Friday, 23 October 2009


EVERYONE WAS staring as I was pushed along the dingy corridor. One woman even gasped when she saw me.
I glanced up at her, and watched her flinch, almost hugging the wall, as my bed was wheeled past.
‘What’s wrong with these people?’ I thought, annoyed. ‘Haven’t they ever seen anyone sick before?’
After all, I was in a hospital. Then we stopped by a window and I caught a glimpse of my reflection and understood.
A monster was looking back in the glass – a woman with purple skin, red rimmed eyes, and drips and tubes springing out of punctured veins.
‘Is that really me?’ I thought, blinking. I should have been shocked, but I was still in so much pain, I didn’t care what I looked like. I was just grateful to still be alive.
I’d been rushed to hospital nine hours earlier in an ambulance after collapsing at home.
I’d been sick over and over again and had been in agony with machete-type pains gouging their way through my insides. For a moment, I’d thought I was going to die.
Now, five morphine injections later, I was hoping I wouldn’t. I had pancreatitis – a potential killer.
A gallstone had come out of my gallbladder and blocked a duct. It meant my pancreas was eating itself.
Doctors were pumping me full of antibiotics, fluids, and painkillers to stop me becoming the one person in four who died from this ridiculous condition.
Now, I was on my way from the resuscitation room to the High Dependency Unit, where I just longed to sleep.
It was 10pm, but it felt like I’d been awake and in pain for days.
‘Hello Karen,’ a nurse smiled as I entered a brightly-lit white ward. A surge of fear lurched through my chest.
The other handful of patients were all on machines, hissing and whirring, with masks over their faces, and a nurse each checking them every few seconds.
‘They all look critically ill,’ I panicked. ‘What am I doing here? I’m on the mend. They must have brought me to the wrong place.’
But before I could protest the nurse was checking my pulse, my temperature, reading my notes, and summoning a doctor over to asses my condition.
I tried to hear what they were saying but they were whispering.
Besides, I was now being hooked up to an observation machine, which was pumping out information about every part of me. ‘We need to give you oxygen,’ the doctor said, sticking a tube up my nose and ordering me to take deep breaths.
It had a funny smell, but cleared my head. Then the nurse was sticking more drugs into the tube coming out of my left arm. ‘What’s that?’ I mumbled as the room began to spin. ‘Something to stop you being sick,’ she replied but I couldn’t focus on her.
She was just a blur, shifting along with the world. I felt drunk, but without any of the fun before the spinning bit. ‘Close your eyes and go to sleep,’ the nurse soothed, and I let my eyelids become heavy…
A siren was exploding by the side of my head. I snapped my eyes open and saw the alarm on the machine beside me going off.
‘Apnoea,’ it kept flashing. Groggy, I tried to think. Through the druggy fog, I remembered what it meant – I was forgetting to breathe in my sleep.
Suddenly I was wide awake, breathing in the oxygen, watching my nurse examining the machine.
‘It’s OK now,’ she smiled. ‘Go back to sleep.’ But how could I? My body might forget to breath again, and then what? I wanted to cry. This wasn’t fair. I’d been rushed in with pancreatitis, in the worst pain I could imagine.
I was all alone here with my husband and two beautiful children at home.
Now, I couldn’t even relax in case I died in my sleep. It wasn’t fair.
So I vowed to stay awake, but there were so many drugs in my body and I was so exhausted eventually everything would go black…
Each time a shrill alarm would jolt me awake. Sleep apnoea, the machine would predict, and scared, I’d shiver in my hospital bed, willing morning to come.
‘The machines are highly sensitive, don’t worry,’ the doctor told me. But what if I didn’t make it through to the next morning?
I watched the clock, dozed off and was woken by the machine. Terrified, I’d fight sleep again, but lose. It was exhausting, scary and, paranoid from the morphine; I was convinced I wouldn’t survive the night.
So I couldn’t stop smiling when daylight peeked through the ward windows, and the clock hit 6am.
I’d got through the worst. ‘How are you feeling?’ my nurse asked, removing the oxygen. I grinned. ‘Alive,’ I said. What could be better than that?
Even better news, I was about to be moved to a ward. ‘That must mean I’m getting better,’ I thought, relieved. ‘Not long and I’m getting out of here.’
An hour later, I was pushed out of the HDU. I was still purple and ugly, on morphine, had IVs coming out of me, along with a catheter, and couldn’t even have flowers because of the risk of infection.
But I was on a ward – and was even given a phone to tell everyone where I was. ‘You don’t do illness,’ my gay bff wrote as soon as I texted him.  
I laughed. ‘Well I still don’t,’ I replied. ‘I only do near death experiences!


  1. Incredible to think that this time last year you were going through all this... so glad you came through it alive! x

  2. What an experience you went through! Glad you're ok now.

  3. Glad you are OK!!!
    Sudhanshu Chadha

  4. You have not written any more.. waiting
    Sudhanshu Chadha