out of the hospital bed and sit on the chair beside it. I was feeling a little more human and a nurse came round to have a chat. She said something along the lines of, "it took them a while to find antibiotics strong enough for your body to respond to, you're lucky you came in when you did". And the surgeon I spoke to on the phone several days later said something similar, "Please don't leave it as long as you did last time. You could have been too late".

At the time I didn't take it in. I was just focused on getting better. But now, 2 months down the line, I realise how close I was to dying. The thought that I may not be alive if I'd left it even a few hours later is horrifying. (Spoonies - please don't ignore new symptoms!) And it's left me with the greatest appreciation for life, and being alive. We may be in difficult times, but I'm here to see them. And I'll be here when they end. And that's the most important thing.

I have had four gallbladder attacks since, but thankfully they've all been managed well at home. I was due to have surgery the beginning of April, but with the current situation, it's been postponed indefinitely. I was offered open surgery, but I'd really prefer not to unless absolutely necessary. My morphine and codeine supply at home is getting me through the attacks, and I can't eat much fat as that makes symptoms worse - so I've lost a huge amount of weight!

It's taken me two months and many sessions of counselling to stop waking up at 3am every night, preparing myself for the same pain to come. It's funny what the mind can do. It's only now two months on that I can look back and realise how traumatised that left me. I think even my family thought that because I'm so used to hospitals and because I'm so "strong", I'd cope fine. But the truth is, these few months have been filled of fear and anticipation that something will happen again.

But the main thing is, I'm getting better - physically and mentally. And the best part is? I'm still here.

1 comment

  1. Your journey through the chest pain, uncertainty, and eventual diagnosis must have been incredibly challenging. It's understandable that with chronic illness, distinguishing between daily pain and life-threatening pain becomes difficult. It took immense strength and courage for you to finally seek medical help, even when faced with doubts and dismissive questions.

    I can't even begin to imagine the fear and confusion you must have felt as your condition worsened, cheap assignment help. The relief of finding a compassionate consultant who provided you with the correct diagnosis and assured you that you were in safe hands must have been a turning point in your journey.