Emergency Cord


By the time my bed is wheeled back to the room, I have been away for over three hours and Michelle is looking worried. It was supposed to be a minor operation, but the pain is far worse than the other operations. I settle down and ebb in and out of sleep with bandaging strapped under my nose. When I wake up properly, it is late afternoon and I’m feeling sick. The nurses try to get me to eat something but it is no good. My stats are regularly taken and the results are well below normal. Different coloured pills are brought in for me. A decision has to be taken and the nurse does not want to risk sending me home, so I’m in for the night. I talk with Michelle for a while and she has to get back for the kids, who have been with their grandparents all day. I am feeling too unwell for company anyway so it is best if Michelle goes back to reassure the kids I’m okay.

After Michelle leaves, I look at the drip stand holding bags of saline and antibiotics attached intravenously to the back of my left hand. A machine monitors my pulse and blood oxygen levels. The readings are really low – not a good sign. The TV is on and I try to eat something. I will not get better without eating, so I give it a go, unsuccessfully. I lay there and a presenter is really annoying me, so I flick the remote control. It doesn’t work and I close my eyes, listening to the crap Saturday evening show. Eventually, I cannot take any more so I get unsteadily to my feet, wheel my drip stand over to the TV and push the buttons.

I feel awful and realise getting up is a big mistake. I try to hold back the urge to throw up and slowly push the drip stand toward the bathroom, breathing as slowly as I can. I make it to the toilet and ferociously vomit. When I’ve finished, I look down and there is sick, but mainly blood in the toilet. I must have blown the dissolvable packs out of my nose and continued to bleed. A blood-soaked bandage hangs from my face. I move from my knees to sitting and then lay down. I should be feeling better, but I don’t. Blood is all over the front of my gown. When I wipe my face, my hand is red. I watch as deep red blood drips from my face and forms a puddle on the white floor tiles. A wave of tiredness overcomes me. I can feel myself losing consciousness but I cannot stay here so I force my eyes open and push myself onto my right elbow. I see the red emergency cord and think: I’ve never done that before. I decide to give it a go. Sliding over on my side, I drag the drip stand horizontally behind me. It tugs painfully at the cannula in my hand. I pull the red cord and lay face down on the floor. The sound of the nurses running fades into darkness.

I feel my shoulders shaking and manage to open my eyes. Two nurses are kneeling over me and talking, but I cannot hear what they are saying. I am helped to a sitting position and one nurse begins to clean me up, while the other puts the drip stand vertical again and checks the bags of fluids. I begin to understand some words.

“Did you hit your face on the toilet?”

“No, I’ve just been sick,” I say, trying to smile.

The nurses half carry me back to bed and take my stats again. My breathing is shallow and they say my blood oxygen level is seriously low. A cleaner comes in to sort the bathroom out.

After a restless night of very regular checks by the nurses, I am pale and tired, but feel a little better. I manage to get out of bed, shower off and pack my bag. I want out of here. By early afternoon, they agree to let me go, so I get dressed and wearily sign the forms. I’m really surprised they give me no pain relief, considering how much I hurt. I leave with the advice to take some paracetamol. After previous operations, I was given loads of painkillers to take home, including morphine patches. The next fortnight is rough as Michelle tries to manage the pain with standard products.

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