Posted by: sspencer78 | October 21, 2015

Interlude for a neglected blog

Where does the time go?! It has been over 2 years since I have written a post! I know what happened – my little baby became no longer a little baby and so the moments I would steal to write a post while breastfeeding were no longer possible! And next month said little baby turns three!

I am sad to have not kept this going as I know there are details about the events surrounding Lee’s accident that I will have forgotten by now, and to record them was as much for posterity than anything else, but, alas. Hopefully I am going to enter a new phase of writing, when I can.

The original purpose of this blog was to document my Spanish learning – needless to say my medical Spanish has got pretty good! But I am still thoroughly enjoying learning Spanish and am really pleased to have Spanish friends with which to do this. I only wish they would correct me a bit more as I know I am making mistakes!

One thing I did learn recently from the truly brilliant ‘Notes in Spanish’ podcasts and emails was that when it’s really hot Spanish people like to say “Estoy sudando como un pollo” which means “I am sweating like a chicken”. One of the best ways to cement in any new language acquisition is to hear it in context – which is exactly what happened the very next (very hot) day when I picked up my son from school and my lovely friend Lupe said it! I did a double take and a sideways smile at myself thinking ‘I know what that means!’ šŸ˜‰

Posted by: sspencer78 | July 8, 2013

9. The Awakening. Part 2

The following day was another day to remember. It was the day Lee was awake enough to say his first word!

My amazing sister arrived again, despite her hectic schedule of looking after her 3 kids and busy household. Having her around during this time was a massive support. She gives me such strength. She is so capable and you know you are in safe hands with her. Things get done.

I don’t recall exactly how the day panned out but I do recall Julie and I going to the evening visit together and seeing Lee open his eyes and see us for the first time. Seeing him smile and recognise me and was such a relief after five long days of feeling helpless. He had been sipping water through a straw that afternoon before we got there and so the first word he said was “drink” – I remember it made me laugh as was almost a Father Jack sounding request! But to be able to give him a drink and finally be able to help in his recovery was amazing. I called Mum and she and her partner came along so he was able to smile at them as well. By the end of the visiting session he’d managed to slur a few more words out and I was able to explain that he’d come off his motorbike and been in intensive care for 5 days – to which he said “but I can’t have, my bike’s still in the garage”. I knew it would have to be little by little with the information as each part needed time to sink in. And there was plenty more news to take in…!

Posted by: sspencer78 | May 9, 2013

8. THAT Thursday

The next day was sure a day to remember and somewhat eventful. It has gone down in my memory banks of the time as THAT Thursday.

Until now I’d been staying at a local hotel and my Mum and her partner had joined me. That morning we had to check-out as the hotel had a conference and was full for the night. I visited Lee at the usual time and the nurses said he’d been stressed in the night but was still not with it, but his overall condition was stable. He was fast asleep when I saw him so I stayed the 45 mins I was allowed then set about looking online at other hotel options.

We packed up and jumped in the car and drove a couple of blocks to the youth hostel which was, by all accounts, supposed to be really comfortable. It had free parking and worked out to be the cheapest and nearest option. On arrival at reception I paid up front for 3 nights for three of us and we were shown our rooms.
On reaching the room however and shutting the door I got this overwhelming sensation that I did not want to be there. It was not comfortable at all. It was downright depressing. Now don’t get me wrong – I’ve stayed in my fair share of budget backpacker accommodation and am happy to slum it… But not, it soon became apparent, at 7 months pregnant with a husband in intensive care!
So we grabbed our bags and I steamed back to reception to get a refund. It was a little challenging but there must have been something about my tone and manner that made the receptionist carry out the refund even though he wasn’t supposed to!

So after a sigh of relief we sat in the car while the rain poured down and we tried to come up with a plan B. To cut a (very) long story short, we ended up at the same hotel we’d left that morning. Turns out they had a cancellation!

By then it was time for the doctors’ update. They told me Lee’s condition was good and there was not a great deal of change. I started to ask about the procedure for Lee to be informed about his leg but I was getting the impression that there was not a set system for it. More on that later!

I visited Lee again that evening and he still hadn’t fully come round. He again started to try and come round but just got more and more frustrated at not being able to communicate or move but not knowing why. They had had to tie his arms down as he’d tried to pull the lines out in the night. But that just frustrated him even more. Lee doesn’t like to be restrained at the best of times – even down to his shoe being done up too tight!

So, after a difficult visit Mum’s partner said he’d get the car as it was raining. We waited in the hospital foyer for what felt like longer than it should have taken to get the car… Then the phone rang and I heard the words: “Err, the car won’t move. It starts but the gears won’t engage”. So, yes, after a horrendous day we now had no car! I had to then call the grua and deal with getting it towed away from the car park it was in. The parking attendant was very nice though and dropped us off at our hotel. That just about made the day manageable. But my goodness did I sleep well that night!

Posted by: sspencer78 | April 25, 2013

7. The Awakening. Part 1

The day after the amputation (Weds) Lee was still heavily sedated. They had basically got him in an induced coma to ensure he stayed still. The doctors told me that he would wake soon but that it takes everyone a different amount of time; for some it’s 24 hours, for others it’s 3-4 days.
There was not a great deal anyone could do at this stage. Lee was still sedated and with tubes and machines everywhere. That afternoon, however, they took him off the respirator and removed the chest drain so the doctors were pleased with his progress.
That evening I did witness him start to come round but it wasnt a pretty sight! His consciousness would rise and fall in waves but he could only groan and grit his teeth in frustration of not being able to move but not knowing why. I spoke to him and it seemed to calm him when he heard my voice, I only wished I could stay by his side all day and night.
The messages of support were now flooding in as news spread among our nearest and dearest. When you are at the forefront of a situation like that you already feel like you’re surviving with your feet hardly touching the ground, but I remember feeling truly lifted up and supported by the messages coming in.
It was life-affirming for us both (and still is!) to feel the love, support and kindness coming our way.

Posted by: sspencer78 | April 25, 2013

6. A waiting game

It’s been hard to decide quite how much detail to lay down here as so much happened in such a short space of time. But there were plenty of longer pauses later on where we felt like we were just waiting, waiting. A lot of the account will be based on how much I can remember and things are starting to fade already.

So, back to that day’s events: They prepped Lee for theatre that same Tuesday afternoon, around 6pm. At the same time my wonderful Mum and her fiancee were flying in from Malta where they had cut short their holiday.

Seeing my Mum was obviously emotional. She told me I was brave, I told her I was scared and after some big hugs and a few tears we all waited in the traumatology waiting room for news of the operation. We waited. And waited. And waited.

They had said it would take 2-3 hours but after around 5 hours I was starting to get rather anxious. My sister, worried about my mounting anxiety at 7 months pregnant, went to find someone to inform us about Lee. Turns out the operation had finished hours ago but they’d just neglected to tell us!

The good news was that they had managed to save the knee and Lee was back on the UCI ward. I recall it was past midnight by this point but they let me see Lee briefly and apologised for not informing us sooner. My anger at them keeping me waiting so long was overshadowed by the relief that Lee was ok and the operation had gone as well as it could. Tomorrow was, therefore, another day.

Posted by: sspencer78 | March 10, 2013

5. Worst Case Scenario?

Tuesday morning came and I did the 08:30 visit without a great deal of change in Lee’s condition. The nurses on the UCI were all great and really friendly. I would ask how the night had been and they would report no real change but that he was certainly stable, which was a good thing.

Back at the hospital for the 13:00 doctor’s update I waited with all the other desperate family members hoping for some good news and positive progress. Faces had already become familiar among the loved ones.

Our name was called and my sister and I went in to see the doctor. She told us that his condition generally was good and that the chest drain had been removed and his chest was now ok. However (and this is where you suddenly feel like you’re looking in on your life as it can’t really be happening to you) the vascular surgery had not been a success and they were going to have to amputate…

My heart sank.

I tried to stay pragmatic and ask questions, but I don’t recall a lot of the rest of the conversation. I just wanted to run out of there and scream, which is ultimately what I did. As I came out of the meeting room I passed many of the other hopeful families, tears had already started to run and I heard an older Spanish lady say “ahh pobre” (meaning poor thing.)

Outside I released the emotion and sobbed in the arms of my pillar-of-strength-sister. Lee had no idea what was happening to him and what was supposed to just be a broken leg had now turned into a life-changing event.

Posted by: sspencer78 | March 4, 2013

4. Visiting time (at the zoo?)

Visiting times while Lee was in UCI were quite an experience. As mentioned before, they were only at 08:30 and 18:00 each day and then you attended the doctor updates at 13:00 which were done from the traumatology waiting room.

At visiting times the families of those in UCI would wait outside the ward to be called in. The ward had 10 beds in (boxes) which were each like individual glass rooms just big enough for the bed and a bank of machines on either side. However, being Spain, the families are traditionally quite large, so as much as 50 people would accumulate outside the ward with the volume ever increasing!

Once they were ready, someone from the ward would open the doors and let people in. Then everyone would try and cram through the doors at the same time. Spain, for all its delights, can sometimes feel chaotic and the cultural differences are certainly greater than first meets the eye.

Posted by: sspencer78 | February 23, 2013

3. Medical Spanish

Amazingly I managed to sleep ok that first night Lee was in hospital. It seemed like my body knew it had to take care of itself and my little passenger. I am sure there was also a part of me that realised that with Lee in an induced coma there was little I could do and being in UCI meant he was in the best possible place.

I saw him the following morning at 8:30am but he was, of course, much the same as the night before. My wonderful friends who brought me to Seville had to get home but they waited until my sister arrived.

There are a few details that are hard to remember from those early days but more than anything I know that people instantly rallied round to make sure we were taken care of.

So my sister came with me to the doctors’ update which took place daily at 13:00 for the family of all UCI patients. The doctor was kind and spoke slowly to ensure we were understanding everything. Having an extra pair of ears with me really helped to have the confidence to understand everything in Spanish, though my sister and I have such a similar level now that we both got stuck on the same words! With the medical terms having a root in Latin it meant a lot of the vocabulary was easy to decipher, but there were a few hurdles to which I made a mental note and then promptly looked up on Google Translate from my phone! One of the words was “quirofono” and this was also printed down the side of the green uniforms worn by many of the staff. Thanks to Google (and some common sense) we deduced that this meant “theatre” as in operating theatre.

The doctor informed us that Lee’s condition was stable and that they were monitoring his leg to see if the vascular surgery had been a success. They said there was still no pulse in the foot but that it was too early to tell if the surgery had worked. She then reeled off a list of other injuries that Lee had which included a badly fractured femur, an impact to the chest (he needed a chest drain), large haematoma on the hip, a fractured jaw and a damaged lower vertebra. The implications of these were yet to be seen as all the focus was currently on saving the leg.

As the next visiting time was not until 18:00 it gave me the chance to make sure I had lunch and a rest each afternoon. The local tapas bars were after all really good and really cheap!

Posted by: sspencer78 | February 9, 2013

2. Seville: Anyone for tapas?

The journey to Seville hospital that September afternoon felt like forever. I did manage to add to the anxiety by nearly losing my friend’s dog out the car window! That was a rush I didn’t need!

Good old Google and sat nav got us there in a fairly smooth transaction though.

I found the information desk at traumatology and two things occurred to me: I never expected to one day be asking a hospital where my husband was and yet I was pleased those Spanish classes had paid off so that language wasn’t an issue!

Inevitably we were asked to wait in the waiting room where time stood still.

Before too long a doctor called us out and explained that it had been quite a bad accident and that they were just putting Lee under to further explore the extent of his injuries. They mentioned that blood supply to the lower leg was already a problem as two of the three main arteries that run down the back of the leg had been severed.

They told us to come back in a couple of hours as there would be no news in the meantime.

Anyone who has ever been to Seville will know that the tapas there are superb. However, these were not the circumstances in which I wanted to explore the culinary delights of the city!

The hospital is on the outskirts of the centre in what feels like quite a poor area. There were plenty of bars around though and the tapas were just as good as you would find in the more attractive city centre bars – and probably half the price. But that afternoon I couldn’t tell you what I ate as by then the worry had well and truly set in.

We headed back to the hospital and managed to speak to the same doctor. He explained that Lee was in theatre with a vascular surgeon who was trying to create a bypass from thigh to lower leg in order to maintain the blood supply and save the lower leg. They told me there was currently no pulse in the foot and that there was no guarantee the surgery would work but that the next 72 hours would be critical. The doctor left the room and just as I was processing the information he burst back into the room and said: “oh yes, you need to understand that if the operation is unsuccessful, we’ll have to amputate.”
The words came crashing into my head but didn’t stick as, ever the optimist, I believed I would not need to prepare myself for that eventuality.

Something else I wasn’t prepared for was seeing Lee in intensive care. The unit is called UCI (Unidad de Cuidado Intensivo) and after a lot more waiting I was finally allowed to see him. You know when you see people on TV dramas going in to the room where their loved one is wired up to machines? It’s just like that, but worse, because it’s real. It’s really happening – right before your eyes.

Visiting hours were 08:30 & 18:00 for only 45 minutes. The doctors then gave an update to the families at 13:00 every day. That night I could do nothing more than try and get some sleep at a neighbouring hotel. I had to think about trying to do the best thing for my ever-expanding belly too.

The friends who had brought me up to Seville also stayed the night and we even managed to smuggle their little dog into the hotel via the underground parking and my overnight bag!

Posted by: sspencer78 | February 5, 2013

1. The News (not the type on the telly)

So it’s a sunny Sunday in September, I am 7 months pregnant and working on my statement for my lawyer as we are suing my ex-employer on the grounds of unfair dismissal due to pregnancy discrimination.

Time for a break and to meet my dear friend for coffee. I’m just getting my shoes on when the phone rings and it’s an old friend from Jimena. After the inital pleasantries she says those dreaded words: “don’t be alarmed but it’s Lee, he’s been in an accident and come off his motorbike.”

In that instant you get a huge rush of adrenalin as you await the rest of the news: “He’s ok and conscious but he’s broken his leg pretty badly.”

He’d gone out that morning with some other bikers to the dreaded Ronda-San Pedro road. Famous with bikers for its exciting twists and turns.

The friend then told me to await a call from a guy who was with Lee in the ambulance helping him with his Spanish. He would tell me the hospital where they were going to take Lee. The friend from Jimena advised I pack an overnight bag “just in case.”

Realising I was now going to be late for my coffee date, I called my friend and asked her to come round instead.

We awaited the call and she calmed me as I paced the living room getting myself into a whirl.

The phone rang and I wrote down the Malaga hospital name and said I would Google it to find out how to get there (I love how “to Google” has turned into a verb). The phone rang again with news of a change of hospital to a different one in Malaga. The phone then rang a third time. This time the guy with Lee told me that they had now put him in an air ambulance to air-lift him straight to Seville hospital. He also tried to indicate the severity of the injuries but didn’t want to alarm me – especially once he knew I was 7 months pregnant!

So the dear friend who I was meeting for coffee ended up on the road to Seville with me, her boyfriend and her dog in tow. None of us knew what to expect when we got there…

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