Life here is regimented. It is only one month since I aquired a devastating spinal cord injury that has left me paralysed from my chest downwards.
Morning comes all too soon and the nightmare starts again. I am woken at 6.40 for medication. I am given a cup full of pills to help me cope with my constant nerve pain. This pain feels like a million ants running up and done my spine while simultaneously all the while stinging me. The cocktail of pills is washed down with a clear, oily, liquid syrup which leaves the worst aftertaste.
At 7.15 a very unpleasant health care assistant begins shovelling cereal in to my mouth. Most of it pours on my chin and down my hospital nightgown. I ask him to slow down but he says we have a schedule to stick to.
I am agitated and frustrated. I did not sleep much last night. I did not really get an opportunity to rest in a ward filled with 19 people: people need to be turned and toileted during the night, sometimes people cry out for assistance.
I ask a nurse for my turn to shower and I’m told that showers are not an everyday thing. I had one yesterday therefore I must wait until tomorrow. Instead I am presented with a basin of soapy water and two care assistants ready to wash me down. It would take the same approximate time to do both. I become even more highly frustrated at my lack of independence and my newfound childlike need for assistance.
On my days to shower, I am told that it is unsafe for me to use a showerchair at this early stage of rehab due to blood pressure lows and the risks of fainting. My only other option, I must tolerate lying flat on a trolley and have two strangers roll me side to side as I am scrubbed much like a horse might be. The male and female attendant make small chat to try and ease my embarrassment; “nothing we haven’t seen before” she says with a gentle smile. The shower lasts approximately 3 to 4 mins..no personal grooming as there is no time allowed I’m told. I feel like I’m on nothing short of a human conveyer belt.
Once dried, I am dressed within moments and simply placed in my wheelchair. It is now 8.20. Staff exit from behind my curtain and all is still for a moment as I catch my breathe. I begin to push to physio but as I do so everything starts to become more and more blurry until I pass out. I wake up with a nurse elevating my legs and another fanning me with a towel. This is a daily occurrence for approximately the next six consecutive months due to lows in my blood pressure.
It is 9am. A nurse pushes me to physio. Physio begins.
This is the one of the 312 days I spent in rehab; the memory of which is scratched deep into my soul and will last a lifetime.