19 January 2000
The trip only took about 15 minutes and it wasn't long before my bed was pushed into a room with three other ladies. I was very tired but soon realised I needed to use the bathroom. I rang my buzzer by the bed and waited for a nurse to help me. After what appeared to be a very long time, I had still not had a response to my call and felt that I had no alternative but to try and shuffle on my frame, by myself. I had visions of loosing my balance and breaking a leg, but as the need became more urgent, I steeled myself for the task ahead and slowly made my way up the hall and around the corner to the bathroom. I could hear the laughter and muted voices of the nurses as I passed the nurses’ tea room and was to be told later, that they were on a break.
Successfully returning to my bed, I silently congratulated myself on a job well done and made a mental note to inform Malcolm of my latest achievement.
Saturday and Sunday are physio free days and it was on this first weekend at Balmain that I asked Malcolm to support my arm and to help me walk without the frame up and down the hallways. Monday dawned and I was already well on my way to walking.
The Physios were very impressed and saw that I was also handling utensils etc. without too much difficulty. They gave me a few lessons on how to walk up and down the stairs, hanging onto the railings of course. After the first initial assessment they thought I was doing just fine.
Tuesday I asked Malcolm to take me over to the park to feed the birds and to walk around. Every day I waited for his arrival and we would walk or rather he walked and I would stumble through the park and gingerly, up and down the stairs. Eventually I progressed to the extent, that we would walk down to the shops and stop for coffee. I was well and truly exhausted each time we came back. After I had been doing this for a few days, I returned to find the Sister in charge waiting for me with a very stern look on her face. I was supposed to sign out each time I left the hospital. It did make sense, had they had a fire, I could have jeopardised staff who would be looking for someone who had already left the hospital. I just wasn't told and thought as the nurses smiled each time I left, they would know I wasn't there.
Malcolm never gave the appearance of being embarrassed. I would possessively hold onto him, stumbling and often tripping on these daily ventures into the outside world among normal people. Day by day I gradually became stronger and by the seventh day it was considered I was ready to go home. I had had no physio treatment, except for that first Monday. I had progressed extremely well and assured them that I would be able to manage the many stairs at home.
The day I left was a public holiday- Australia Day 26th January, 2000.
Since leaving the hospital I have joined the G.B.S. Association and I visit new patients diagnosed with this complaint. I liaise with various hospitals, making them aware of our Association. One thing that sticks foremost in my memory, is the quest for information that I craved when I was at my lowest. How comforting it would have been to have actually been able to talk to someone who had been in the same position that I was then in. From talking to various members, I realise how lucky I was to have entered and left hospital within such a short period of time.
I have come to the conclusion, that if you are ever going to become ill and require hospitalisation, especially with a rare illness, such as G.B.S., then do so, at any time of the year except over the Christmas/New Year break. Most experienced doctors are either on annual leave or out celebrating the New Year. It takes twice as long for results to come through and it would appear that an already short staffed hospital, becomes even more short staffed.