I hate, hate, hate being moved around in a wheelchair: it makes me feel so conspicuous. Like everyone is staring at me; like I must be ill. Well, when they wheeled me up to Moore ward I hated that and I hated having to go back there.
As I was wheeled onto the ward we passed Trish (my breast-care nurse) who was surprised to see me and asked what I was doing there. I have no memory of what I replied. Probably something flippant - it usually was. Laugh before you have to cry and all that.
I was taken into a room on my own. It was a corner room on the same level and side of the building as the chemosuite so it had that fantastic view over London again but this time the view was all mine. Later the sun would stream through those windows and turn the place into an oven.
A nurse came into the room with me and my parents and she explained that I would have to stay in here and not come out and that they would prefer to keep the door closed. People could visit but they would have to wash their hands and use disinfectant spray on their hands and then put on plastic aprons and gloves before they came into my room. This was to try and protect me from germs. For the same reason I was not to be brought flowers or plants or fruit because any mould spores could be very bad. She told me that it would be much better for me to eat only cooked foods: no salads - again, to try and make sure I wasn't exposed to any more germs.
Things suddenly seemed much more serious - until this point I don't think I'd really grasped quite how serious it was.
In retrospect I chortle at the gloves and aprons - I honestly don't see how that helped to protect me from germs. Why weren't they being made to wear masks, what about shoes, what about the backs of people? I'm firmly convinced that they were really just to provide some entertainment for me while I was stuck in there on my own.
The nurse went on to say that they needed to give me IV antibiotics and that they wanted to access the portocath in order to take a blood sample to see if the infection was there and to use it to inject the antibiotics. This would be the first time it had been used. In fact, it was still covered in a dressing. In fact it had just been covered with a new dressing in A&E. One of the nurses there had cleaned it while we'd been waiting. And we'd watched and learned how you *really* use those dressing kits. What you actually do is to pour the contents of the saline sachet into a little compartment of the kit and then you take pieces of the gauze using the tweezers and dunk it in the saline and then wipe the wound. Not gently dab it - oh no! Quite firmly wipe it; several times with new pieces of gauze each time. No ungainly pouring, no tentatively dabbing - I was rigid like a board while she did it - and I think I may have been holding my breath too. Not because of pain or discomfort - I think I just felt a bit like, here was this place where I'd been cut open. The inside of my body had been exposed, opened and although it was healing and although it had been stitched up I think I still felt a bit like one wrong move would result in my insides falling out.
My parents went off at this point - I think they were probably gently encouraged to leave - and my ma probably was desperate for coffee by this point. Trish came in and talked to me, reassured me and offered to let Keith and Elaine know I was here. Then the ward nurse came back - she was Scottish, I recall and she brought two of the SHOs with her and various accoutrements to access the portocath. Without really asking me or talking to me she started talking to the SHOs about how to access a port. Saying things like "this is how you're supposed to do it but I usually just do this...." and I'm laying on the bed like a lump of meat - really scared. I've never had this done before; I'm feverish and this woman is about to do something to me that I don't want done and now she's saying that she doesn't do it the way you're supposed to.....she's not earning my trust!
She peels the dressing off and cleans the area with an alcohol wipe and then presses the area a bit: ow! It's swollen, it's still got stitches in that pull and I guess I was kind of bruised too. Anyway, damn uncomfortable. Then she puts the needle in (all the while talking to these other people) and then tries to get blood back from it - nothing. Faltering in her spiel to SHOs (HA!), she tries to 'adjust' it, i.e. move it around whilst the damn thing is in me - ow! I am, by this point, rigid as a board and either not breathing or hyperventilating, or both. She then says that she's going to get Ivy from the chemosuite to come and look at it; apparently Ivy's *braver* at *playing* and *poking around* with them than her.
At this point my fingers were tingling - pins and needles and I asked why and she said 'not enough oxygen' - I guess I had been holding my breath: can you blame me? So, now we had to wait for Ivy - she was busy in the chemosuite (the chemosuite can get horribly busy at times). I've been poked and stabbed and now I'm waiting for someone to 'poke around' - don't forget the fever, the stitches and the stiff shoulder in this mix - can you imagine how great I'm feeling at this point? Don't - it was crap.