97% of people who have a severe brain injury are in a persistent vegetative state.
You open the pantry door that leads into the ward staff kitchen. You get some water on board because you know things are about to get hectic, and hydration is the cornerstone for good health and increasing your chances of actually feeling normal.
You step outside the kitchen. A doctor hurries over to you.
‘Mikey, make sure patient B has gaviscon as soon as possible’
Your mentor is nowhere to be seen, so you go to make a note of it on a bit of scrap paper in your pocket. But as you reach down to feel for the paper, you’re confronted by the parent of a patient.
‘Where are the toilets?’ You scrabble around in your brain to find the answer. You’ve forgotten. So you go looking for a member of staff and return to tell the parent.
You get back to the paper work that is required to discharge another patient of yours. The mother is anxious to get out ASAP as her train leaves in an hour.
You’re standing by the nurse’s station and filling out the paper work. You feel a sharp pang in the left side of your head near your temples. You ignore it; pushing through the pain, knowing you need to get the paperwork done before the parent and her child misses the train. I can rest later, I’m due a break in a few hours.
In a normal situation you would be eating and drinking by now, or lying down in a dark room, meditating, because you can feel your dizziness approaching thick and fast, like a fatty to an ice cream stall thats just reopened after the winter break.
You glance up at the clock, a drop of sweat runs down your forehead. Your knocked about brain means you’re sweating enough to quench the whole of India’s thirst.
You realise you’ve left your stethoscope in with the patient you’re about to discharge; so, finishing the paperwork, you go in to retrieve it and do a quick set of jobs before sending them on their merry way.
You find the stethoscope. As you do the child’s OBS; the mother is asking questions about how to get out the hospital, you try and think as you scrawl the words down on the chart, but it feels like your brain is pulling along a concorde jet or wading through a thick and muddy swamp.
You forget your words. You use different words to replace the ones you can’t find to make your point. You sound a but unprofessional, you sweat a bit more at the thought of this. You struggle through and finish your job, sending them home in a blaze of glory.
Am I forgetting something? It’s 3′ O’clock. Fuck, the gaviscon. I forgot to write it down!
You rush to find your mentor, who’s also trying desperately to keep up with the demands of the ward. You tell her about the gaviscon and move on to the next job.
You smile at yourself as you crack a quick joke to yourself on the way at the thought of Gaviscon. It was about your friend, Gary, you had who recently died from taking an overdose of heartburn medication. You can’t believe Gaviscon.
The next job involves admitting a patient who’s been waiting a while. As you take longer to gather the relevant documents you start to feel sick.
You must have been dizzy when discharging the other patient. But through four years of practice you learned to ignore it and get on with the job at hand, this is why you’re now feeling sick.
You admit the patient and hurry to listen in with the doctor on your budesonide patient.
‘I can’t see where the gaviscon is’ the registrar says, glancing up at the others.
‘That’s cos he hasn’t had it. I handed it over to my mentor but she must have had her reasons for not doing it’.
The doctor that asked me to give it to him looked at me with a start.
‘The patient has been asleep all afternoon and the ward’s busy’ I’d said bluntly.
This is a typical shift for nurses up and down the country. Before you can start one task they will be asked to do many more before their shift is finished, thats why we don’t often even get a lunch break. Except for me, I’m special.
I remember it being a lot easier when I didn’t have these problems. Sometimes it’s like I’m going in slow motion, I really need to be careful not to ignore too many of my symptoms. The truth is, I’ve exceeded all expectations to be here and I work hard every day to improve on my difficulties.
Nursing is all about covering your back and keeping your mouth shut. But I must be honest about being a nurse with a brain injury, because how the hell will anyone else ever think it possible if no one ever writers about it.
The truth is; that when it comes down to it, that split second decision you have to make where you don’t even have time to think, I know that my passion, dedication and love for this job will mean I can defy having suffered a severe brain injury and go a good job. My record speaks for that. I’m shit at DIY, I get lost all the time, in the car or walking about, I do and say dumb things, but thats because I’m just not bothered about much else other than nursing. Nothing else grabs my attention as much, I just don’t put the effort in.
Life is challenging with a brain injury. Days like this remind me of my symptoms and how they can slow me down. But it also reminds me that I have so much determination to be a nurse that I can manage them without it affecting my performance.
You’re life can be limited with a brain injury. But if your’e lucky enough to have this determination and motivation for something you love, you might just get to experience what it’s like not having one, if only for a few extra seconds in your day.
I was told by a doctor a year ago that I would not get any better. Despite this I still tried every day to get better; using meditation, frequent visits to the gym, challenging myself n any way I can, pushing myself, resting often, adopting a buddha state of mind etc.
I have probably recovered more over this past year despite that doctor’s prognosis, purely because I wanted to. Never stop believing in yourself, whoever you are and whatever your goal is.