As we were leaving Edinburgh the ambulance had to pull over to let me lie down on the stretcher, I’d insisted that I wanted to sit on a chair for the journey – against the advice of the staff – but after only a few miles I had to admit defeat as I was getting sore and tiring trying to remain seated!  Then for the rest of the journey I slept!  I woke up as we were entering Dumfries and the familiar sights around me were overwhelming, I wanted to cry in relief at being closer to home.  As I was wheeled through the front doors of Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary (DGRI) the first person I saw was Emma, a good friend of mine, and the tears came!

My bed wasn’t ready when I got on the ward so I waited in the relative’s room and a colleague surprised me by rushing up to visit me as soon as she heard I was back on home soil!  It was great to hear all the news of work, I’d thought of work often and missed it.

I was finally given a bed in a single room with en suite facilities!   When I was in Edinburgh I was only allowed to mobilise with the assistance of a nurse or carer and with the help of Mavis (my walking aid – she was introduced in part 7!) but when I got to DGRI I told them I would be okay going to the bathroom on my own as, unlike Edinburgh, it was in the same room, so I blagged my way to become Little Miss Independent!

I had thought my days of loss of dignity had passed, but sadly not!  Because I had been transferred from another hospital they had to take a swab to check for MRSA.  That doesn’t sound too bad – until I learned the swab would be from my bottom and would be done by a young student nurse, time to cringe and die inside again!

Later that day a support worker gave me a menu for dinner and I noticed it had more appetizing meals on it than Edinburgh, in Edinburgh my menu differed from my roommates and I only ever saw soft options, so I was getting excited about having ‘proper’ food – until this woman breezed in to my room, took the menu out of my hand and highlighted the limited food I was allowed to choose from, and it didn’t include any of the appetizing food that had originally caught my eye!  ‘This woman’ turned out to be the speech therapist, and although I had talked my way in to being able to mobilise on my own I wasn’t going to argue with her when it came to my swallowing, the fear of choking again was still a huge concern of mine.

17 days after surgery I discovered something strange…I couldn’t blow my nose!  I’m not too sure why, but it was quite bizarre!  Each time I tried the only thing that happened was air would escape from my mouth.  When Lindsay came to visit me that evening I told her about it and I proceeded to demonstrate how I couldn’t blow my nose and how, instead, the air just blew out of my mouth…only on this occasion the air escaped from my bottom instead!  Lindsay was highly amused and still laughs about it today, thankfully nobody else witnessed it!

The ward I was on was a mixed ward, one side was acute rehabilitation and the other side was care of the elderly.  On my first night I felt like I’d been transported back to work (I work in a dementia unit), this wee old lady with dementia was running the nurses ragged, escaping out of the fire exit several times!  She was sharp-tongued, slap happy and very wily!  It made for an interesting night, I was use to the silence of the neurosurgical ward at Edinburgh! It made me want to put my work hat on and help!

On the second night I had quite a few visitors, it was a great pick me up to have the support and love of my friends.  Also on the second night, the wee old lady got up to her antics again!  And so the following day the nurses asked if I wouldn’t mind changing beds with the old lady as they felt they would be able to keep a better eye on her as the single room I was in was opposite the nurses station!  So I found myself sharing a room with three ladies with dementia.  This really put me in to work mode and I found myself pressing my buzzer a lot whenever I felt the ladies needed assistance but were unable to buzz themselves.

I was getting bored and restless so I tried to persuade Lindsay – for the second time – to bring my Open University study material!  I had originally asked her to bring it to me when I was still in Edinburgh, what I thought I was going to do with it I don’t know…I could barely see faces never mind try to read!  And I tired after a thirty minute visit so how I thought I would have the energy to concentrate and take any of it in!  Sensibly, Lindsay put her foot down and refused to bring it to me!

On the Saturday – my 20th day in hospital – Lindsay kidnapped me!  She’d brought along our dog Dexter, I was so excited to see him but sadly I couldn’t compete for his attention with the rabbits that were on the hospital grounds!  We took a drive to the riverside (about two miles away from the hospital) and I toddled along a short path to the river and sat on a bench – in my pyjamas I should add! – and watched Lindsay throw sticks in the river for Dexter.  I was overcome with emotion as I watched them, it seemed so long ago since we’d been together as a family.   That night as I lay in bed reflecting on the day and on the journey I’d been on over the last couple of weeks I got tearful and I just wanted to return home now.

On the Sunday I told Lindsay to take a day off from visiting me and get herself to the pub!  Except for three days in Edinburgh, she had visited me every day  (one day she wasn’t well and the other two days I was waiting to be transferred, they fell through but it was too late for her to travel up), so she needed and deserved a day off to relax and recharge her batteries.  I wasn’t alone though, Lesley and Dot came to visit me.  Dot asked me if there was a chance I would be out for Thursday, as it was her award ceremony at work for her long service.  I told her if I was still in I would get Lindsay to kidnap me again as I didn’t want to miss it!

As it turned out I didn’t need kidnapped because on the Monday – three weeks to the day since my operation – I finally received the news I’d been longing for, I was able to go home that afternoon!  After Lindsay had settled me on the sofa at home she went to collect Dexter from her parents.  I’ve two things to tell you about Dexter, firstly, it’s customary for Dexter to jump all over you and make a fuss if you’ve only been away from him for twenty minutes doing some shopping!  And secondly, he never climbed up onto the sofa.  However, as he came round the side of the sofa and saw me sat there, he very gently climbed up beside me on the sofa and gently lay his head against my chest.  It’s as if he instinctively knew that mummy was poorly and he had to be gentle.  It brought a tear to my eye as I sat at home with my family either side of me.

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