By Shyamenda Purslow
Hitting rock bottom and learning how to breathe again. On 17th May 2015, I fell off a mountain bike and somehow managed to damage my femoral artery. I recall being moved to the rescue helicopter and gutted that I couldn’t sit upright to look out of the window. I was oblivious to the fact that these could have been my final moments.
Welcome to the ICU
It is difficult to say when I first woke up and what my first thoughts were as I was told that I drifted in and out of consciousness initially. I was extremely confused and unsure of everything. I found myself unable to speak, move and see things properly. I felt I was simply lying in bed as I would be at home, and was perplexed by not being able to get up and out of bed. Equally disconcerting were the unfamiliar looks of concern that my friends and family were giving to me.
I believed that my right foot had been amputated and that my kidneys had been removed
After a while, I was able to speak to some extent, but my words were slurred and did not always make sense. I noticed that I seemed to be giddy at times despite knowing that I was being told something fairly serious. I believe this was due to the painkillers or a coping mechanism by my mind.
I had very vivid and lucid dreams, which made it difficult to distinguish between what was happening around me and what was happening in my mind. I believed that my right foot had been amputated and that my kidneys had been removed and were somehow attached to the foot. I developed an extreme sense of paranoia towards the staff – I was certain my blood was being harvested.
These thoughts and dreams took their toll on me and I found myself giving up. The climax was one night where I refused any help, wanted to be left alone and attempted to remove all of the tubes and wires connected to me. I had an emotional breakdown of sorts which ended with me crying – something I had not done for over 15 years.
The long way up
Things started to get better. I started to believe that I was there to be helped. The staff in ICU, the physio team, doctors, nurses and surgeons would all reintroduce themselves. I needed them for the next part of my recovery, which was learning how to do everything again from zero. From drinking and eating on my own to standing, sitting and walking. The most surprising was to learn how to breathe well enough to have the ventilator removed.
The unsung heroes
When I was simply in bed – with no phone, book or music to distract me, only the thoughts of recovering – I observed a significant impact on my mental attitude.
To see how everyone pulled together as a team to literally save lives has left a deep impression on me
I saw the kindest people offering as much time and care as they could to everyone who needed it. I listened to their conversations of personal lives, goals and experiences and I felt uplifted: The words they used and hearing someone laugh! I owe my quick recovery to their efforts.
Visiting the team since I was discharged brings the memories flooding back and leaves me at a loss for words. To see how everyone pulled together as a team to literally save lives has left a deep impression on me.