Saturday 4 October 2014

To Hell and Heaven: On the road again

To Hell and Heaven: On the road again

To Hell and Heaven: On the road again

To Hell and Heaven: On the road again

Saturday 20 July 2013

Saturday 20 June 2009

To Hell and Heaven


12th January 2009

I was admitted to the Nuffield Hospital in Leeds to undergo a minor operation by Keyhole Surgery on an Abdominal Hernia.
The operation was to last approximately 30 minutes and following I should be OK for release the following day and fit for work in 2 – 3 days.

On waking I was informed the operation had taken 4 hours and was more complex than at first thought, instead of 1 keyhole in my Abdomen, there were 11 keyholes, however I felt fine and was attendant to my visitors and then followed with a reasonable nights sleep.

13th January 2009

Today I do not feel all that well and when told I could go home, I requested that I stay for a further night just to recover a little more. The Hospital staff were not happy but accepted my decision.

14th January 2009

Discharged from the Nuffield Hospital, still feel very fragile and sluggish but at least able to rest at home.
Go to bed early and Sue sleeps in a spare bedroom to avoid disturbing me, however at midnight I was suffering extreme abdominal pain so went downstairs to try and get comfortable on the Sofa, by 1am the pain was far worse so I try to awaken Sue but this takes me to 2am. When Sue comes down we ring the Nuffield Hospital emergency phone number, we are put on hold, we ring again several times but the operator switches off every time we connect. Sue finally calls 999 and the operator requests an Emergency Doctor is called out, one arrives some time later but is suffering badly from a Cold he can hardly see me, however does prescribe and leaves some pain killers for me to take.

16th January 2009

Pain killer’s just not working, stay in bed as this is the most comfortable place to be. The Doctors Practice is called and a Locum is sent out who prescribes more pain killers, I am at this point unaware of what is happening around me or indeed the swollen multi-coloured belly, all I know is the pain I experience is unbearable and just want it to end. Sleep is the only relief but very hard to come by.

18th January 2009

Request Sue calls an ambulance.


I spent 14 days in the Intensive Care Unit (Ward 3) at LGI and this was followed by a further 5 days in the High Dependency Unit (Ward 62A). I was then put on a general ward (Ward 62) where I spent a total of 80 days from admission.

I was diagnosed with Acute Sepsis (Septicaemia) and Peritonitis and had 5 Operations during my stay in Intensive Care. The first operation was to remove poison which had escaped into my Abdominal Cavity from a cut Large Intestine which was as a result of the minor operation at the Nuffield Hospital. Sue was told I was very close to all my vital organs closing and was not expected to survive the initial operation. During the next 10 days in the Intensive Care Unit, my family were told every 12 hours that my chances of survival for the next 12 hours were less than 5%.

On the 10th day, my family were called into the Family Room and were told my chances of survival from this point were negligible, however there was a trial drug available which was similar in nature to LSD , well known through the “Swinging Sixties”. There was no certainty that this drug would help and may even kill me but a decision had to be made in 30 minutes to gain approval from Brussels. There was little choice for the family and thankfully they gave the team the go-ahead.

When I arrived in the High Dependency Unit, I was unable to read the Wall Clock as I could not work out what “Time Zone” I was in and this remained with me for a couple of weeks. I had a wound which was 15” across, about 12" down and up to 2” deep which had 2 Fistulae and 2 Drains (which were to become 2 more Fistulae). I was not aware of any pain and quickly accepted the hole in my tummy. The thing I cannot get my head around is a Stoma Bag sat next to my wound. A necessary evil but I am looking to the day when it can be reversed.

During my stay in Intensive Care, my family recorded a Diary of events and this I have not read until all my memories have been recorded, this is to prevent any colouration of my thoughts but I am looking forward to finding out what really happened and what life support systems I was hooked up to. I have to visit Intensive Care shortly as a follow-up, however I did pay them a visit just prior to my initial release in April and the emotions ran wild, however I think I have travelled the journey and retained a degree of sanity although that is probably a conclusion to be made by those around me.
Who's Who :
Sue - My Wife
Cheryl - My Eldest Daughter married to Lee
Claire - My Youngest Daughter married to Jay

To Hell and Heaven

Jan 18th 2009.

Intense pain from my Abdomen, hardly conscious or coherent and pain killers are not making any inroads, have asked Sue to call an Ambulance and NOT to mess about with Emergency Doctors.
Ambulance arrives fairly quickly and as I remember walking to the Ambulance for my first ride – alas – no sirens.
Arrive at A & E, initial diagnosis and request for an X-Ray – go into A & E X-Ray Room 2 – where Lee was the week before – commented on that to the Radiologist. Returned to the examination room and that was the end of my conscious world.

The next thing I remember was a leader as in the start of a DVD reading something like: –

“You are now entering a Trial, although you are in Hospital, this is a simulation, there is nothing wrong with you however the purpose of the simulation is to show how Health Authorities throughout the World will strive to maintain your life, even if you were in extreme pain and wanted to die in peace.

You will try to end your life and should you succeed you will be returned to your normal state of good health…etc”

There were then figures showing the percentage chances of survival for which Health Authorities would strive to ensure survival and the jist of the leader was that for a survival chance of less than 2% the patient should be offered the chance to terminate life.

When I saw this leader, I immediately recognised it from what must have been a nightmare at some time in the past as I remember gasping “oh no” at the site of it and throughout the next 10 days was trying to remember how I had returned to the real, healthy World. Really bad De Ja Vu.

So my journey into the gates of Hell started, the first scene was an introduction by a Nurse to the Leeds NHS Trust Hospital where they welcomed David Cowling, Age almost 64 (the time was Christmas Eve 2010), my Wife Sue was introduced, then my Daughters with their respective Spouses, then I was in bed but all was not as the introduction, I was in bed in a Hospital in Singapore.

My room was small with a Nurse sat at a Desk in front of a window to the front of my bed; the window itself looked into another room with a bed and a patient. To the left was a door and immediately outside the door was a lift to the ground floor. My room incidentally was 62.

I don’t know why I am there, all I know is an intense pain in my stomach which does not go away and I can hear Sue saying to the rest of my family “He must have been in agony all week, next time Dad says he has a pain, we will believe him” .

I get visitors, I remember Sue and Cheryl coming in and talking to me, I cannot say anything back but I am fully aware of everything they say, at one point Cheryl goes out for a smoke and Lee holds my hand and calls me Dad and encourages me to keep fighting and how proud he is of me. He admits he will watch a Formula 1 Race with me and also do some Line Dancing.

Claire and Jay come and talk to me, they tell me what is happening but I still don’t know why I am here, particularly in Singapore, I work on the assumption that we had been on a family holiday there where I had been taken ill by a bug in my Stomach. I think I can communicate a little easier with the Children as Sue gets quite confused when I try to say something.

In terms of Timeline in my mindset, I was admitted on Christmas Eve and stayed all through to 12th Night which is a total of 14 Days so with that basis I will try to put some memories into place although chronologically it will be very mixed.

There were also periods when the room suddenly darkened then there was a brilliant coloured wall which happened about 5 times, I related this to being released from the trial, although in retrospect I believe this was probably when I was administered anaesthetic in readiness for further operations. I also recall a meter in the top on my mind which related to pain; the readings were to 100% pain which I understood was the maximum bearable and the rate of pain for most of the time was reading around 95%. Another vivid memory was continuous burping which I assume was a by-product of the poison absorbed into my body.

Throughout the first 10 days in ICU I had a major issue with Time Zones, I had to change Zones for whatever reason I am not sure but this meant that I could be in a location which I related to under an elevated road at Hunslet in Leeds or the identical place could be located in Tenerife. In Tenerife I would eat at a Café on the 1st floor while in Hunslet I would eat at a Café run by a family from Pakistan who were also the night nursing staff with the Son who was always running around for drugs and dressings for me. I distinctly remember him regularly returning with a “Bolas of Morphine”. I never actually remember eating anything from any location, be it Hunslet or Tenerife but I do remember one night in the Hunslet Café when the Police had become involved with my case as I believe they thought I had been poisoned and they wanted to take a photograph of me. I was dressed in my Camel Overcoat and they sat me on a Wooden Chair, I remember the pain from sitting was excruciating and I had to hold my position for quite some time. There was Claire and Jay present for this. In the Tenerife Café, I had a job but didn’t know what this job was, I think at one point I was a Bullfighter in a Wire Stockyard and I spent a lot of time queuing, I also remember queuing here but on a Hospital Trolley with Sue pushing, then there were other Cafes, again run by Nursing Staff and again I never actually ate anything.

The Time Zone thing also had me wandering all over, I remember having a wash and my bedclothes changed at Newcastle Airport in the freezing cold, I was waiting to board a plane to Doncaster, there were also times when I was boarding planes for various destinations and the pilot would set a SatNav for Sue so she could follow in here Nissan Micra. Cheryl kept coming onto the scene as she was some sort of controller for baggage and patients.

Away from the Time Zone I was involved in travelling to several locations. My room was set in a Pyramid type of structure and at one point this was located in a leafy area of Bradford. I was able to walk and talk quite normally through the day, on a night I was wrought with pain. I was in Bradford helping a research team, for what I can’t remember, but I also had some sort of social life in Bradford as my Pyramid was located close to a Pub so Sue and I could wander up the path for a drink and a night out. I also ventured out towards the Lake District and I remember I parked my car in a Car Park at Tesco in Carlisle but this was by the Harbour (for which there is not one that I know of in Carlisle) and high tide was due to completely flood the car park so the Police issued a ticket to be stuck inside the car to ensure it would be safe. We then went into Tesco for some Fruit to eat but I had to ride in a Trolley as I could not walk. I was very concerned about the car as we never called to the Harbour to collect it and when I regained consciousness in the High Dependency Unit I did ask Sue if she had got my car back from Carlisle.

A vague memory was from Elland where I was resident at a house, I could not walk or move very much, I didn’t know who I was staying with but they knew all about me and were looking after me and were to return me to Hospital (my Pyramid) the following morning. The house was very Victorian and guests kept visiting, again I knew none of them. I remember a Victorian Nursery next to where I was laid but why I was there I do not know.

Another excursion from my Pyramid was the time I was to try and find a shorter route from the Lake District to Newcastle, the existing route had to go via Glasgow because the Pennines were just too high to negotiate, try as I might I could not find a shorter route and in the end had to concede the only way was via the North. During that period I was also involved in some festivals at the edge of the Lake District. Exactly what the basis of these festivals was I have no idea but remember large Carousels which also served food, again I ordered food but never remember eating any.

From the mystery tours let me now recount the days from admission to the Hospital in Singapore. You recall I was admitted on Christmas Eve and I remember the porter who delivered me to the Ward (room 62) saying that only last week I was in good spirit singing “When I’m 64”. Christmas Eve I had visitors but from then I was watching the door but with no one coming. Christmas Day was particularly miserable, the Singapore Patients had plenty of visitors and were opening presents, there was a Television in the room next to mine and I could see it and hear it through the window and all the jolly Christmas Programs were being played with a Singapore flavour. Christmas came and went, then came New Years Eve, the Television Crewe went first to New York to celebrate the New Year, then London, then Singapore and finally Sydney (has the World started turning the other way ?). The silly thing I remember about the Singapore celebrations was the firework display in Singapore Bay which the Hospital overlooked, however instead of looking out of the window, the Nurses and Patients viewed the scene on Television.
As time passed in my room, the view became more and more faded and out of focus, I also remember my extreme thirst and requesting Lollypops dipped in cold water to moisten my lips. At first I was offered Tiger Beer in which the Lollypop was dipped but this soon ran out and the Nurse seamed to take an hour to get chilled water.

At some time during the whole adventure and for time I have no idea, I remember trying to speak to God asking him for guidance. Where was I, how do I get back to my life, am I nearly dead and can I trade my life for any extensions for my grandchildren. I also remember offering to forego survival if he could help return Maddie McCann to her parents. This was to me very real, I realise that I have a belief in God but possibly more realistic than blind belief, but then God, why did you put us through this ordeal?

On the 11th day a Nurse came to me and told me very carefully that they were to try a new drug. Do you remember “Lucy in the sky with diamonds by the Beatles?” I was to have a Hallucinogenic Drug and from that point my World changed.

From absolute agony I dropped into a gentle and slowly moving land of peace. Poetry was being read in a deep gentle voice and there was no haste, pain or anxiety.

I started in my Pyramid but this was at the top of the Cinema complex at Kirkstall Road, I was lowered down by a rope slide and was able then to hear everything around me but could see no one. I could hear my Sister Anne and Harry who had returned from Australia for the occasion (in reality they were still over in Aus), Sue was always by my side, Lee was pacing round taking photos with a Camera Anne had brought him from Australia. The occasion was glitzy and went on for hours; we were given passes to ensure we could visit the Cinema at any time as VIP’s and then I suddenly ended in a tranquil peaceful world back in Bradford at the original location of my Pyramid (room). We were sewing rich cloths, looking at a photo of 100 pairs of shoes and there was not a care or any hint of pain.

This tranquillity continued, I was guest at a Care Home in Bradford where Cheryl was looking after the resident’s occupational therapy which was embroidering a large rich cloth; again I was in total harmony, relaxed and calm.

From there I was back in my Pyramid where a nurse was inserting stitches into my wrists, each wrist had a circle of stitches with different numbers of stitches in each circle, when these were put together, they formed a gearing ratio which had the effect of driving a cloth conveyor on which I could ride, again in peace but with the constant poetry in the background. I saw people, all smiling and tranquil but there was no communication, there was no need.

My bed in the Pyramid had a degree of functionality, I was able to manipulate the Blanket which had a hexagonal weave, so by careful pressure at the various sides of the hexagon I could control not only my bed turning, moving forward / backward / up / down but I could also record and play material such as DVD’s or record what I could see and hear as well as using the bed as a fully functional computer. I had an infinite library of DVD’s although I never got round to playing any but after a short while I acquired a high degree of dexterity in the manipulation of the Blanket

On my journey through paradise again, I was at Apperley Bridge between Leeds and Bradford, this was the home of a vast estate which I had inherited. The estate had an inland sea which was a major route between Bradford and Leeds although the sea was treacherous and the vessel which made the journey had to have an experienced Captain to navigate and steer the Ship carefully through the mountainous waves and vicious currents. Again the soft monotone male voice was repeating the same poem. My home at Apperley Bridge was in a Mansion House and the Pyramid which this time was floating on a small lake close to the Mansion House, however it was possible to rock the Pyramid onto a different face and this would have the effect of moving the location from near Bradford to Leeds.

My final journey was from my Pyramid which by this time had returned to Bradford, I was put on a trolley and a porter took me from Bradford by underground passage ways to the CT Scanner at LGI, I remember looking up at the car park through a round glass window on the roof at the lift block in Jubilee Wing and then being passed through the Scanner and being told to hold my breath. I then went to HDU at Ward 62A, more De Ja Vu - I had been there before and knew the layout of the ward without seeing it – I knew there were 4 beds even thought I was behind closed curtains, I knew the position of the other beds.

The Light feature in Jubilee Wing Lift Block which I thought was a Car Park above.

My first real recollection and transfer from a dream world to reality was focussing on the Surgeon Mr Achetan who had done the major operation and Ravi, the Doctor who were pulling brown pieces from my stomach, when I looked this was Iodine soaked lint which was being taken from a cavity in my stomach the likes of which I would never have imagined. I still had no idea why I was there, what had happened, and where was my stomach?

Finally I saw Sue for the first time in over 2 weeks, we had both done a journey we would never pick from a glossy brochure, Sue had visited Hell, I had been there also but had the chance to also sample heaven, and I know where my future choice will lie.

I have been very lucky, I have met some incredible people on the way, many of whom I would not recognise because they cared for me during my long days out of this world. I have still got a long way to go and times are sometimes bathed in frustration and anger but the ticket for the journey has cost far too much to give up now. I intend to buy back my life with effort and enthusiasm as well as trust for the specialists who I will need to repairs the punctures currently resident in my abdomen. I would like to thank all those special people but more so Sue who stood by and gave me the strength I needed, Cheryl and Claire for their patience and love and Jay and Lee who I am proud are my Sons.

David Cowling
Leeds General Infirmary

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